Any work or writing that claims to be definitive will probably not be 100% all encompassing. Even if it is somehow definitive for awhile, it will soon be surpassed. Such is my main quibble with the large format, photographic book, Car The Definitive Visual History Of The Automobile.
The book certainly is big. The sumptuous collection of photographs is certainly well worth the MSRP of $40 USD. To make up for the skimpy, sketchy nature of the captions, some car makers are featured in longer write ups. These stories are titled “Great Marques”. Some of the major manufacturers’ histories are outlined in text. The stories are accompanied by larger photos and some shots of car interiors. While the “Great Marques” write ups are welcome, they still leave out much.
This is the sort of book to keep on a coffee table to peruse at leisure. The spirit of the book is largely nostalgic. The exception being the present day, cars of advanced design and technology. If anything, the book is a jumping off point for those who wish to investigate particular car makers in depth.
From the start, the first chapter or era featured steam powered cars. I’d like to know more about the Stanley Steamer. There were numerous builders of internal combustion powered cars, too. A few of the survivors of the early years have their own “Great Marques” featurettes.
The book is remarkable in that it introduced me to several car makes unfamiliar to me. I had no idea so many homely English and European cars were built. There were many that were over represented by numerous entries. Rolls Royce, Bentley, Jaguar, and Austin were among those.
The inclusion of so many Citroens, had me scratching my head. I liked seeing the multitude of Ferarris, but I still think they were over represented, as well. There were far too many race cars on the pages. Most of the examples are rather arcane and should have been covered in a possible volume devoted to racing cars.
In trying to cover everything, very much was left out. Even many highlights didn’t make it. Volkswagen was fairly well covered, but there were too many mentions of Golfs. One tiny mention of the early Passat/Dasher was not enough to include the landmark version of the late 1980s Passat/Quantum Synchro.
Common, everyday sedans were skimmed through, too. I looked all over for a Camry and finally found a highly modified NASCAR racing shell. There were the usual Fords, Chevys, Oldsmobiles and Nissans, but again, not much satisfying detail.
The “futuristic” cars included such models as a quick view of the Prius and “Smart Car”. There was a tiny mention of the Tesla. There were plenty of SUVs and Crossovers, but not much detail about them either. Thankfully, only very few mentions of pickups made the cut. I suppose they’ll have their own coffee table book soon.
If I was in charge of such a project as Car, I’d plan for a multi volume set. Most people with enough interest in automobiles wishing to spend $40 on a picture book will be wanting more detail on specific periods and makes of cars. I would also hire a better layout artist. So many of the photos ran into the center gutter of the book, spoiling the artistry of the images.
That said, despite its large size and scope, Cars left me greatly wanting for more.
Car The Definitive Visual History Of The Automobile DK Publishers London, New York, Melbourne, Munich & Delhi ISBN: 978-0-7566-7167-9
The Blue Jay of Happiness would love to see a Dino Ferrari parked in our garage at home.