Concepts and Prototypes : Pininfarina BMC 1800 Aerodynamica concept (1967)

The Pininfarina BMC 1800 Aerodynamica concept was based on the BMC 1800 – it was a highly streamlined proposal that was at least a decade ahead of its time.

Considering it was based on such an ungainly design, the Aerodynamica was a thing of beauty, and arguably inspired a generation of executive cars of the 1970s.

Pininfarina and BMC : A decade ahead of their time

This brilliant Pininfarina styling exercise was never considered for production. The running gear was pure BMC 1800, but the style was utterly unique for 1967.

This gorgeous car predates the Citroën CX by seven years. One wonders how BMC may have fared had the company had the courage to put this beauty into production. That’s assuming such a complex car could be productionised and that BMC could have financed the process of turning the concept into a production reality.

Unique style for 1967

However, it would have certainly appealed in Europe and would undoubtedly have created a high-technology reputation for the (by then) struggling manufacturer.

There’s no doubt that, had BMC had the foresight to produce this car, then things might have been somewhat different in the lead-up to the Leyland takeover of the following year. Styled by Italian Carrozzeria Pininfarina, the Berlina Aerodinamica was as svelte and slippery as the standard BMC 1800 was frumpy and unappealing to contemporary motorists.

First shown in Turin

Unveiled at the 1967 Turin Motor Show (below), seven years before the introduction of the very similar-looking Citroën CX, and nine before the Rover SD1 and Lancia Gamma Berlina, the styling of this concept car was hugely influential.

There was never very much wrong with the way the production BMC 1800 drives – thanks to keen dynamics and reasonable performance (especially in the later 2200cc guise) – but it was brought down by its stark interior and rather challenging styling.

Righting BMC’s wrongs?

Plenty of subsequent speculation from commentators has concluded that, with this styling, the 1800 could have gone on to be a huge international hit. However, we’re not so sure that buyers would have been ready to take the leap in the late 1960s.

The 1800 may well have benefited more from a less extreme restyle of its interior and exterior and the option of a column gearshift (something very popular in Europe at the time).

It was rather a similar story with the later 1100 version, which was a far more appealing proposition than the Allegro. Although this car was never produced as an 1800 replacement, it may have been a source of inspiration for the design of the Rover SD1, as this comparative analysis demonstrates.

Not its best angle, but the styling of this car pre-dated the move towards fastback executive saloons by nearly a decade...
Not its best angle, but the styling of this car pre-dated the move towards fastback executive saloons by nearly a decade…
A hatchback rear end placed it at an advantage over the Citroen CX and Lancia Gamma
A hatchback rear end placed it at an advantage over the Citroën CX and Lancia Gamma
This kind of profile would become very familar in subsequent years...
This kind of profile would become very familiar in subsequent years…
Keith Adams


  1. It would have been a bit polarizing for the time. However, with some minor tweaks, like a less bullet-shaped nose, it could have succeeded. Plus, it would not have been impossible to pull a neat coupe or even a sedan from this.

  2. I think it would have been trend-setting… as the commentary correctly states the Pininfarina design pre-empted the competition by 7 years or so.
    Another winner overlooked by BMC.

  3. BMC (and its successors) never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity. The 1800 was not a big seller, and it would well have been worth the risk of putting this version into production instead of the poorly styled Landcrab.

    But they were blind to the possibilities, and seemed to be more concerned with saving money for instance by pointless door sharing. This model could also have been built instead of the Maxi- and not producing that car could have saved a small fortune which could have more than covered the extra costs of productionising this beauty. That said, it would have been a shame not to have had the CX- I doubt Citroen would have developed that model in the way they did had this gone into production- the CX would have looked far too ‘me too’ for that most idiosyncratic of manufacturers.

    Needed nicer wheeltrims though…

  4. This was another failed opportunity from BMC, but would of it sold or would have they had a similar experience as Ford had with the Sierra? BMC should have launched a facelifted version based on the Aussie X6’s if they could not stomach this, but they missed out on this as well. If they had they could have had a car to compete with the Cortina.

  5. @4 daveh,

    The launch of the Ford Sierra was problematic because the Cortina had been such a conservative car. It didn’t take Ford very long to re-capture sales for what was, in essense, a re-bodies Tina. Wheras BMC/BL in the 60s 70s was associated with more advanced designs (as well as some dinosaurs)- this could have served instead of the Princess and the Maxi. Not sure if it would have sold that much better- I suspect what scared buyers off those two cars was not advanced design but poor build and sometimes poor availability from strike-prone BL.

  6. BMC’s biggest problem was it was run by stick in the muds,the car above yet again shows what could have been and what eventually did happen-ECV,RDX etc. Stunning car stunning failure. Sad.

  7. Would been good to launch with the E6, done properly a 2 litre and 2.25 with a 5 speed gearbox, would have hit the market nicely at a time the Triumph 2000 and Rover P6 were starting to look tired. Doubt it would have been a great seller, but would have been a good halo model to lead into using this style for the Maxi chassis.

  8. The proposals are passed around the boardroom. There is much spluttering from the assembled worthies at images of the svelte yellow car:

    “Ridiculous! Not in a million years will our man buy this! Far too continental.”

    “It’s just the sort of thing his wife’s lover might drive.”

    “What our man wants is solidity. And Maxi doors. A steaming great dollop on his driveway to show the neighbours he’s bought British.”

    “Proud to be British! Like a labrador doing a poo. We can give it a happy front so it looks like it’s trying its best.”

    “So, gentlemen, we are agreed. Our new car will NOT feature a hatchback, it will not cut through the air like an arrow or look anything at all like… this.”

    There is relieved chortling in the room as the chairman screws up his copy of Pininfarina’s mad proposal and aims it at the bin. He misses.

    “But we’ll maybe get Alec to have a tinker with the headlights.”

  9. @12 I think it was more like this.

    Its impressive isn’t it. (everybody nods)

    How does it compare with the new Austin 1500?

    Don’t know, Alex won’t even use the drawing office, doing it all off site as they don’t understand car design apparently.

    Good if it looked like this, if we actually test it before putting it on sale this time, we could blow the Americans out the water. (everybody nods).

    So who is going to tell Alex? (Everybody looks at the table)

    So that’s it then, anybody know Donald Stokes phone number?

  10. This model would have sold better than the 1800, and especially in Europe but remember that in the 1960’s most family cars were fleet purchases and they would not touch this preferring the Cortina, Hunter and Victor. Most private buyers could only stretch to an Austin 1100, Mini or Escort/ Viva. However would have been a fantastic halo car for BMC and would have lasted until 1980

  11. @15 What engine did it have as it was a running car, caused a stir in Whitley when one of the Leyland directors was using it to commute between Canley and Longbridge and they thought they were bringing it to production.

  12. What I would like to know is, how come Matchbox made a very accurate, perfectly proportioned, example of this car in 1969. It was badged as “BMC 1800 Pininfarina” No. 56. It was also heavily featured on some of their Boxed Sets of Road Ways etc?
    (still have mine by the way!)

    • The engine was apparently developed by Leonardo Fioravanti, who was said to have much admired the 2.5-litre Daimler V8 for its compactness and power.

      Makes one wonder whether Edward Turner ever intended for the Daimler V8 to spawn 4-cylinder variants, either for a smaller Daimler or a Lanchester after the Sprite project was abandoned similar to how the Lanchester Sprite was to be powered by a 4-cylinder version of the Daimler Conquest engine (mated to the underdeveloped and unreliable Hobbs Mechamatic gearbox).

  13. I’m worried about the cracks and the draws. Just what kind of of crack or draw were the management on when they turned down this for the Maxi.

    If you want to sell me a Maxi give me this. This is gorgeous. This would sell by the bucket load for the next ten years. The only problem would be making enough. Again.

    Then all they’d need was to sort out a sensible corporate engine policy, so not to duplicate all the research and tooling across similar engines.

    God it pains me to look back at what a cock up things were made of simple things….

  14. Agree with others that the Pininfarina 1100 / 1800 (plus Mini-based) concepts would need to be tweaked in order to be production ready, including elements of the Maxi-based Aquila at the front-nose as well as from the C-pillar to the rear end to improve rear boot accessibility.

  15. It’s incorrect to say it predated other manufacturers by seven years, as Citroen built the GS in 1970 which is when the family of cars based on this style started. I believe at a motor show in Monaco Pininfarina took a BMC GS and parked it along the Citroens, with Citroen crying out that all their designs where in house and they had never seen his car. I wouldn’t compare this car with the CX it is the GS.

  16. If any of the Pininfarina designs were worth a risk it’s surely this one as the BMC 1800 was such a slow seller anyway, so this would have been a far smaller risk than the best selling 1100/1300…

  17. I look at it and only really think Lancia Gamma to be honest.

    It and it’s even more beautiful sister, the Coupe, being examples of stunning cars let down by bad decisions, cutting corners and unreliability..sadly sounds familiar round these parts.

  18. Don`t mention SD1 with its underdevelopment (ancient engines and that rear suspension).
    See Citroen CX as an example what can be done if car manufacturer is brave enough!
    Summing up – another example of British car manufacturer gone wrong.
    Provoke me to list them all if you want

  19. Had this gone into production in 1971, as Britain was preparing to join the Common Matket, the Citroeneque styling allied to fwd, and Hydragas suspension would have made the new 1800 a massive hit in France. OK the front end could have been made less radical but otherwise an excellent design that was light years ahead of the ADO17. Also a 2.2,litre version would have been a radical alternative to a Rover 2000.

    • First year or so perhaps, but not for much longer with usual BL production and quality issues, I’m afraid. Much like the SD1, which for some time seemed on it’s way to become a similar smash hit until hit by those same issues.

      • @ Zebo, the SD1’s prpblems were mostly to do with a new factory with inexperienced workers and two new and very unreliable engines. The Pininfarina 1800/2200 used proven technology and for all Cowley was hardly known for its strike free workforce, at least many had decades of experience in producing cars. Also the Citroenesque styling, fwd and advanced suspension would have made the car a big hit in France.

  20. Had BMC taken this style forward, badged as a Wolsey and Riley using an E6 engine it could have fitted into a strategy for BMH, between the Austin Morris cars and the Jaguar XJ / Damiler Sovereign to take on the Rover 2000 / 2200 and Triumph 2000/2500 from 1970 onwards and would I think have found considerably better traction than the Austin 3 Litre.

    • It is a lovely concept car, but…. it seems to me to fall between several stools being too long to be a Cortina competitor ( far too much front overhang) , too long to fulfil the Maxi proposed market, and of a style which hardly would attract the conservative British private buyer. And yet…. the SD1 was regarded as stunning when it appeared

    • Not sure if the E6 would have fitted under that low slung bonnet. The prototype had half a Daimler v8 powering it, a bodged slant 4. Lancia did can’t over the V4 in the Fulvia, so could have the E series engine had the same treatment?

  21. I had a thought. Mad though it is. Could have BMC sold the idea to Innocenti (who was still independent) and had an Italian luxury car that Europe would have liked?

  22. IMHO BMC would have benefited from a more restrained version of the Pininfarina BMC 1800 Aerodynamica styling theme, found on the likes of the Alfa Romeo Alfasud, Lancia Beta and Lancia Gamma yet also influenced by Pininfarina’s work with Peugeot and Fiat.

    Will say that aspects of the smaller Mini-based Pininfarina BMC 1000 Aerodynamica would have made for an interesting Mini-based Austin-Healey Sebring-inspired Kammback Coupe version of ADO35 (think mini CRX-meets-Midas & Sonnet II/III) to replace the Spridget as an alternative to the Mini Marcos and Ogle SX1000 (not to mention the Mitchelotti ADO70 prototype).

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