Concept Car of the Week: BMW Nazca (1991)
by Flavien Dachet    17 Oct 2014
BMW Nazca M12. Click for larger images
BMW Nazca M12
BMW Nazca M12
BMW Nazca M12
BMW Nazca C2 Spider

Growing up in and around his father's firm Italdesign, Fabrizio Giugiaro developed his own passion for cars and their design. His first project as a designer was based on the Bugatti ID90 - another Italdesign concept, built in plaster, which would never be used for anything more than static display.

At the age of 26, the young Giugiaro saw more potential in the ID 90's design and suggested to his father that they develop it further. Giugiaro Senior agreed and recommended a more practical approach with more common components - they opted for BMW's potent V12 and its necessary subsystems.

Although the Nazca is often attributed to the younger Giugiaro, father and son both designed the exterior that transformed the Bugatti into a BMW.

Bugatti ID 90
BMW Nazca C2
BMW Nazca C2
BMW Nazca C2

"We had two different ideas," said Fabrizio. "And from my father's idea came the reality. On the research I was with the computer while my father did this project on paper."

Unveiled at the 1991 Geneva motor show, the Nazca M12 turned out to be a real showstopper. Following other Italdesign concepts in using South-American naming, like the Ford Maya, Oldsmobile Incas, or the Aztek, this BMW supercar was named after a Peruvian culture and its region, while M12 stands for the number of cylinders in its 5.0-liter engine, taken from the BMW 850i.

The Nazca's design was inspired by F1 and Group C racing cars and used a carbon-fiber frame and body to keep the weight down to around 1,100kg. The car was tested in BMW's wind tunnel and scored a drag coefficient of 0.26.

The bonnet and engine cover were made in one piece, deleting unwanted shutlines. The door opening is rather unusual but very spectacular: each door was split in two; the lower opened in the conventional manner, and the gullwing side windows were hinged along the structure in the center of the roof. The large engine cover pivoted backwards to reveal the heart of the beast in central-longitudinal position.

Inside, the Giugiaros also explored two routes: one was very light and technical, like a Ferrari F40, and the other was more elegant and comfortable, and judged more appropriate for a BMW.

The following year, Italdesign unveiled the Nazca C2, a more powerful racing version of the M12. While the proportions remained unchanged, the C2 was sleeker and more aggressive. It had a wider track, a redesigned front end with lower headlamps, flush side air intakes, and a rear spoiler.

The V12 was also sent to BMW tuner Alpina and came out with an extra 50bhp. The added performance was helped by the fact that the weight of the car was reduced by 100kg. Three C2s were built for road use and sold to private buyers.

Finally, in 1993, a Spider version of the C2 was unveiled at the Monaco grand prix, and was driven around the circuit whenever racing cars weren't on track. On this car, the side and rear windows were removed and a body-colored roll-bar was added. This car used the 5.6-liter V12 from the BMW 850CSi that produced 380bhp.

Nazca M12
First seen 1991 Geneva motor show
Length 4,365mm
Width 1,990mm
Height 1,075mm
Engine 5.0-liter V12, 300bhp

Nazca C2
First seen
1991 Tokyo motor show
Length 4,395mm
Width 2,085mm
Height 1,105mm
Engine 5.0-liter twin-turbo V12, 350bhp

Nazca C2 Spider
Engine 5,660cc V12, 380bhp

What else happened in 1991?
If you went to the movies, chances are it was to see Terminator 2: Judgement Day - the top-grossing film of the year. Sports fans enjoyed the only one-point win in Superbowl history, with the New York Giants edging out the Buffalo Bills 20-19. Sega introduced us to Sonic the Hedgehog, and, if you could manage to switch off your Genesis games console long enough, you could watch the first-ever episode of The Jerry Springer Show. And there's the small matter of computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee making the World Wide Web publicly available for the first time.