Great German Cars by Peter Robert’s
Published 1985 by Multimedia Publications (UK) Ltd.
ISBN: 0 8317 3988 6
Acquired in a lot of books from a bookstore liquidation.
Recent reviews have showcased a number of books acquired from a closed bookstore. These books start to make my library a little more well-rounded, expanding to British and Italian marques, racing, and biographies of prominent figures in automotive history. Today’s book is an introduction to Great German Cars, many of which are very well known.
Off the top, this book is somewhat comparable to Jaguar: A Pictorial History and Great Marques: Ferrari. It’s oversized, same page count as the Ferrari book, and leans heavily on pictures. Rather than a chronological run of models (seen in the Jaguar book), or grouped models (Ferrari), this book comprises 20 marques arranged alphabetically.
Wait… 20? Many folks can come up with 5 German automakers, perhaps a sixth if they think hard. That’s fair, as the other 14 marques featured are generally long defunct, historic parts of the German auto industry. Certainly the lion’s share of space is devoted to Mercedes (20 pages), BMW (10), Porsche (10), Opel (8), Audi and VW (4 pages each). Everyone else gets 2 pages. And really, with each page predominantly pictures, the writing is brief throughout.
Without dragging it out too much, it’s a nice little introductory book, a quick read with some really nice photos. That’s not to say there isn’t anything to learn on these pages. For example, I knew that Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler had independently created the world’s first automobiles powered by internal combustion engines, Benz in 1885, Daimler months later in 1886. But this little book informed me that a) the two inventors worked about 60 miles from each other and b) they never met, even though after their deaths, their respective companies merged to form Daimler-Benz (now Daimler AG).
Similarly, I can’t say I was really familiar Borgward, Durkopp, Rumpler, or many of the older marques. In fact at times I forget that NSU sold a car powered by the Wankel rotary engine in its Spider. So these brief features showed me something I wasn’t aware of until I got this little book.
As this is a book about German cars, and the history of the German auto industry, it should be noted that there are references to the Nazi regime. As with everything else here, the references are brief.
Of course, there is also much missing from this little book. The Volkswagen chapter features only Beetles, with only written reference to cars like the Rabbit, Scirocco or Golf (and nothing of the Karmann Ghia, Sportback or vans). The Porsche chapter features famous racers like the 917, but only a single image of the 356. No 2002s appear for BMW and is mentioned briefly, the 507 is completely absent. And there’s no mention of the Opel GT, which is probably better known in North America. I am not sure if my North American bias enters into it, as perhaps the models I am missing were simpoly not very known or popular in Europe and Britain (Britain being where this book originates).
In the end, what does it mean? Well, the lot of books I got this in numbered 8 and I paid $5 a book. For that cost, there’s some decent information and a few good pictures. But, as you’d imagine, 20 automakers in under 100 pages means there isn’t going to be a lot to see. The Jaguar and Ferrari books were far more informative, and I thought those were fairly brief.
If you found Great German Cars in a box at a yard sale, sure, maybe grab it for a buck. Leaf through it with your grandkid, let them grow an interest in cars. But don’t expect great things from this book.
Pros: very good photos
Cons: not really much in the way of writing; short book means though photos are very good, they show a very limited selection of models
Where to find it: used books stores, Amazon, yard sales