Last week, we looked at the Turbina concept, which was Fiat's attempt to showcase their technology, including a strong understanding of aerodynamics, especially for the era. Fiat wasn't the only one.
In 1953, Alfa Romeo entered into a collaboration with Bertone with the intent of exploring aero, and specifically reducing drag as much as possible. The collaboration resulted in 3 cars over three years - the BAT 5 in 1953, the BAT 7 in 1954, and finally the BAT 9 in 1955.
These road-capable concepts were called Berlina Aerodinamica Technica, or B.A.T. for short. They were designed by Franco Scaglione of Bertone for Alfa Romeo, with each to be presented at the Turin Auto Show in 1953, 1954, and 1955. Each B.A.T. concept was exceptionally well-received at the time. Although the cars were too extreme to produce, their influence and aerodynamic lessons were incorporated in the stunning, Scaglione-penned, Alfa Romeo Giuletta Sprint Speciale.
All three cars featured large rear bumpers and curved fins, truly a unique design. They were all built upon the Alfa Romeo 1900 chassis. The cars were considered successful in their goal, with the best achieving a drag coefficient of 0.19, a significant achievement even by today's standards. For each of the cars, Alfa Romeo provided a five-speed gearbox and a four-cylinder engine that produced around 100 hp, good enough to propel the car to a top speed of 125 mph, largely a function of the reduced drag.
The BAT 5 was the first of the Bertone-Alfa Romeo BAT projects, first shown in 1953. The front-end shape was designed to eliminate the problem of airflow disruption at high speeds. The design also aims to eliminate any resistance generated by the turning wheels.The also attempted to eliminate any possible air vortices. In practice these rigorous criteria would allow the car to reach 200 km/h (120 mph) with the 100 hp (75 kW) engine mounted as standard. The design that Bertone came up with was the ultimate in streamlining, with side windows at a 45 degree angle to the body of the car and a large windscreen which blends in perfectly with the almost flat roof. The most surprising part of the car is the tail, with the length-ways rear windscreen divided by a slim pillar, and the two fins tapering upward and inward, creating a very distinct appearance. There was no shortage of positive feedback: the car was an immediate hit for its aerodynamics and noteworthy stability at high speeds. Bertone had built a model of aerodynamic stability, creating a car with a Cd of 0.23.
The second BAT was shown one year later at the Turin Auto Show. The BAT 7 picked up where the previous model left off. For the 1954 design, Bertone added some elements from his experience working on wing profiles in the aeronautical industry. The result was the exaggerated shape of the large, curved tail fins.
The nose was also lower than the BAT 5's, and the protrusions where the headlights would normally be stuck out even further. The headlights were located next to the nose and pointed down when used. Even Fiat's experimental one-off wind-tunnel-derived Turbine car, the Turbina, which also made its debut at the show, seemed visually tame in comparison. The Cd of the BAT was an astounding 0.19.
The third and final BAT car shown at the Turin Auto show was the BAT 9. It was made to look more like the current Alfa Romeo models than the other BATs had - less conceptual.
The BAT 9 did away with the marked wing lines of the previous models and replaced them with more producible features. The tail fins, which in the other two models, 5 and 7, had a real wing-like look, were sized down into two small metal plates, much like the tail fins in production on American and some European cars of the time. Bertone transformed the highly creative styling of the two previous BAT models into credible designs.
Another prototype vehicle, the Giulietta Sprint Speciale was introduced to the public at the 1957 Turin Motor Show and later went into limited production until mid-1959. The vehicle was based on the B.A.T. cars and was also designed by Francisco Scaglione.
All three original BATs have been restored and are on display at the Blackhawk Museum in California. They also make appearances at car shows such as the annual Concorso Italiano in Monterey, California.