If you are a fan of coachbuilder Zagato, you might have heard of their collaboration in 2012 to create a stunning concept car: the BMW Zagato Coupe. This one-of-a-kind vehicle was unveiled at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, the prestigious event for classic and vintage cars in Italy. But how did the collaboration come to life and did BMW plan to put the car in production. According to Steve Saxty, the author of the “BMW by Design” and “Hidden Gems” books just released, the BMW Zagato Coupe was initially slated for production with less than 2,000 units planned. The price? A whooping $150,000.

A Handshake and Work Begins

BMW Group Design Chief Adrian Van Hooydonk proposed a collaboration with Zagato in 2011 at the Geneva Motor Show, sparking enthusiasm from Zagato’s president, Andrea, and chief designer Norihiko Harada. However, turning this vision into reality proved to be a more formidable challenge than anticipated. To begin with, the timeline was ambitiously set, requiring the creation of a breathtaking concept within mere months to coincide with its Concorso d’Eleganza debut.

As if navigating these obstacles wasn’t demanding enough, BMW introduced yet another dimension to the project – the requirement for a fully functional, drivable car. This stipulation was essential for the entry of the collaboration into the esteemed Concept Class at the Italian concorso. The confluence of these challenges made the realization of the project a truly intricate undertaking.

Based on the E89 Z4 with a functional drivetrain

The “BMW by Design” book explores this tale in a lot more details, but allow us to recap what the BMW Zagato Coupe is. The car is based on the BMW Z4 (E89), a two-door roadster with a retractable hardtop roof. However, the Zagato Coupe has a completely new body that was handcrafted from aluminum by Zagato’s craftsmen. The car features many signature elements from both companies, such as the double-bubble roof, the kidney grille, the propeller-style wheels, and the Kamm tail. The car also has some unique details, such as the Z-shaped mesh in the grille, the transparent panel in the rear window, and the Rosso Vivace paint that changes color depending on the light. There is quite a lot more information in the book about the paint color and how it came to life.

In the book, Saxty reveals that the Zagato Coupe was to target the UAE and US markets. But not surprisingly, building such a low volume car required major disruptions and changes to the production line. At the time, the E89 Z4 Roadster was manufactured in Regensburg, Germany. Additionally, the Z4 was already mid cycle so any delays in production would have limited the number of units. Lastly, there was also a concern that the Zagato name might not carry enough weight with BMW customers in North America, especially at the $150,000 price point. Unfortunately, the production plans were scrapped leaving a void in our hearts.

A car that would sell even today

The BMW Zagato Coupe is a rare and beautiful example of how two companies can work together to create something extraordinary. It is a tribute to the tradition of coachbuilding and to the passion for cars that both BMW and Zagato share. It is also a testament to the skill and craftsmanship of both teams, who managed to create this car in just six weeks. The BMW Zagato Coupe is a car that will surely make any car enthusiast’s heart beat faster.

There is also a chapter in the book about the second BMW Zagato creation: the Roadster. The three-volume boxed set will be available soon – at a pre-order price of $299.95/€270/£78.11.. That is a great price, for these books would be a bargain at twice the price. Alternatively, the principal book, “BMW by Design” is available immediately for $99.95/€90.02/£88.10; all with free shipping in USA, UK and EU.