The suit-and-tie event that kicks off BMW’s portion of the Villa d’Este Concorso d’Eleganza weekend usually involves two constants: free-flowing champagne served on sterling silver trays and a concept car unveiling that may or may not prophesy future product. Nobody quite expected this year’s ceremony to reveal a re-creation of long-lost concept: the 1970s-inspired BMW Garmisch was a curveball that brought the dressy crowd completely to their knees.
The Garmisch is a near-perfect redux of the show car that debuted at the Geneva Motor Show in 1970, a surprise blast to the past that triggered a flood of curiosity from the motoring cognoscenti. Here are seven facts you should know about BMW’s unexpected concept car.
It’s an adoring tribute to Marcello Gandini. VP of BMW Group design Adrian van Hooydonk is an unabashed fan of Marcello Gandini, who penned the original Garmisch, which has much to do with why the reborn car was selected to be featured at Villa d’Este. “Gandini is really one of my youth heroes,” van Hooydonk says of the Italian designer responsible for such high-water mark designs as the Alfa Romeo 33 Carabo and the Lamborghini Miura. Focusing on one of the Italian designer’s more obscure products (which happened to be a BMW project) was a way for van Hooydonk to tip his hat to the guru.
The Maestro played a big part in the (re)build process. Van Hooydonk says that when he asked Gandini’s permission to execute the Garmisch concept, he was also seeking his assistance with the project. Because it was Gandini’s baby back in the day, the 80-year-old designer knows more about the concept than anyone else. Using a handful of period photos as the starting point, a computer rendering was created for Gandini to provide notes on, followed by a full-scale foam model. The final product ultimately received the original designer’s stamp of approval, and Gandini was present at its unveiling.
BMW dipped into the Fiat parts bin. Keen observers might notice a familiar detail: door handles sourced from a Fiat X1/9. The hardware choice is entirely comprehensible, as Gandini penned the Fiat, which started production in 1972.
The build involved a visit to the scrapyard. The Garmisch concept was built around a BMW 2002 chassis, which was sourced by the Turin firm that executed the modern build. The original concept was also built on the same platform, and it also inspired the E21 BMW 5-series design co-created by Gandini.
The rear-window detailing shares something with a Lamborghini. Marcello Gandini was responsible for several pivotal Lamborghini designs, including the Miura, the Countach, and the Marzal concept that inspired the Espada. The Garmisch features a honeycomb pattern over its rear glass that was also featured on the Marzal.
The low-tech interior still has features you can use. Those who bemoan today’s plethora of digital screens and of scarcity of storage space are bound to appreciate the Garmisch’s definitively retro interior: This totally ’70s cabin includes a massive fold-out mirror for the front passenger and a storage drawer big enough to swallow a purse.
Gandini thought BMW was crazy for redoing the Garmisch. Let’s face it, most car fanatics would pick Gandini’s brain about his repertoire of supercar designs, not an obscure Bimmer concept that was lost to time. Adrian van Hooydonk says that when he asked permission to recreate the Garmisch, Gandini said, “Well, if you’re crazy enough to do it, be my guest.”