BMW goes to the past to recreate a car that vanished

Way back, BMW commissioned an Italian coachbuilder to do a substantial redesign of its existing mechanical pieces inside a sheetmetal cloaking that was substantially different. BMW contracted with the famed Italian design studio Bertone to come up with a fresh, radical look. The end result was a study called the BMW Garmisch, named for a ski resort in Bavaria, which made its debut at the 1970 Geneva Motor Show. It was a hit.

And then, as rapidly as it appeared on the scene, the car vanished. To this day, nobody is capable of explaining just what happened to the Garmisch.

Many of the people who saw this automobile in Geneva never forgot it, especially the leadership of BMW. To celebrate the 50th year since the brilliant designer Marcello Gandini first penned its shape, BMW has undertaken a precise re-creation of the Garmisch, which made its public debut at this year’s prestigious,just-concluded Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este. This was an absolute cutting-edge exercise in 1969 for Gandini, then the head of advanced design for Bertone, who’s since gone on to be recognized as one of Europe’s most prolific and influential creators of automotive image. Among other projects, Gandini is probably best known for developing the shockingly wild Miura and Countach supercars for Lamborghini.

“Marcello Gandini to me is one of the grandmasters of car design and his cars always have been an important source of inspiration for my work”, says Adrian van Hooydonk, Senior Vice President of BMW Group Design, who has been intrigued by the BMW Garmisch since he first discovered a faded period picture of the car some years ago. “Building the BMW Garmisch for a second time gave us the opportunity to pay tribute to Mr. Gandini, recall one of his lesser-known cars and highlight Bertone’s stylistic influence on the evolution of BMW design. For me, that alone was reason enough to do this project – filling in the gaps and completing BMW’s history.” 

The Garmisch abounds with signature styling cues, however modified, that bespeak then-common themes at both BMW and Bertone. Look at the rounded, flared wheel arches and the double-kidney grille that Turin-based Bertone turned almost trapezoidal. The forward-sloped nose and angular C-pillars are immediately recognizable. The eggcrate rear-window shade recalls Bertone studies such as the Alfa Romeo Carabo and the Lancia Stratos Zero, both of which Gandini also crafted. Conceptually, the Garmisch has a lot in common with the Volvo 780 Bertone Coupe, which actually saw production during the 1980s.

Collaborations between BMW and Italian stylists go back to very early in the marque’s history. Even as stellar a collectible as the BMW 328 Mille Miglia of the late 1930s was styled in Italy by Carrozzeria Touring. The Garmisch re-creation makes extensive use of modern 3D modeling techniques, and Gandini himself proudly assisted in the project.

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