|Founded||Schwelm, Germany (1971)|
Erich Bitter Automobil GmbH (Bitter) is a premium sports-luxury automobile marque originally produced in Germany and later Austria. Founder Erich Bitter, a former race car driver turned automobile tuner, importer and ultimately designer began crafting his own vehicles after business ventures with Italian manufacture Intermeccanica ended.
The Bitter automobile company initially produced vehicles between 1973 and 1989, selling them in Europe and the United States. Several prototypes were created by Bitter in later years with an eye on possible low-volume production, but none of those plans came to fruition until the Vero in 2007.
The CD was first shown as an Opel styling study OPEL CD (Coupé diplomat) on Sept 9th, 1969 at the International motor show (IAA) in Frankfurt. Designed by, Charles M. "Chuck" Jordan (OPEL Design boss 1967-1971 and later vice-president of GM) and his assistants George A. Gallion, David Holls, Herbert Killmer and Hideo Kodama, along with Erhard Fast (director/conductor of the OPEL Designstudios 3 for Advanced Design since 1964) was involved. The tail opinion is inspired by a draft of Erhard Fast for the OPEL Aero GT of 1969.
Due to large success of the IAA CD study. Opel played with the thought of building a road-suited vehicle to develop further. The doors should be replaced by normal doors, and the vehicle bumper, windshield wipers and a reuse of other Opel Diplomat parts for cost and ease of going to production. Robert "Bob" Lutz, who was head of Opel at the time, was inspired and wanted the car in production. So he commissioned Pietro Frua to work on the revision of the Opel CD and preparation of two driveable prototypes.
In 1971, David R. "Dave" Holls (Opel design boss since 7/1971; previously assistant to Charles M. "Chuck" Jordan) encouraged Erich Bitter to build the Bitter CD. So Erich Bitter formed Bitter GMBH 1971, specifically for the CD. He started with a 1-acre (4,000 m2) site in his home town of Schwelm. Since he didn't have the capital or time to set up his own production facilities, and looked for a proven independent, small scale company to build the CD. He chose Baur of Stuttgart as they produced prototypes and limited production runs for several well known German companies. They possessed the necessary experience, had the capacity to build the car, and their build quality was impressive.
Erich Bitter drew some designs based on the Frua CD before he decided on later style elements. The basic changes of the Frua CD vis-à-vis Opel CD of 1969 in the Bitter CD design, were to cut off stern, modify the windshield and reduce the amount of chrome. Dave Holls and Opels team of designers, supplemented the design with a small front spoiler, added a larger grill, set the bumpers higher and extended the lower edge of the rear side windows to the rear window. Final testing and trials were done at the Opel Test Facility in Duden yards, along with simulated duration load tests initiated by Erich Bitter that were carried out on the Hydropulser in Baur in Stuttgart. The team at Baur performed also in addition considerable constructive and production technical product development inclusive the building of a hard foam model to mock up the body shell.
Baur's role in building the CD included making the body panels, assembling the shell, trimming and fitting the interior, and mating the Opel Diplomat running gear to the shell.
The Bitter CD was displayed, very successfully, at the 73' Frankfurt Motor Show, where Erich Bitter took 176 orders for his stylish new car. Unfortunately, the oil crisis soon after hit his plans and most orders were cancelled. Even though many of the orders were cancelled production commenced in late 1973 at Baur GMBH in Stuttgart. While production never reached the target of 200 cars per year, by the beginning of 1975 Bitter had built 100 CDs. By this time the oil crisis had receded and CD sales continued through to 1979.
1979 production ended with a total production of 395, (1973: 6 - 1974: 99 - 1975: 79 - 1976: 73 - 1977: 71 - 1978: 30 - 1979: 37), as well as 5 raw car bodies for the warehouse. Purchase price in 1974 was 58,400 DM.
An active car club exists today for the CD and SC Bitter Models at: http://www.bittercars.com
Like the CD, the SC was based on Opel's biggest contemporary model, this time on the Opel Senator, and was sold from 1979 until 1989 as a coupé, sedan and convertible. The SC was powered by a fuel-injected Opel 3.0 l-I6 (177 hp) or a stroked 3.9 l-I6 that developed 207 hp (154 kW). Body design seems to have been heavily influenced by Ferrari`s 400i.
The first SC model to appear was the coupé (1979), followed by the convertible at the 1981 Frankfurt Auto Show and the sedan in 1984. Production lasted until 1989 with 461 coupés, 22 convertibles and only 5 sedans built. Along with the introduction of the Cabriolet in 1981, a four-wheel drive version of the coupé was also added. The four-wheel drive system was developed by Ferguson Research, who also offered it for installation into the Opel Senator/Vauxhall Royale.
In 1984 it was announced at the New York Auto Show that Bitter would enter into a limited marketing agreement with General Motors in North America to market the sedan in the United States through participating Buick dealerships. A major reason for the venture was GM hoped to take back market share that was being lost to BMW at the time, but concerns were the Opel line was too entry level for the task. Ultimately, less than a dozen Buick dealers, mostly in the metro New York City area, would bear Bitter signage and few Bitter cars were actually sold in the U.S.
The ultimate failure of the Bitter brand was rooted in its business model. As was popular in the late 1970s and 1980s, rebodied vehicles from other manufactures gave rise to smaller automobile companies. The Bitter vehicles were based on components from Opel. This approach became unpopular in the late 1980s and doomed the brand.
In 2007, Erich Bitter is offering a new model, in a comeback of the brand. The Bitter Vero is derived from the Holden Caprice (WM). The car has different front and rear parts, 20 inch wheels, new suspension and a leather interior with DVD player in the headrest. The V8 6.0 l 362 ch (266 kW) with six-speed automatic transmission of the Caprice is unchanged. The car was offered for €121,975 until its discontinuation in 2012.
Bitter Cars unveiled a "Vero Sport" at the 2009 Geneva Motor Show. Unlike the regular Holden Caprice (WM)-derived Vero, the Sport is based on the short-wheelbase Holden VE Commodore SS sedan. Like the Vero the Vero Sport was also discontinued in 2012.
Bitter will base its next model on the Opel Insignia OPC replacing both the Vero & Vero Sport.
- Büschi, Hans-Ulrich, ed. (March 3, 1982). Automobil Revue '82 (in German/French) 77. Berne, Switzerland: Hallwag, AG. pp. 206–207. ISBN 3-444-06062-9.
- Frère, Paul. "Hat der Vierradantrieb eine Zukunft?/L'avenir des quatre roues motrices?" [Does four-wheel drive have a future?]. Automobil Revue '82 (in German/French): 101.
- GM Muscle Performance List from 1973-1985
- Bitter Vero: German Tuner 'Pimps' Holden Statesman
- "Autosalon Ženeva: Bitter Vero Sport - Konkurent BMW M5 s technikou Holden a Corvette" (in Czech or Slovak). 2009-03-11. Retrieved 2009-07-23.
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