The BMW Garmisch was originally shown at at the 1970 Geneva Motor Show, but the car vanished shortly after its debut.
Then, almost 50 years later, BMW created an exact replica of the original, which became the star of 2019 Villa d’Este concours event.
As you can see, the giant BMW kidney grille is nothing new…
Bavarian Motor Works
Originally created by Italian design house Bertone, the Garmisch was an independent concept car to show the direction BMW could take.
Legendary car designer Marcello Gandini – the maestro who penned the Lamborghini Countach – was in charge at Bertone when the Garmisch project took place.
Assembled in just a couple of months, the car was named after a town in Bavaria, popular with Italian skiers at the time.
‘Dynamic and provocative’
Remembering the Garmisch, Gandini noted that the idea had been to build a “modern mid-sized coupe that was faithful to BMW’s design language, but that was also more dynamic and even a bit provocative.”
Despite design features such as the dramatic honeycomb mesh covering the rear window, and the ‘on trend’ light metallic champagne paintwork, the Garmisch disappeared after Geneva – never to be seen again.
Found in a photograph
It remained forgotten about until Adrian van Hooydonk, senior vice president of BMW Group Design, uncovered a photograph of the lost concept car. This triggered a determination to find out more, ultimately leading to the mission to recreate the distinctive Garmisch.
For van Hooydonk, building a new version gave BMW the chance to “pay tribute to Mr Gandini” and also be able to “highlight Bertone’s stylistic influence on the evolution of BMW design.
“For me, that alone was reason enough to do this project – filling in the gaps and completing BMW’s history.”
Gandini recalls the past
Building a forgotten concept car was no mean feat, especially when the BMW design team had only a handful of black and white photographs from when the Garmisch was first built.
They produced 3D computer images based on the photographs, and also asked 80-year-old Marcello Gandini to rack his brain to remember key details.
With Gandini responsible for icons like the Lamborghini Miura and Lancia Stratos, trying to recall a one-off concept car was asking a lot.
Hand-built in Turin
However, Gandini was able to provide the missing pieces to the puzzle, offering guidance on the correct exterior paint hue and the relevant materials for the dramatic interior.
A full-size 3D model was created to ensure all details had been included, before production of the finished concept car began.
Just like the original, the new Garmisch was hand-built by skilled craftsmen in Turin, ensuring the finish matched the car from 1970.
A concours crowd-puller
Despite BMW launching a number of important new cars 2019, the Garmisch project took just a few months.
It is clear van Hooydonk made it a personal mission to see the car delivered as soon as possible, and to ensure that Gandini was involved.
At the official unveiling at the 2019 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, set on the shores of Lake Como, Gandini was the guest of honour and had a ride in the reborn Garmisch.
Selling a kidney
Talking about the Garmisch after its unveiling, Gandini said he was pleased to be involved – and “happy that BMW chose to recall this enjoyable past. Having seen the final car, it is hard for me to even distinguish it from the original.”
Adrian van Hooydonk also seemed chuffed with the result, commenting on how “Gandini’s designs have always been very clear and very clean, but also very dramatic.”
The enlarged, angular kidney grille seems a distant precursor to those fitted to modern BMW cars, such as the latest 1 Series and X7.
Looking to the future
Revealing the car at Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, van Hooydonk concluded by calling it a reminder to “reflect on the past, but we should also think about where we are going”.
Hopefully BMW designers will take note and reintroduce the perfect proportions, taut surfacing and exquisite details of the Garmisch.
Just don’t expect to see honeycombed window covers on the options list anytime soon.