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The AVT Was BMW’s Version Of the Volkswagen XL1, 32 Years Earlier

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Vehicle aerodynamics are as important as ever. As electric vehicles become a more significant portion of new cars available, automakers are trying to make them as slippery as possible to maximize their range. Companies have been working on reducing drag coefficients for decades. The AVT concept was BMW’s effort to show off a more aerodynamic exterior all the way back in 1981.

BMW Head of Design Domagoj Dukec went digging through the brand’s archives and came up with these seldom-seen images of the AVT for an Instagram post. He calls it “one of the most mysterious concept cars in the history of BMW.” According to Dukec, the company built it to have something exciting to show at the brand’s new wind tunnel at the time.


AVT stands for Aerodynamischer Versuchsträger, which translates from German as aerodynamic test vehicle. Being a design buck, there was no drivetrain or interior. It was simply a sculpture for wind tunnel testing.

The design features a low-slung nose that flows to the windshield in a clean arc. A tiny version of BMW’s trademark kidney grilles could be found on the tip of the front end. Pop-up headlights keep the hood looking smooth. 

Covers conceal the front wheels to keep the sides aerodynamic. There are flowing flanks that lead to wider rear fenders with fairings over them. Since there’s no interior, it’s unclear how the doors would open, but gullwing hinges appear to be the most likely layout.

The rear features a Kammback tail where the back slopes downward and then cuts off vertically. This type of styling reduces drag, which is the whole point of the AVT concept.

Dukec’s post is also interesting because it includes both sketches and photographs of the AVT. The car changed little in the transition from drawings to a three-dimensional model. The little vents in the lower front fascia and the NACA ducts ahead of the rear fenders didn’t make it to the real-world design.

1981 BMW AVT Concept
2015 VW XL1 For Sale

The BMW’s shape has some similarities to the Volkswagen XL1. They share elements like smooth styling and fairings over the rear wheels. If you’re designing a vehicle to maximize its aerodynamics this is the silhouette for achieving that. Unlike the AVT, the XL1 had a limited production run, with deliveries beginning in 2014.

We reached out to BMW to find out the fate of the AVT today. A spokesperson told Motor1 that “usually, once non-running concepts like this have made the auto show circuit, they are either put into long-term storage or destroyed.” We look forward to finding out the fate of the AVT. We’ll be sure to update this article if we find out more.

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