"What," pondered the ugly George Bernard Shaw, trying unsuccessfully to woo the beautiful French entertainer Mistinguett, "if we were to have children: they could have your beauty, and my brain?" "Yes," she replied, "but what if they were to have your looks, and my brain?"
Straight away the keen motoring scholar will summon the case of the Alfa Romeo Arna, a car launched in 1983 that was meant to incorporate the best of both Alfa and Nissan, the Italian firm's joint partners in the venture. They imagined a car with the driving verve of the dear old Alfasud, incorporating the build quality the Japanese were already world famous for. Alas it managed to combine the worst of both, being as bland to drive and to look at as every other production Nissan had been up to that point, and as unreliable and badly built as all Alfas at this time were.
Erich Bitter was an ex-racing driver who had, in 1971, combined the underpinnings of the sober-sided and luxurious Opel Diplomat and a Chevrolet V8 engine with a two-door coupe body of exceptional beauty to produce his first car, the gorgeous Bitter CD. Behind the production of the handsome Bitter SC in 1979 was the same ideal: to unite the competence of the German engineering that sat underneath it - the car being based on the platform of the remarkably good 1978 Opel Senator - with a body that displayed some of glamour only the Italians were thought to be able to deliver in those days. It worked, the SC was not only beautiful to behold, it was good to drive, too.
It was no fireball, though, despite looking something like a Ferrari. Underneath the bonnet was the sweet, fuel-injected 177hp 3.0-litre inline-six from the Senator, punchy enough to push the Bitter from 0 to 60mph in 10 seconds, and on to a top speed of around 137mph. However, it also shared the Opel's chassis, and by the standards of the time that was really good, so with its eager handling and comfortable ride the Bitter proved an entertaining and rewarding cross-country companion.
Later models upped the cc and the hp, and the SC went on to enjoy a 10-year lifespan. Alas it wasn't a huge money-spinner, but taking one executive car and then plonking a bespoke body on it was never going to be a cheap way of doing things, and the SC was an expensive commodity back in the day. Now, though, this well-kept and fully restored beauty from 1982, with a mere 45,000 miles on it, can be had for £17,000, which seems reasonable enough.
And if you still think this combination of virtues unnecessarily extravagant, even at this price, remember the wise dictum of the aforementioned George Bernard Shaw: "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing."
SPECIFICATION: BITTER SC
Engine: 2,969cc inline six
Transmission: Three-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 178@5,800rpm
Torque (lb ft): 179@4,200rpm
First registered: 1982
Recorded mileage: 45,000 miles
Price new: n/k
Yours for: £17,000
See the original advert here.