BMW Just Reincarnated a Long-Lost, 50-Year-Old Concept Car

The Garmisch has been rebuilt, and it’s as avant-garde today as when it was first unveiled.

BMW has a long history of debuting concept cars at Villa d'Este, and an even longer tradition of collaborating with Italian coachbuilders. Those ties go back as early as the 1930s, when the Bavarian carmaker commissioned Carrozzeria Touring to build the BMW 328 Mille Miglia.

In a slight detour from tradition, the Munich brand's one-off debut at this year's Villa d'Este Concorso d'Eleganza isn't a futuristic reinterpretation, but rather a recreation of a long-lost sedan concept that was unveiled at the 1970 Geneva Motor Show. The idea for the angular (and inscrutably named) original Garmisch concept came from design boss man Nuccio Bertone himself, who assigned the task of penning the midsize coupe to none other than Marcello Gandini, the man who essentially invented wedge design through such stunners as the Lancia Stratos Zero concept, the Alfa Romeo 33 Carabo prototype, and the Lamborghini Miura and Countach.

Using a BMW 2002tii as a starting point, Gandini and his team spent four months re-sculpting shapes and shifting proportions to create the coupe, which was named after a once-glamorous Italian ski town that also happens to be geographically close to Munich. The concept was pure Gandini, with his signature touches embedded throughout, from the Dino 308 GT4's linear tail to the Lamborghini Marzal-inspired honeycomb mesh over the rear windows. Those elements carry over to the re-creation, as do the square, glass-covered headlamps framed a positively futuristic depiction of BMW's familiar kidney grilles, and the avant-garde touches inside, including a clean horizontal dashboard panel bisected by a vertical radio and ventilation controls. Folding out of a tray is a gargantuan letterboxed vanity mirror for the passenger. Take that, multimedia screens.

Because the original concept car has never been recovered, BMW design head Adrian van Hooydonk approached Gandini in summer of 2018 for permission to piece together the puzzle of the Garmisch. Using historical photos, drawings, and 80-year-old Gandini's recollection of how the pieces fit together, BMW Group Design and BMW Classic created a 3D rendering, then a full-scale model. The final product was produced in Turin, where the original was also built.

We'll take it as a positive sign that BMW is taking a moment to reexamine its design past and embrace a potentially polarizing concept car. It may not have been the most outlandish or influential design, but the Garmisch represented an important link between the hugely successful 2002 series and the E12 5-series that would see its exterior co-penned by Gandini under design director Paul Bracq. Taking a moment to recognize past successes is, after all, key to building a compelling future.

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