Bitter making a comeback

Braunschweig, Germany. After two years of searching for investors, 72-year-old engineer and entrepreneur Erich Bitter is closer to building a sports car under his own name.

Together with former BMW developer Stephan Mayer and businessman Guido Momm, Bitter founded the limited company Bitter Automobil Produktions GmbH in Braunschweig. The three shareholders started the company with an initial capital investment of 2.5 million euros.

Bitter Automobil is trying to develop and build a two-seat sports coupe on the platform of the Pontiac GTO that General Motors sells in the US. The car would be called CD2 (Coupe Diplomat).

Bitter plans to power the car with the new Chevrolet Corvette's 6.0-liter V-8 engine with more than 400 horsepower.

A Bitter model almost ready for production should be unveiled at the Geneva auto show in March.

Bitter plans an annual production of 50 vehicles starting in August. The net price will be 109,000 euros.

Sales will at first be limited to Europe and will be handled by exclusive dealers in major cities. Auto-Koenig will sell the car in Munich and Berlin, for example.

Close contacts with GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz helped former rally driver Bitter, who had 120 victories during the 1960s, win permission to use the Pontiac platform.

Bitter's previous luxury cars, which in the 1970s enthused football and stage stars such as Paul Breitner and Heino, also used GM mass-market production technology. The last Bitter model called SC, of which 630 units were built between 1980 and 1988, shared many components with the Opel Senator.

In the 1970s Bitter's business flourished. His company was going to enter the US stock exchange in 1996.

But problems with an investment conman, who sold Bitter shares without owning them, prevented the entrepreneur from reaping the fruits of his labor. His business almost went bankrupt.

Bitter saved himself and his engineering business from ruin by doing research and testing work for Volkswagen and others. Development projects for the new VW Passat, for example, continue to be the small company's main source of income.

Most of the start-up capital for Bitter Automobil will be used for engineering and tool making.

Development specialist IAV of Berlin might become a Bitter partner and also help prepare the CD2 for series production.

Bitter told Automobilwoche that the steel body shell might be manufactured at Salzgitter Automotive.

Alternatively, Bitter is considering using a glued carbon fiber skin by SP Systems. The English light-metal engineering specialist works for McLaren and MG Rover, among others.

Bitter should decide within a few weeks which technology will be used.

The new CD may have a short life span. Production of the Pontiac GTO the CD2 is based on will end in 2008.

"That doesn't matter," Bitter says.

He is already considering a successor. There should also be both a sedan and a convertible version of the next-generation of the Holden Monaro, the basis for the GTO.

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