To Be OFFERED AT AUCTION at RM Sothebys' Contemporary Art Evening
Auction event, 28 October 2020.
1953 Alfa Romeo B.A.T. 5
Chassis no. AR1900 01396
1954 Alfa Romeo B.A.T. 7
Chassis no. AR1900C 01485
1955 Alfa Romeo B.A.T. 9d
Chassis no. AR1900 01600
Coachwork by Carrozzeria Bertone
Design by Franco Scaglione
Unconstrained by the limitations of budget and the realities of
manufacturing, concept cars afford talented designers the
opportunity to explore their wildest and most progressive ideas. At
their best, these dazzling, artistic creations invite us to totally
reimagine what the automobile can be.
As in the world of fashion, however, car design evolves quickly; it
is unusual to find a concept that remains relevant after its
allotted time in the spotlight comes to an end, let alone one that
is still compelling over six decades after its debut. Rarer still
is the concept that transcends its role as a design exercise to
embody the sculptural potential of the automotive form. And when it
comes to a trilogy of concepts that effortlessly achieves both
feats, there is but one spectacular example: The Alfa Romeo Berlina
Aerodinamica Tecnica series by Franco Scaglione.
Whether considered the ultimate three-movement concerto of
automobile design or the only true automotive triptych ever
produced, few will contest the greatness of the B.A.T. 5, 7, and 9d
concepts. Hand-built by the storied Carrozzeria Bertone of Turin,
Italy and introduced in 1953, 1954, and 1955, respectively, these
cars were pioneering in their use of aerodynamics. With flamboyant
aesthetics that simultaneously minimized drag for optimal
performance, the B.A.T. cars were immediately and enthusiastically
embraced by press and public alike.
Individually, each of the B.A.T.s is, without exaggeration, among
the most important automotive concepts ever built. Presented
collectively, their significance deepens: Uniquely in the
automotive world, the B.A.T.s are best understood as variations on
a singular theme, a complete work in three parts. Like a Francis
Bacon triptych, examining one car in the context of the other two
reveals new aspects of their forms, as well as the captivating
details incorporated into the hand-shaped bodywork of each.
Put simply, since the inception of the internal combustion engine,
no one vehicle-let alone an interwoven trilogy-has so compellingly
explored the concept of the automobile as pure kinetic sculpture as
the Alfa Romeo B.A.T. 5, 7, and 9d.
THE VISION OF FRANCO SCAGLIONE
The greatest cars in the world, and indeed, the ones that
completely re-write the course of automotive history, are the
products of brilliant creative minds-engineers who rethink what is
possible in terms of performance, captains of industry who envision
a new paradigm of transport, and more often than not, designers
whose sketches and clay models are years ahead of their time.
The world's very best car designers are legends of the industry,
from Harley Earl to Ian Callum, whose pencil strokes are
immediately recognizable in the finished product. Franco Scaglione
was one such iconic designer.
Franco Scaglione was born on 26 September 1916 in Florence, Italy,
to Vittorio Scaglione, a chief army doctor, and Giovanna Fabbri,
captain of the Italian Red Cross service. Franco would ultimately
follow in his parents' footsteps and join the military ranks at the
outbreak of World War II. At War's end, in early 1948, Franco
travelled to Bologna in pursuit of work, with his mind set on
becoming a car stylist in Italy's rebuilding auto industry.
Initially he spent his time sketching clothing for various fashion
houses. Though the work turned out to be lucrative, it did not
fulfil his passion for working in automotive design. Looking toward
the major coachbuilding firms, he relocated to Torino in 1951 where
he reached out to Battista "Pinin" Farina, though a collaboration
never materialized. Shortly thereafter, however, Franco met the
great Giuseppe "Nuccio" Bertone, and a partnership was born.
CARROZZERIA BERTONE AND BERLINA AERODINAMICA TECNICA
At the dawn of the 1950s, Nuccio Bertone's carrozzeria, the design
house and coachbuilder responsible for penning and constructing
hand-made car bodies, was struggling in the face of postwar
recovery. One-off commissions for wealthy clients, once the
lifeblood of the coachbuilding trade, represented a decreasingly
viable business strategy. Meanwhile, the idea of a concept car-an
automobile built primarily to push the limits of creativity, rather
than to closely preview a future product-was far from
That began to change when Franco Scaglione entered the picture. The
1951 hiring of a then-largely unknown designer with a background in
aeronautics soon resulted in the some of the firm's most celebrated
works, catapulting both Scaglione and Bertone to enduring fame.
Following the success of the Scaglione-designed and Bertone-built
Abarth 1500 Biposto in 1952, Alfa Romeo expressed interest in
exploring a technical proposal into aerodynamics. Bertone chose the
modern 1900 platform as a testbed for this research, and Scaglione
relished the opportunity to combine his interests in science and
mathematics with his aesthetic leanings. He later wrote of the
vehicle's guiding manifesto in a 1954 article in Auto Italiana,
arguing that aerodynamic considerations accounted for as much as 85
percent of a car's efficiency, and concluding "the entry form must
give a smooth penetration."
From this relatively simple principle, Scaglione would derive the
three automotive jewels that would make up the revolutionary
Berlina Aerodinamica Tecnica series.
B.A.T. 5 (1953)
With firm ideas about the minimization of drag by shaping laminar
airflow and stability with the car's exterior form in mind,
Scaglione progressively worked through four full-size models before
proceeding to the fifth and final stage, the actual metalwork for
the car. When completed, the concept car was appropriately dubbed
the Berlina Aerodinamica Tecnica 5, or B.A.T. 5.
Instantly striking to even a casual observer, the B.A.T. 5's
protruding pontoon fenders and rounded center nose ducted airflow
over the swept hood, whose low profile was accommodated by an
engine modified with side-draft carburetors. Frontal air was
channeled into dual nose vents with horizontal slots that directly
fed the radiator core. Topside airflow was ducted over a slippery
teardrop-shaped wraparound-glass cockpit, and over rear shoulders
enclosed by leaning tailfins. The fins gently curved together
toward the tapered rear, with airflow further stabilized by a
central rear spine. Rear wheel skirts were fitted to reduce reverse
airflow from the wheel's topside, and large side vents provided
exhaust for the front brakes.
Notably, and despite its radical looks, Scaglione designed the
B.A.T. 5 and its successors with road-legal drivability (if not
comfortable, practical long-distance touring) in mind. Over the
years, many have claimed, incorrectly, that Scaglione's dogged
pursuit of aerodynamic efficiency meant that the car did away from
headlamps. The headlamps are in fact designed to swing away and
into the fenders when not required-one of many demonstrations of
Scaglione's ability to skillfully incorporate functional
engineering solutions into what might have otherwise been a
visually indulgent flight of fancy.
In addition to its arresting appearance and jet-age character,
Scaglione's coachwork was remarkable fo...for more information
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