In 2004, the BMW 328 Mille Miglia Touring Coupe became the first car to win both the Mille Miglia (1940) and the modern-day classical version of the race.
The design team responsible for the original 328 succeeded without the benefit of computers. Building models was the only option. But despite the digital revolution, modelling remains a fundamental part of the design process for today’s BMWs. The company’s designers remain loyal to this process as it connects them emotionally to the form of a new product. During the design of the BMW Concept Coupe Mille Miglia 2006, the designers took a step back in time and formed the car from plaster models rather than clay. Quite literally a more ‘hands-on’, labour intensive process. The result is a greater appreciation within the design team of why classic racing cars are perceived as more emotional and artistic objects than today’s computer-generated racing cars.
The concept car’s hinged hard-top roof is a reference to the relaxation of the rules at Le Mans when racing cars moved from soft-top to hard-top construction as closed vehicles became eligible to race. This precipitated the development of the 328 Touring Coupe from its roadster origins, allowing the model to develop further as a lightweight, aerodynamic ‘bespoke’ racing car. Similarly, the new Z4 Coupe has been derived from the Z4 Roadster soft-top as a ‘behind-the-scenes’ project driven by the designers’ enthusiasm. This coupe development leading to the production of the new Z4 M Coupe Racing car.
Thoroughly Modern Mille
While the hinged roof structure recalls past events, the principle function of the hinged system, that also raises the cockpit, negates the requirement for doors (reducing weight) and increases torsional stiffness.
The car benefits from an extremely lightweight chassis. The most modern design processes were used to ‘stretch’ an aluminium shell over a lattice frame. The body is also constructed from lightweight materials, with carbon-fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) clothing the entire vehicle. As a nod to the past this is painted in ‘fine silver’, a full-gloss paint colour with extremely fine pigments that hints to classic silver race colours.
The large circular headlamps inspired by the shape of the 328 units are not integrated into the body of the car, but attached as flat elements. Modern LED technology facilitates this design function that frees up the designers to develop more flowing and unbroken body forms. This manifests itself on the Concept Coupe by uninterrupted bonnet and side panels.
Inspired by BMW’s glorious motor racing heritage, the science of aerodynamics was addressed with thoroughly modern techniques and design resolutions. Side panels and the rear section of the car were designed to allow turbulence-free flow of air up to the tail where the airflow is separated. Carbon-fibre underbody fins and diffusers on the front and rear aprons also contribute to the car’s aerodynamics. Meanwhile air intakes in the A-pillars, arranged in a slim Z-line, direct cooling air from the six-cylinder in-line engine and contribute to developing downforce and reducing turbulence at the wheel housings.
The Concept Coupe is powered by the multi-award winning BMW six-cylinder inline petrol engine that powers the new BMW Z4 M Coupe. Modifications have been made to the inlet and exhaust systems of the 343 hp unit to give the concept car more of a ‘racing’ sound at both idle and full throttle.
The interior retains the functional simplicity prevalent in both 328 racing cars and Z4 production cars, but in a modern presentation. Only three materials are used; thin stainless steel, untreated cowhides, Lycra fabric. This purist form even extends to letterings, logos and symbols embossed into surfaces using laser technology.Published 12 May 2006