BMW Zagato Coupe hails the glory days of hand-built cars

For the past few years, BMW has made a habit of unveiling a new and usually daring concept car at the Concorso d'Eleganza, a classic car gathering for Europe's crustiest upper crust on the shores of Italy's Lake Como. Here, first seen in Yahoo! Autos' Motoramic, are live shots of its latest, the BMW Zagato Coupe, a first-time pairing with the Zagato design house that suggests what could be.

The Zagato name conjures images of fleet Alfa Romeos and Aston Martins among collectors, and the family has managed to maintain an independent business building limited-edition automotive bodywork while most competitors were either sold to corporations or went out of business. While BMW has called on Italian designers in the past to breathe new life into its cars -- namely in the '70s and '80s, with models such as the original M1 -- it has never worked with Zagato.

Built mostly by hand, the BMW Zagato isn't meant to suggest a production car and the two companies have no plans to build more -- but the one they did bolt together isn't a designer's dream confined to the turntable, but a coupe that can be legally driven. There's several features that hearken more to Zagatos past than any BMW, especially the glass rear hatch and faint double-bubble roof common to all racing Zagatos, but the overall effect suggests a upper-class successor to the Z4 coupe.

Previous BMW show cars like the 328 Homage and GINA concept were never meant for production, and some BMW execs say the Zagato isn't either. Yet why build a road-ready, realistic concept only to confine it to an Italian lakeside resort once a year?