The history of the Mille Miglia and the history of the BMW brand have been inseparably connected for decades. The roots of this relationship were formed during the classical road races between 1927 and 1957 and the tradition is still alive today in the annual races for historic vehicles. With the Mille Miglia 2006, the BMW Group Mobile Tradition, the Munich automobile manufacturer’s division for classics is also using a series of vehicles that set new standards in the art of engineering in their time and that are now considered milestones in the history of the development of automotive engineering. Furthermore, at the start and finish line in Brescia in northern Italy, BMW is presenting a unique specimen fabricated on the occasion of the Mille Miglia 2006, in which the enthusiasm for racing sports from days past is being united with the technical opportunities of today, along with pioneering design perspectives. The BMW Concept CoupÃ© Mille Miglia 2006 pays homage to the skills, successes and the visions of the motor sports pioneers of the past, created by its modern successors.
On the surface, the BMW Concept Coupé unmistakably bears the traits of a racing sports icon. Its bodywork design is oriented on the BMW 328 Mille Miglia Touring Coupé, that legendary two-seater with which Fritz Huschke von Hanstein and Walter Bäumer drove home the victory during the Mille Miglia in 1940. Their speed record – average speed: 166.7 km/h – has remained until today. No other Mille Miglia victor – neither before nor since – ever travelled as fast as the BMW 328 Mille Miglia Coupé with its touring body, which was driven by the legendary “racing baron”.
Homage to a racing sports icon and its creator
Up until into the 50’s, the BMW 328 was still victorious in international racing sports. It was one of the most successful competitive vehicles in the long BMW motor sports history. On top of that, in 2004 it wrote Mille Miglia history for a second time. The BMW 328 Mille Miglia Touring Coupé was the first automobile ever to win the historic remake of the Mille Miglia after winning the classical race.
With the BMW Concept Coupé, the automobile developers at the Munich manufacturer are erecting a monument to their predecessors. The study, both optically and technically fascinating, is a symbol of how much the values internalised by the creators of the BMW 328 still determine the work of the engineers today. Just like back then when enthusiasm, the will to win and the willingness to travel new paths led to convincing success during the Mille Miglia, these motives are also the prevailing drive for creating constantly improved automobiles today.
Automobile history comes to life: The Mille Miglia
The Mille Miglia has lost none of its fascination, also as a bridge between the traditional and modern automobile age. The once toughest and up to today most legendary automobile road race in the world attracts umpteen thousands of motor sports fans to northern Italy year for year. In the towns and cities along the route between Brescia and Rome, they celebrate automobile history in its most exclusive form. That which began in 1927 as a long-distance race over 1,600 kilometres – or put better: 1,000 miles – has been being held since 1977 over the same distance as a consistency test for historic vehicles. Only those vehicle models are allowed to take part that were already at the start during the classical races. Thus, the Mille Miglia unifies past and present in a worldwide unique event for automobile enthusiasts. In 2006, classical motor sport meets up with practiced tradition at eye level for the first time. 24 long-distance races were driven in northern Italy between 1927 and 1957; the new version will be held for the 24th time. 375 vehicles have been approved to start in the Mille Miglia 2006; 22 of them bear the white-blue BMW logo.
Soul and memory: BMW Group Mobile Tradition
Preserving the automobile tradition plays an important role at BMW. Successful models from back then continually deliver inspirations for modern vehicle concepts. Adhering to indispensable values such as sportiness, efficiency and shear driving pleasure yield an orientation for the path into a successful future. The Mobile Tradition in the BMW Group has therefore made its mission grooming, securing and keeping alive the history of the brand and the vehicles with which it is associated. Since 1994, all BMW Group activities are being coordinated with that which is associated with the history. The Mobile Tradition is the soul and memory of the enterprise and preserver of its history, its brands and its products.
Tradition, Competence, Visions
The BMW Concept Coupé Mille Miglia 2006 will never win a race but the two-seater is still a symbol for motor sports, racing success and the brand and spirit that have moved the engineers and drivers to perennially great achievements for decades. With its unique concept study, the developers and designers in the BMW Group are showing how traditional values, modern expertise and visions can be unified into a fascinating vehicle. The past, present and future of automobile engineering are concentrated in the Concept Coupé Mille Miglia 2006. The study documents what it means for an automobile manufacturer to reflect on its historical strengths, to take advantage of current technical competency and to open up tomorrow’s opportunities already today.
The Concept Coupé Mille Miglia 2006 is neither a copy of a successful racing car nor is it being used as a herald for future series models. Rather, the two-seater pays homage to the outstanding achievements of those engineers who helped BMW gain a leading position in racing sports and in automobile engineering decades ago. In a time when the competence of a manufacturer was much more tightly woven with racing sports, vehicles arose that continue to serve as milestones for technical progress, even today. The principles that led to victory back then have not lost any of their validity. They are still the drive to construct especially dynamic, attractive and successful automobiles.
The Concept Coupé points out these parallels and, moreover, elucidates that the traditional values will continue to last into the future.
Traditional values lead to new successes
Sportsmanlike ambition, the will to win and creativity secured the BMW 328 Coupé success during the Mille Miglia 1940. Its creators used the most progressive automobile engineering methods of the time in an intelligent manner to win the toughest and most prestigious road race in the world.
The two-seater was given a lightweight chassis manufactured in the Milanese bodywork forgery Touring on a lattice frame. The power delivered by its 2.0-litre six-cylinder in-line engine was increased from originally 80 to 136 PS.
At the finish, the BMW 328 Mille Miglia Touring Coupé with Fritz Huschke von Hanstein and Walter Bäumer went through the finish line as the victor – more than a quarter of an hour in front of the second place car.
The character of the BMW 328 and its successes have stood the test of time. After all, the speed record with an average speed of 166.7 km/h has never been broken. And its fundamental properties – impressive engine power, high efficiency, lightweight and optimal aerodynamics – still continue to offer a promising recipe, and not only in motor sports. All that is reason enough to erect a monument to the BMW 328 and its creators. The two-seater was not only the brainchild for the design of the BMW Concept Coupé; it also supplied the inspiration for the study’s inherent notion of heritage. From the long engine bonnet and the generously sweeping front wheel housings through the strongly recessed greenhouse with its divided windscreen up to the wings that arch over the rear wheels covering them completely: the streamlined body of the racing sport legend has been completely reabsorbed in the BMW Concept Coupé.
Classical forms and optimised aerodynamics
But at the same time, the characteristic basic design is being interpreted in a modern manner. The aerodynamics, already distinctive in the 1940 Mille Miglia winner was improved even further. The insights about airflow and its influence on the vehicle’s uplift pressure and downforce gained in the meantime have also opened up new opportunities. While optimising the aerodynamics, the body designers now especially concentrate on the side and rear sections of the vehicle. The goal is to conduct the airflow in perfect harmony and turbulence-free up to the tail. A defined flow separation was to be created only there. Simultaneously, not only is the aerodynamic drag effectively reduced but greater uplift is generated at the same time, improving road holding and thus the Coupé’s driving dynamics.
Five each optically impressive air intakes near the A-pillars also control the flow movements in the front end. These gills are a venerable element typical for sports cars and are being fostered by BMW in current models also.
In the BMW Concept Coupé, these ports, arranged in a very slim Z-line, fulfil a two-fold function. On the one hand, they lead off the air used for engine cooling back out through the BMW kidney. In addition, underpressure is generated in the front wheelhouses at the same time. This effect reduces the turbulences at the wheel housings and simultaneously amplifies the vehicle’s contact pressure with the road.
Low turbulence, clearly defined flow separation
The entire trim over the rear wheels and the extremely gently coasting tail are additional design elements based on both the traditional and the latest aerodynamic findings. A reverse V-form thus arises as the sum total, minimising undesired turbulences and concentrating the flow separation to a tightly restricted area. Trimmings placed on the underbody and diffusers made of carbon on the front and rear aprons also ensure defined air conductance in those parts of the body that are not openly seen.
In the body design, the functions needed for positioning the engine, drive units and passenger sections are combined into an aesthetic whole together with the aerodynamic requirements. At the very first glance, the BMW Concept Coupé impresses as a highly dynamic driving machine.
The special appeal of the two-seater grows out of this purposeful appearance.
Dynamic lines and asymmetrical forms
The 20-inch alloy wheels, specifically developed for the BMW Concept Coupé, fit into the image of its powerful proportions. Tyres dimensioned 245/40 R 20 are mounted on them. Instead of doors, the study bears permanently integrated sidewalls, contributing to weight reduction on the one hand and to increasing torsional stiffness on the other. To let the pilot access the interior, the entire cockpit swings up. The rear section of the concept study is also distinguished through design elements in which the aesthetics are tightly connected with their function. The headlight panel, made from LED elements is likewise conducted in a gentle Z-curve horizontally over the
tail. The combination of the most modern illumination engineering and their unusual design unites two functional advantages: due to the extremely fast response time of the LED’s and through the increased conspicuousness of their asymmetrical layout, the brake lights can be perceived earlier than with conventional lighting.
The BMW Concept Coupé does not deny its inspirational source
Still, its body form is not dictated by nostalgia, but rather by the endeavour for forward-looking interpretations for typical BMW design themes. The study is proof that the vehicle designers at BMW have a grip on the art of accepting traditional impulses and letting them flow into new designs with the help of modern expertise. That is the only way that concepts can mature – by combining the power of history with the fascination of visions and letting emotions be awakened at the same time.
Traditional artisanship for an emotional vehicle
While developing the BMW Concept Coupé, traditional methods were applied, which continue to be an essential component of the design process for the BMW Group even today. Emotional models based on emotional designs emerge from the hands of experienced modellers.
Whereas the nearly unlimited possibilities of high-tech designing on a computer always involve the danger of randomness, in traditional body design only consequent implementation of an idea leads to the desired goal.
That is also a reason that the design models for all BMW Group models emerge made-by-hand even today. During series development, this is done with clay models – a malleable Plasticine mass. For the Concept Coupé, the designers fell back on even more traditional methods: modelling with plaster. This material entails fixed work rhythms during the application, shaping and hardening of the material. Each and every step demands a high degree of concentration. During both of these optically and haptically tangible processes of evolution, the designers form an especially tight relationship to their design object. One can understand how – and perhaps also why – the body designers of past generations were able to create true icons of sports car construction even without the availability of digital design.
During the material selection, the developers of the BMW Concept Coupé gave themselves the same task that inspired the creators of the BMW 328 Mille Miglia Touring Coupé to unconventional solutions. An extremely light chassis should emerge – from the available materials best suited to this purpose. At Touring in Milan, an aluminium shell was stretched over a lattice frame to accomplish that. Nowadays plastics developed especially for chassis construction set the standard for lightness, load ratings and design freedom. Accordingly, that kind of material was chosen for the Concept Coupé.
The entire body of the concept vehicle is made out of a carbon-fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP). The shell is painted fine silver, a full-gloss paint colour with extremely fine pigments. In this way, the finish awakens the memory of traditional colourings, but when inspected more closely it is clearly the result of the most modern surface-aesthetics engineering.
Innovative “eyes” in a typical BMW “face”
The BMW Concept Coupé unifies the best of two worlds – and even more. Its design provides hints of design and function opportunities, which can be made practical for series production vehicles used only in the far future.
These visions are already fascinating today. For example, the front of the Concept Coupé ensures a striking appearance in a completely new manner, but especially guarantees better vision. At first glance the “face” of the study appears familiar, its “eyes” remind one of the circular headlamp used in the BMW 328. But they are not integrated into the chassis – rather they have been attached as flat elements. Modern LED technology facilitates accommodating powerful light sources in comparatively small units. This progress provides the designs with new possibilities. The forms and linework from the engine hood to the wheelhouses in the Concept Coupé can be continued up through the front apron without being interrupted by the headlight units. The optically dominating role on the front end is taken over by the BMW kidney. More than ever, it characterises the typical BMW “face” by letting the headlights take over the role of the “eye”, despite the innovative execution.
Timeless design, modern engineering
Modern influences dominate the appearance of the Concept Coupé at other points also; the latest series technology is used under the timeless sheath of the study: the drive components in the BMW Z4 M Coupé, the most powerful version of the purist-sporty two-seater. The engine and suspension in the uncompromising sports car are given a totally new calling in the BMW Concept Coupé. They create the ideal basis for outstanding dynamics, for which the Concept Coupé must distinguish itself, as if it were conceived for driving on the road – or a racetrack. And, even though this idea remains purely theoretical, the relationship of traditional heritage and modern technology in this form makes complete sense. The BMW Z4 M Coupé is standing at the temporary end of a long family history of sports cars from BMW. Powerful engines, high efficiency, intelligent lightweight construction, aerodynamic shaping and enthusiastic design lend it its individual character.
The BMW Concept Coupé surmounts the BMW Z4 M Coupé by 23 centimetres length. Furthermore, it is 14 centimetres wider but 4 centimetres flatter than its counterpart approved for road traffic. The extremely short front body overhang is especially noticeable. On the other hand, the tail section is markedly gentle and stretched wide for aerodynamic reasons.
The BMW Concept Coupé is seeking company with the BMW 328 and BMW Z4 M Coupé. And is exhibiting the common ground between the classic role model and its modern heir at the same time. Initially, the BMW 328 was conceived as an open two-seater. Only when the regulations of the 24-hour race in Le Mans also permitted closed vehicles was the order for the BMW 328 awarded: to design a suitable, light-as-possible and aerodynamic body. The modern development process for the BMW Z4 Coupé had a similar character. The BMW Z4 Roadster had already been established and was already successful when the body for the closed-in sister model was completely revamped.
Six-cylinder in-line engine: Still the benchmark for dynamics
On top of that, the BMW Concept Coupé provokes one to intensively delve into the history of engine construction. The study used a six-cylinder in-line powerplant as the power source. That was already the case in the BMW 328; that’s the case in the BMW Z4 M Coupé also. Six cylinders arranged in line were and are the ideal pattern for successful propulsion. More than 70 years of the history of the development of the six-cylinder in-line engine are reflected in the Concept Coupé – a slice of history where the opening chapter is just as fascinating as the certainly only temporary ending.
That they let the 1971 cubic centimetre BMW 328 engine be strengthened from originally 80 to up to 136 PS is something that is still seen as proof of the excellent skills of the BMW engineers of yore. Both the cylinder capacity as well as the power-to-weight-ratio in the BMW 328 Mille Miglia Touring Coupé marked best values and provided an impressive proof of BMW’s engine competence. Nowadays, much higher demands are made on the efficiency and effectiveness of engines. But BMW continues to set the landmarks for that which is technically feasible. The exceptionally high performance of the six-cylinder in-line engine in the BMW Z4 M Coupé now draws its power from a displacement of 3, 246 cubic centimetres; its power is rated at 252 kW/343 PS. When compared to its forefathers, the fuel consumption for the 2.0 litres of displacement is meanwhile actually lower. Regardless how much the requirements and technical opportunities have transformed, the six-cylinder in-line engine from BMW and BMW M has remained the benchmark of its time.
The modern power unit in the BMW Concept Coupé displays its advantage very impressively; also acoustically. Modifications made to the intake and exhaust system give the concept vehicle an engine sound uncompromisingly attuned to racing sports tonality. A muffled rumble in idle already signals that kind of expectant impatience that the BMW Concept Coupé would also radiate optically at the starting line of a racetrack. At 4,900 rpm, exactly the engine speed where the maximum torque of 365 Newton metres is reached, the powerful-raw timbre of the six-cylinder has already intensified to a fanfare-like sound experience.
The interior: Visions for stylish racing sports
The driver’s and his co-pilot’s surroundings are also much different from everything that sports car enthusiasts were used to up to now. Completely free of the conventions that arise during series-ripe concept studies, the designers helped the BMW Concept Coupé to an incomparable interior. Limits on the functionality, the material selection and both the optical and haptic impression valid until now were consciously burst through; customary design and fabrication techniques were replaced by completely new methods. Thus an interior was born in which the structure of the surfaces and forms achieve totally new effects. At the same time, gaps and contours have their own functionality; metal plied by hand impressively accentuates the characteristics of the material. All surfaces are brought out uninterrupted and unadorned. Neither decorating trim nor rings or frames impair their purist impression.
Even letterings, logos and symbols are not, for instance, additionally attached but are embossed into the respective metal component using laser technology.Using extra-flat rolled stainless steel, untreated cowhides and Lycra fabric, a total of exactly three materials are deployed in the interior of the BMW Concept Coupé. The processing methods were also reduced to a minimum selection. All components were either stitched together or clamped to each other using a special technique. The impression of surfaces and controls resulting from this imparts the occupants an impression of ambience that is just as futuristic as exclusive.
Folding technology creates forms; gaps take on functions
While designing the interior elements, the designers combined the use of traditional materials and the application of innovative processing methods with each other. While doing so, they achieved a result that is unique in automobile construction and loaded with incredible effects. Especially conspicuous: the implementation of V2a stainless-steel processing in the cockpit and the centre console area. More than just the purist unpretentious material itself, that kind of shaping sets a fascinating accent. The metal sheets, rolled to a thickness of only one millimetre, are multi-folded to take up the final surface structure of the respective component. Beforehand, the metal sheets are given a precisely cut fold on the intended edges. This is carried out using a laser technology developed especially for this purpose. This facilitates extremely exact remodelling, which leads to exceptional stability of the completed component on top of that.
Everywhere where two metal components meet, they are clamped together absolutely flush using laser cut castellations. Gaps are only present where they could and above all should take on a function at the same time; for instance, the transition between the dashboard support and the centre console is used as additional storage space. That transforms the gap from an undesirable side effect accruing when two components are connected into a consciously inserted design element. That is another way in which the interior of the BMW Concept Coupé opens up entirely new perspectives in automobile engineering.
While working the metal, the interior designers let themselves be inspired by traditional paper folding techniques. There also, forms and structures are created without artificial connections, which despite their light weights offer impressive stability. By the way, this is not the first time the art of Origami, originating in Japan, has inspired automobile construction. The folding technique used to accommodate airbags in the smallest possible space is also essentially influenced by this method. But for designing entire interior landscapes, this solution represents something of a revolutionary accent.
New aesthetics from tradition and innovation
Connecting tradition with innovation also led to a new aesthetic when processing the leather in the BMW Concept Coupé interior. Several layers of the merely tanned, but other than that natural cowhides are pressed into each other. Thus a three dimensional leather-mould part emerges that, among other things, imparts a new haptic feeling in the seating and middle console sections. Furthermore, the undyed leather underlies a natural maturing process, leading to attractive patina effects over the years.
The leather and Lycra elements are connected among and with one another using especially subdued stitches. Even metal and leather is stitched together wherever they meet. The three materials dominating the interior of the concept vehicle consist of highly varying characters: one is a metal created for infinite solidity, one an untreated and therewith living natural material and one made of modern, hardwearing plastic fibres. Despite all these contrasts, they create an extremely attractive combination in which the aesthetic effect arises from unadulterated functionality.
That is the continuation of the interior that the BMW Concept Coupé already expresses with its body design. Classical values gain a fascinating attraction when they are interpreted in new ways. Pioneering concepts do not emerge just from up to date expertise but also require an awareness of historic roots. The BMW Concept Coupé shows what opportunities arise from that. This unique vehicle could only have been built by automobile developers who groom traditions based on their convictions, purposefully use their competence and who are open to new visions in all areas.