Earned Patina – Andrew Cannon’s IMSA BMW E9 CSL

-September 11, 2013-

Earned Patina – Andrew Cannon’s IMSA BMW E9 CSL

Mike Burroughs

The highlight of the Rolex Monterey weekend is a rather simple pleasure. Long before the cars are on track, before spectators arrive; before most drivers, owners, and tech have even made their way to the paddock - that's when things are special. Andrew and I sat first in line, albeit a short one at 6:00am, to be the first to enter Laguna Seca, aside from the track workers and the lucky few who managed to bend the rules and get in earlier. A familiar fog enveloped and absorbed the entire course, save for maybe the peak of the corkscrew. It's beautiful, but that's not what makes it special.

What makes dawn at the track so special is the hunt. Most of the cars in the paddock remain covered from the day before, their owners nowhere to be found. Some are hidden behind enclosed tents, attached to the side of race trailers and rigs. A few owners, however, beat us to the track, having pulled the covers from their cars to let the morning moisture collect and bead on every horizontal surface. It's these few cars, and the mystery of what you may find, that create one of the most memorable parts of the weekend.

It could be a '70s Formula One racer, or a '50s LOLA chassis'd car that looks something akin to what a "Scooby Doo" villain might drive. It could be a 1912 National, the size of a 2013 Ford F650 Super Duty. It could be anything - and sometimes, you get lucky. For me, it was the first car I saw: a 1975 BMW 3.5 CSL, but not just any. What truly caught my attention was the group 5 kit, the same kit affixed to the Frank Stella Art Car. The kit that pushed the CSL's aesthetic into an unparalleled arena of aggression.

It was love at first sight. Even at 100 yards away, eyes squinting. But it wasn't until I got close that the car took on a new form. It was the details that ensnared me - details you wouldn't find anywhere else. Details that didn't come from the minds of the creative; instead, these details were earned. These details were unique; irreplicable. This car had a patina that said one thing: "veteran."

The monolithic air dam, jutting out from the chin of the car, was peppered - no, sandblasted with rock chips, each one speaking to a different instance of the beast giving chase. Each chip came from a certain track, a specific turn, tossed by a single tire of what may be an equally legendary car. In a world where cleanliness is often praised, this E9 said more to me than most ever have. I couldn't help but wonder where this car had been. What had it seen? I knew it was rich with history; more than most.

I traced the stripes down the body, starting a the nose as they outlined the brake ducts, dodging and racing their way to the tail of the car. Over the box flares and across the famous beltline, littered with cracks, chips, and history. The colors were unique; a livery I hadn't seen many times before. The pastel hues of the blue, purple, and red found on other Works cars were missing, this time in favor of a deep blue and an an almost burnt-autumn burgundy. As the stripes weaved their way to the tail of the car, I found detail after detail. Flaking paint and gouged panels. There I was, standing next to one of the cars I adore most, imagining everything it had been through.

The vintage logos, from the BBS "Intermag" decal I had never seen, to the Bosch and Bilstein decals that plastered the arches, stylized in a way that seemed almost out of place, all of which too were tattered and smeared by black streaking from hot rubber - I was in love with every bit of it. The faded and torn blue seats, and the cracking and aged stamped plastic labels that lined the interior... there wasn't a detail I could ignore. This car's age, its history - it was all beyond what a museum piece has to offer. It was earned and preserved in a way that can't be duplicated. This car was one of a kind, and still, I craved to know what trials in life had hardened it, molded it, and left it scarred.

But it was as my eyes wandered over the car that I noticed the names that graced the roofline. "STUCK / POSEY." And it was in that moment that I knew where this car's roots were affixed. This was the car that championed the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1975, piloted by the heroic names of Hans J Stuck, Brian Redman, Allan Moffat, and of course, Sam Posey. This car had more than just history: it was a legend. From the 1975 IMSA series in America, to the '76 ETCC series in Europe, and then to the hands of the famed Vasek Polak, this car had more than history: it had clout.


While it would have been great to attach the car's patina to such a special history, I found that the car has been painted at least once. Restored too, in 2007. I have no idea whether it was a mechanical restoration or body too - There's no way to know how old this legend's livery truly is. At first, a sense of disappointment hit. These weren't rock chips from the fleet of 27 Porsches this very car had to overcome and defeat at Sebring in '75. Those had long since been removed - gone forever. But then my sense of excitement rose. The implications meant that this car's history continued. Once upon a time it had been painted black, and now white again; who knows what in between. Now in the hands of Andrew Cannon, the car is still raced; put on track to earn its victory marks and defeat blemishes. Its history still as unique as it has ever been; its patina as historic and irreplicable as ever before.

I watched the car take to the track that afternoon, thrilled to see it amongst fellow icons like the Porsche 935. It was gorgeous, and I was eager to see it come around the final turn time and time again.  Yet I failed to remember that this car's unique patina, the one I spent an hour simply gawking over, will someday be reset again; painted over and wiped away from history. The car nailed the wall at Laguna Seca, crunching the front end on both sides. It sat with the fenders peeled back like bananas and the front wheels sat pigeon-toed thanks to snapped tierods.

The car was crunched. Bad. I begged to take photos of it, but the car was quickly rushed under a blue canvas tarp, hidden from prying and curious eyes like my own. I'm confident the car will be back. Positive, even. Yet I know next time I see it, the paint will be glossy, the body straight. Yet perhaps I will be lucky enough this time to watch it slowly earn a patina once again.


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Comments on Earned Patina – Andrew Cannon’s IMSA BMW E9 CSL

  • ChrisWoolman

    Great photos of a truly wonderful car. I certainly hope the owner will get to enjoy and cherish these photos to remind him of this period of the car’s life.

  • ZeGerman

    I have been fortunate enough to be photograph this car in the shop which maintains it.  At that time, about two years ago, I was told that the body & paint was untouched from its last days of true competition.  So either I was given inaccurate information, or you were.  Regardless, it’s sad to hear that it got banged up, but I’m sure it will be back.

  • http://www.stanceworks.com/ StanceWorks

    @ZeGerman Was this in Bill Watson’s Road Rockets shop while Henry Schmitt owned the car briefly? Or after, once Cannon purchased the car at the end of 2009? From what I understand, the car, and it’s sister car, were both restored while Schmitt owned the pair. I could be entirely wrong. However, photos of the car back during Schmitt’s ownership seem to show it without much of chipping I was so drawn to.If i’m wrong, my mistake!

  • ZeGerman

    @StanceWorks  I went back and looked at my photos, and I saw it a little more recently than I had originally thought – it was in March of 2012.  The shop is located in the Pacific Northwest, and the car was being prepped before being shipped to France for the LeMans Classic.  The shop’s owner specifically emphasized that all of the paint, stickers, scuffs, scrapes, and chips on the car were original battle scars from its final days of actual competition, and that the body had not been refinished since that time, so it was effectively a complete time capsule.  Whether or not that’s a myth, I wouldn’t be able to verify without contacting the car’s owners.  It’s quite possible that the car has in fact not been refinished since being actively campaigned, and is simply accumulating yet more patina as it continues its life as a vintage racer.

  • http://www.stanceworks.com/ StanceWorks

    @ZeGerman If that’s the case, that’s even more awesome. I dug up an old copy of Bimmer Magazine, which shot the car and wrote about it before the current owner took possession, and they stated the car had indeed been restored. You can never really now unless you get it from the source itself though! If you do find out more, let me know.

  • kev025

    wow, this is amazing! From the ’70s or not, these are true battle scars preserved from some era of racing – truly amazing piece.

  • Norbert

    Why would they crunch such an amazing piece of automotive history? Did they gone insane??? :(

  • champoon

    amazingly well-written article, excellent job

  • Eddward

    Awesome shots!!! Do you use film for that photo session?

  • Preyupy

    #2275988 was one of 12 factory group 4/5 CSL’s. As a Group 4 car It’s first race was Daytona 1975 (Stuck/Posey) , Then Sebring (Stuck/Posey) and Road Atlanta (Posey) it was then called back to BMW Motorsport for use in Europe.  Between the 1975 and 1976 season it was upgraded by the factory to Group 5 specification and ran with Grohs/de Flerlant/ Posey for the next 2 years.  It finished 2nd in GT at Le Mans in 1976. It was then sold to Vasek Polak and he ran the car at Laguna Seca in 1977 in the black livery as it ran at Le Mans.  Before the IMSA race at Laguna Seca 1978 he painted the car white with stripes and ran that single race.  The paint you see in these pictures is the same paint Vasek put on the car in 1978.  After Vasek’s death in 1997 Rug Cunningham purchased the car from Vasek’s estate and because the car had not been run in over 15 years did a complete mechanical restoration on the car but DID NOT TOUCH THE BODYWORK!  After Rug’s death Henry Schmidt bought the car and then sold it to Andrew Cannon.  Still  no body work had been done to the car, it still had 31 year old paint on it including the decals and rock chips.  At Monterey last year Andrew was unfortunately in the way of a Mustang that lost control coming under the bridge at the start of the race, he was hit in the right front corner and driven into the pit wall on the left side of the track (we have in car video from Andrew’s car and 3 other cars that were behind the incident)  The car is being restored to it’s 1976 Le Mans livery and will be back on the track in 2015.  Unfortunately we have lost the patina it had from 1978 but in all honesty it was only raced 1 time looking like that in the day.  We are going to take it back to the time and livery from when it was running at the front of the field not making up the field at the back of the pack.

  • JukkaKarppinen

    Preyupy Now that is great news, can’t wait to see it in black livery! Would love to see some restoration pics if possible…

  • bmwrocketman

    A correction if you will, 2275988, was purchased by V. Polak, along w/2275987 after the 1976 Kyalami event, (1000 KM IIRC), which it won. It was driven there by Jody Schekter, Gunnar Nilsson and Harald Grohs, a phenomenal trio of drivers. In 1977 George Follmer drove it at the IMSA Sears Point event, and Milt Minter drove it at the autumn race IMSA race at Laguna Seca. Polak entered both cars, at the May 1978 IMSA race at Laguna Seca. 2275988 was still in its dark blue livery, and driven again by Minter, where it suffered an engine problem and did not race. John Morton drove 2275987, and won the GTO category, and finished 10th OA, in a car that was now two years out of production. John’s wife proudly noted he set a lap record for class, which stood for several years. I was at the event, and have a snap shot viewing the engine compartment of 987, and looking through the windshield, 988 still in its dark livery, is just behind it. Polak subsequently painted 988 in the Czech colors, to match 987, which he had already converted from its “Hermitite” livery, in which it contested the 1976 World Championship of Makes, along with its brother, on behalf of BMW Motorsport. The palmares of both cars are stellar. Both cars were sold in 1997, 988 to Rug Cunningham, and 987 to Henry Schmitt.

  • IanPhillips

    It’s kind of amazing you guys documented this car with these beautiful photos, just for it to get wrecked that day. Its almost like it was meant to be. I always come back to this post to see these photos. Thanks so much.

  • Drabex


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