BMW regularly took turns down dead-end roads, and this strange and wonderful car is one of them

Chassis number: V0010
Engine number: V00102800
Coachwork by Carrozzeria Berton

The concept, or show, car emerged after World War II as a means of generating publicity and gauging the public’s reaction to often-radical ideas for new models. They were built as design proposals, rolling laboratories, marketing experiments, automotive provocations and everything in between. The BMW offered here, “Spicup” — the name arises from the concept: half Spider, half Coupe — originates from an important European private collection and was shown for the first time in 1969 on the Bertone stand at the Geneva automobile salon. Contrary to many studies and prototypes then and now, Spicup was without reservation ready to drive and is based on a shortened BMW 2000 CS with the 2.5-liter BMW inline 6-cylinder engine.

First registered in the Netherlands and used for ten years as a daily driver, the car was stored for 20 years before it was given to the company Carrozzeria Granturismo in Milan for a complete restoration. The entire chassis and body structure were renewed, including the sills and a large portion of the doors.

New forms were made to re-manufacture the glass, which had been broken. After a thorough cleaning, the interior revealed the original spectacular color combination.

Many of the original parts were re-manufactured with the utmost care. Following the restoration, the body returned to a lacquer finish in the original green metallic color with silver gray accents. The technical director of Carrozzeria Granturismo, Aldo Goi, put extreme value on all the unique design characteristics of Carrozzeria Bertone, including the special roof mechanism and the interiors.

All parts of the entire drivetrain were overhauled by the specialists of Talk Willow Racing in the Netherlands. This beautiful car is in concours condition and already has been shown at the 2009 Concorso Villa d’Este and in the BMW Museum in Munich during the summer of 2010. It certainly has the potential for an invitation to the Pebble Beach Concours d’ Elegance or Amelia Island.

SCM Analysis


Years Produced:1969
Number Produced:1
Original List Price:None
Tune Up Cost:$275
Chassis Number Location:Engine compartment bulkhead
Engine Number Location:Right side of engine block
Club Info:BMW Car Club of America
Alternatives:1971 Maserati Boomerang, 1980 Aston Martin Bulldog, 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Rondine

This car, Lot 175, sold for $612,138 (€460,000), including buyer’s premium, at the Bonhams Power by BMW sale at the BMW Museum in Munich, Germany, on October 1, 2011.

The magnificent brand engine that is BMW today is amazingly less than 50 years old. While the company has long roots back to the first decade of the 20th century in aero engine production, the current “Ultimate Driving Machine” image looks for inspiration to the 328 of the late 1930s and then picks up with the 1800ti and 1600 of 1964. Even then, BMW regularly took turns down dead-end roads, and this strange and wonderful car is one of them.

By 1969, the in-house design team, led by Wilhelm Hofmeister — he of the “Hofmeister Kink,” which is the trademark forward curve of the C-pillar on BMWs — was firmly in charge of the brand’s look. However, Italians had provided designs for the company, notably Giovanni Michelotti, who styled the BMW 700 that literally saved the firm, and Carrozzeria Bertone’s Giorgetto Giugiaro, who penned the range-topping 3200CS coupe. That car, the replacement for the elegant-but-slow-selling 503 V8 coupe, was the last of the post-war luxury line introduced by BMW in the early 1950s.

A chassis for Bertone

That there was confusion — and more than a bit of desperation — at BMW as the 1960s rolled around is apparent in this incredible story, as recounted in Jan Norbye’s 1984 book, BMW—Bavaria’s Driving Machines: Apparently the company’s marketing manager discovered that the body of the Lancia Flaminia Pininfarina Coupe fit almost exactly on the chassis of the big BMW 3200L V8 sedan. He proposed that BMW should have Pininfarina build Lancia coupe bodies modified with BMW grilles to serve as a range-topping model.

Fortunately for all concerned, this idea was not pursued. But when Bertone asked BMW for a chassis to build a concept car showcasing a unique retractable hard top, Munich didn’t hesitate. While the idea of retractable, non-fabric roofs had been kicking around since the Peugeot Eclipse created by Georges Paulin in the 1930s, the execution generally left something to be desired. The ingenious solution devised for the Spicup was to have the rigid brushed stainless steel targa roof divided into sections, which then telescoped into a C-pillar roll bar structure.

Also finished in brushed stainless, the roll bar looks a bit bulky, sort of similar to the control bridge on a World War II Japanese battleship or perhaps the roof of a Mercury Turnpike Cruiser. Neither look is terribly desirable in a sporting GT, and that is another reason this idea wasn’t pursued further. Setting that aside, the design, said to have been begun by Giugiaro and finished by Marcello Gandini, is really quite smooth and almost elegant — if a bit chunky. Bertone at the time was captivated with geometric shapes — think of the Marzal and Espada — and the blocky seats and dashboard are a bit at odds with the exterior.

A flimsy future

The idea of using a show car on the road is an intriguing one. Truly driving the future in a one-off prototype puts an owner in what would seem to be an enviable position. In reality, the lion’s share of such display gems are distinctly more paste than precious. The catalog mentions that the bumpers were originally made of wood and covered with vinyl, and the Dutchman who drove the Spicup for more than 60,000 miles reported that the clever telescoping top was not “completely water-tight.”

As designed, the hood is cut out around a decorative engine cover. During the car’s everyday use, the cover was attached to the lid, doubtless to keep weather out of the engine compartment. It is inconceivable in today’s litigious world that a prototype such as this would be sold to a private buyer for use on public roads, but such were the wonderful 1960s.

RM Auctions’ recent sale of Bertone show cars and prototypes in Italy during May 2011 showed both that there was great interest in the work of the firm and its designers — and that there was a time when it was common to have running, functional concept cars.

Of course, “run” and “function” do not equal usable, but they are all art objects more than anything else, and it’s wonderful to be able to hear and see these sculptures moving. The Spicup is a silly idea as a car — but a neat piece as an object. In the context of important BMWs or Bertone products, it’s not high on the list, so it has to be placed in the well-sold column. As a surefire invite to any concours, it’s cheap at twice the price.

(Introductory description courtesy of Bonhams.)

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