- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 18, 2006

BRESCIA, Italy —The evening before the start of this year’s Mille Miglia, BMW presented a concept car to an exclusive audience of BMW participants in the event and a handful of automotive reporters. To pay homage to the Mille Miglia and to its own successes in the past, the Bavarians developed the Concept Coupe Mille Miglia 2006. It is a car that will never race or be seen at any auto show or public event. It is a symbol for motor sports, racing successes and the achievements of engineers and drivers in many decades.

This year is the 24th edition of the current form of the historical event that took off in 1927. It was the most popular of the Italian races from town to town, in this case from Brescia to Rome and back, more than 1,000 miles.

In 1938 BMW first participated with its small 2.0-liter class roadster. Because of an accident with 10 fatalities, there was no race in 1939. In 1940 the event was transformed into one of skills and endurance. BMW came to Northern Italy with five 328 models, one of which was the superlight Mille Miglia Coupe that took first place. The success of BMW was completed when its cars took third, fifth and sixth place.

Because of World War II, there was no Mille from 1941 till 1946, but in 1957 another tragedy with 12 fatalities meant the definite end of the Mille Miglia.

Twenty years later the MM was revived as a reliability and consistency run, where only models that have participated between 1927 and 1957 are allowed to start. In recent years, the BMW Group Mobile Tradition has brought a series of vehicles to the start line of the Mille Miglia in its current form and organized a dinner at the eve of the start for the BMW participants and their teams, as well as for the private BMW teams.

The idea for the development of a concept car that pays homage to the Mille Miglia came from designer Anders Warming. He combined the racing history of the 328 and future design in a sketch and presented it to his boss, Design Director Adrian van Hooydonk and BMW’s Chief Designer Chris Bangle. They were taken by the idea and also the board was immediately enthusiastic. The result was built in just three months and presented in the garden of the Mille Miglia Museum in Brescia to the BMW guests. It will be stored until the opening of the new BMW Museum in the summer of 2007, where it will be on permanent display.

The design shows the hand of Anders Warming, who also did the styling of the Z4. He combined the modern design of the sides of the Z4 with a round nose and vertical kidneys.

“Although people may regard the vertical kidneys as somewhat stately, I wanted to show they also look good on a modern sports car,” says Mr. Warming, who threw in more future technology with very flat LED head lights and a diagonal LED strip at the rear, functioning as a brake light. The carbon-fiber air dams in the front and rear and the side spoilers are taken from BMW’s Formula 1 cars to optimize the aerodynamics and air flow underneath the car. The 20-inch wheels were specially developed and are covered in the rear with wheel spats that give a contemporary look, but are functional as well.

The cockpit of the BMW Concept Coupe shows a technique inspired by “origami,” the Japanese art of folding paper into sculpture. The folding technique has been used by applying 1mm sheets of steel that are precut by laser and plied by hand into the desired shapes. Letters, logos and symbols are embossed into the metal with laser technology. The steel is finished with natural aniline leather that is also used for other details such as the buckles of the safety belts. For side trim and other panels, Lycra fabric is used.

The combination together with the huge glass house that has to be lifted to get access to the cockpit looks very futuristic.

The Concept Coupe is technically the same as the BMW Z4 M coupe, but it is 9 inches longer, 5.5 inches wider and 1.6 inches lower.

Under the hood lies the same 343-horsepower 3.2-liter inline six-cylinder engine as in the Z4 M. Too bad the car will not hit the road in this or a production form.

But we will undoubtedly see details of the Concept Coupe in BMWs of the future.

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