If you agree that certain strikingly gorgeous exotic cars double pieces of fine art, then the Alfa Romeo Berlina Aerodinamica Tecnica (B.A.T.) series is the only true automotive triptych. As such, RM Sotheby’s is working with Sotheby’s Fine Art Division to sell the B.A.T. series at the Contemporary Art Evening Auction event on October 28 in New York City.
The story begins in the early 1950s, when Alfa Romeo first approached designer Franco Scaglione and coachbuilder Carrozzeria Bertone of Turin, Italy to create technical aerodynamic concepts following the legendary duo’s build of the Abarth 1500 experimental coupe. The relatively unimpressionable Alfa Romeo 1900 would serves as a canvas for Scaglione and Bertone as they penned and hand-built three one-off vehicles presented in 1953, 1954 and 1955.
The first, dubbed B.A.T. 5, is delightfully unrecognizable from its base car. Drastic elements include protruding pontoon fenders, a rounded nose with dual air vents, a flowing teardrop-shaped wraparound-glass cockpit, rear shoulders enclosed by leaning tailfins, and airflow-reversing rear wheel skirts.
The B.A.T. 5’s radical design achieved a drag coefficient of roughly 0.23 at nearly 94 mph. For comparison’s sake, RM Sotheby’s notes that the Tesla Model S has a drag coefficient of .24, and Elon Musk has the advantage of wind tunnel testing and computer-aided design. Equally impressive is that a 43-horsepower 1.9-liter four-cylinder pushed the vehicle to a tested top speed of 123.6 mph.
The B.A.T. 5’s success spawned the created of the B.A.T. 7, which doesn’t stray far from the original but features narrowed front air intakes, a lowered hood, lengthened tailfins. This lowered the drag coefficient to .19, a figure that’s almost entirely unmatched by any past or present production vehicle. Weight was reduced as well, from the B.A.T. 5’s roughly 2,400 pounds to just 2,200 pounds.
Alfa Romeo’s mandate for the final B.A.T 9 was to “make it more practical for road use.” The rear wheel skirts were deleted, and the fins were reduced significantly to improve visibility. A pronounced beltline was added toward the rear, while a standard production triangular Giulietta grille with Alfa’s Milano crest was fitted to the front grille, highlighting the car’s identity.
Since a single private collector acquired the entire Alfa Romeo B.A.T. series in 1990, the three vehicles have been showcased at world-class motoring events such as the Cartier Style et Luxe at Goodwood, the Louis Vuitton Bagatelle Concours d‘Elegance, and the Villa d’Este Concorso d’Eleganza. As a unit, the trio is expected to fetch between $14 and $20 million. Head to RM Sotheby’s website for more details and provenance.