The Villa d’Este on the shores of Lake Como in Italy is a most beautiful and exclusive place. Each year it hosts the Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este to celebrate the skills and craftsmanship of the motor industry’s best "carrozzeria" - coachbuilders in English - and a mouth-watering display of classic handmade motor cars is the result. BMW regularly sponsors the event and shows off a vintage car from its collection. This year, however, they pulled off something completely unexpected, a spectacular brand new, one-off, handmade vehicle made in collaboration with Milan’s Zagato workshop.
It’s quite unusual for a large volume car manufacturer to indulge in this sort of "vanity" project. Indeed, 1978 was the last time BMW worked with an Italian outside design house (the M1 supercar).
As can be deduced from the pictures, the base chassis comes from the BMW Z4 Coupé, but the body is completely new and hand-crafted. As we saw with the Aston Martin V12 Zagato, there are a number of design features that the Italian design house likes to use as its signature.
These include the bonnet vents and side strakes, the "double-bubble" roof line (originally so that helmets could be worn when racing), the way the rear glass and side glass "swap-over" at the C-pillar, the muscular but sharpened rear haunches, and finally, the cut-off "Kamm" tail - based on research from the 60s that shows it to be an effective reducer of drag. On the BMW Zagato the rear panel that incorporates the light clusters is all glass and can be seen through from the cockpit, evoking Lamborghinis of the 70’s.
The front fascia is unmistakably BMW, yet a beautifully executed aggressive interpretation of the present in-house style. A nice touch is that the grill is made from little repeating Z’s. In fact the whole design skilfully synthesizes both BMW and Zagato design language elements and the car looks very coherent and "production ready." It’s also fully functional, the classic straight-six motor producing a tested 400 bhp and the interior achieving the high standard one would expect.
There is absolutely no indication that the vehicle is ever intended for production and it seems unlikely that more than one will ever be made. Perhaps we should just be thankful that BMW seems to have got its design "mojo" back and is confident enough to indulge in these cross-border design exercises from time to time. To our eyes, it’s really a very good looking vehicle - you can make up your own mind by clicking through to the image gallery.