The Bitter Coupe Diplomat

The Journey of a Rare 1970s German V-8

by | Sep 17, 2019 | Journals

Photo Credit: Jay Harman

The Bitter Coupe Diplomat

The Journey of a Rare 1970s German V-8

by | Sep 17, 2019 | Journals

Photo Credit: Jay Harman

It started at an early age. As a child, Jay Harman admired his Father’s Opel GT and read car magazines in his room at night. In 1975, at age 12, he received an issue of Road and Track which contained an article about Opel and GM providing design, manufacturing expertise and components for the Bitter Coupe Diplomat. At the time the car was marketed as an exclusive GT combining Italian styling, German engineering and American V8 power. It was hand-built by Baur of Stuttgart and sold exclusively through select Opel dealers in Germany. Harman was enamored from the start and his admiration continued for years into adulthood when he was presented with the rare opportunity to purchase one for himself.

At #305 of 395, and one of only five known in North America, it’s safe to say Harman’s Bitter CD is a rarity. Manufactured in 1978, it made the trip to US soil about seven years later where it was converted from kilometers to miles and lived in California for many years. In 2010, Harman found the car on the market, listed through Hemmings, and after two years of negotiations, it was his.

The Bitter required a complete restoration. It took Harman two years of searching to find a restoration shop he felt comfortable working with. He settled on Lee’s Garage in Long Branch, NJ and the team got to work. They rebuilt the entire car — everything from the body and interior to the motor, brakes and gauges. The process required Harman to source many of the parts himself.

“I enjoyed the challenge,” he says. “Part of the fun was sourcing hard-to-find parts all over the world and bringing the car back to original as much as possible.”

The car has won a few awards, but Harman is the first to say that he didn’t do it for recognition or financial gain.

“The thought of doing this for the money never crossed my mind,” he says. “I wanted to make it special. I wanted to bring it back to life.”

In the late 70s, there were very few German cars with a V-8 — only Mercedes and Opel offered an option. And while the Bitter CD was based on a shortened Opel Diplomat chassis with a Chevrolet 327 small block, they were never sold in the US. For Harman, the rarity of the car was very appealing.

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Celebrating his love for rare cars, he recently opened the Classic Car Vault of Asbury Park, located at the Jersey Shore. The facility has capacity to hold about 40 cars, one of which is the Bitter CD — when Harman isn’t taking it by trailer to notable car shows. In a rare deviance from the norm, Harman plans to drive it to the 2019 Turtle Invitational on September 21, about 100 miles away in New York.

Jay Harman with Sports Car Market’s Keith Martin at the 2018 Radnor Concours.

Jay Harman with Sports Car Market’s Keith Martin at the 2018 Radnor Concours. Photo Credit: Dean Laumbach.

Jay Harman won two awards for his stunning Bitter CD at the 2018 Radnor Concours.

Jay Harman won two awards for his stunning Bitter CD at the 2018 Radnor Concours. Photo Credit: Dean Laumbach.

With a new car vault and a prized collection of his own, it goes without saying that Harman is making moves as a collector. Of particular interest to his future acquisitions is a 1972-73 Mercedes 280SEL sedan or cabrio, again demonstrating Harman’s love for rare 70s vintage German V-8s.

Learn more about Jay Harman in this episode of CAM Soundtracks. 

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