Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este, one of Europe's most exclusive car shows, is all about celebrating priceless classic cars, many of which hail from long-dead brands. In a flip of its traditional script, however, this weekend's prestigious Italian show on the shores of Lake Como gave birth to a new car from a long-dead brand. That marque, Austro-Daimler, originally produced a series of innovative cars from 1899 to 1934. Today, the company is arguably best known for producing models under the guidance of Ferdinand Porsche, a man who would on to greater successes. More recently, the Austro-Daimler name has been attached to a series of high-end bicycles.
It's tempting to assume that because the Austro-Daimler Bergmeister ADR 630 Shooting Grand seen here features gullwing doors with familiar-looking handles that it's little more than a rebodied. After all, that now-defunct sports coupe did provide a few small parts for the car, including those aforementioned door handles. Indeed, this sleek white two-door coupe's inline-six engine, windshield and suspension also hail from the Three-Pointed Star automaker, albeit donated from the German company's sports car. However, the lion's share of the ADR 630 is all new.
The car sits on a purpose-built aluminum chassis, and its bodywork is a mixture of bespoke aluminum and carbon fiber, lending it perfect 50:50 weight distribution. The Bergmeister's most radical departure? This car is a plug-in hybrid. That's right, it's electrified.
According to project manager Roland Stagl, the Bergmeister ("Hillclimb Champion") features a proprietary three-motor hybrid design backed by a rear-mounted 55-kWh battery pack mounted behind the seats. Stagl says the package is not only good for 250 kilometers of battery-only range (155 miles), it will manage an impressive 800 km all-in between gas and electrons -- that's around 500 miles. The battery pack is designed to take advantage of 150-kW chargers. The three motors, good for 600 kW combined, come from a Swiss company with involvement in Formula E. Stagl did not reveal who provides the battery pack.
Electrification and more extreme tuning means that this shooting-brake-style automobile will have significantly more power than the 4.0-liter I6 in the Mercedes-AMG GT. How much more? Try 1,198 horsepower and 1,180 pound-feet of torque. Performance is thus pegged to include a 0-62 mph time of 2.5 seconds and a top speed of over 200 mph.
Stagl tells Roadshow that this first car has already been purchased by a customer, and his dream is to build a small series, though he declined to elaborate on how many examples may eventually be built. Future Austro-Daimler models are possible, including a convertible version:"Yes, it's the first step, I think," he told Roadshow. A second, "smaller" model is also possible. Stagl declined to disclose the Bergmeister's price, other than to characterize it as "really expensive." This is undoubtedly a car with a serious six-figure price tag -- if not seven.
Taking a brand that last made cars in the 1930s and then working to produce a new design that looks modern, yet carries hallmarks of the marque's past history must've been a challenge. "You have to find the right topics," says the car's chief designer, Lorenz Loew. "One thing is the roofline, for example. If you look at every other modern car, from the front of the roofline, every other car falls down (descends). In the 1930s, cars' rooflines were always rising" (partly because of the framework under their fabric roofs). This new car adopts that rising roofline, giving it the ADR 630 a "completely different silhouette than (other) modern cars," Loew told Roadshow. The distinctive double-bubble roofline helps give the cabin more headroom for taller drivers, as well as improved helmet clearances.
Among the other areas referencing Austro-Daimler's original era, the headlamp detailing was inspired by 1930s Art Deco-era design. Naturally, the car also wears the historic company's logo, as well: a round emblem depicting a simple bow-and-arrow motif.
Exhuming a defunct brand and its attendant iconography and attempting to restart it as new company is hardly a new idea -- we've seen plenty of historic and long-gone names appended to splashy new startup premium automakers like Hispano-Suiza, Avanti, Auburn and Studebaker. Historically, most such efforts have sadly amounted to little more than lavish unveilings, lost fortunes and broken dreams. And yet, especially in the case of the truly pretty designs and fabled names, we all want to believe. The Bergmeister ADR 630 Shooting Grand is indeed beautiful, and after chatting with the project manager and chief designer, I want to believe in the future of this young-again marque, too.
The road to building cars at scale is incredibly difficult and capital-intensive, but the Austro-Daimler brand does appear to have some important things going for it, including a surprisingly well-finished and good-looking first car. Perhaps more importantly, the model is being built by people who already have a track record in the automaking business: Ideenion Automobil AG, a German concern, is assembling the cars (Loew is also the company's CEO). Ideenon has worked with companies like Audi, Bosch and Apollo on the design and execution of show cars and prototyping, including producing parts as disparate as chassis and seats.
According to Stagl, he's had this dream in his head for 17 years. "We have a lot of tradition in automobile technology, but no (current) owned brand in our land. Since I was a boy, I have had a dream that I (wanted to) start an Austrian brand. Then I had the idea to make an old brand alive, not a new brand with a fantasy name," he said. That dream is clearly very much alive, and judging by the reaction of the well-heeled crowd that witnessed the bow-and-arrow brand's coming-out party at Villa d'Este, Stagl and Loew may be on their way to hitting an unlikely bull's-eye.