BMW Zagato Roadster


Pebble Beach. Barely three months after the  sensational premiere of the BMW Zagato Coupé, BMW and Zagato are  turning heads again at the 2012 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance with  the fruits of their latest collaboration. Created in just six weeks’  worth of lavish handcraftsmanship, the BMW Zagato Roadster represents  another masterful example of the traditional coachbuilder’s art and an  elegant take on the sporty, masculine marker laid down by the BMW  Zagato Coupé.

BMW Zagato

At the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, this one-of-a-kind  automobile finds itself in the best possible company. Every year  connoisseurs and exponents of coachbuilt classics come together on  California’s Pacific coastline to gorge on, mull over and be amazed by  an array of automotive exotica. Indeed, you’d be hard pressed to find  a more appropriate venue for the premiere of the BMW Zagato Roadster.

The next stage of a successful collaboration. The decision to launch another collaboration  between BMW and Italian coachbuilder Zagato was made only a short time  after the BMW Zagato Coupé took its first bow. Encouraged by the  positive reaction to the Coupé, Adrian van Hooydonk, Senior Vice  President BMW Group Design, and Andrea Zagato soon agreed to take  their partnership a step further. On the menu this time would be a  Roadster model. “We set ourselves the challenge of preparing the car  in time for the renowned Pebble Beach Concours” explains van Hooydonk.  The BMW Zagato Roadster was duly conjured up in record haste, with  only six weeks separating the first design idea from the finished  model. “It was only with the expertise of both companies in the  manufacture of high-end one-off cars and another display of  outstanding teamwork that we were able to finish the car on schedule,”  adds the BMW design supremo.

BMW Zagato 2012

Andrea Zagato picks up on the theme: “Our success in finishing the  car in such a short space of time shows what is possible when two  successful companies pool their resources” says Zagato. “BMW is a  high-achieving carmaker boasting a vast well of knowledge and  technical capability in this area. When you combine that with our  expertise in the creation of micro-series cars and our streamlined  production processes, everything is in place to produce a beautiful  model like the BMW Zagato Roadster in double-quick time”.

The design – Italian finesse meets Bavarian roadster  tradition. It quickly became clear that the  partnership’s next jointly developed model would be a roadster.  Indeed, no other concept embodies the pure fascination of motoring  quite like this breed of car. With the roof down, two seats and  exceptional performance, it allows the driver to experience dynamic  thrills and driving pleasure with all the senses. To this heady blend  the BMW Zagato Roadster adds the fineries of the Italian “dolce vita”,  its designers succeeding in lending the car its own distinct character  without blurring its family ties.

BMW Zagato 2013

BMW and Zagato can both look back on a long and successful tradition  of building roadsters, and the BMW Zagato Roadster sees their  respective design DNAs melting into one. There is, of course, more to  designing a roadster than slicing the roof off a coupé. “This car is  not designed only as an elegant convertible, but also as a masculine  and extremely dynamic sports car which evokes a powerful driving  experience,” says Zagato chief designer Norihiko Harada, describing  the design philosophy behind the BMW Zagato Roadster. Like the BMW  Zagato Coupé, the Roadster is ready to drive – and intended to be  driven at high speeds.

The car’s proportions make no secret of the special driving  experience that awaits the driver. The sweeping hood and long  wheelbase pin the driver back close to the driven rear wheels. There,  he sits low down in an ultra-sporty position inside the cockpit. The  taut, hallmark BMW surface treatment and Zagato’s clearly defined  distribution of visual mass lend the BMW Zagato Roadster an athletic  appearance – poised and eager, demanding to be driven.

Distinctive front-end design. A low-set kidney grille, complete with intricate z-design  grating, as well as focused twin circular headlights and a  three-dimensional front apron shape the expressive face of the BMW  Zagato Roadster, as they do the front end of the Coupé. It is this  area of the car that provides the stylistic link between the two  models, giving them a clear identity, reflecting their family ties  and, at the same time, making them easily recognisable.

Overall, the BMW Zagato Roadster’s front end is very  three-dimensional, wide and powerfully formed. The nose surges forward  dynamically, dipping down close to the road, and allows the BMW Zagato  Roadster to cut an agile figure, crouching as if about to pounce. The  contoured hood extends this aura of dynamism with its sweeping lines  and taut surfaces, while a pair of air intakes carved into the hood  supply the engine compartment with extra air and hint at the brawny  powerplant inside. The focused headlights accentuate the car’s  driver-oriented character and high-speed concept; the “razorlight” – a  precise LED light strip set into the matt surface above the headlights  – finishes these elements off with an extra touch of class.

BMW Zagato Pebble Beach

Sitting low between the headlights is Zagato’s take on the BMW kidney  grille, featuring matt kidney surrounds. A stand-out detail here – and  one shared with the BMW Zagato Coupé – is the use of a large number of  small matt-sheen Zagato “z” letters to make up the kidney grating.  This arrangement injects added depth into the grating and lays on a  high-quality accent for the front end.

Dynamic side view. The flanks of the BMW Zagato Roadster reflect the extrovert  character of its Coupé sibling. Here, the clearly defined distribution  of visual mass and eye-catching tail of a Zagato blend with the  hallmark surface treatment and use of forms familiar from BMW models.  Together, they imbue the BMW Zagato Roadster with a distinctive and  athletic allure. The black colouring of the A-pillars allows them to  fade into the background and set off the sculpturing of the car’s body  even more effectively.

The BMW Zagato Roadster’s silhouette outlines a poised and alert  presence, the car’s sweeping hood, long wheelbase, short overhangs and  low rear end merging into a taut, sporty whole. The basic choreography  of lines and surfaces is similar to that of the BMW Zagato Coupé, but  subtle differences are noticeable at the rear. The tail end as a whole  places a greater emphasis on elegance than that of the Coupé, which  shows a sharper sporting edge. The Roadster’s lines are smoother here  and the rear is lower-slung. Plus, a fine additional line forges a  visual connection between the sill and the rear apron to round off the  rear end design in style.

Another noteworthy detail of the BMW Zagato Roadster are its  roll-bars – an important design element of many roadsters and commonly  an identifying feature. The roll-bars of the BMW Zagato Roadster are  quintessentially Zagato. The designers took their inspiration for  these technical components from an aircraft wing and experimented with  their mass before settling on a dynamic forward-leaning focus and  powerful structure. “The low, dynamic roll-bars, inspired by an  airplane wing, are an eye-catcher that make the BMW Zagato Roadster  recognisable from a distance” says Norihiko Harada. Their brown colour  gives the roll- bars an even more prominent profile. Allow the eye to  wander further back, and the car’s rump provides a harmonious  conclusion to its overall silhouette. Other striking details include  the air outlets adorning the Roadster’s flanks, which mirror the form  of the hood vents and reproduce their dynamic theme. The silver “z”  positioned below the flank vents references the BMW/Zagato collaboration.

A bird’s-eye view of the car highlights the BMW Zagato Roadster’s  interpretation of the hallmark Zagato double-bubble roof in the  soft-top cover. The cover uses this double-bubble element to extend  the lines of the hood all the way to the rear, where it accentuates  the muscular proportions of the rear-wheel-drive Roadster. These two  roof domes – the “doppia gobba” in local parlance – are a signature  feature of Zagato design and can be found on almost every Zagato car.

Sporty yet elegant rear-end design. The sharply  chiselled tail of the BMW Zagato Roadster provides a fine  advertisement for the exquisite talents of the Zagato body  specialists. The rear end displays a seamless perfection, giving it a  feel of quality – like a sculpture cast from a single mould. Here, the  high degree of handcraftsmanship within the walls of the Zagato design  studio and the company’s vast well of experience in working with  surfaces and forms come resplendently to light.

Taken as a whole, the rear of the BMW Zagato Roadster has a very  broad, low-slung appearance, giving the car a wide stance and planted  muscularity on the road. Like those of its Coupé counterpart, the BMW  Zagato Roadster’s rear lights are arranged behind black tinted glass.  The glass area extends in a shallow black band around the whole of the  rear end, underlining its horizontal geometry. Beneath it, the dark  diffuser gives the BMW Zagato Roadster a squat, powerful stance.  Exhaust tailpipes positioned towards the outer edges of the rear add  further emphasis, their matt finish contributing another flourish of  quality. The body-coloured surfaces between the tailpipes draw the  final lines in the distinctive, low-to-the-road and broad-set looks of  the rear end.

Highlights and details. The unique character of  the BMW Zagato Roadster is reflected in even smaller details. The  19-inch light-alloy wheels in classically sporty five-spoke design  have a hint of propeller about them, offering a subtle nod to the  origins of the two companies: both BMW and Zagato founder Ugo Zagato  took an airborne route into automotive construction. The discreetly  attractive matt finish of the wheels lends the car extra allure from  the side.

A very special highlight of the BMW Zagato Roadster is its paintwork.  The exclusive exterior paint finish, a brilliant grey with impressive  depth, appears to wrap the car’s body in a cloak of liquid metal.  Depending on how the light hits the body, the colour spectrum ranges  from dark grey to a light silver, bringing the surfaces and forms of  the BMW Zagato Roadster to life.

The interplay of exterior and interior. The  open-top nature of a roadster means it is often the interior that  catches the eye first. Only later does your attention move on to the  exterior and the interplay between the exterior and interior. The BMW  Zagato Roadster zeroes in on this peculiarity and consciously allows  the boundaries between inside and outside to blur.

To this end, the colours and materials marking the transition from  interior to exterior exude a special exclusiveness. A strip of brown  leather wraps around the interior like a rail to create a visual  connection between the inside of the car and its exterior. The brown  leather extends from the instrument panel over the door sill and  around behind the seats, and even incorporates the roll-over bars.  Embracing the driver and passenger like a large protective arm, this  leather adornment provides an attractive transition into the otherwise  predominantly black interior. The warm shade of brown reappears in  various areas of the interior, including the contrast stitching of the  seats, the steering wheel and doors, and the centre console. The  interplay of colours and composition of details bathe the interior of  the BMW Zagato Roadster in a sumptuous ambience, while the brown “z”  embroidered into the seats is a further nod to its origins.

The interior itself boasts the clear structuring you would expect  from BMW and invites the driver to give the machine around him a  thorough workout. Details such as the sweeping horizontal lines along  the inside of the doors and the full-length centre console lend a  rarefied sense of exclusivity to the sporty promptings and driver  focus of the interior.

Zagato – a coachbuilder with a long tradition.

Founded by Ugo Zagato in 1919, today Zagato is the only automotive  body manufacturer still in independent ownership. From its earliest  days, Zagato has taken a minimalist and pared-down approach to its  creations, very much in keeping with the Milanese tradition of design.  Form takes precedence over details, thanks in part to technical  considerations. Body designer Ugo Zagato learned his trade in – among  other industries – aviation, where aerodynamics and lightweight  construction play a central role. Zagato duly applied these principles  rigorously in the construction of cars and soon celebrated a rash of  race victories as a body construction partner to Alfa Romeo. The  “necessary beauty” of aerodynamics and lightweight construction came  to represent a maxim of design, one that has defined the form of every  Zagato since.

Today, with Andrea Zagato and Marella Rivolta-Zagato, becoming the  third generation of his family to take his seat at the helm, the  company describes itself as a design studio combining the emotion and  handcraftsmanship of body construction with the precision of  state-of-the-art technology. Zagato follows coachbuilding tradition in  developing only the shell of the car and leaving the mechanics of the  machine untouched. More than 200 Vmax concepts, special editions and  micro-series have been created in this way down the years and find  appreciation among connoisseurs and collectors the world over. Indeed,  all Zagatos are coveted collector’s items today and worth many times  what their original owners paid for them.