BMW Spicup by Bertone

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This, folks, is why I love concept cars. They're designed to always look forward into the future, and that's what makes them interesting.

Sometimes, they're a total shot in the dark. Sometimes, a production version eventually hits the road…sharing nothing in common with the concept. And sometimes, the two are so close you often wonder if the production car was made before the concept. (Here's looking at you, Honda and Acura!)

Sometimes, though, a concept car comes around that is able to predict an entire decade of design cues, from green metallic paint and pop-up headlights, a removable roof and brushed silver trim.

The 1969 BMW Spicup by Bertone is very, very 70s.

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Back then, BMW was far from the global powerhouse that they are today. With a slowly but steadily-growing number of enthusiasts behind the marque, it's incredible to think that they were operating without M sports styling packages, iDrive, and laser headlights.

How did they ever sell cars?!

They were, in all seriousness, in the right place at the right time with the E9 coupé—many of you know it as the 2800 CS grand touring coupé—with a motorsport-dominating CSL version—introduced in 1968 and replaced in 1975 by the first 6 Series.

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To gain some attention for their new car (which also launched the first series of the modern 6-cylinder engine range), they called Bertone, who had previously worked with BMW on the beautiful 3200 CS Coupé.

The first step for Bertone was to shorten the chassis—actually from the 2800 sedan, not from the CS coupe—in order to get the proportions right for the sportier concept car. The second was to give it a feature worthy of a concept car: its silver retractable targa top that slides back in two panels, stowing in the T-bar.

The Spider Coupe was born, well, the Spicup. (Is it 'spy cup' or 'spiccup,' like hiccup? Hmm…)

This is the point where I say everyone loved the car, BMW sold many CS models, and the world looked back fondly on the Spicup as a styling masterpiece.

Not quite.

Actually, the car was so badly received on its 1969 Geneva Motor Show debut that BMW sold it.

By 1974, the concept had passed to a collector after he traded in an Iso Rivolta, then to another enthusiast in Holland who got the most use out of the concept yet…

…by racking up more than 100,000 km (62,000 miles) in this special show car!

In the meantime, Bertone penned the Alfa Romeo Montreal and Lamborghini Jarama production cars, both featuring semi-concealed headlights reminiscent of the Spicup.

Its T-Top has a lot in common with the Bertone Runabout concept and Fiat X1/9 sports car, too.

Even though the owner had painted it orange and re-sprayed over the original green interior—in black—the little Spicup was a stunning barn find in 2008, and quickly put into restoration.

The more crisp photos you see here are of the car in 2011, restoration complete, being offered as a headline attraction at the Bonhams auction at the BMW Museum—in a sense, an orphaned child finding its way home.

It sold for €460,000; roughly $600,000 Usd. Not bad, little orphan!

With its 170 horsepower straight-6 engine and relatively lightweight body, the new owner should at least take comfort in the fact that he managed to purchase one of the world's most used (and useable!) concept cars.

Sources / Recommended reading