Pietro Frua’s BMW prototypes never made it into series production – but they are still considered design classics.
- Stefan Grundhoff
- Gudrun Muschalla
The BMW 2002 GT4 Frua Coupe is a spectacular concept car that very nearly made the transition into a production model. Born in 1913, designer Pietro Frua trained as a technical draftsman before joining coachbuilders Stabilimenti Farina. Then, as chief designer at his own company, he went on to create more than 200 specials, prototypes and volume-production vehicles. Today the BMW 2002 ti-based GT4 Frua Coupe remains one of the major highlights of the Italian designer’s back catalog.
In 1969 Frua turned the standard production 2002 into a 2+2-seater coupe prototype. To increase the chances of the car making it to series production, the Turin-based stylist injected a strong flavor of the production 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 at the BMW head office in Munich.
The twin headlights set into the louvered black radiator grille came from the 02 Series, the turn signals from the 2800 CS luxury coupe. The requisite Italian delicacy of design could be found in the line along it’s flanks and the truncated rear, or “coda tronca.” Adorning the interior were 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 – yet critical voices could be heard at the BMW head office back in Munich. Disappointed by this reaction but far from defeated, Frua focused on making an improved version of his 2+2 coupe in 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 Frua to remove the controversial chrome protrusions on the hood of the 1969 model, while the exaggerated Hofmeister kink was replaced by a straight-edged side window. Sadly, BMW had just made the decision to build a larger Touring wagon spin-off of the 02 Series instead, which came onto the market in 1971. While the 1969 prototype initially remained under Frua’s ownership – it wasn’t until 1986 that it was sold to Japanese collector Kimio Doi – the 1970 version repeatedly found new custodians. Swiss industrialist Jakob Bach purchased the car at the 1972 Geneva Motor Show, replacing the original silver-blue metallic of the GT4 Coupe with a straight silver metallic finish. It is in this form that today, one can still admire the beauty of the BMW GT4 Frua Coupe, both from afar and from behind the wheel.