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Zagato produces sleek coupe for BMW

Villa bella: BMW’s sleek one-off Zagato-built Coupe could have future design significance as the German car-maker looks to Italy for inspiration.

Italian style meets German efficiency as BMW previews future with Zagato Coupe

BMW logo28 May 2012

By DAVID HASSALL

BMW chose the prestigious Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este on the banks of Lake Como in Italy last weekend to reveal a stunning new coupe created in collaboration with the esteemed Zagato design house.

Though clearly based on the company’s Z4 two-seater and meeting global legal requirements – like most Zagato design exercises – the road-registered BMW Zagato Coupe is described as a one-off and might not go into production, even on a limited basis.

However, sources at the event in northern Italy have been reported as saying the sleek hand-beaten aluminium body might point towards the next-generation Z4 that will supersede the E89 series that has been around since 2008.

BMW noted that the increasingly high-profile Villa d’Este classic car show began as a get-together of coachbuilders presenting one-off hand-built creations, and that the BMW Zagato Coupe follows that tradition.

The Bavarian car-maker, which is a major sponsor of the event and has previously produced exclusive concept cars for it, said the Zagato Coupe was not only road-legal, but had been high-speed tested at a BMW test track.

“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 Coupe fits the same template,” said Andrea Zagato, who is the third-generation leader of the company.

“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.

“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 Coupe.”

However, BMW did not reveal what lurks beneath the long bonnet of the car, leaving us to ponder whether it is a V8 or a version of the 3.0-litre turbo unit that powers the top-spec Z4, producing 250kW of power and 450Nm of torque.

14 center imageIn terms of styling, the red coupe blends modern lines with a more classic style, including a sharp cut-off tail in the ‘Kamm’ style, as featured on the historic BMW 328 coupe that won the Mille Miglia road race in 1940.

Clearly defined hips form flared wheelarches over the 19-inch five-spoke alloy wheels and lead into an Aston Martin-style built-in spoiler that abruptly terminates the muscular rear end. The tail also features a transparent panel between the tail-lights that matches the tinted glass of the rear window.

The roof sports a “double-bubble” roof, which features on almost every Zagato design, and which also graces the production Peugeot RCZ sportscar. Zagato claims the two domes built into the structure of the roof provide a reduced frontal area and increase the body’s torsional rigidity.

While the nose sports a familiar-looking BMW kidney grille, closer inspection reveals a mesh that consists of hundreds of small Zagato ‘z’ letters, and the long bonnet sports a pair of air intakes for the engine along with contours that lead into the double-bubble roof.

Bringing together the 93-year-old Milan-based design house with BMW was an easy collaboration for Zagato chief designer Norihiko Harada and BMW Group Design senior vice-president Adrian van Hooydonk, who are old friends and admirers of each other’s work.

It is BMW’s first collaboration with an Italian design house since the Giugiaro-designed M1 coupe in 1978 – but not the last, it would seem.

BMW said the Zagato Coupe “heralds a new chapter in the tradition of cooperation between BMW and Italian designers”.

“Working with Zagato was a fantastic experience,” said BMW Automobiles head of design Karim Habib.

“It was extremely enriching for us to create something with people who share our understanding of good design and passion for cars.

“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 Coupe.”

The project also re-established a connection with the Italian Rivolta family, from whom BMW bought the production rights to the famous Isetta “bubble car” in 1954.

The reconnection six decades later comes through Marella Rivolta, who is the wife of Andrea Zagato and the art director responsible for the BMW Zagato Coupe’s interior trim and colours.

The mainly grey interior – with light and dark shades of leather – is contrasted by red decorative stitching in the instrument panel, doors and seats, with a “z” embroidered into the seats.

Overall, the Zagato Coupe is designed to “exude the promise of a very special driving experience”.

Mr Harada said 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, while the flowing roofline melts away into the compact, muscular rear, where the car’s power is transferred to the road.

“For me, the BMW Zagato Coupe holds a very special magic,” said the chief designer.

“It exudes a certain spontaneity which, when combined with the type of unconventional solutions typical of Zagato, lend the car a very individual elegance.”

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