Erich Bitter Automobil GmbH (Bitter) is a premium sports-luxury automobile marque produced in Germany and later Austria. Founder Erich Bitter, a former racing driver turned automobile tuner, importer and ultimately designer began crafting his own vehicles after business ventures with Italian manufacture Intermeccanica ended.
Bitter specialises in rebodying other manufacturer’s vehicles and its initial production was between 1973 and 1989, selling vehicles in Europe and the United States. Thereafter, several prototypes followed with an eye on resuming low-volume production, but none of those plans came to fruition until the launch of the Bitter Vero in 2007.
Erich Bitter made the decision to approach Opel at Russelheim and has never regretted it. He established his car business in his hometown of Schwelm in 1971. Between 1973 and 1986 he built 395 CD’s and 488 SC’s on proven Russelheim platforms and running gear. Between 1987 and 1997 Erich Bitter produced several prototypes but he could not raise sufficient finance to put them into production. His company ceased trading in 1997, but Bitter continued working in car design and engineering heading his own sub contracting company employing 50 people.
The Bitter GmbH built prototypes for VW. In 2001 there were some rumours about a possible appearance on the 2001 Frankfurt Motor Show with a left hand drive Holden HSV with Bitter badge. Apparently this project cancelled prematurely. On the 2003 Geneva Motor Show, however, Erich Bitter surprised the automobile audience presenting a new stylish coupé based on the Australian Holden Monaro. The Bitter CD2 has attracted a lot of attention of the press but after 3 consecutive appearances in Geneva the project was again cancelled.
The Bitter CD, a three-door hatchback coupe featuring a 227 hp (169 kW) Chevrolet V8 with a 327ci displacement, was built between 1973-1979. The CD was introduced at the end of 1973 after a very successful showing at the Frankfurt Motor Show of September 1973. A euphoric Erich Bitter took 176 orders for his stylish new car at the show, but the oil crisis soon after hit his plans for six and most orders were cancelled. Production never reached the 200 cars per year target but by the beginning of 1975 Bitter had built 100 CD’s.
The first SC model launched was the coupé in 1979, followed by the convertible in 1981 at the Frankfurt Auto Show and the sedan in 1984. Like the CD, the SC was based on Opel’s largest model at the time, the Opel Senator. It remained in production until 1989. In 1984, Bitter announced at the New York Auto Show that it would enter into a limited marketing agreement with GM to sell the sedan version in the United States, through participating Buick dealerships. Bitter could not find a German company to produce the bodyshells and interiors for the
SC, and turned to Italy. He formed a company called “Bitter Italia” to organise and finance the manufacture of SC bodies and interiors ready for their mating to the Opel mechanical components at Bitter’s works at Schwelm.
In 2003, in an attempt to resume its small-scale production, Bitter presented a modern reincarnation of the CD, known as the CD II. It was based on the Australian-made Holden Monaro but rumoured to feature a V12 engine. Investors sought but the car never reached full production. The Bitter CD II at the 2003 Geneva Motor show was still a surprise for many. Although the ‘new’ CD is very modern, it encaptures all the design and construction elements of the old Bitters it combines Italian looks with GM technology.
A year later, a slightly updated version waspresented in Geneva. The base for the CD II is the Australian Holden Monaro coupe, with which it shares the chassis and engine. For the expected production version of the CD II, Bitter will definitely use a GM engine, possibly the LS2 6.0 litre Corvette V8 or even a rumoured Cadillac V12 engine. It expected to make its debut somewhere in 2005.
In 2007, Bitter resumed small-scale production by launching the Vero at the 2008 Geneva Motor Show. This car derived from the Australian-made Holden Caprice (WM) sedan (the long-wheelbase luxury derivative of the Holden Commodore (VE)), believed to be purchased directly from Holden thanks to Erich Bitter’s friendship with Holden’s former Peter Hanenberger. Bitter announced that from then on the Vero Sedan and Vero Sport could be provided with different motorisations, i.e. 3.6 litre V6 with 265 hp, 6.0 litre V8 with 365 hp, 6.0 litre V8 with compressor and 550 hp (sequential gearbox) and 6.0 litre V8 with compressor and 600 hp (manual gearbox). The compressor engines built for HSV (Holden Special Vehicles) by Walkinshaw Performance.
Bitter produced a luxury version of the Opel Insignia OPC between 2010 and 2013 as the Bitter Insignia. The “Insignia by Bitter” presented in 2010. The first “Insignia by Bitter” was based on an Opel Insignia Limousine. In 2011 the “Insignia by Bitter” based on the Opel Insignia Sports Tourer followed. So, the Bitter Insignia, immediately senses what he means: tobacco-brown leather landscape, gray Alcantara skies, noble wood applications. Gorgeous, instead of in the Rüsselsheim mass production routine revels the bitter owner in luxury. In 2017 Opel launched an all new Insignia. The new Insignia referred to as Insignia B and consequently the first Insignia now referred to asInsignia A.
In the summer of 2018 a new “Insignia by Bitter” presented and during the 31st annual meeting of the Bitter Club International, combined with Erich Bitter’s 85th birthday celebration in Schwelm, there even was a “Cascada by Bitter”. All other models of the “by Bitter” range were also present as well as the rebuilt “Schwarze Witwe” and even the very rare Opel Styling CD.
There was also a stand with “e.GO Life” electrical city cars. Since 2016 Erich Bitter is acting as an advisor for this Aachen based company and he also helped them connecting with PSA who is delivering technical components. Maybe we will see an “e.GO Life by Bitter” in the future. At the age of 85 Erich Bitter is clearly still very active but he is also thinking about the future of his brand and business. Together with his nephew Marcus Bitter he is making new plans for the next years and the continuation of the name seems guaranteed.