Marcello Gandini passed away yesterday at the age of 85. He is best known as the chief stylist at Italian design shop Bertone during the ’60s and ’70s where he created the Lamborghini Miura and Countach. I recently delved into Gandini’s work while writing the three books in BMW Behind The Scenes three-book set. I found the stories around his BMW work was often misunderstood. When I looked into BMW’s design archives, we found many unseen Gandini hidden gems, some of which made my head spin. For example, Gandini submitted ideas for BMW sports car to Munich. After they were rejected, they became the Maserati Khamsin and the Bertone/Fiat X1/9 sports car.

Gandini’s BMW Designs

Bertone, and therefore Gandini’s, relationship with BMW began when he submitted a design for the ’68 BMW 2500 large sedan, forerunner to the mid-’70s first-gen 7 Series. Bertone’s design competed against another from the Michelotti studio and the winning third design from BMW’s in-house stylists. Although Bertone was runner-up, BMW’s body engineering boss Wilhelm Hofmeister was impressed by Bertone and, in June ’68, the two signed a retainer for ongoing design consultancy. When Nuccio Bertone saw BMW’s internal design for the E12 first-gen 5 Series he suggested that he would ask his designer Gandini to offer an alternative. Bertone’s preliminary E12 design was then completed by BMW’s new chief designer, Paul Bracq who joined in 1970.

The Garmisch Show Car

Undeterred, Bertone submitted several Gandini designs. As we dug deeper into BMW Design’s archives we discovered various E21 3 Series submissions by Gandini, one of which became the long-lost Garmisch show car that BMW recreated in 2009 and the other a design that looks like a BMW-style Ferrari 308 GT4. What’s equally incredible was the discovery that Gandini was proposing huge hexagonal grilles for the E12, the 2002 facelift and the E21 3 Series. Of course, none of that happened, but it’s amazing to think that one of the design legends was proposing vertical BMW grilles back in the Seventies.

I was intrigued by more hidden gems from other Italian design shops for BMW. One standout was Pininfarina’s rejected 6 Series E23 proposal during the ’80s that was repurposed as the Alfa Romeo 164 as a BMW. Famous Ferraris, Fiats, Maseratis and Alfas could have all been BMWs – it’s a fantastic story that I was delighted to tell.

We will review Steve Saxty’s new three-book set, BMW Behind The Scenes soon. You can see more detail now on his website.