Alfa Romeo contacted Giuseppe 'Nuccio' Bertone in order to commission three concept vehicles with extensive research on the effects of drag on a vehicle. The idea was to create vehicles with the lowest possible drag coefficient. The cars, designed by Franco Scaglione, where named BAT for "Berlinetta Aerodinamica Tecnica and were built upon the Alfa Romeo 1900 chassis. Each year between 1953 and 1955 at the Turin Auto show, Bertone and Alfa Romeo presented a BAT concept, the BAT 5, 7 and 9. The cars were successful in their goal, the best achieving a drag coefficient of 0.19, an achievement even by today's standards. For each of the cars, Alfa Romeo provided a five-speed gearbox and a powerful four-cylinder engine that produced more than 90 horsepower, good enough to propel the car to a top speed of 125 mph (201 km/h).
B.A.T. 5 was first shown at the Turin Auto show in 1953.
The shape of the front aims to eliminate the problem of airflow disruption at high speeds. The design also aims to do away with any extra resistance generated by the wheels turning, as well as achieving a structure which would create the fewest possible air vortices. The most surprising part of the car has to be the tail, with the length-ways rear windscreen divided by a slim pillar, and the two fins tapering upwards and slightly inwards, for a highly aesthetic finish. Bertone had solved the problem of aerodynamic stability, creating a car with an excellent index of penetration, with a Cd of 0.23.
B.A.T. 7 was shown at the Turin Auto Show in 1954, a year after the BAT 5. The BAT 7 took up the styling dictates of the previous model, the BAT 5, and worked them to the limit. For this 1954 design, as for the other BAT models Bertone added some elements from his experience working on wing profiles in the aeronautical industry. The result was the exaggerated shape of the large, curved tail fins. The nose was lower than the BAT 5's, and the protrusions where the headlights would normally be found stuck out even further. The headlights were located next to the nose and moved to point down when used. The Cd was only 0.19.
B.A.T. 9 is the third and final BAT car to be made and shown at the Turin Auto show in 1955. It was made to look more like the current Alfa Romeo models than the other BATs. It has been called the best looking of all the BATs, but there are those who disagree. The BAT 9 did away with the marked wing lines of the previous models in favour of a cleaner, more sober line. The tail fins, which in the other two models, 5 and 7, had a real wing-like look, were sized down into two small metal plates, much like the tail fins in production on American and some European cars of the time. Bertone transformed the highly creative styling of the two previous BAT models into design credibility, abandoning the extremes of the other designs.
UPDATE (ref article):
The idea for the BAT production was entirely conceived by Bertone and there was no cooperation by Alfa Romeo to the project. The main philosophy of BAT cars in Bertone mind was to explore the ultimate possibility of advanced design. The choice of Alfa Romeo engine and chassis was the consequence of an important work given in those days by Alfa Romeo to Bertone.
There was no financial cooperation by Alfa Romeo. Bertone bought the necessary chassis and just informed Alfa Romeo about the idea of using those chassis as the basical mechanical lay-out of a future show car with no plan of possible production. No tests were executed by Alfa Romeo because their experimental department was too busy and too much engaged in other projects at that time.
The design of the BAT cars came out straight away. The design project was the very immediate expression of the first idea. The design theme was developed with the cooperation of Franco Scaglione and with the great and unique craftmanship of Ezio Cingolani who was responsible of the project development and manufacturing.
The BAT 5 model was made directly in full size with very few sketches and most of the work directly done at the modelling stage by Franco Scaglione and continuously reviewed by Nuccio Bertone himself. The same happened for BAT 7 and BAT 9. The previous experience of BAT 5 made the manufacturing of BAT 7 and BAT 9 easier and faster. You have to keep in mind that the three cars were 100% handmade. At that time, no wind tunnel tests were executed. In order to get some aerodynamic information we used the system of fitting on the outside body some wool threads. The cars were then driven on the road at different speeds and the pictures showed the aerodynamic movements of the wool threads.
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