We were recently given an opportunity to preview two books of a three book set (BMW: Behind The Scenes), “BMW by Design” and “BMW’s Hidden Gems”, written by Steve Saxty – the author of the critically acclaimed, “Secret Fords.” His background as a former Ford designer and marketing executive at Porsche UK has allowed him to bring an insider’s understanding of the processes, both in the design studios and the head offices, which are responsible for evaluating and approving design.

The author’s ties to BMW go back to the 1990s when he was a consultant to BMW, working on redeeming the Rover brand and later on marketing strategy for Rolls -Royce. He is in a unique position to tell the story of BMW design through the ages as well as detailing the life of several of BMW’s little known concept cars.

The author explains in the Introduction of “BMW by Design” how the collaboration began – when a mutual friend suggested he contact Adrian van Hooydonk who had purchased a set of Saxty’s, Secret Fords. After the contact and numerous conversations, the author was on his way towards creating these wonderful works on BMW design. To illustrate how collaborative this effort was, the foreword to “BMW by Design” was written by Adrian van Hooydonk. So know that these books are not written from ‘the outside looking in’ – BMW opened the vaults to Steve Saxty. The author was given access to the company jewels and allowed to tell the stories that BMW’s design employees dared not whisper to their friends or family.

In “BMW by Design” the focus is on the show cars, in particular those of the recent past. Show cars are the white hot gems that design teams pour their hearts and souls into. And show cars often foreshadow what is to come on production vehicles. Fortunately, Steve Saxty’s prose is perfectly textured – no dry recitation of facts and dates, this digs in and relates; it is eminently readable – meat on the bone, succulent. The mention of the little known post-war 531 in the 1st chapter solidified our opinion that this is a well researched and detailed book.

On its own the text would suffice but the illustrations, pulled from BMW’s archives, greatly magnify the experience. It is a first rate effort – with the ability to see the progression of ideas as they are honed on paper, in computer design, to clay, and eventually to drivable prototypes. The text enhances the images by describing the constraints, corporate, financial, physical, that either whittle away or refine the concept. The material, text and pictures, tell the unique story of BMW’s design processes – almost as if you were granted a tour of the FIZ design studios guided by the designers themselves.

The books themselves are delightful jewels. The pages are heavy weight – silk finish to enhance readability, the photos are perfectly reproduced. The binding and boards are of the highest quality. Interestingly, the book was printed by a family firm in Wales, Gomer Press Ltd. So if you’re interested in some BMW design behind-the-scenes stories, then the three-volume boxed set will be available soon – at a pre-order price of $299.95/€270/£78.11. Alternatively, the principal book, “BMW by Design” is available immediately for $99.95/€90.02/£88.10; all with free shipping in USA, UK and EU.