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BMC Pininfarina 1800/1100. The five-door revolution with echoes in the Citroën CX

When we talk about prototypes, we often analyze style exercises that are as spectacular as they are not very useful. However, in the case of the BMC Pininfarina 1800 we are in the opposite case because, although it never reached series, its influence is responsible for changing the concept of the saloon during the seventies. Without a doubt, this is one of the most influential prototypes of all time.

In the Italy of the late XNUMXs, one of the greatest changes in the history of motorsports was taking place. Mind you, not so much in the sense of engine engineering as in style and aerodynamics. Shaken by an era tinged with futurism, a new generation of designers questioned the lines and guidelines of the past. In this context, within the same decade, models that seemed to separate a long period of time coexisted. Thus evidencing how history seemed to be accelerating.

A revolutionary spirit that not only affected the automobile industry. But also to urbanism, fashion, music and even sexual and socio-affective habits. A sense of the times in which everything seemed to flow in a lighter and more natural way, which was reflected in bodies that seemed sculpted by the wind. In fact, they not only looked like it but they were, since studios like Pininfarina dedicated a great amount of resources to improve in this field. So much so that it is not known very well if it was the form that advanced the function or the latter rose as a sculptor of these futuristic models.

Be that as it may, the truth is that by 1967 two of the youngest Pininfarina designers were working on the study of more efficient aerodynamic models. We are talking about Paolo Martin and Leonardo Fioravanti, who were 24 and 29 years old respectively. Both future key names in the Italian industry, reaching in the case of Fioravanti to be deputy general director of Ferrari and director of design of the Centro Stile in FIAT. Meteoric races that had in the BMC 1800 and 1100 the touchstone with which they helped change the aerodynamics in the sedan segment.

bmc pininfarina


Convinced that the full cap half-teardrop design was not the best way to prevent drag turbulence, German aerodynamicist Wunibald Kamm introduced a new concept in the 328s. With it, he demonstrated that by making a sharp cut in the fall of the rear, a better aerodynamic coefficient was obtained in the passage of the vehicle. A finding that has reached our days through cars as diverse as the Citroën CX or the Toyota Prius. However, its application was not as immediate as one might think. Or at least beyond certain competition vehicles like the BMW XNUMX Kammback Coupé.

A long ostracism from which he was rescued in the second half of the sixties, when Paolo Martin and Leonardo Fioravanti carried out experiments with this formula in the Pininfarina wind tunnel. In this sense, Paolo Martin signed the FIAT Dino Parigi in 1967. A prototype where a front wedge with retractable headlights gave way to a smooth line in which the rear was cut in a Kammback fashion. Design that his partner Fioravanti took note of for inspiration when molding the 1968 Ferrari Daytona. The most interesting thing about these tests, however, is that they had a decisive influence on large series models thanks to the BMC Pininfarina 1800.

bmc pininfarina

A project where Fioravanti and Martin worked so together that according to the source consulted, authorship is given to one or the other. However, it is true that everything indicates that the final design was by Paolo Martin. Also responsible for the BMC Pininfarina 1100. An authorship that, after all, becomes secondary when we contextualize the prototype within the framework of a collective effort carried out under Pininfarina. All this to illuminate one of the most important prototypes in the history of motorsports, since although it never reached series it radically changed the way of understanding the saloon during the seventies.


Far from being gestated in a mere experimental setting, the 1800 BMC 1967 was made with the ambition to hit the streets. And it is that it is a fully functional prototype, made on the basis of an Austin 1800. One of the most popular saloons in England at the time, endowed with a habitability as interesting as its aesthetics was outdated. For this reason, the British Motor Company commissioned Pininfarina to carry out a study for the renewal of its bodywork. Just what started the BMC Pininfarina 1800 and 1100 project -this second with a smaller volume than the first-.

Finally, the British did not dare to apply the futuristic revolution that Pininfarina advised them. Thus, everything remained in the prototype phase, although in this case it became one of the most influential of all time. And it is that in a perhaps not entirely conscious way, those young Pininfarina designers had changed the way of understanding the saloon, breaking with the classic three-volume scheme. In replacement of the same they generated this shape where the rear is cut vertically abruptly thanks to a fifth door. Creating a two volume with better cargo space, a more modern look and better aerodynamics.

The triumph of the ideas of Wunibald Kamm, whose design would have an evident echo in the Citroën GS and CX through the BMC Pininfarina 1800. But also in the Lancia Gamma, Rover 3500 or VW Passat from 1973. All of them spacious saloons that detached themselves from the boot box responsible for the third volume to integrate into the general line a large rear door where the rear window and the boot lid are one. This is why the BMC Pininfarina 1800 and 1100 are so interesting in the history of motorsport. And it is that, far from being simple exercises in style, we can find the echo of its forms in many current vehicles.

Photographs: Pininfarina / Citroën Origins / Rover / FCA Heritage

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Written by Miguel Sánchez

Through the news from La Escudería, we will travel the winding roads of Maranello listening to the roar of the Italian V12; We will travel Route66 in search of the power of the great American engines; we will get lost in the narrow English lanes tracking the elegance of their sports cars; We will speed up the braking in the curves of the Monte Carlo Rally and we will even get dusty in a garage while rescuing lost jewels.


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