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“This is a nice book,” I said as I leafed through The BMW Century. “Very befitting one of the world’s great automakers.” Like the cars, the book is well constructed from premium materials, telling the story of and celebrating the Bavarian company’s first century. And if any book could perform as well as an M Series car, The BMW Century would be it.
The BMW Century, 2nd Edition
The BMW Century, now in its second edition, was written by Tony Lewin, an editor for and contributor to Automotive News Europe. In addition to The BMW Century, Lewin has written a host of other titles for Motorbooks, including How to Design Cars Like a Pro, The Complete Book of BMW, and Speed Read: Car Design.
In just 240 pages, Lewincovers the company’s history in depth. And to make matters more interesting, the whole book is stuffed full of great images! So 240 pages to cover 100 years is not a lot of room to include all those cars.
Motorcycles & Airplanes
Oops, did I say cars? That’s only partially accurate as TheBMW Century handles both the vehicles and motorcycles built by BMW, and it does so in order. Lewin starts at the beginning and, year by year, takes us to the present day for BMW. It makes The BMW Century a bit of a twofer of a book. If you’re a car guy or gal, you get some cool extra bike content you weren’t bargaining on, and vice versa.
Oh, and planes. Lewin begins by covering how BMW initially made aircraft engines, an excellent place to start if you want to make power plants for either cars or motorcycles that weigh less and output more.
Photo gallery from The BMW Century by Tony Lewin, published by Motorbooks. Photos: BMW AG Press Club/BMW Press Archive.
World War II Years
The next thing you realize as you are reading is how Lewin has taken us from the 1916 founding of the company up to the 1930s when things really got going. It’s interesting to note here that although BMW made some outstanding cars in the Pre-War Era (the 328 Roadster, for example), their bikes put them on the map (think of Pre-War BMW like Honda before the Civic).
TheBMW Century does mention the war years in Chapter 5, War and Postwar, but it’s mainly a quick gloss over and onto the 1950s. I don’t blame Lewin, but the whole vibe of that chapter is, “The war was hard. All our plants got bombed. It was a struggle.” Of course, BMW was complicit up to its neck in the happenings of Nazi Germany, as even a cursory reading of history will show.
BMW In The 1970s
The years leading up to approximately the 1970s are coved in a very business-oriented way by Lewin. That’s fitting, but it’s very illuminating as well. BMW had to go from a barely breathing business entity to a fully functioning and profitable global automaker, and that was anything but easy.
Essentially, it boils down to some critical factors that still serve BMW (and Mercedes-Benz) well today; they have always been an engineering-based outfit run by pragmatic and skilled individuals. That’s how we get from a BMW Isetta bubble car in the 1950s to an “Oh mein Gott, halte durch!” BMW M3 20 years later.
As an Amazon Associate, Automoblog earns from qualifying purchases.
The BMW Century showcases how the company’s visionary team systematically rebuilt BMW post-World War II.
Illustrated with hundreds of historical, contemporary, and racing photographs, many sourced from BMW’s archives.
Author Tony Lewin is a writer and editor for Automotive News Europe and launched several pioneering works for The Financial Times. His other books include How to Design Cars Like a Pro and The Complete Book of BMW.
An Excellent Gift
The BMW Century works in a whole slew of ways. If you want a coffee table book, it’s that. If you want a true BMW enthusiast’s book, it works as that, too. If you want a BMW motorcycle book, it’s got you covered. If you know anybody who is a gearhead in general or a BMW fan in particular, The BMW Century would make a great gift. They’ll unwrap it and say, “This is a nice book.” I know I sure did.
As of this writing, new and used copies of The BMW Century are available on Amazon. To learn more about Lewin and some interesting facts about BMW, listen to his appearance on the Cars Yeah podcast with Mark Greene.
Longtime Automoblog writer Tony Borroz has worked on popular driving games as a content expert, in addition to working for aerospace companies, software giants, and as a movie stuntman. He lives in the northeast corner of the northwestern-most part of the Pacific Northwest.