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BMW’s history is littered with some of the greatest drivers’ cars ever made, and no one celebrates this better than BMW’s Heritage Department. Better known as BMW Group Classic, the team consider it their duty to restore and preserve iconic BMW models of yesteryear.
With many newcomers joining the ranks as apprentice mechanics and bodywork specialists, naturally the best way to learn the craft is to have a project on the go to hone your skills, a project like this freshly completed 1600 GT Prototype Convertible. For those who don’t know, the BMW 1600 GT Convertible is rarer than rare, being one of only two ever produced by the factory.
To understand the story of how this handsome little soft top came to be, we have to go back to 1966. That year, famed European car importer Max Hoffmann, gave BMW had the idea of producing a small two-seater convertible for the American market. He also gave BMW the idea to build the drop dead gorgeous 507 sportscar back in the fifties! Hoffmann reckoned a small two seater convertible would be ideally suited to sunny states like California and could potentially boost BMW’s American sales.
The car itself was based on the wheelbase of the Glas GT sportscar. Glas was a Munich based car company which became part of the BMW Group that year and is most commonly known for making small and spritely GT coupes, and the funky and economical Goggomobile micro cars which popped up around West Germany during the time.
For styling duties, BMW approached Italian styling house Frua. The body itself was essentially a Glas GT, with a few tweaks from Frua to make the car look more BMW. The GT Convertible’s beating heart was a beefier 2.0-litre 110BHP four-cylinder engine, whereas the production GT Coupe shared the same 1.6-litre 105BHP four pot as the peppy BMW 1600 Ti. The convertible would also feature Ti seats and rear axle, and headlights from the 1602.
Two prototypes were built in BMW’s Dingolfing factory, and in the autumn of 1967, turned a wheel for the first time. Test drives for the 1600 GT Convertible ended rather abruptly when one of the prototypes was heavily damaged in a crash. Sadly, rather than salvage the car, BMW decided to scrap it.
Shortly after BMW canned the whole project and the sole surviving prototype was fully licenced and acquired by major BMW shareholder Herbet Quandt. The car stayed with the Quandt family before being sold to variety of private owners until a few years ago when BMW bought it back. By this time, it became apparent that time had not been kind to their beloved prototype and it arrived at BMW in a sorry state.
It was then given to the team of aforementioned young apprentices at BMW Group Classic and they set to work. The restoration itself took several years and was definitely easier said than done! As the car never made it past the concept stage, parts were almost none existent, so many components had to be built from scratch based on the original drawings and designs.
All in all, the preservation of yet another piece of German automotive history by a crew of young apprentices deserves high praise. Thanks to them, BMW AG has yet another jewel in the crown of its classic collection.