BMW creates a spectacular concept car inspired by its past for the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este show every year. This year, though, the marque took a different tack, building a recreation of the long-lost, deeply lovely BMW Garmisch concept.
Penned by the genius designer Marcello Gandini, the Garmisch was created by Italian styling house Bertone for the 1970 Geneva Motor Show. It was intended simply to consolidate the company’s existing relationship with BMW, applying the clean, geometrical lines pioneered by Gandini – among others – to a small BMW coupe. It was an independent project, with no input from BMW itself.
BMW has long worked with and taken influence from the great Italian stylists and coachbuilders. History doesn’t record what BMW made of the Garmisch at the time, but we think there are distinct echoes of it in the E12 5-Series and E24 6-Series that followed in 1972 and 1976.
Most distinctive in the Garmisch’s styling were the geometric interpretation of BMW ‘kidney’ grille, the vented C-pillar and the honeycomb rear windscreen cover. Other elements like the straight-edged swage line down the sides and the rear quarter graphic would appear again on other Gandini designs throughout the Seventies.
No-one seems to know why, but after its two weeks on display at the 1970 Geneva show, the Garmisch vanished. No trace of it has been found since. Indeed, any sort of official information about or photos of the concept are virtually non-existent. In recreating the Garmisch, BMW only had five faded, black and white images to work from.
It was discovering one of those images that prompted BMW’s chief designer, Adrian van Hooydonk to instigate the recreation of the Garmisch. Fortunately, Marcello Gandini is still with us – aged 80 – and so van Hooydonk sought his approval and help in remaking the Garmisch.
Gandini’s recollections were particularly helpful in recreating the – surprisingly subtle for a Seventies concept – exterior and interior colour schemes, which weren’t obvious from the photos. Same goes for the interior materials.
The interior features an unusual and deeply cool vertically-positioned radio, and a rather bizarre fold-out mirror for the passenger. Suitably lavish, leather upholstery covers pretty much every surface.
Van Hooydonk commented: “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. That alone was reason enough to do this project – filling in the gaps and completing BMW’s history.”
Gandini gave the Garmisch the ultimate seal of approval: “Having seen the final car, it is hard for me to even distinguish it from the original.”
By Graham King