No one who saw the BAT 5 show car in 1953 could ever forget it. It was not just advanced; it was futuristic. But it was also realistic, capable of being driven in everyday traffic and of traveling very fast -- and with good fuel economy.
Franco Scaglione designed the BAT and Carrozzeria Nuccio Bertone, Turin, Italy, built it on an Alfa Romeo 1900 Sprint chassis. It sported semi-enclosed wheels, huge front-fender air vents, prominent tailfins that curved inward, and a central fin that bisected the rear backlight. BAT stood for "Berlina Aerodinamica Tecnica," or "Aerodynamic Engineering Sedan." Thus the rounded front end and wild fins. With its short two-seat coupe body, it wasn't really a berlina, but the term berlinetta hadn't been coined yet.
Like BATs 1-4, BAT 6 never got past the styling-sketch stage, but a BAT 7 was built in 1954. It took aerodynamics to new extremes by exaggerating the features of BAT 5. The fins, for example, started at the windshield. BAT 8 only existed on paper, but BAT 9 appeared in 1955. This was a less radical design, a more realistic concept for production. It also foreshadowed the Alfa Romeo Giulietta SS, a 1955 Scaglione design.
For BAT 9, again on the 1900 Sprint chassis, the fins lost their inward taper. They started behind the doors, rose sharply, then tapered off parallel with the roof line. The body sides were free of air scoops and extractors, and only the front wheels were enclosed down to hub level, the rear wheels now being almost completely exposed. Also seen on BAT 9 were a severely wrapped windshield and an Alfa grille.
The BAT 9 was brought to the U.S. by S.H. “Wacky” Arnolt, a Chicago foreign-car dealer and Bertone vice-president.
In 1963, the car ended up at a dealership in Greenville, Michigan. A young lad of 16 wanted that car, and somehow he was lucky enough to acquire it. Dr. Gary Kaberle, now a Traverse City, Michigan, dentist, has owned it ever since. It had about 12,000 miles on it when he bought it, but it wasn’t running. Even so, the car is still largely original 25 years later. It has now covered 20,000 miles, and boasts the original tires and leather, although the paint has been redone.
All three BATs still exist, and it’s possible that all three will be shown together at Pebble Beach this year.
It’s impossible to put a price on the one-off BAT 9, but that doesn’t matter to Dr. Kaberle. “I’d never sell it,” he says. And who can blame him?
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