BMW apprentices restore forgotten 1600 GT prototype
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A rare BMW prototype from the 1960s has been restored to its former glory by a team of the company's youngest employees.
An apprentice training team from BMW's Dingolfing plant in Germany restored the only surviving 1600 GT convertible in the same factory it was built in a project lasting several years.
The silver four-seater's unusual history represents an era when BMW made the transition from being a niche automaker to a mass-production car manufacturer.
This particular 1600 GT is the only surviving example of two prototypes that BMW commissioned from the Italian bodywork designer Pietro Frua. In autumn of 1967, both cars left the production buildings in Dingolfing for the first time.
One of the prototypes time on the road was short-lived after an accident in testing, with the damage sever enough to see the car scrapped. The second 1600 GT convertible was handed over to one of BMW's major shareholder, Herbert Quandt, where it remained in the family for many years before changing hands several times to German-based owners.
When BWM Group Classic became aware of the car's existence, the company immediately made an offer and acquired the rare convertible. That's when a plan to return the GT to its original condition came about.
The restoration formed part of the apprentices' training, all of whom are working to become bodywork and vehicle construction mechanics. BMW Group Classic helped out by finding or producing original parts and replicas for components that were no longer obtainable, but the young team of apprentices where responsible for putting it all together.
When BMW first sprung the idea of a two-door car the company had just taken over another German vehicle manufacturer, Glas. Since 1955, Glas had produced a microcar called the 'Goggomobile'. In 1964, Glas launched a sporty Glas 1300 GT coupe, which was followed one year later the more powerful Glas 1700 GT.
Glas was looking for a partner and the automaker initially agreed a joint-distribution model with BMW, but this ultimately led to a complete takeover by the Munich company.
Using the the Glas 1700 GT as a base, the BMW 1600 GT would be fitted with the a different rear axle, rear seats , the 77 kW/105 hp engine from the BMW 1600 TI. BMW also added their signature kidney grille and round headlights from the BMW 02 Series.
The idea of placing the sporty coupé alongside a convertible came from the USA. A proposal was made by the importer Max Hoffmann to develop a new version of the coupé with a 2.0 litre engine and an open-top version.
In October 1967, Frua delivered a convertible body mounted on a strengthened floor assembly. This was then painted in Dingolfing where all further assembly work took place. On 16 November, the BMW 1600 GT convertible was entered in the plant’s production book as being completed. However, the plans for series production and export to the USA never came to fruition.
Only a single example of the Italian-Bavarian convertible was ever licensed for driving on public roads. 51 years after the first automobile was manufactured, its second production was registered. This time the completion of the car’s restoration was celebrated to give BMW Group Classic another gem for its collection.