The 2019 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este was, as ever, packed with extraordinary and impressive collector cars. But one of those cars was something of a secret star: the BMW Garmisch.


It’s not always easy to surprise visitors to the most prestigious events in the classic world. Many stories have been told many times, and even Elvis Presley’s BMW 507 had seen a few events before its appearance on Lake Como. But the BMW Group Classic, one of the main sponsors of the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, succeeded in reviving an almost forgotten study from 1970 that bridges the gap between Bavarian engineering and Italian design art.

BMW GARMISCH – A collaboration with BERTONE

The BMW Garmisch first appeared at the Geneva Motor Show in 1970. The concept car was designed by Marcello Gandini for Bertone. There had already been collaborations between Munich and Italy – think of the BMW 328 Mille Miglia, which was subjected to a weight loss program for the legendary race with a lightweight aluminium body, or the equally famous M1, its wedge shape drawn by Giorgetto Giugiaro. Not only was it advantageous for BMW to adorn themselves with the fine feathers of Italian designers; the concept cars of the big brands were also an opportunity for independent design offices like Bertone to show their creative potential.


It was the same with the BMW Garmisch, as Marcello Gandini remembers: “The original idea came from Nuccio Bertone himself, who wanted to consolidate and expand our existing relationship with BMW with a surprising design study at the Geneva Motor Show.” For the then head of the design office, the goal was “to develop a mid-range coupé that, on the one hand, remained true to the BMW design language, but on the other hand came across a bit more dynamically and even provoked a little.” He undoubtedly succeeded in both. Though the Garmisch looks tidy and smooth along its sides, there are numerous details that look bold and innovative and have potential to polarise opinion, such as the angular, vertically positioned grille or the rectangular glazed headlights.

The interior is no less extravagant. With its unusual radio, which was arranged in portrait format in the centre console, a large folding mirror for the front passenger and an extravagant combination of colours and materials, the BMW Garmisch breaks with the minimalist interior styles of the time. The name, taken from the German ski resort of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, was also no coincidence: it was chosen to appeal to the Bavarian managers on the one hand and the Italian jet set on the other. “Skiing was extremely popular in Italy at that time,” recalls Marcello Gandini. “The name Garmisch conjured up dreams of winter sports and alpine elegance.”

However, after the Geneva Motor Showthe BMW Garmisch prototype disappeared without a trace. It would take almost 50 years for the Geneva study to be taken up again. And – how could it be otherwise? – it was a designer who initiated the resurrection. Adrian van Hooydonk, head of design at the BMW Group, discovered a faded photograph of a vehicle that he couldn’t get out of his head. “The car obviously came from the past, and yet there was something surprisingly modern about it,” said van Hooydonk, and after a little research he found out what the BMW Garmisch was all about.

It’s not surprising that it was one of Marcello Gandini’s vehicles that inspired van Hooydonk. In his 15 years as head of the Bertone design studio in Turin, Gandini designed some of the bravest and most revolutionary automobiles of the era – including sharp-edged concept studies like the Lancia Stratos Zero, but also sports car icons like the Lamborghini Miura and Countach.

“For me, Marcello Gandini is one of the grand masters of automotive design,” says Adrian van Hooydonk. “His cars fascinated me as a child and sparked my interest in automotive design. Marcello Gandini’s designs were always very clear and simple, but also very dramatic. That’s why I find his work so inspiring. He always created something spectacular with just a few design elements. I still think this approach of achieving a lot with simple means is extremely modern. ”



For van Hooydonk, it soon became clear that the BMW Garmisch was more than a design study that had been buried. “The BMW Garmisch exemplifies Bertone’s design philosophy at that time and certainly also Marcello Gandini’s view of the BMW brand,” he says. “That’s why I was thrilled by the idea of ​​bringing the car back – to honor Marcello Gandini as an outstanding designer and to close the gap in the history of BMW.”

Easier said than done: after all, there were only a few photographs and documents of the Garmisch. The first route led Adrian von Hooydonk to Turin. It was clear to him that he did not want to implement the project without the original father of Garmisch, Marcello Gandini. After a bit of persuasion and more information from the grand master, van Hooydonk returned to Munich, where he put together an interdisciplinary team of specialists from the design and classic departments to coordinate research and reconstruction. The car was first built in 3D using photographs – some in black and white. In a second step, a 1: 1 scale model followed, in which proportions and details were coordinated with Marcello Gandini. Small things in the interior or the exact color would hardly have been possible without the contemporary witness. Only then was the second handcrafted BMW Garmisch built in Turin – just like the original almost 50 years ago.

In March 2019, Adrian van Hooydonk and Marcello Gandini saw the ready-to-drive BMW Garmisch for the first time at the Museo Nazionale dell’Automobile in Turin. It was a sublime moment for them both, as was the big reveal in the Villa d’Este a few weeks later. “After I saw the finished car, it was even difficult for me to distinguish it from the original,” says Marcello Gandini.

Now the car is part of the BMW Group Classic collection, ensuring that the BMW Garmisch is not forgotten for a second time.

Photos Rémi Dargegen, Tom Kirkpatrick / BMW Group Classic

Author: Paolo Ollig

As editor-in-chief Paolo regularly writes about all the big and small stories related to classic cars and motorbikes. Classic dreams: Lamborghini Countach and Mercedes-Benz 300 SL.

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