The 2012 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este seemed a perfect launch pad for the BMW Zagato Coupé -- a combined effort from Milanese coachbuilder Zagato and BMW. Whether or not any of its design cues will make into production remains to be seen.
The Concorso at Villa d’Este is one of the most exclusive events in the world of classic cars and motorcycles. The vehicles shown on the banks of Lake Como are hand-picked, the number of entrants limited and the surroundings without comparison. The Concorso began as a get-together of coachbuilders presenting one-off hand-built creations, and the BMW Zagato Coupé follows in that tradition.
The two partners settled on a realistic approach to the development of the BMW Zagato Coupé. “Zagato has always provided its customers with ready-to-drive cars which can be sent into action on the road or race track without further ado," said Dr Andrea Zagato, who's the third generation of his family to run the company. To this end, the car is registered for road use and meets all the legal requirements worldwide. The new car has already cut a “bella figura” at high speeds during testing on the BMW test track.
Both partners can look back on a rich heritage, sharing a passion for cars that stretches back over 80 years. Adrian van Hooydonk, Senior Vice-President BMW Group Design, and Andrea Zagato are long-time appreciators of each other’s work; indeed, Zagato took home the prestigious Concorso d’Eleganza Design Award in both 2010 and 2011.
In 1939, BMW approached Italian craftsmen to build a coupé based on the BMW 328 for the upcoming race season and specifically for the Mille Miglia (where it triumphed in 1940, albeit against limited opposition). BMW was back to Milan in 1954 to buy from Renzo Rivolta, founder of ISO, drawings, license and tooling necessary for the production of the Isetta, which would tide BMW over a very rough patch.
Almost sixty years later BMW had the opportunity to re-establish a connection with the Rivolta family, as Marella Rivolta, wife of Andrea Zagato, is Zagato Art Director and responsible of BMW Coupé Zagato trim and colours.
Italian designers have also created BMW concept cars in bthe past: the BMW 3200 Michelotti Vignale (1959), BMW 700 (1959), BMW 3200 CS Bertone (1962) and BMW M1 (1978) – all of which remain design icons to this day.
Much has changed since those earlier collaborations, however, with the advent of new working methods such as digital sketching, Photoshop and CAD/CAS tools opening the door to an entirely new way of working. Despite these advances in the design tools available, the body of the BMW Zagato Coupé has been built entirely by hand. As in the past, the new skin was tailored to fit the car’s mechanical architecture.
The proportions of the BMW Zagato Coupé alone exude the promise of a very special driving experience. The extremely long bonnet, greenhouse set well back and double bubble roof and Kamm Tail sum up the dynamic focus of the car. The flowing roofline melts away into the compact, muscular rear, where the car’s power is transferred to the road. This sculptural and visually striking surface treatment is a Zagato hallmark and lends the BMW Zagato Coupé a distinctive and instantly recognisable personality.
The BMW Zagato Coupé is wide and powerfully contoured at the front. A stunning interpretation of the classic BMW face – with its twin circular headlights, kidney-shaped radiator grille and BMW logo – marks the BMW Zagato Coupé out as a BMW without the need for a second glance. The contours of the bonnet are picked up by the double-bubble roof as the lines of the body continue on to the rear of the car. These two domes built into the structure of the roof are a signature feature of Zagato design and reduce the front area. As well as providing greater headroom when wearing a helmet on the track, the double bubble (“doppia gobba”) roof also enhances the car’s aerodynamics and increases the roof’s torsional rigidity. The roof of almost every Zagato features this design.
From the side, the BMW Zagato Coupé displays the pared down, clearly defined distribution of visual mass for which Zagato is renowned, blended with the familiar surface treatment and design language of a BMW. Its coupé design also necessitated a new roofline, which highlights the car’s potential with impressive fluidity and dynamic élan.
Another characteristic Zagato design theme is the specially designed “criss-cross” transition from the side windows into the rear window. The lower section of the side window surrounds slants dramatically upwards just ahead of the rear end and extends to form the upper border of the rear window. In so doing, this hallmark design element links the sides and rear via the C-pillar and ensures a harmonious connection between the different sections of the car. The BMW Zagato Coupé doesn’t need any rear wing since the aerodynamics of its tail are already very efficient.
The most distinctive feature of the rear end is the transparent panel in its upper section familiar from other Zagato creations. Divided visually into three sections, the generous glass surfaces open up a line of sight to the lights and into the interior. Their dark tint gives the BMW Zagato Coupé an even sportier look. The tinted rear window can be opened, offering access to the rear luggage compartment. A prominent rear bumper feeds downwards into a large diffuser. The exhaust tailpipes, positioned towards the outer edges of the rear, add further emphasis, their matt finish contributing another stylish flourish to the rear.
A very special highlight of the BMW Zagato Coupé is its paintwork. The exclusive exterior paint finish Rosso Vivace – an expressive shade of red – brings the surfaces and forms of the Coupé to life. Depending on how the light hits the body, the colour spectrum ranges from something close to black all the way to a brilliant red. This remarkable depth and radiance is possible thanks to sophisticated paint application technology. The primer coat – made up of a black application, followed by a layer of shimmering metallic silver – is applied first. Then come six ultra-thin coats of the exclusively developed red shade to deliver this unique effect. Finally, two layers of clear coat seal in the color.
Well, that's enough purple prose for now. Stay tuned for more pictures in future.––Paul Duchene
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