It takes just a glance to realize any of these Alfa Romeo B.A.T. concept cars are incredibly important to both the company’s history and to automotive design. Gaze on all three together and that impression deepens, as does one’s appreciation for their designer, Bertone’s Franco Scaglione. Learn they’re not scattered in various museums or secreted away in private collections and that all three are available in a single, unprecedented auction, and you might conclude you’re looking at a once-in-a-lifetime event. You’re probably right.
The Berlinetta Aerodynamica Tecnica concepts aren’t merely pretty, they lived up to their names as legitimate aerodynamic technical studies commissioned by Alfa Romeo. One goal was to attain high speeds using modest—or by modern standards, anemic—engines. The numbering system is a little obtuse, but B.A.T. 5 debuted in 1953, B.A.T. 7 in ’54, and B.A.T. 9d in ’55. As for aerodynamics, B.A.T. 5 managed a claimed 0.23 coefficient of drag (Cd), and the B.A.T. 7 a remarkable 0.19. Meanwhile B.A.T. 9d was less of an aerodynamics study and more of an exploration of a roadworthy luxury car based on the design elements of the previous cars. Even so, B.A.T. 7’s 0.19 Cd is a remarkable achievement for the pre-computer era.
Ahead of their time on the aerodynamic front, the outrageous styling also made a splash on the auto show circuit. But underneath the skin, all were relatively traditional Alfa Romeos. Bertone used the platform of the 1900 small sport sedan (with coupe and convertible variants), putting the emphasis on the sheetmetal—not the performance. Even so, the 5 and 7 were both capable of speeds well over 100 mph.
These are less cars and more ideas—three evolutions of the same styling theme. That all survived and are now available at the same auction is rather incredible. And, in reality, they’ve been “together” (albeit separately displayed at times) since roughly 1989, when a single owner bought all three. They spent years at the Blackhawk Museum in California, with excursions for display at various events. Now, they could be yours.
RM Sotheby’s will be selling them not with other exquisite and rare automobiles but rather as part of a contemporary art auction, which is understandable. Whoever purchases these will be acquiring visual masterpieces—sculptures that just happen to be functional, drivable automobiles, which only adds to the mystique. The auction will take place on October 23. If you want to bid, we suggest getting your accounts in order before then.
All images Ron Kimball © 2020 Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s.