BMW's 20th art car is a Le Mans-bound 215-mph painting on wheels



BMW traveled to Paris, France, to unveil its 20th art car since the series began in 1975. The location isn’t as random as it might seem: the first art car was the brainchild of a French pilot named Hervé Poulain, and the latest art car will race in France at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

With a handful of exceptions, including Matazo Kayama’s 1990 535i (E34), BMW’s art cars have been based on race cars. The 20th stays true to tradition: Ethiopian-born American artist Julie Mehretu started the project by using the M Hybrid V8 LMDh car as a blank canvas. The livery draws inspiration from Mehretu’s abstract paintings, and it’s characterized by dot grids, neon-colored veils, and black markings.

“In the studio, where I had the model of the BMW M Hybrid V8, I was just sitting in front of the painting and I thought: ‘what would happen if this car seemed to go through that painting and becomes affected by it?’ The idea was to make a remix, a mash-up of the painting. I kept seeing that painting kind of dripping into the car. Even the kidneys of the car inhaled the painting,” Mehretu explained.

Her art car is one of two M Hybrid V8s that BMW will enter in the 2024 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s a significant car because it marks the German brand’s long-awaited return to the race’s prototype class after a 25-year hiatus. Assigned number 20, Mehretu’s rolling painting will be driven by Sheldon van der Linde, Robin Frijns and René Rast. The second car (#15) will wear BMW M’s standard race livery.

Both cars use a gasoline-electric hybrid drivetrain that includes a 4.0-liter V8 and an electric motor. The system’s total output checks in at 640 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque, and it gives the M Hybrid V8 a top speed of up to 215 mph depending on the track’s layout. 

The 2024 24 Hours of Le Mans starts on June 15. BMW’s rivals will include Lamborghini, Toyota, Porsche, Ferrari and Cadillac.

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