Now hailed as absolute design classics, the BMW prototypes by Italian stylist Pietro Frua never achieved series production. That makes them all the more desirable.
- Stefan Grundhoff
- Gudrun Muschalla
The BMW 2002 GT4 Frua Coupé is a spectacular study car that so nearly made the transition into a production model. Born in 1913, its designer Pietro Frua trained as a technical draughtsman before joining coachbuilders Stabilimenti Farina. As chief designer at his own company, he went on to create more than 200 specials, prototypes and volume-production vehicles. To this day the GT4 Frua Coupé based on the BMW 2002 ti remains one of the major highlights of the Italian designer’s back catalogue.
In 1969 Frua turned the mass-produced 2002 into a prototype 2+2-seater coupe. To increase its chances of making it to series production, the Turin-based stylist injected a strong flavour of the volume-produced models of the time into the front end in particular.
The prototype made its first public appearance at the 1969 Paris Motor Show, where visitors gave it a warm welcome. But there were also critical voices from BMW head office in Munich.
The twin headlights set into the louvred black radiator grille came from the 02 Series, its indicators from the 2800 CS luxury coupe. Lending it elegant Italian flair are the line along its flanks and the truncated rear, or “coda tronca”. The interior was adorned by seats and a dashboard from the 2500 Sedan.
The prototype was displayed for the first time at the 1969 Paris Motor Show to applause from the French public. However, critical voices could be heard at BMW’s Munich head office. Disappointed by this reaction, Frua focused on producing an improved version of his 2+2 coupe over the months that followed. A year later, in 1970, he chose the same occasion – the Paris Motor Show – to pull back the covers on his second attempt.
Modified shock absorbers had allowed him to remove the controversial chrome protrusions on the bonnet of the 1969 model, while the exaggerated Hofmeister kink was replaced by a straight-edged side window. Sadly, the horse had bolted, BMW having just taken the decision to build a larger estate spin-off of the 02 Series. The Touring variant duly came onto the market in 1971. While the 1969 car initially remained under Frua’s ownership – it wasn’t until 1986 that it was sold to Japanese collector Ki¬mio Doi – the 1970 prototype repeatedly found new custodians. Swiss industrialist Jakob Bach purchased the car at the 1972 Geneva Motor Show, replacing the original silver-blue metallic GT4 Coupé with a silver metallic finish. It is in this form that we can still admire its beauty from without and from behind the wheel today.