BMW hasn't relied on Italian design studios as much as some of its competitors have, but that doesn't mean there haven't been some notable exceptions.
BMW considers itself something of a trend-setter when it comes to automotive design. But that doesn’t mean BMW doesn’t care for Italian design, or that Italian design doesn’t look good on a Bimmer. Sure, the Bavarian automaker hasn’t embraced its neighbors to the south in the same way as Volkswagen (owners of Lamborghini, Ducati and ItalDesign-Giugiaro) has, but there have been a handful of BMW concepts styled by Italian design firms. Here are five of our favorites.
The most recent, of course, is the Gran Lusso Coupe concept designed by Pininfarina and unveiled just days ago at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este. Envisioned as something of a 7 Series coupe (or 8 Series revival), the imposing form is powered by a V12 engine - presumably (but unconfirmed as) the 6.0-liter twin-turbo unit from the 760i. The subtle bronze hue of the Pinfinarina-penned shape is complemented by satin-finish aluminum and gloss black trim and rides on 21-inch wheels, while the driver-oriented cabin has space for four, coddled in black and brown leather, kauri wood from New Zealand, thick carpeting and a wool headliner.
Last year at the same show, BMW revealed the outcome of its first collaboration with Zagato. Based on a Z4 roadster, the BMW Zagato Coupe incorporated a twin-kidney grille up front (typical of BMWs), a double-bubble roof (a Zagato signature) and a Kamm tail out back. The metallic red coupe was followed months later by the BMW Zagato Roadster which debuted at Pebble Beach in silver with a two-tone brown and black interior. Its release only makes us wonder if we should expect a cabriolet version of Pininfarina’s design to debut this August in Monterey as well.
When BMW dreamed up a mid-engined sportscar, it turned to Lamborghini and Giorgetto Guigiaro to make it a reality. So it was only fitting that it should bring the same inimitable designer back on board to create the M1 Hommage concept. Unveiled at Villa d’Este in 2008, the M1 Hommage incorporated modern elements and a retro design. As usual, BMW didn’t divulge powertrain details, and the concept probably didn’t have much of an engine at all. While its emergence spurred rumors that BMW could produce a new mid-engined flagship supercar to compete with the Audi R8, the project seems to be off the table as BMW focuses on the i8 instead.
In between the emergence of the original M1 and the modern M1 Hommage Giugiaro’s ItalDesign studio created the BMW Nazca C2 concept. More extreme than either version of the M1, the Nazca C2 packed a 6.0-liter twin-turbo V12 tuned by Alpina to produce 680 horsepower, packed into a radical hypercar form that was said to be capable of reaching 227 mph. Following the super-coupe’s debut in 1991, ItalDesign showcased a C2 Spider as well. Unfortunately neither ever made it to production, but the BMW-powered McLaren F1 proved even faster after entering production that same year.
For the final entry on our list, we reach back much farther into BMW’s history to find the 3200 Michelotti Vignale. Emerging in 1959, the 3200 brought in the talents of several Italian coachbuilders, including Giovanni Michelotti, Sergio Scaglietti and Carrozzeria Vignale. It was based on the 507 but ditched that roadster’s curves for a more angular lines. Power came from a V8 with just 150 horsepower that was said to propel it to a top speed of 127 mph. After its unveiling at the 1959 Turin Auto Show, it bounced around a few different owners before BMW Classic brought it back to Munich in 2004, and there it remains.