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.
“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.
“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.
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>