In 1928, BMW switched from making airplane engines to cars and Battista "Pinin" Farina set up his own coachbuilding shop in Italy. In the intervening decades, the two companies became pillars of the European auto industry, but never worked together — until now.
Today in Italy, the two revealed the BMW Pininfarina Gran Lusso Coupe, a 12-cylinder tourer that could serve as a luxurious revival of the famous 8-Series name. Yet like the other concepts BMW has revealed in years past at the Concorso d'Eleganza, it will likely never sell a copy to the public.
There's no technological reason BMW couldn't sell something like the Gran Lusso Coupe in showrooms today; the frame, interior and engine all come from the 7-Series, and there are no show-car gadgets that exist only in a designer's mind. In that sense, the Gran Lusso Coupe harkens back to the pre-World War II era, when the wealthy would buy chassis from automakers, then send them to shops like Pininfarina for custom bodies.
More restrained than many Pininfarina concepts, the Gran Lusso looks like a tailored version of the 7-Series rather than the shark-nosed 8-Series coupe that enjoyed a brief heyday in the early 1990s. There are no dramatic changes to the standard BMW template, but the smaller details appear to have been obsessed over, such as the multilayered junction between the tail lights and the rear fender.
BMW has made clear that it's future lies on more efficient models across the range rather than V-12 engines, and while Bentley has shown there's a market for luxury coupes, the 8-Series' acclaim never translated into sustainable sales. It's not nearly the emotional generator that last year's Zagato V-8 was, but the Gran Lusso Coupe does demonstrate that carbuilding can still be an art.