Manufactured in Germany, the Bitter Car Company also imported several cars to the U.S. A former champion car racer from Europe, Erich Bitter was born in 1933, in central western Germany. His parents owned a bicycle shop that Erich frequented and eventually at 16 he quit school to focus all his energy in his cycling career. At 20 years old he was ready to be a professional cyclist and during his four years in this profession he competed in the Tour de France and went on to become one of the top German rider.
Also a former race car driver turned automobile tuner, Erich Bitter was also an importer and the designer that began crafting his own vehicles after business ventures with Italian manufacture Intermeccanica fell through. Between 1973 and 1989 the Bitter automobile company produced cars. Since 1984 a variety of prototypes were created by Bitter., unfortunately all of which had a very low-volume production rate, and few even were produced.
Erich Bitter is also the marvel behind the design of the SC that was introduced in 1979 until 1989. The price of the Bitter SC ranged from $43,000 up to $55,000 and it was not a mass produced vehicle. Bitter only sold around 350-400 models per year. Capable of achieving 0-60 mph in just 9.6 seconds, the Bitter SC had a top speed of 130 mph. The SC had an overall length of 193 inches, a width of 71 inches and an overall height of 53 inches. The wheelbase was set at 58inches and it had a curb weight of 3,439 lbs. It was capable of achieving 24mpg on the highway and 15 mpg in the city.
Much like the CD, the SC was largely based on Opel's largest contemporary model, this time on the Opel Senator and was sold from 1979 through 1989 as a coupe, sedan and as a convertible. Powering the SC was a fuel-injected Opel 3.0 1-I6 or a bored-out 3.9 1-I6 that developed 207 hp. Many think that the design behind the SC's body was heavily influenced by Ferrari's 400i. The Coupe was the first SC model to appear, and was followed by the Convertible in 1982 and finally by the Sedan in 1984.
In Autumn of 1978, Erich Bitter had been hard at work for over a year on a CD replacement. In 1977 he had originally started talks with Opel's management about using Senator's engine and running gear for his new car. Since Opel had been very pleasantly impressed with the CD, they were happy to offer the Senator platform, mechanics and some technical aid. Bitter had to develop the new vehicle himself at a cost of two years development time and DM 8 million, very different from how he had developed the CD.
Bitter had sketches from the late sixties that he incorporated into the rough SC design, and it was fine tuned for production by Opel stylists George Gallion and Henry Haga. Italian stylist Michelotti aided Bitter in carrying out the engineering detailing for the body, and the Bitter SC was aerodynamically tested in Pininfarina's wind tunnel.
Erich Bitter had to find a different company to build the SCS as his arrangement with BAur of Stuttgard had come to an end. Since he couldn't find a German company to produced interiors and bodyshells, he turned to Italy. Forming a company called 'Bitter Italia', this new backer organized and financed the manufacture of SC bodies and interiors and got them ready to be mated to the Opel mechanical components.
Sub contracted to Turin-based OCRA, the fabrication of the SC's body panels and the subsequent assembly into body shells. Unfortunately the first SC's began to show the first signs of rust mere months after production as OCRA had used recycled steel to make the body panels. Bitter's recently uplifted reputation was taking quite a hit. Only 79 shells were built by OCRA before they lost the contract and it was awarded to Maggiore in 1982. Maggiore was also located in Turin, but they were a reputable and long-established company with a fantastic reputation and were at that time producing shells for Bristol and Maserati. The nappa leather interiors were produced by yet another Turin based company, SALT.
With the Turin supplied bodies and interiors Bitters assembly staff joined the Opel engine, transmission, brakes, axle, suspension and wheels, etc. from 1981 to 1983. Originally they were only able to produce about a vehicle a wee, but later in 1982 this output was doubled and Bitter was looking to expand and produce more prototypes and eventually more vehicles.
In 1983, Erich decided to create a 4-door version of the SC Coupe, something that could stand up to the competition of Jaguar and Mercedes saloons of the time as well as an opportunity to join the ‘more voluminous executive class market. Erich was under the impression that a 4-door version would even outsell the Coup eventually and be quite popular in the U.S. given their love of the larger vehicles.
In 1984 Erich Bitter unveiled his silver prototype at the Frankfurt and Birmingham Motor Shows even before the 3.9-liter engine was available and fitted with a 3-liter engine and 5-speed manual box. Early on in 1985 the 4-door was available for production, but unfortunately only 5 vehicles were ever built due to financial pressures on the company.
The updates from Erich's design enlarged the Senator's wheelbase by 5.9 inches, it also raised the roofline by 0.8 inches, added two doors and took the interior further ‘up-market' by adding birds eye maple wood fillets to the doors which really jazzed up the model. Maggiore made quite radical changes to the Coupes body shell in designing the Sedan which included a new roof, additional doors, longer sills, central door posts and revisions to the metal surrounding the front and rear screens. Under the hood, updates included in the propshaft, exhaust system and the supply pipes that run underneath the vehicle.
Unfortunately since Bitter vehicles were based on components from Opel and the new trend was no longer about producing re-bodied vehicles, but instead smaller automobile companies, Bitter as a brand eventually failed. During its production period, a total of 461 Coupes had been produced, along with 22 Convertibles and only 5 Sedans.By Jessica Donaldson