Bertone Alfa Romeo B.A.T Concepts sold for AU$21 million

By: Alex Affat, Unique Cars magazine

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Bertone Bat mobiles cover Bertone Bat mobiles cover
Bertone Bat mobiles group Bertone Bat mobiles group
Bertone Bat mobiles rear Bertone Bat mobiles rear

UPDATE: The trio of wild 50s design studies in aerodynamic fetches AU$21 million at Sotheby's Contemporary Fine Art auction

UPDATE October 30, 2020: The dust has settled from Sotheby's Contemporary Art Evening auction in Paris which recently took place on October 28, and the three incredible Bertone-built Alfa Romeo B.A.T cars are heading to a new home!

Originally estimated by Sotheby's to fetch between US$14 million and $20 million, the set of three concept cars were ultimately sold as a single lot with a high bid of US$14.84 million - or AU$21.1 million per the current exchange rate.

Just inching over its reserve price, bidding seemingly stalled at US$12 million before rising in $250,000 increments.

READ OUR FULL HISTORICAL FEATURE ON BERTONE'S BAT CARS

The Alfa Romeo B.A.T (Berlina Aerodinamica Tecnica) concept cars were built as radical design studies in aerodynamics and will be offered as a complete set to the public for the first time ever.

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Built by Carrozerria Bertone, and designed by Franco Scaglione - who studied aeronautical engineering – the cars were debuted independently in 1953, 1954 and 1955.

The roots of the aerodinamica design movement, however, stretch back to the art-deco period of the 30s where the recently-invented fully-enclosed automobile body first gave rise to the then-primitive theories of aerodynamics, typified by crude racecars such as the Porsche Type 64.

The three cars we have here are BAT 5, 7, and 9. In line with the nomenclature, BAT 1-4 were never revealed, with BAT 5 first appearing as a full-scale driver in 1953.

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Based on the Alfa Romeo 1900, BAT 5 wore a number of distinguishing design elements, including its sharknose front end which predated Ferrari’s open-wheel racers by a number of years, and advanced retractable headlights – something that only emerged decades later thanks to Pontiac. It was not a refined package in all areas however, with restricted steering lock thanks to its bodywork and a tiny cabin. However it had a drag coefficient of just 0.23 which alone added 15% to the otherwise mechanically-standard car’s top speed.

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BAT 7 was the most radical of the three design studies to make it to the road, and addressed inherent rear-end lift flaws within Bertone’s prior Alfa Romeo Disco Volante. Drag coefficient dropped to just 0.19 (a figure few can match even today), and boasted the highest fins ever seen on a concept car ever. Curiously, this one was built in right-hand drive.

BAT 9 conversely is the least radical of the three, and was built to illustrate a more driver-friendly (and perhaps, more production-feasible) repackaging of BAT 7. However, it was the most desirable as a driver, with a suitably spacious cabin and a respectable turning circle.

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The three cars were never displayed together in period, and were each sold to separate collectors after their exhibition debuts. The trio were first united at Pebble Beach in 1989, after which they were all purchased for US$8 million by California's Blackhawk Museum.

Sotheby’s describes them as "amongst the most spectacular and memorable automotive designs ever produced", and will surely be a worthy centrepiece for any collection.

 

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