The cars we loved.
The 1960’s was a wild time. Politics, music, art and technology were exploding with new concepts and a uneasy energy fueled by restless rebellion swept the Western world. An automotive design renaissance was well on the way on both sides of the Atlantic. America had its muscle car revolution and Europe fostered the rise of the independent design house.
Europe actually combined contrasting concepts with cross bred machines. Some of the most interesting projects fused brute American horsepower with elegant Italian or Swedish design. Another school of thought combined far out design with sophisticated engineering and practically. One of the more radical examples of this concept comes from the oil and water marriage of Italian design with German efficiency in the form of the BMW Spicup. Even the name sounded strange.
The Spicup was initially a show car based on BMW’s 2500 chassis. By the time of its development, the 2500 had been replaced by the popular in-house designed 2800 CS. The 2800 CS was available as a coupe or sedan, but BMW asked Nuccio Bertone, who had designed the 3200 CS a few years before to design a special coupe version of their 2800 CS that looked vastly different from BMW’s own version of it. The name Spicup referred to the Spider/Coupe option that distinguished the standard hard top configuration of the 2800 SC coupe. The design was striking.
In an era of smooth lines with classic proportions, the Spicup was like an alien spacecraft from the future. Fluid and abrupt all at once, some parts of the design no doubt influenced the look of the Fiat X1-9 and Triumphs TR7. The angular interior surfaces, highlighted in green and silver, looked like a psychedelic Apollo lunar capsule. One of the highlights of the design was the three-piece sliding top, giving the car coupe/convertible functionality and flower power street cred. The Alfa Romeo Montreal, introduced a year earlier, resembled the Spicup from the front, but resemblances ended there. The changing times and turbulant nature of the late 60’s had found its visual metaphor in the Spicup, but it was too much for some and not enough for others. As a love hate design, it was generally was not well received by squares at the 1969 Geneva Motor show.
What a downer, the poor Spicup was not completely up to BMW’s quality standards as a one off intended for the show circut. To its credit, the Spicup used standard BMW 2800 mechanicals like the 170 hp 2.8 l inline. The rear wheel drive, a four speed manual coupe could reach 130 mph. making the Spicup as capable as any BMW of the time. Having no lineage to any past or future product prompted BMW to sale of the concept car to an individual who drove it for over 60k miles before selling it to a string of collectors who planned to eventually restore it. For years BMW thought the car was lost to time, but in 2008 it was discovered in a barn. After a full restoration, the car showed up at the 2009 Villa d’Este Concours. Its now on permanent display at BMW’s museum in Munich.
Later Bertone would go on to design the Lamborghini Countach, a car that refined the angular design language hinted to by the Spicup. By the late 70’s the look had caught on in a big way and could trace some of its heritage to the unloved Spicup.