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In the 1950’s Alfa Romeo wanted to test the effects of drag on a vehicle and they commissioned Bertone to design three highly aerodynamic concepts. The cars that were produced from this contract were nothing short of incredibly, not only in looks but in regards to aerodynamics and I would reckon that these are the three best concept cars that you’ve never heard of. So put on your thinking cap, turn out the lights and join me, on this journey of aerodynamic exploration.
PREFER VIDEO TO THE WRITTEN WORD, I SHOULD SAY SHAME ON YOU, BUT NAH, I GOT YOU.
In 1952 Alfa Romeo contacted Giuseppe “Nuccio” Bertone of Bertone and set his design firm a challenge, Alfa wanted to test the effects of drag on a car and they needed an incredibly aerodynamic car to do so. They needed a truly epic designer, so of course, Bertone chose an intern. Well, maybe not an intern but a designer who was only a year on from designing his first car, I guess that doesn’t matter when your first concept car design was the truly epic Lancia Aurelia B53 Balbo.
Franco Scaglione started on the car by using his skills from when he worked in the Italian aeronautics industry to understand the way airflow wraps around the body to reduce drag, a topic of much interest in the new jet era that the 50’s was famous for. We’ve all seen mad men.
The cars were built upon the chassis of Alfa Romeo’s 1900 model and given the name Berlinetta Aerodinamica Tecnica (B.A.T), Berlinetta being Italian for “little saloon” a name the firm placed on its 2 seat coupe cars at the time. The first car was unveiled at the 1953 Turin Auto Show and there was nothing at the time that looked anything like it.
1953 B.A.T 5
The first car of the three to be shown was the B.A.T 5 at the 1953 Turin Auto Show and its design was other worldly, the front of the car was specifically design to minimise airflow disruption at high speed so that the air would flow around the vehicle and not cause resistance, known as drag. The wheels were covered to stop air resistance as the wheels turned and also removed any possibly air pockets which could cause air vortices and therefor drag at speed.
The car was finished with a 45 degree windshield, sleek split rear windows and tail fins which were aimed to make sure the air from the car moved away from it without causing any unwanted drag. Although the cars new lightweight body was mounted on an existing 1900 chassis, Bertone managed to keep the car incredibly light at only 1,100 kg and the aerodynamics meant that this car had a drag coefficient of only 0.23, an incredibly feat for 1953.
Given all of that, the car in practice was able to drive at 120 mph top speed on an existing 100 bhp, 1,884 cc, four cylinder engine from the Alfa 1900 TI. That doesn’t sound fast today but it was only a couple of years earlier when the 3.4 liter six cylinder Jaguar XK120 hit the same top speed and was the fastest production car in the world.
1954 B.A.T 7
Franco Scaglione returned to the Turin Auto Show in 1954 with a second generation version of the concept car, this version actually had headlights and the wheels could actually turn to full lock unlike the previous version which would rub the wheel arches.
The fins were updated to be even more aerodynamic and this car had a drag coefficient of only 0.19, which is still insane by today’s standard and is the exact same as the GM EV1 which was build 40 years later.
1955 B.A.T 9
The final 1955 version that Franco Scaglione and Alfa Romeo brought to the Turin Auto Show of the same year. This car was designed to take the aerodynamics of the other cars but tone them down and look more like the companies other production cars of the era, with the fins shaven down to resemble the fins of the famous US cars of the 50’s.
It looks fantastic, but that’s just my opinion what do you think? Let me know in the comments.
Sadly these cars were nothing more than an experiment, Alfa Romeo was struggling returning to its Luxury car roots after being decimated during the second world war and the company decided that it would be a better idea for them to move instead to mass produce smaller and cheaper cars.
The three concept cars were brought for £18 million by a Japanese business man in the 80’s who then had them on sale in Coys in London for only £4million in the 90’s