Great things come in threes

For everything else in the world today, you nonetheless can’t claim that the universe of automobiling hasn’t had its own foundation-shakers this year. Ford reimagined the Bronco and NASCAR banned the Stars and Bars, just for openers. The orbit of collectible automobiles has stood above the fray with some really noteworthy happenings, too, but they’re all likely to pale allongside this one. Later this month, Sotheby’s will offer three of the most vaunted automotive styling exercises of the entire postwar era, and it’s selling them as a single block of three cars. These are the trio of Berlina Aerodinamica Tecnica studies undertaken by Alfa Romeo in cooperation with the Italian coachworks, Bertone, one each built for the Turin auto salons in 1953, 1954 and 1955. Known collectively as the B.A.T. cars, these three Alfas are some of the most instantly recognizable concept cars in automotive history. True story: Not that long ago, I saw all three of them rolling down the street in Monterey, California, just days before they appeared as a group on the lawn at Pebble Beach. Now, you’ve got an opportunity to buy all three of these illustrious automobiles.

Based on Alfa Romeo 1900 mechanicals, the B.A.T. cars, numbers 5, 6 and 7, were penned under the direct supervision of designer Franco Scaglione as studies in maximizing aerodynamic efficiency. Scaglione achieved marked success in that regard, dropping the cars’ coefficient of drag all the way down to .19, a figure that’s still considered fabulous today. It was good enough to give these small-displacement specials top speeds in excess of 125 MPH. All three cars were sold off by Alfa Romeo following their star turns at Turin, and were never seen together again until being reunited at Pebble Beach for the first time in 1989, with styling studio founder Nuccio Bertone presiding over the display. With little fanfare, they’ve been gathered under solo ownership and restored before being consigned to Sotheby’s, which will sell them at its Contemporary Art Evening Sale in New York City on October 28th. Hands down, this will be the automotive auction sale of the year, surpassing even the Mecum hoopla over the Bullitt Mustang back in January. The pre-sale estimate, we should add, is set at $14 million to $20 million.

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