A diamond shaped front grille on the Pebble Beach lawn, you probably know what we are referring to – the BMW Garmisch. First shown at Villa d’Este in May this year, the long lost concept penned by no one less than Marcello Gandini. Gandini is the grand-master of design and responsible for revolutionary designs such as the wedge-shaped Lancia Stratos Zero as well as the Lamborghini Miura and Countach. During his 15 years as the Design Director of the Bertone Stile studios in Turin, he created some of the most daring and revolutionary vehicles of the era.
“We picked the name Garmisch because skiing was very popular in Italy at that time,” Gandini explained. “It evoked dreams of winter sports and alpine elegance.” Why Garmisch? It roots back to the home state of BMW Garmisch-Partenkirchen, a very renowned skiing resort.
It all started back in late 2017 when Adrian van Hooydonk, Senior Vice President of BMW Group Design, would find a picture of the long lost BMW Garmisch, a pale vintage photograph of a sleek, modest looking car with light golden paint casually parked on a street in front of a beige stone wall. “I first saw this picture many years ago, and I never really got it out of my head”, says van Hooydonk, “The car looked like something from the past, but I still found it surprisingly modern.” An image he found and couldn’t forget and led him to research the history a little deeper. Having always been hugely inspired by Gandini van Hooydonk slowly started shaping the idea of reviving the Garmisch, after it was clear there are no traces left. For Hooydonk and his team it meant filling in a gap in the history line of BMW, presenting an important root regarding BMW’s design and style highlights which have highly been influenced by Bertone / Gandini.
“Marcello Gandini to me is one of the grandmasters of car design and his cars always have been an important source of inspiration for my work”, says Adrian van Hooydonk, Senior Vice President of BMW Group Design, who has been intrigued by the BMW Garmisch since he first discovered a faded period picture of the car some years ago.
When Marcello Gandini joined the studio in 1965, Bertone worked on proposals for a new four-door model for BMW – a project that would later influence the first BMW 5 Series. After Bertone had shown the BMW 2800 Spicup – a flamboyant all-green roadster concept inspired by the BMW 507 – at the Geneva Motor Show in 1969, the design team considered a more subtle approach for the next year’s exhibition.
The Garmisch Bertone Concept made its premiere at the 1970 Geneva Auto Show and was never seen again. Still it’s sleek design and bold kidney grill, which is diamond shaped, have been shaping BMW’s DNA ever since and are evident throughout it’s lineup. Special is also the honeycomb-patterned mesh cover for the rear window and sports car-like louvres on the C-pillars.
The Garmisch is a 4-seat convertible with very little in the way of curved surfaces, which had dominated design of the previous decade, especially in Italy. The Garmisch, thus, was developed to signal the new trend, one more closely linked to production feasibility than purely aesthetics.
Gandini luckily did not let the opportunity pass to give the cockpit his special treatment as well. On the center console, the designer placed a rather unusual vertical radio, while the passenger found a lavish oversized mirror when opening the glovebox. In addition to these little surprises, the design team chose a flamboyant mix of 1970s cream colors and en vogue materials, adding an elegant Piemontese twist to the rather functional interior design norms of the time.
As original documents for the BMW Garmisch were sparse, the designers and historians had to retrace every detail of the car’s exterior and interior from a small selection of period images, most of them only available in black and white. Firstly, the car was recreated in 3D as a computer rendering. Then, a full-scale model was built to fine-tune the proportions and details.
“Of course, we did not want to do this without Mr. Gandini. I told him about our idea to bring back the BMW Garmisch.”, recalls van Hooydonk.
By 2018 the idea has developed further and van Hooydonk started to put a plan into place in order to recreate this special concept and pay tribute to Gandini.
“When I first heard that BMW wanted to recreate the BMW Garmisch, I was a bit surprised”, Marcello Gandini recalls of his first meeting with Adrian van Hooydonk, who visited him in Turin in the summer of 2018 to ask for the his approval. “Now I am very pleased that I was able to be part of this project 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.”
With its clean, reduced design language and precise use of lines and geometrical shapes, the BMW Garmisch is an archetype of the radical new style that was pioneered by Italian studios such as Bertone, Italdesign and Pininfarina in the late 1960s and early 1970s – and that is still an important reference point for car designers today. As an ambassador of avant-garde design thinking, the BMW Garmisch is also meant to inspire contemporary designers to keep on reimagining the shape of the automobile.
Born in 1938, Marcello Gandini is one of the most influential car designers of the 20th century. During his 14 years as Design Director of the Bertone design studios in Turin, he created some of the most daring and revolutionary automobiles of the era, including wedge-shaped concept cars like the Lancia Stratos Zero or the Alfa Romeo Carabo as well as iconic sports cars like the Lamborghini Miura which are sought-after by collectors and celebrated at concours events worldwide. Besides the BMW Garmisch, Marcello Gandini and his team at Bertone have worked on the BMW Spicup showcar and the first generation of the BMW 5 series, which was created under the lead of BMW’s former head of design Paul Bracq.