On October 29, 2020, RM Sotheby’s, in association with Sotheby’s Fine Art division, sold a renowned trio of Alfa Romeo concept cars, Berlina Aerodinamica Tecnica (B.A.T. 5, 7 and 9) achieved top sale value of $14.8M, setting a new world record for post-war Alfa Romeo sold as a single lot at auction. This exceptional auction lot reflects the period’s fascination with futurism and the space age. But it also highlights the remarkable work done by Giuseppe ‘Nuccio’ Bertone, who prepared these three concept vehicles after an extensive research on the effects of drag on a vehicle.
A trio of The Berlinetta Aerodinamica Tecnica
Indeed, the objective was to reach the lowest possible drag coefficient. The Berlinetta Aerodinamica Tecnica were designed by Franco Scaglione and built upon the Alfa Romeo 1900 chassis. A five-speed gearbox and a 90HP four-cylinder engine were supplied by Alfa, propelling the car to a top speed of 200 km/h. Bertone and Alfa Romeo presented the three B.A.T. concept car at the Turin Auto show in 1953 (B.A.T.5), 1954 (B.A.T.7) and 1955 (B.A.T. 9).
The design of the B.A.T. (5) aimed at eliminating the problem of airflow disruption at high speeds and reducing air vortices. The tail of B.A.T 5 is unusual, with its length-ways rear windscreen. Its body also features pontoon fenders, nose vents, and wraparound glass cockpit. It has an excellent index of penetration, with a coefficient of 0.23 — comparable to a Tesla Model 3 electric car. Yet, this was done by Scaglione while he had no access to computer nor to wind tunnels.
Talking about coefficient of penetration
B.A.T. 7 integrated innovations from the aeronautical industry, resulting in imposing large, curved tail fins. The nose was lower than the previous B.A.T. 5, leading Bertone to locate he headlights next to the nose and moved to point down when used. The coefficient of penetration went as low as 0.19, which is exceptional even by our contemporary standards. As a matter of comparison, a Toyota Prius (2016), which is considered as an aerodynamic car, is yet less aerodynamic than the B.A.T 7, with a 0.24 Cd Coefficient.
B.A.T. 9 is considered as the best looking of all the B.A.T.s (but this is controversial) with a cleaner and more sober line. Scaglione sized down the tail fins into two metal plates to improve rear visibility, designed a beltline towards the rear of the car and used a grille from the Giulietta sports car for the front. Less creative but more credible, B.A.T. 9 looks more like cars in production on American and some European cars of the time.
One million viewers tuning in at live-streamed Sotheby’s sales
Since their creation, these futuristic concept cars spent much of their lives apart. They were united once in 1989 alongside Nuccio Bertone, for the 1989 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, before being acquired by their current owner. He restored them and kept them as a group ever since then.
The trio of collector concept cars, offered as a one lot, saw strong pre-sale interest, and high bidding activity during the auction. This came as no surprise given the rarity and beauty of these automotive icons. Live-streamed Sotheby’s sales saw nearly one million viewers tuning in. The auction was completely digital, reflecting a new trend among auction houses as a result of Covid crisis.