Friday, on the monied shores of Northern Italy's Lake Como, BMW revealed a particularly unusual and striking new concept car to the media ahead of the region's ultra-posh Concorso D'Eleganza Villa D'Este classic car show. Yes, the coupe seen here is indeed a brand-new car, it just doesn't look like it. It's a painstaking recreation of a somewhat obscure 1970 Geneva Motor Show showcar that ended up having a surprisingly large impact on the company.
Known as the BMW Garmisch, this champagne-colored recreation is an unconventional and surprising development from the German luxury automaker for many reasons. The car is a dramatic rebirth of the original 1979 2002 ti Garmisch Coupe concept, an independent proposal from Italian design house Bertone that few remember -- a one-off car whose fate has been lost to the fog of time.
Over its century-plus-history, BMW has authored as deep a bench of seminal road cars and concepts as any automaker you can name, yet that they've chosen to pluck this Marcello Gandini-penned coupe and give it new life is a telling choice, even if it seems a bit odd on the surface.
This coupe is quite a remarkable story, and not just because in today's car industry, where pursestrings are tightly clutched and SUVs rule, precious few automakers invest in recreations at all. It's remarkable because it was recreated using little more than ephemera -- a smattering of period photos (mostly black and white) plus a few documents were all BMW had to go on as it was attempting to scratch-build a new one. More on this in a moment.
Named for a once-prominent upper-crust German ski village that played host to the 1936 Winter Olympics, the Garmisch coupe's slim bodyform and airy greenhouse stand at odds not just with most modern cars, but with BMW's current range, which has adopted more imposing features and proportions.
Barring its unusually angular and oversize interpretation (for the era) of BMW's trademark twin-kidney grille, there aren't many visual cues to link the Garmisch to models you can see in BMW showrooms today. But that doesn't mean this four-seat coupe doesn't feature prominently in the company's design history. Not everyone will consider this car to be particularly beautiful, but it also doesn't take great effort to see how this Bertone design's proportions and details helped inform the 1972 E12 5 Series sedan and the 1976 E24 6 Series that followed. Both of those cars are considered all-time classics.
In a very real way, the Garmisch is a missing link, a critical strand of design DNA that was once lost, but is now restored. As such, this coupe is a reminder of the company's past more than its likely future, and that, in itself makes the Garmisch's revival that much more unlikely, but no less wonderful.
How unlikely? After discovering and studying a vintage photo of the original car, "I never really got it out of my head," Adrian van Hooydonk, BMW Group's head of design, noted in an official statement. In 2018, van Hooydonk approached the car's original designer, Marcello Gandini, about recreating the Garmisch, and even he was surprised. "Of course, we did not want to do this without Mr. Gandini. I told him about our idea to bring back the BMW Garmisch. He thought it was a little bit crazy, but he liked it," said van Hooydonk.
(Now age 80, Gandini is perhaps best known as the Father of The Wedge, including landmark concepts like the Lancia Stratos Zero as well as production designs like the Lamborghini Countach and the Miura before it, itself arguably the world's first supercar).
This recreation was a particularly ambitious project, if only because there was so little to base the new car on. BMW Group Design had to work with historians at BMW Group Classic and Marcello Gandini himself to piece the design back together. The company used "the latest 3D modeling technologies to revive and specify the original structures and shapes," and in a nice touch, like the original car some 50 years ago, this new one was hand-assembled in Turin by master craftsmen.
BMW has a history of launching a special series of concept cars and motorcycles at Villa D'Este, but historically, they've been modern reinterpretations of classic models. Among the most prominent have been therevealed in 2008, and more recently, the . This Garmisch, though, is something different, mostly because it isn't different -- BMW set out to execute a straight recreation of the original car.
There are a number of fascinating period details to the car, including the almost boat-like upturned shark nose and shrouded headlamps, as well as those oh-so-Seventies rear window louvers done up in Gandini's favorite honeycomb motif.
The Garmisch's cabin is no less interesting, incorporating a thin-rimmed four-spoke steering wheel and a vertically oriented radio mounted just ahead of the manual gearshift. Ahead of the passenger, you can't help but notice the oversize drawer-style glove box with a large mirror mounted to the lid.
The original 1970 Garmisch showcar was built in four months atop a production 2002 coupe, a car that itself has become a pillar in BMW lore. For this new one, BMW was able to source a 2002 to form the basis, as well. The automaker isn't detailing if the car has any non-standard powertrain features, and in truth, the company isn't sharing much about what's under the Garmisch's skin at all. This car is all about the design, and that's just fine by us.
So, how close is this car to the original Garmisch? "Having seen the final car, it is hard for me to even distinguish it from the original," said Gandini.