The BMW Zagato Coupé.
Cernobbio. The Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este will once again host a
spectacular world premiere in 2012 and, in so doing, build on its
tradition as a gathering of the industry's leading coachbuilders. The
premiere in question will see the time-honoured Milanese coachbuilder
Zagato team up with BMW to unveil the result of a unique
collaboration: the BMW Zagato Coupé.
Zagato has worked in close collaboration to create an exciting and
emotionally charged coupé in the finest tradition of automotive
workmanship. The BMW Zagato Coupé embodies the unbridled fascination
of cars and fuses the design DNA of the two companies into a fresh and
desinctive whole. This one-off model is the product of many hours of
skilled hand-craftsmanship and breathes new life into the tradition of
It is hard to think of a better occasion for the premiere than the
Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este, one of the most exclusive events in
the world of classic cars and motorcycles. The vehicles shown on the
banks of Lake Como are hand-picked, the number of entrants limited and
the surroundings simply without comparison. The Concorso began as a
get-together of coachbuilders presenting one-off hand-built creations,
and the BMW Zagato Coupé follows very much in that tradition.
Made for the road.
The two partners settled on a realistic and applied approach to the
development of the BMW Zagato Coupé. "Zagato has always provided
its customers with ready-to-drive cars which can be sent into action
on the road or race track without further ado – and the BMW Zagato
Coupé fits the same template," says Dr Andrea Zagato, who
represents the third generation of his family to sit at the helm of
the company. To this end, the car is registered for road use and meets
all the legal requirements worldwide. "It is relatively easy to
build a design study which is not intended for use on the road. Not
having to meet any stipulations governing crash safety or pedestrian
protection opens up a host of new avenues in terms of design," he
adds. "The challenge lies in injecting the emotional appeal of a
concept car into a road-legal machine. And we think we have succeeded
in doing just that with the BMW Zagato Coupé." Indeed, the new
creation has already cut a "bella figura" at high speeds
during testing on the BMW test track.
Both partners can look back on a rich heritage, sharing as they do a
passion for cars that stretches back over 80 years. Added to which,
Adrian van Hooydonk, Senior Vice-President BMW Group Design, and
Andrea Zagato are long-time appreciators of each other's work; indeed,
Zagato took home the prestigious Concorso d'Eleganza Design Award in
both 2010 and 2011. However, this collaboration is about more than
Zagato chief designer Norihiko Harada and van Hooydonk have been
friends for many years, so when Andrea Zagato proposed a
collaboration, it wasn't long before the decision was made to build a
car at Zagato that embodies the two companies' passion for cars.
BMW and the Italian design.
After sawing in 1939 the creation of the first BMWs sporting tailor
made Italian metalwork, a coupé based on the BMW 328 for the upcoming
race season and specifically for the Mille Miglia (where it triumphed
in 1940), BMW was back to Milan in 1954 to buy from Renzo Rivolta,
founder of ISO, drawings, license and tooling necessary for the
production of the legendary Isetta.
Almost sixty years later BMW had the opportunity to re-establish a
connection with the Rivolta family. As a matter of fact Marella
Rivolta, wife of Andrea Zagato, is Zagato Art Director and responsible
of BMW Coupé Zagato trim and colours.
The hands of Italian designers were also responsible for the
eye-catching looks of the BMW 3200 Michelotti Vignale (1959), BMW 700
(1959), BMW 3200 CS Bertone (1962) and BMW M1 (1978) – all of which
retain the status of design icons to this day.
The BMW Zagato Coupé heralds a new chapter in the tradition of
cooperation between BMW and Italian designers. Much has changed since
those earlier collaborations, however, with the advent of new working
methods such as digital sketching, Photoshop and CAD/CAS tools opening
the door to an entirely new way of working. Despite these advances in
the design tools available, the human touch is still essential to the
process. "Working with Zagato was a fantastic experience. It was
extremely enriching for us to create something with people who share
our understanding of good design and passion for cars," explains
Karim Habib, Head of Design BMW Automobiles. "And that is what
makes the car so special – the open and constructive dialogue with
Zagato, their experience, craftsmanship and incomparable sense for
forms. All of these gifts are wrapped up in the BMW Zagato
The body of the BMW Zagato Coupé has been built entirely by hand. As
in the past, the new skin was tailored to fit the car's mechanical
architecture, tracing its lines yet giving it space to breathe. The
Zagato experts spent many hours crafting the aluminium sheet metal by
hand and meticulously moulding it to give the car its unique form.
The design – a BMW seen through the eyes of Zagato.
The BMW Zagato Coupé is a collaboration between auto enthusiasts – a
BMW seen through the eyes of Zagato. This comes through in the design
of the car, hallmark design cues from both companies merging to form
an emotion-laden coupé in the best Zagato tradition. The brief for the
car was clear from the outset: the BMW Zagato Coupé was to be a
"Vmax concept", a road-registered, aerodynamically optimised
machine capable of achieving high speeds yet at the same time meeting
all legal requirements and crash-related stipulations – a car that is
ready and eager to be driven.
The proportions of the BMW Zagato Coupé alone exude the promise of a
very special driving experience. The extremely long bonnet, greenhouse
set well back and double bubble roof and Kamm Tail sum up the dynamic
focus of the car as only a coupé could. The flowing roofline melts
away into the compact, muscular rear, where the car's power is
transferred to the road. This sculptural and visually striking surface
treatment is a Zagato hallmark and lends the BMW Zagato Coupé a
distinctive and instantly recognisable personality. The surface
treatment, on the other hand, is clearly inspired by BMW. The car's
dynamic silhouette sees precise lines forging a path over taut
surfaces towards the rear. Surfaces moulded with eye-catching depth
underline the sporting statement of the BMW Zagato Coupé. "For
me, the BMW Zagato Coupé holds a very special magic. It exudes a
certain spontaneity which, when combined with the type of
unconventional solutions typical of Zagato, lend the car a very
individual elegance," says Zagato chief designer Norihiko
A striking front end.
The BMW Zagato Coupé is extremely three-dimensional, very wide and
powerfully contoured at the front. The dynamically forward-surging
front end dips down prominently towards the road and gives the car an
agile sense of purpose, as if in mid-leap. A stunning interpretation
of the classic BMW face – with its twin circular headlights,
kidney-shaped radiator grille and BMW logo – marks the BMW Zagato
Coupé out as a BMW without the need for a second glance. These
extremely low, width-emphasising elements lend the front end an
undeniably sporty appearance.
The contoured bonnet builds on this dynamic flair with its sweeping
lines and taut surfaces. A pair of air intakes integrated into the
bonnet send extra supplies of air into the engine compartment and
highlight the presence of the high-performance engine beneath. The
contours of the bonnet are picked up by the double-bubble roof as the
lines of the body continue on to the rear of the car. These two domes
built into the structure of the roof are a signature feature of Zagato
design and reduce the front area. As well as providing greater
headroom when wearing a helmet on the track, the double bubble
("doppia gobba") roof also enhances the car's aerodynamics
and increases the roof's torsional rigidity. The roof of almost every
Zagato features this design.
Looking further down below the bonnet, the headlights of the BMW
Zagato Coupé focus purposefully on the road ahead, and accentuate the
car's driver-oriented character and high-speed potential. Low down
between the headlights is Zagato's take on the BMW radiator grille,
with matt kidney frames inspired by Buckmister Fuller geodetic
structures A stand-out detail here is the use of countless small matt
Zagato "z" letters to make up the kidney grille. Viewed from
the front, the "z" letters appear to be floating within the
kidneys. Close-up, it is clear that they are set against a collection
of other dark-coloured "z"s positioned into octagons.
Gleaming chrome "z"s are used only on the visible side of
the octagons. This arrangement injects added depth into the kidney
grating and gives the front end an extra touch of class.
The design of the front apron steers the eye to the wheels and the
car's broad stance. Large air intakes add low-set finishing touches to
the car's nose, their dynamic form and size hinting at the power of
the engine under the bonnet.
Dynamic, powerful flanks.
From the side, the BMW Zagato Coupé displays the pared down, clearly
defined distribution of visual mass for which Zagato is renowned,
blended with the familiar surface treatment and design language of a
BMW. Its coupé design also necessitated a new roofline, which
highlights the car's potential with impressive fluidity and dynamic
The long, sweeping bonnet sends the greenhouse a long way back towards
the rear and the car's visual focus is therefore also pulled
rearwards, in traditional Zagato 2 seater style. The rear end itself
is cut almost vertically in another Zagato cue, which enhances
aerodynamics. The flanks, meanwhile, adopt the classical BMW Roadster
lines, imbues them with extra tautness and extends them into the
muscular rear end with a compelling swing of the hips. The attractive
interplay of lines here draws attention to the rear wheels and the
car's rear-wheel-drive configuration. The powerful flourish above the
rear wheels is picked up and passed on by the spoiler, injecting the
whole area with additional dynamic impetus.
The side air vents reference the form of the bonnet intakes and extend
their dynamic agenda to the car's flanks. Below the side vents, the
silver "z" provides another nod to the cooperation between
BMW and Zagato.
Slightly offset behind the silver "z", a matching
indentation provides greater depth and three-dimensionality. The two
"z"s in the air intakes and BMW badges are the only gleaming
chrome elements on the BMW Zagato Coupé.
Another characteristic Zagato design theme is the specially designed
"criss-cross" transition from the side windows into the rear
window. The lower section of the side window surrounds slants
dramatically upwards just ahead of the rear end and extends to form
the upper border of the rear window. In so doing, this hallmark design
element links the sides and rear via the C-pillar and ensures a
harmonious connection between the different sections of the car. This
aspect of the BMW Zagato Coupé design is particularly striking when
viewed from above.
A common heritage
Both BMW and Zagato are famous for getting the same inspiration from
Professor Kamm's studies on aerodynamic rear end. The 1940 BMW 328
Kamm Coupé as well as the Alfa SZ and TZ boosted a typical Kamm-tail
(K-tail) layout. This solution became famous in Italy with the name
"Coda Tronca" bodies which were tested by Zagato in the
beginning of the 60s.
Kamm Effect is part of the functional design approach that aims to the
aerodynamic efficiency. According to this, the CX can be lowered by
keeping compact volumes at the same time. The reduction of the wind
resistance is assured with the Kamm Tail design, without any need of a
very stretched "drop" shape of the tail.
BMW Zagato Coupé doesn't need the support of any fix or mobile rear
wing since the aerodynamic of its tail is already very efficient.
A muscular rear end.
The distinctive rear end provides the clearest evidence of Zagato's
influence. Formed almost without a single joint, the rear end cuts a
classy figure, appearing as if formed from a single mould. Nothing
interrupts the flow of surfaces and the powerful sculpture of the
rear. At the same time, this also provides evidence of the high degree
of hand-craftsmanship involved in making the car and Zagato's
experience in the manipulation of surfaces and forms, channelled into
the car's design at the company's studio.
Taken as a whole, the rear of the BMW Zagato Coupé has a very broad,
low-slung appearance, its powerful, solid form and purposeful design
language giving the car a planted stance on the road.
The most distinctive feature of the rear end is the transparent panel
in its upper section familiar from other Zagato creations. Divided
visually into three sections, the generous glass surfaces open up a
line of sight to the lights and into the interior. Their dark tint
gives the BMW Zagato Coupé an even sportier look. A curved bar
featuring the Zagato trademark splits the surface into sections and
gives the car a greater impression of width. The likewise tinted rear
window can be opened, offering access to the rear luggage
A prominent rear bumper feeds downwards into a large diffuser. The
diffuser extends well out to the sides, providing an effective
contrast to the bar dividing the glass and lending the rear an
extremely broad and sporty presence in the process. Matt edging
accentuates the form of the diffuser, draws the focus to the wheels
and underlines the planted stance of the BMW Zagato Coupé. The exhaust
tailpipes, positioned towards the outer edges of the rear, add further
emphasis, their matt finish contributing another stylish flourish to
Highlights and details.
The unique character of the BMW Zagato Coupé is reflected in even
smaller details. The 19-inch light-alloy wheels in classically sporty
five-spoke design have a hint of propeller about them, offering a
subtle nod to the origins of both companies. Indeed, both BMW and
Zagato founder Ugo Zagato took an airborne route into automotive
construction. Their subtly attractive matt finish lends the car extra
allure from the side.
A very special highlight of the BMW Zagato Coupé is its paintwork. The
exclusive exterior paint finish Rosso Vivace – an expressive shade of
red – brings the surfaces and forms of the BMW Zagato Coupé to life.
Depending on how the light hits the body, the colour spectrum ranges
from something close to black all the way to a brilliant red. This
remarkable depth and radiance is possible thanks to sophisticated
paint application technology. The primer coat – made up of a black
application, followed by a layer of shimmering metallic silver – is
applied first. Then come six ultra-thin coats of the exclusively
developed red shade to deliver this unique effect. Finally, two layers
of clear coat seal in the colour.
Exquisite touches in the interior.
The interior is clearly structured, in customary BMW style, and
invites the keen driver to take the helm. This character was picked up
by the Zagato designers and given further emphasis by an exclusive
colour and materials concept. Exquisite materials and high-quality
details provide an extremely stylish showcase for the interior's
sporting flair and driver focus.
Additional elements fitted by hand, such as horizontal lines in the
instrument panel and doors, heighten the interior's sense of sporting
elegance. The lines culminate in a dynamic upward curve for extra
sporting effect. The base colours for the exclusive leather trim are a
light and dark shade of grey. Together, they underline the horizontal
geometry of the interior, while red decorative stitching in the
instrument panel, doors and seats brings the colour of the body into
the interior and adds extra sporting touches. A "z"
embroidered into the seats is the clearest reference in the interior
to the origins of the BMW Zagato Coupé.
The "horizontal line" design theme has also found its way
into the luggage compartment, as have the two shades of grey and the
red accents. Here, the lines are a subtle reference to the form of the
double-bubble roof. Two exclusive accessories – a hat bag and a travel
bag – set the seal on Zagato's colour and materials upgrade. The
travel bag also recreates the form of the double-bubble roof and is
designed to maintain its bulbous lines even when empty.
Zagato – a coachbuilder with a long tradition.
Founded by Ugo Zagato in 1919, today Zagato is the only automotive
body manufacturer still in independent ownership. From its earliest
days, Zagato has taken a minimalist and pared-down approach to its
creations, very much in keeping with the Milanese tradition of design.
Volumes takes precedence over details, thanks in part to technical
considerations. Body designer Ugo Zagato learned his trade in – among
other industries – aviation, where aerodynamics and lightweight
construction play a central role. Zagato duly applied these principles
rigorously in the construction of cars and soon celebrated a rash of
race victories as a body construction partner to Alfa Romeo. The
"necessary beauty" of aerodynamics and lightweight
construction came to represent a maxim of design, one that has defined
the form of every Zagato since. The narrow focus on coupés, two-door
driving machines stripped back to their essential components, also
became a Zagato tradition, underpinning an "unspoilt"
Today, with Andrea Zagato becoming the third generation of his family
to take his seat at the helm, the company describes itself as a design
studio combining the emotion and hand-craftsmanship of body
construction with the precision of state-of-the-art technology. Zagato
follows coachbuilding tradition in developing only the shell of the
car and leaving the mechanics of the machine untouched. And it does so
not by taking over the design process for large carmakers, but by
working in tandem with the relevant design teams. More than 200 Vmax
concepts, special editions and micro-series have been created in this
way down the years and find appreciation among connoisseurs and
collectors the world over. Indeed, all Zagatos are coveted collector's
items today and worth many times what their original owners paid for
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