Million-dollar BAT-mobiles: Fifties research cars on display

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Thinking of a new motor this summer? Something more exotic than an Escort, more memorable than a Metro? Consider this set of one-off cars: Berlinetta Aerodinamica Tecnica (BAT) Alfa Romeo designs, currently on view at the Science Museum, but up for grabs on 30 July for a modest dollars 4-5m (pounds 2.6-3.3m).

In 1953, Franco Scaglione was asked to apply the technology of the wind tunnel to the car - nowadays a sine qua non, at the time uncountenanced.

'The subtext of the BAT, the auctioneers' brochure says, 'was not just that cars would improve, but that education, health, wealth, leisure, everything would improve.' But it's hard to believe that the motorists who marvelled at the first BAT (No. 5, right) at 1953's Turin Motor Show gave two wheel nuts for subtext.

Quite simply, here was a coupe with the elegant lines of an aircraft (testament to Scaglione's work in the aviation industry); it resembled nothing the roads had seen before and it was 15. per cent faster than the Alfa Romeo Sprint on which it was based.

For all it's splashy beginnings, No. 5 was to spend a quiet life, sitting in dealers' show rooms. The flashier finned No. 7 (back) enjoyed a brief racing career, while No. 9 (left) was employed as an American dentist's runaround. United by a Japanese collector, the cars are appearing here for the first time.

Influential as the BATs were, they were never developed into mass-production vehicles. An almost archetypal 'frustrated genius', the designer of perhaps the world's ultimate show cars retired to an Italian mountainside, making increasingly rare sorties into the village below. Isolated and unappreciated, he died in the late 1980s.

Science Museum, South Kensington, SW7 to mid-July. Auction 30 July at the Coy's International Historic Festival at Silverstone. Sale details on 071-584 7444

(Photograph omitted)

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