Reviewed: The Art of BMW: 85 Years of Motorcycling Excellence

Extremely successful during the pre-war period, BMW's design and mechanical integrity placed the company in a position of technological superiority. All of the elements needed to produce a stellar product; vision, dedicated management, solid engineering values and quality construction were all evident in BMW's formative years. These endeavors were well chronicled by the German press who lavished their photographic and record keeping skills on the company's every move. So impressive were many of these documents, BMW used many of these records and photographs to rebuild from post-war devastation.

With no shortage of books covering BMW's motorcycling timeline, the resulting flood of historical info has given even the casual observer a fairly solid grasp on the Berlin maker's linage. Because of the volumes dedicated to the marquee, any new effort better have something special going for it. On the surface, The Art of BMW: 85 Years of Motorcycling Excellence separates itself nicely with solid textual factoids and stunningly accurate and artistic photography, all housed in a coffee table-sized hardcover binding that's nearly 10" x 11".in size.

Few will argue the place BMW has established for itself in the motorcycling world, yet the historic German maker's wares have not been typically associated with the art-like forms. Text writer Peter Gantis and photographer Henry Von Wartenburg make a strong case for BMW, mixing technical details with stunning images that in more than a few cases virtually leap off the page.

Not your typical BMW history, The Art of BMW features 32 pre-and-post war models from the collection of American Peter Nettesheim, divided into four chapters. Highlights include the R32 from 1925 and move forward chronologically, picking up the OHV R63, R69S, R65LS and K1 along the way. Gantis' historical text and model information is concentrated and to the point, yet concise and accurate. However, the real star is Von Wartenburg's stunning photography which in this reviewer's opinion is as good or better than anything yet seen in print. Each feature motorcycle is described with care by Grantis, and then followed by a generous, crystal clear photo spread, making the book a real visceral treat for anyone.

The issue -if there is one, falls squarely on the subject matter found in the last quarter of the book. For example, I was surprised to find a non-standard (glossy black) R 90 S displayed, considering that the smoke finish of that model was the R90S’s most distinctive feature. The K100; BMW's first new design in 60 years is curiously omitted along with other inconsistencies that shouldn’t exist in a volume of this quality. Thankfully, Gantis and Von Wartenburg pen and lens swoop injust in time to save it. Nolan Woodbury

Foreword by BMW Mobile Tradition's Fred Jakobs, The Art of BMW is available through Motorbooks and retails for $40.00 ($43.95 in Canada).

The Art of BMW

ISBN# 978-0-7603-3315-0

Hardcover 192 pages 143 color photographs