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R.A-S.H: The Bitter SC

Bitter 1

In the days before his Papal Resignation, Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed R.A-S.H “A great force for good and the salvation of mankind.”

Very kind of him. In our last instalment we looked at a car that made great claims to greatness and pushing things on, despite somewhat ordinary origins. Today we’re sticking with a similar theme but from a German / Austrian origin. No, not Hitler, the other one.

It’s the Bitter SC.

“Elegance that fascinates, comfort that pampers and beneath it all, high technology. The Bitter SC will do justice to your highest aspirations.”

We begin with a nice bit of prose which, typically Germanic in its wordiness, sets the tone for the rest of the brochure. This particular publication dates from when Bitter began official imports of their cars into the UK, and to encourage us to part with our valuable pounds sterling, they began ingratiating themselves almost immediately.

“Bitter from Germany has now moved into the UK market, bringing with it not only the successful European SC coupe but also a new four-litre engine for the discerning British customer.”

Discerning? Us? You have to be kidding. Have you not seen the Morris Marina? We built and bought millions of the bloody things. That said, the Bitter SC was infinitely more appealing than the pancreatic cyst of a car that was the Marina.

bitter2

“The SC has been designed by Erich Bitter to offer a performance choice for buyers in a luxury class”.

It was, too. Ex racing-driver Mr Bitter can claim full responsibility for the exterior styling, although it seems likely that he was reading a book about the Ferrari 365GT4 2+2, 400i and 412 at the time. Still, Pininfarina plagiarism aside, it was a plenty handsome looking beast, well proportioned and well detailed, without looking too fussy. And it had pop-up headlamps which, as we know, are for winners.

“Line and form, decided by function and aesthetics, have been proved in the wind tunnel and in the eyes of the connoisseur. The Bitter SC is easily as functional as it is attractive.”

I’m sure Ferrari would agree. The functionality aspect of the above was doubtless in reference to the SC’s ability to accommodate four German-size adults, a feat made possible due to the cars long wheelbase and relatively high roofline. There was decent luggage space, too.

bitter3

“The interior of the Bitter SC has been executed by Italian Craftsmen in the finest quality materials”.

These Italian craftsmen get everywhere, don’t they?

“Instruments have matt gold faces and are arranged directly in front of the driver”.

Ah, the Germans. Full of crazy ideas and always demonstrating subtle good taste. The truth was that the Cabins were indeed more leathery than Joan Collins cleavage, and had more acres of wood in them than the state of Oregon. However, though the materials were f the very most aristocratic standing, the infrastructure over which it was stitched was perhaps less than plutocratic. And this was the case with the engineering as well as the cosmetic finery.

Not that there was anything fundamentally wrong with it, but all was revealed within the text of the brochure itself.

“Two transmissions are offered; either the three-speed Turbo Hydramatic automatic with torque converter, or…..”

Hang on, Turbo Hydramatic? Isn’t that a bit, er, General Motorsish? Well, yes. Yes it is. In fact this whole car, and most of the stuff Mr Bitter was involved with (post Intermeccanica, at least), had at least one foot in the GM puddle. And here, on the SC, there was a huge amount of commonality with the nice, but not even vaguely exotic, Opel Senator. This also extended to the interior where it was all stock Opel underneath the chunks of Cow and Cabinetry.

And the engines. The shape may have been redolent of Ferrari’s most laid-back model, but the similarities were shallow ones. Under the bonnet there were only half the cylinders in the SC as in the 412, with motive effort being coaxed from the Cam-In-Head three-litre six, producing 180hp. Not a tiny output, but not really enough to match the looks.
Indeed, one problem the SC faced was that GMs own two-door version of the Senator, the Monza, was such a good car in its own right. At 3032lbs, the Monza was also a full 400lbs lighter than the SC, too. Even Bitter’s special stroked three-point-nine version of the engine, “Exclusively for his cars” wasn’t enough to pull the Bitter into the proper performance-car category.

Bitter4

The whole endeavour was basically a throwback to the practice followed by coachbuilders from the ‘Twenties onwards, except, where Mulliner Park Ward might take their ingredients from Rolls Royce, Erich Bitter chose General Motors. Unfortunately, it eventually turned out that the properly blue-blooded would prefer something a tad less plebeian than an Opel underpinning their hand-crafted Grand Tourer. This explains why the abortive attempt to sell the SC in the USA through Buick dealerships turned out to be, well, abortive.

And yes, despite all this, I seriously love these cars. The Opel Senator and Monza were terrifically underrated machines and the Bitter, if even merely regarded as a beautifully finished version of one of those, deserves to be very well regarded. Furthermore, Bitter did go to the extra trouble of offering a Ferguson-derived four-wheel-drive system on his cars (and also offered to fit said system to your off-the-peg Opel, should you offer him sufficient wheelbarrows full of cash), which sounds rather fun.

And, as a final thought; the same basic engine block continued in use in the next generation of Opel Senator and Omega, which meant that the Omega / Carlton 3000GSi 24v engine ought to fit the bay as a straight swap. And if that’ll go in, then the 3.6 litre Twin-Turbo Lotus variant ought to slip in without too much persuasion.

A 377hp Twin-Turbo Ferrari Lookalike? Oh, go on then. Don’t mind if I do.

<Disclaimer:- All photos were taken by the author and are of genuine original manufacturer publicity material. All copyright rights remain in the possession of the manufacturer. Can you imagine anybody coachbuilding something on a Euro GM platform these days? Opel Insignia based Italian-style Luxury Coupe anybody? Yeuch>

Currently there are "22 comments" on this Article:

  1. stigshift says:

    I saw one of those in the early '80s in Glen Burnie, Maryland. I thought it was quite classy. The Bitter, not Glen Burnie. Never knew they made a 4 door version.

  2. Alff says:

    On the whole, the lass found the experience disappointing. "For being so strikingly handsome, he hasn't got much under the hood," she thought to herself once the greasy bits were exposed. In the end, she was left with nought but a bitter taste in her mouth.

  3. mr. mzs zsm msz esq says:

    The sedan and coupe SD1, don't mind if I do either.

  4. P161911 says:

    All the headaches of an Italian Thoroughbred, with none of the sound or power. They look nice, but if I wanted a wedge shaped, coach built car I would get a DeTamaso Longchamp, at least I could get engine parts here in the US.
    <img src="http://www.classicandperformancecar.com/front_website/octane_interact/modelpicture.php?id=1701&quot; width="400/">

    I wonder how price between the two compared when new?

  5. $kaycog says:

    “Elegance that fascinates, comfort that pampers and beneath it all, high technology." It sounds like you're describing a woman.

  6. $kaycog says:

    Her high performance is well worth it.

  7. Vavon says:

    Well, by the looks it, Erich was a very Bitter man.

  8. lilpoindexter says:

    I think it was the 1985 LA Auto Show, when I would have been 13 that i saw these things. They were also featured in Road and Track, and I was in love with them. I thought they were sexy time…but then I dream of buying a 412i and fitting it with a T56.

  9. Rover 1 says:

    And right there in the last picture, something every pretentious manufacturer has to have nowadays.The four door coupe.

  10. Brent says:

    They did sell these in Western Canada…Carter Pontiac Buick Cadillac in Burnaby BC. I know of one in North Vancouver, saw it last fall.

  11. C³-Cool Cadillac Cat says:

    A few decades ago, I used to do yard work for a family which had not one, but _two_ of these.

    Interesting machines, but I can't see why anyone would purchase one…let alone two.

  12. markmitchellbrown says:

    I've been a big fan of these ever since I saw one here in town when I was 13 or so. Did a bunch of research and discovered its humble basis, but I still liked 'em. Went through a period of serious lust, and bought a bunch of brochures and books off eBay, though that has since past.

    Still, hard to find a non-kit-car that's this rare and this cheap. Somewhere around 500 of them made in total. Convertibles were made, too.

  13. Goodwin says:

    Interesting car. But I wonder if they rust just as badly, as an Opel of the same vintage…

  14. m4ff3w says:

    There is a Bitter SC at the "Old car lot" at Pick-N-Pull here in San Antonio.

    • Rust-MyEnemy says:

      Cool! I imagine the wheels have gone but somebody would love them for their Monza. Gotta be worth harvesting some of the interior appointments, too.

    • Tim says:

      Which pick and pull? – I see three listed for S.A. I've got some need for parts for one of these.

      can you write me? obrienboys-at-gmaildotcom

  15. Roberto G. says:

    <img src="http://www.lasestina.unimi.it/lasestina/wp-content/themes/mimbo2.2/images/2011/07/campari.jpg"&gt;

    Bitter? The only Bitter I'm aware of is the Campari… 2 ice cubes, a slice of orange, half Campari, half Prosecco and mix till you get 1/2 inch of foam… Salute!

  16. Mr.Roadrage says:

    "Unfortunately, it eventually turned out that the properly blue-blooded would prefer something a tad less plebeian than an Opel underpinning their hand-crafted Grand Tourer."

    For which they could turn to Mr. Monteverdi….

  17. Outstanding post but I was wanting to know if you could write a litte more
    on this subject? I’d be very thankful if you could elaborate a little bit further.
    Many thanks!

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