This Futuristic BMW Prototype Was Shaped in a Wind Tunnel Back in the ’80s

Add it to the list of cool BMW concepts that were never made.

byNico DeMattia|
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The '70s and '80s are commonly seen as BMW's golden years of design. Those decades brought us sweet-looking cars like the 3.0 CSL, 2002, E28 M5, E24 6 Series, and the E30 M3. But there was one design that unfortunately never made it out of the concept stage and was only used as a technical aerodynamic test bed: the BMW AVT.

In 1981, BMW opened a new aerodynamic wind tunnel facility and it needed a PR vehicle to go along with it. As a result, BMW developed the AVT, which stood for Aerodynamischer Versuchsträger (aerodynamic test vehicle in German), and it looks like the car that inspired the Volkswagen XL1 more than three decades later. It had neither an engine nor an interior, it was just a body made to test the wind tunnel. However, it was a super cool design that I wish BMW dared to turn into a production vehicle.

BMW's head of design Domagoj Dukec revealed some photos of the AVT from back in its day and, since it was designed purely for aerodynamics, it looks shockingly modern. It was low, long, wide, and as smooth as a pebble, like so many electric vehicles of today. Its windshield wrapped around the body and looked like a UFO from a '50s movie, its nose sloped almost to the ground, it had pop-up headlights, and its rear wheels were covered. Dukec didn't reveal its coefficient of drag but it's so smooth it makes a teardrop look like a brick, so it's probably pretty impressive.

I imagine a production version of the AVT with the rear-mounted 3.5-liter inline-six from the BMW M1, a five-speed manual, and an Autobahn-dominating top speed. BMW would have been on the cutting edge of efficient supercar performance decades before that would become popular. Sadly, like so many of BMW's other exciting concepts, it never came to be. However, the lessons learned from building its aerodynamic shape went on to help many of the brand's future designs. Hopefully, BMW can relearn some of those lessons and make cars that look like the AVT.

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