Following in the footsteps of last week’s Karmann Ghia article, it seemed natural to take a look at two other lesser-known German alternatives to Volkswagen’s Type 1 Beetle and the ‘Beetle-in-a-suit’ Karmann Ghia.
Like the Karmann Ghia, both were attempts to capitalize on a new and expanding market for automobiles in Germany during the postwar economic boom times. That meant that the models had to incorporate existing technology, yet also appeal to a crowd increasingly interested in performance and style. However, both had to be at least somewhat economical and practical as family cars.
The result was a series of interesting and mostly forgotten air-cooled, rear-engine, rear-drive sedans, coupes and convertibles from both BMW and NSU.
Though it may seem hard to believe, we’re only a month away from celebrating the 50th anniversary of the start of the Wedge Era in automotive designs.
To those of us who still think of the Countach as a sharp enough design to be considered cutting edge, this is a sad reality. Yet the prototype of what would become the 1980s poster child was first shown in a hard-to-conceptualize 1971.
The influence of the angle extended far beyond the Countach in the 1980s. It also started before the scissored doors opened on the stand in Geneva in 1971 and was seen in many more marques than just those wearing the Raging Bull. Even more impressive than its age is the reach of these designs, some of which are still being refined today. So, let’s take a look at some of the interesting and influential doorstop shapes and where they later found a home.
Only 6,622 Volvo 262C Bertone Coupes were built during the Italo-Swedish machine’s 1978-1981 production run, and I’ve found two of them in California self-serve wrecking yards during the last year. We saw this silver ’79 (actually, all ’78 and ’79 262Cs were painted in Mystic Silver) last summer, and now there’s today’s find: a gold ’80. These cars were weird-looking and something of a puzzling marketing move by Volvo, but you’d think that their rarity would give them sufficient value to keep the survivors out of The Crusher‘s jaws. Nope! (Read More…)
Photos: RM Auctions
Back in 2011, as part of its reorganization, Italian design house Bertone auctioned off some of its collection of concept cars in conjunction with the Villa d’Este concours that year. Marcello Gandini’s Lamborghini Marzal, with it’s glass gullwing doors, and its $2,170,369.10 USD sale price, got the lion’s share of the attention in that sale, but one of Giorgetto Giugiaro’s creations also on sale that day, the 1963 Chevrolet Testudo, may have been a more influential design in the long run than the Marzal. Testudo is Italian for turtle, an allusion to the sharp beltline separating top and bottom halves of the car. Though I can see the testudine influence, I’ve never seen a tortoise or turtle look this sleek and fast.
For decades now, the Fiat 124 Sport Spider has been a regular sight in American self-service wrecking yards. The mid-engined Fiat X1/9, based on a healthy serving of Fiat 128 components, has been a bit less commonplace in such yards, but I still see them every now and then. We’ve seen this ’80 and this ’86 so far in this series, and today we’re adding a brightly colored ’78 to the collection. (Read More…)
Now here’s a car that represents a weird little corner of automotive history— one of Malcolm Bricklin’s many moneymaking schemes. A few years before Bricklin started importing Yugos, but after he started importing Subaru 360s, he took a shot at bringing Fiats into the United States after Fiat fled the market in 1982. (Read More…)
Since we had an extremely rare 1979 Junkyard Find yesterday (a Volkswagen Dasher Diesel), let’s have another today. This is the first time I’ve found a genuine Volvo 262C Bertone Coupe in a wrecking yard (I have seen the occasional Volvo 780 Bertone Coupe), and it happened during the same trip to California that gave us the Dasher Diesel. Let’s admire this fine example of Italo-Swedish design! (Read More…)
It turns out that the usual excuses for denying consumers a station wagon variant of a given car – the regulatory hurdles, lack of demand from the market and expense of homologation – can be circumvented with one simple item; cash.
In the kind of Plate-O-Shrimp moment that happens all the time in the car-writing business, I ran across a genuine, one-of-8,515-build Volvo 780 Bertone Coupe in a Denver self-serve wrecking yard just days after writing about this fine Swedo-Italian machine. (Read More…)
We’ve seen a fair number of outstanding engine swaps in 24 Hours of LeMons racing— the Saab B Turbo-powered 300ZX comes to mind— but most such projects tend to have reliability and/or performance issues in the car-slaughtering arena that is LeMons. At the frozen Campaign To Prevent Gingervitis race a couple weeks back, the much-anticipated radial-engined MR2 ate its drivetrain after a single lap, but there was one outlandishly butchered machine that actually contended for the overall win: the Alfa Romeo quad-cam V6-powered Bertone X1/9 of Team Launcha Splatos. (Read More…)