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Objects of Desire: Car Books of the 1970s

There's something I just love about car books of the 1970s.  They are often just packed so densely with archival photos and detailed history, plus the layout design is often really cool. They usually have a great old-book smell, too.  I think the 70s was the golden age of car publishing, when printing technology was good enough to make affordable books with tons of high quality photos (many 1960's books have lousy printing quality, especially in color), and when the market really was open -for whatever reason- to geeky books about automotive arcania.  The historians of the 70s took their job seriously, and fortunately for us, the protagonists of the 20 century's motoring history tended to still be alive and accessible in that era, providing a lot of great first-hand accounts of racing and automotive history which are increasingly hard to obtain today now that folks are dying off, or just tired of being interviewed.

In today's landscape of auto books, things have increasingly polarized.  At one end are the high-end glossy art books with stellar photography, beautiful layout and mind-blowing printing quality, but often light on substance. Then there are the car geek books full of B/W photos and chassis numbers, but these usually are written by passionate amateurs and hobbyists for small imprints, and have low standards of layout and printing. Many of the color photos will be taken by the author at historic racing meets, and aren't of high artistic quality. It's rare in today's book market to see a book like those from the 70s that combines all the best of historical rigor and depth, great photography and layout, all in a beautiful and satisfying package.  Fortunately for all of us, such special books are still being produced from time to time, and we'll have a review of one next week! Stay tuned!

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Reader Comments (4)

Technology has ruined the art form of creating a paced narrative, modulated by a skillful hand. It reminds me of that old saying about the internet being the reader digest of the news.
And today, I don't even think it's that – it's probably somewhere near a sticky note.

Welcome to the Michael Bay era.

ps. I liked TF3.. though I wouldn't have clap at the ending.. unlike the other people in the theater.

July 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMichael K.

you have such a great collection of books, man!!! seeing your photo just reminds me that i still need to buy that damn Maserati book!

July 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commentersyed

I couldn't agree more, so here's a tip... look for books written for the publisher "Automobilia" and you won't be disappointed... they are full of geeky stuff, great photos, proper reportage and lovely design, some even being so big that they need to be spead over volumes. The best author is Bruno Alfieri; his are always the most saught after. You can find them occasionally on ebay, but a great site is this one: (I make no apologies for the amount of money your are about to spend)


Other than that, I recently bought all special editions and issues 0-12 of CarStyling, a wonderful Japanese magazine, now unfortunately stopped. Sooooo damn cool! Issue 12 has the design review of the Bertone Lamborghini Bravo, one of my favourites!


Or you could try to look for Style Auto, and Italian Car-as-Architecture (all designers in italy were formally architects, hence association) publication. I recently manged to FINALY get my hands on a hardbound issue 27 (1971) which has design reviews of Bertone Stratos Zero, Italdesign Tapiro, and Pininfarina Modulo all together with their respective section/package drawings. Awesome.


July 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Beasley

Thanks for the tips, man!
I have a huge pile of Car Styling Magazine in my house. Mostly from the 80s and 90s. One of my favorites was a special issue devoted to Luigi Colani!

July 26, 2011 | Registered CommenterBradley Price

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