The 1953 Alfa Romeo BAT 5 is one of the world’s most famous and totally glorious “dream cars” of the post-war era, the first of a trio of aerodynamic masterpieces that stunned car-show crowds then and still impresses today.
Designed by the great Franco Scaglione and built by Italian coachbuilder Bertone, BAT 5 was an experimental beauty produced for Alfa Romeo to demonstrate how aerodynamic principals could be applied to automobiles. The initials B.A.T. stand for the Italian title Berlinetta Aerodinamica Tecnica.
BAT 5 will be featured at the Arizona Concours d’Elegance, a curated show and judged competition of exceptional automobiles that takes place January 22, 2023, in a new location at the renovated Scottsdale Civic Center Plaza.
BAT 5 will be part of the public display of about 90 special automobiles, which include antiques from the dawn of motoring, beautiful pre-war classics, sports cars and modern exotic supercars.
The Bertone show car is an ideal representation of the Arizona Concours theme for 2023 of “The Art of Aerodynamics.” The creation of BAT 5 came about when Alfa asked Nuncio Bertone for an aerodynamic design to measure streamlining’s effect on performance.
Bertone took the chassis and drivetrain of Alfa’s mass-produced 1900 model as the basis for the exercise. The coachbuilder turned to Scaglione to design the body – the acclaimed automotive stylist was highly versed in aeronautical and aerodynamic design, making him perfect for the assignment.
Scaglione’s finished product was dubbed BAT 5, first shown at the Turin Auto Show, where it was a sensation. BAT 5 melded a beautiful form with purposeful function, showing the world how an automobile could look like a low-flying aircraft.
From its sculpted nose to its towering swept tailfins, BAT 5 made quite a showing, as well as proving Scaglione’s aerodynamic achievement. With enclosed wheels, 45-degree side windows and a teardrop-shaped cabin, BAT 5 had a 0.23 drag coefficient – comparable to today’s supercars – allowing the 1,100-kilogram car to achieve 120-plus mph with a 100-horsepower engine.
Bertone continued the experiment with BAT 7, unveiled in 1954, and BAT 9, which was revealed in 1955. In all, the three “dream cars” set the stage for decades of automotive design to come, as well as being among the most recognizable concept vehicles on the planet.
The BAT trio are recognized today as works of art; they were sold together in 2020 at a Sotheby’s fine-arts auction in New York City, where they were the only automobiles offered amid the paintings, sculptures and other artworks. They sold as a single lot for $14.84 million.
The Arizona Concours d’Elegance will be a signature event during January in Arizona, and one of the first major events held after renovation of the Scottsdale Civic Center Plaza, bordered by the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts and Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. The Concours was previously held at the Arizona Biltmore Resort in Phoenix, where it received much acclaim for the annual display of rare and beautiful vehicles.
The Concours is partnered with Scottsdale Arts, one of Arizona’s largest arts nonprofits, to present the event, which blends history, design and technology. Proceeds from the Concours will benefit local artists and art programs. Tickets for the Concours are available on the ArizonaConcours.com website, at the Scottsdale Arts box office and at ScottsdaleArts.org/events.