BMW Karmann K2 E36

Karmann; you know the name. Open up the door of an E9 or New Class coupe, and on the forward part of the jam near the hinge, you’ll find a riveted plate that reads Karmann Karosserie (body). The German coachbuilder had a hand in the success of a number of automakers and individual models, including examples such as the Porsche 356, 911, 914, and others, along with the early BMW 6 Series, several pivotally important Volkswagen models like the Beetle and Karmann Ghia (duh), and more modern examples like the Golf, Corrado, and Scirocco. More recently, the builder also helped manufacture the Chrysler Crossfire before the firm’s demise in 2010.

BMW Karmann K2 E36

The relationship between BMW and Karmann also yielded the K2 concept, which is dated to approximately 1998. You’ll be swiftly forgiven if you’ve either forgotten or never heard of the Karmann K2, as today, the concept is little more than a footnote in BMW lore, with virtually no hard information available about it online.

So what, exactly, is it? Perhaps the better question is, what was it supposed to be? To get started, it looks like the E36 compact, sold in the U.S. as the 318ti, may have been used as the basis, at least from examining the rather abbreviated overall length and the rear end design, more specifically the taillights. But of course, it only gets more complicated from there. The Karmann K2 is a compact pillarless coupe, with rear buttresses that are evocative of the AMC Marlin.

BMW Karmann K2 E36

We can’t look beyond the retractable rear Targa-style glass either, which seems as though has the ability to disappear into the front portion of the roof panel to reveal a…pickup bed? We can’t find any high-resolution photos, but the design remains pretty clear; instead of rear seats or an expansive carpeted cargo area, the Karmann K2 came with what appears to be a decently-sized bed which is complete with runners and a proper tailgate which extends the load floor, just like a legitimate pickup truck.

BMW Karmann K2 E36

The large rear glass panel isn’t the only thing that looks like it can be moved to transform the K2 into something else. The entire roof panel itself (which holds the rear glass when stowed) can also be moved to cover the bed, thus creating an open-air driving experience, while also securing any cargo now beneath it—note the horizontal third brake light, which seems to remain functional regardless of the position of the roof panel.

BMW Karmann K2 E36

The Karmann K2 also sports some other items of note, such as the M aerodynamic mirrors which appeared on the stablemate M3, and a variation of the M3’s lightweight (LTW) wheel design. A convertible pickup? Perhaps. A drop-top sport yute? That might work, if you’re familiar with the term.

We’re not quite sure what to call the Karmann K2, but we know that it makes a strong case for an intriguing single-car solution.—Alex Tock

[Photos courtesy BMW AG.]

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