Lender: The Blackhawk Collection, Danville, California

Sponsored by: Gresham, Smith and Partners

Giuseppe “Nuccio” Bertone and his chief designer Franco Scaglione, a former aeronautics student and women’s fashion designer, dreamed of creating a series of cars that were not only visually stunning, but also aerodynamically efficient with the lowest possible coefficient of drag (Cd). The results were three of the most memorable concept cars in automobile history. Using the Alfa Romeo 1900 chassis, the two would develop a series of automobiles visibly influenced by the newly emerging jet aircraft industry. They were aptly named BATs, using the initials for “Berlinetta Aerodinamica Tecnica.” The name was a perfect fit because the cars’ tail fin treatments were reminiscent of bat wings.

The BAT 5 was the first to be introduced to the public at the 1953 Turin Auto Show. The smoothly protruding round nose section was flanked by two large air openings that dramatically reduced Cd and resembled paired jet intakes. The front and rear wheels were almost completely enclosed, which decreased resistance from the turning wheels. The BAT 5’s 75-hp twin-cam engine, its light overall weight (2,400 pounds), and the car’s near-perfect aerodynamics permitted a 200-kph (120-mph) top speed, reportedly with excellent stability at high speeds. The BAT 5 attracted intense interest, but Alfa Romeo had no plans for a limited-production version of this show car. It would have been very hard to build, and likely too expensive, given the 1900 model’s already high price point. But Carrozzeria Bertone’s work had just begun.

—Adapted from the exhibition catalogue essay by Ken Gross

Tim McGrane from the Blackhawk Automotive Museum discusses the Alfa Romeo BATs

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