The Nazca supercar projects of the early ’90s were driven by BMW in cooperation with renowned Italdesign Giugiaro studio. The idea behind the project was to find out if a new supercar offering in the brand’s lineup was viable at that time, following the past M1 experience. When it was unveiled, the Nazca showcars looked as strange and futuristic as their name depicted. Eventually, they were deemed too daring to reach production by BMW. However, some design influences were later transferred onto series-produced cars.
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The Nazca M12 and C2 concepts were the fruits of a close collaboration with Italian design house Italdesign Giugiario, owned and driven by the equally famous styling artist Giorgetto Giugiaro.
In fact, the Nazca M12, which is the first in the series of concepts to appear in 1991, was the first vehicle to be officially penned by Giugiaro’s son, Fabrizio, aged 26 back then. The BMW Nazca M12 was a daring proposition that could have eventually arrived in the BMW portfolio if it weren’t for adverse conditions and shifting priorities. The concept supercar featured a low-slung profile, with a very aerodynamical silhouette and a transparent cabin made entirely out of glass. The Cd reached 0.26, an impressive value for the early ’90s.
The title spoke for itself. The M12 was powered by the 12-cylinder engine that already underpinned the 750i and 850i models of the time. Rated at 300 hp, the monstrous aggregate was longitudinally mid-mounted and could propel the 1.1-tonne car to a staggering top speed of near 300 km/h. The output and torque were channeled to the rear axle via a ZF 5-speed manual gearbox.
Besides the impressive performance of the V12 M70 engine, the Nazca M12 featured some state-of-the-art, Formula 1-inspired technical solutions. The concept car boasted carbon fiber chassis and bodyframe, as well as several lightweight components.
The cabin offered a perfect 360-degree visibility thanks to its all-glass architecture. While the doors of the car opened in conventional way, the windows featured a gull wing opening. Together with the windscreen and rear window, they were joined to a connecting structure and thus formed sort of a characteristic dome shape.
The Nazca C2 followed in 1992 and it was basically a reworked Nazca M12 in terms of visual aspect and powertrain. The front end was restyled and displayed a lower stance, with the elongated light structure and the square kidney of the radiator grille. The headlight styling seems to have slightly inspired the front end design of the E39 5 Series that appeared in 1995.
The Nazca C2 was equipped with the 5.0-liter V12 M70 powerplant reengineered by ALPINA to develop 350 hp. The same unit was also used by the tuner’s 8 Series-based B12 5.0 Coupe. The top speed of the C2 thus reached 311 km/h.
Compared to the preceding M12, the Nazca C2 weighed 100 kilos less, mostly due to the more extensive use of carbon fiber, like for the motorsport-inspired seats and chassis components. Identical to the M12, the C2 retained its glass dome cabin.
In 1993, a new version of the Nazca C2 prototype appeared, in the form of the open-top Spider. By removing the side windows of the C2 and replacing the glass center connecting structure with a metal one to improve structural rigidity, the Nazca C2 Spider was born.
As well, the open-top supercar was also powered by a tweaked version of the V12 engine, now developing 380 hp. Furthermore, the massive unit was directly visible from outside thanks to the transparent hood.
Even though they were never supposed to hit streets, the Nazca project cars showed the immense technological potential of BMW and pioneering developments made in the direction of lightweight components and engine tweaking.