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Fifties Flashback: The American Car

Fifties Flashback: The American Car by Dennis Adler
published 1996, 2012 by Crestline Publishing
160 pages, hardcover

ISBN-13: 978-0-7858-2831-0

Purchased new from a book retailer.

Each decade of motorcar manufacture seems to have a personality to it. And when it comes to personality, the cars of 1950s have plenty, full of glitz, glamour and go-go-go! Dennis Adler’s Fifties Flashback: The American Car does a very good job exposing those big glitzy cars with great photos and a wealth of information. He describes not only the vehicles but gives a decent background to describe how these sometimes outlandish behemoths came to exist.

Adler’s first 2 chapters set the stage. The first chapter describes what was happening in the country. The post-war prosperity, the creation of the interstate system, the birth of rock’n’roll, the rise of the motor hotel and the notion of travel throughout the country for pleasure. But Adler also describes an idea that drove automotive design to new heights – planned obsolescence, the idea that the next model should look so great that this year’s model seems old and worn out. The next chapter, Adler fills in the automotive design background. He describes how the immediate post-war years saw warmed over pre-war designs until such time as manufacturers finally introduce the new sleeker, lower cars of the late 1940s and early 1950s.

From there, Adler does a nice job of covering some of the star cars from the ’50s. While the main focus is on the shiny chrome and sheer size of these cars, Adler includes a good amount of information covering performance and engineering, as well as some of the corporate intrigue, how personalities worked together (or didn’t) to steer design in one direction or another. Topics covered in some depth include the development of the GM ‘Dream Cars’ – the 1953 Corvette, Eldorado, Skylark and Fiesta; the engineering of the Ford Skyliner’s retractable metal roof; the development of the Corvette and Thunderbird as competing sports cars; and George Mason’s plan to merge 4 floundering companies to create American Motors.

1953 Oldsmobile Fiesta ‘Dream Car’.
Ford’s Skyliner convertible and Edsel.

Also of note, the book includes a number of quotes and insights from people such as Chuck Jordan, Dave Holls and Jack Telnack. These men were in the thick of automotive design during the 1950s, being directly involved with the development of a numbe rof these vehicles.

As enjoyable as this book is, I did find some things to quibble with.

There seems a bias towards cars made in the latter half of the decade. It’s somewhat understandable as there is a distinct change in styling from that was seen with the 1955 models. As many of the new post-war designs came in 1948-49, it makes sense that the aesthetic would carry on to mid-decade. Adler doesn’t completely ignore the pre-1955 cars – as said, the GM Dream Cars do get quite a bit of ink. But there’s little to see of cars like the 1950-51 Ford, the first Chev Bel Air, or the early 50s Chryslers.

Hudson, Nash, Studebaker and Packard get their due.

Secondly, the Chrysler Corporation seems under-represented. The are not completely ignored, as the 1957 300C, 1957 DeSoto Adventurer and 3 of Exner’s Idea Cars show up. By comparison to the GM and Ford representation though, coverage is lacking. Yes, Chrysler styling prior to 1955 was very stodgy, but there is a real lack of Dodge, Plymouth and Imperial cars. In fact, while the 1957 300C gets a number of paragraphs, there’s nothing about how the famed C-300 came to be in 1955 when an Imperial front end was married up to a New Yorker wearing Windsor rear flanks.

Thirdly, the final chapter focuses on hot rods and customs, and it seems something of an afterthought. It’s a difficult chapter to describe. This book is certainly all about the factory styling, but any discussion about cars in the 1950s would have to include hot rods and customs which had a huge presence. It’s just that hot rodding and custom cars are such a big subject that the chapter seems inadequate. There are some nice cars shown, and the big names like Winfield and Barris and Roth show up, but it just doesn’t seem enough.

Overall, Denis Adler’s Fifties Flashback is a very enjoyable book that provides information and visual appear to drive you to seek out more. It’s really a flashback to a time when chrome was king and the automobile took hold as a major influence on American society.

Pros: good historical context and insider information, lots of great photos
Cons: not much on cars from the early part of the decade, Chrysler seems under-represented
Where to find it: Amazon, ebay, used bookstores, personal collections

The development and competition between the early Corvette and Thunderbird is featured, as well as notes on other sportscars of the era.
Back cover featuring the iconic 1959 Cadillac Eldorado

Automobile Quarterly Volume 7, Number 1

Automobile Quarterly Volume 7, Number 1 edited by
published 1968 by Automobile Quarterly
112 pages, hardcover

Library of Congress number: 62-4005

Acquired from the estate of a friend and fellow ‘car guy’. Currently out of print.

We take a bit of a detour here as we review an edition of Automobile Quarterly. Technically, AQ was a periodical, like a magazine, and for various reasons I want to stick to books as opposed to magazines. But AQ wasn’t really a magazine… it was more like a book that came out 4 times a year.

Automobile Quarterly began in 1962, the editions were hardbound, and further it contained no advertising. It’s subtitle was “The Connoisseur’s Magazine of Motoring Today, Yesterday, and Tomorrow”, and articles covered not just the cars, but the people involved with cars and other subjects related to motoring. The articles weren’t limited to a few pages, and there could be multiple articles relating to one theme.

And so it is with Volume 7 Number 1, the Summer 1968 edition, which really packed some huge names into its pages. Start with 20 pages about legendary champion driver Rudi Caracciola, excerpted from Mercedes racing team manager Alfred Neubauer‘s book Speed Was My Life. Follow that with a number of pages of paintings that recalled moments from Caracciola’s racing career, and then a memoir from Rudi’s wife Alice. Then, Phil Hill (yes, that Phil Hill) gave his impression of the Mercedes SSK, the car Rudi drove in the European Hill Climb Championships. These are not simply articles reciting the acheivements and records of Caratsch (as Caracciola was called). Neubauer and Alice Caracciola remember the man, his life, the determination and skill and pain and suffering of a racing driver. In the days long before the internet, you would have gone well beyond numbers and records and come to know a great deal about one of the pre-war greats in auto racing.

Walter Gotschke’s impressions of Caracciola’s racing career are a visual treat.
Read Champion Phil Hill’s thoughts on the Mercedes SSK.

To be truthful, both Neubauer and Alice paint a scene of European racing as a whole back in the pre-war days. Their remembrances are filled with stories not just about Rudi, but of excitement and honour, dangers and tragedies that was early racing. Both are deeply personal in their memories, but reading the stories one gets a sense of the closeness of the community, the highs and lows of racing in those days.

Changing gears, AQ features a story penned by Dutch. As in, Howard ‘Dutch’ Darrin, famed automotive engineer and designer of custom-bodied cars, known for Packard-Darrins, the Packard Clipper, and the Kaiser Darrin. Darrin regales with stories of how he entered and then left the corporate automotive world, and got into the custom-body business, all the while enjoying quite the life between Paris and America. There are renderings of some of Dutch’s great designs, and a great photo-feature of a Darrin Packard Super 8 Victoria, certainly a rare vehicle to see.

The Darrin Packard Super 8 Victoria.

The issue wraps up focused on Buick. One of the mainstay marques of American production, the story tracks the early beginnings of David Dunbar Buick‘s efforts, turns on the arrival of William Crapo Durant and his success building GM on the foundation of Buick, through to the late 1960s. There’s a significant amount of information about the company and it’s place within General Motors. The focus tends to be mostly on the people managing Buick, and the various financial and structural aspects of the company, especially in the early years. There’s a more cursory description of the cars themselves, the models, pricing and innovations from year to year. All in all though one gets a good insight into the creation of one of the lasting marques of the automotive world. This is followed by a few pages featuring the Buick ‘Bug’, a car that established the marque’s racing credibility.

Durant and Buick, and a handwritten note from Durant’s wife celebrating her husband’s success at the 1905 New York auto show, selling 1108 cars.
Buick for ’53 – Riviera and Skylark

Finally, there’s a wrap up of motorsport activities from the early part of 1968, tracking race results in the major bodies, from Formula 1 to USAC. Included in this particular edition is the record of 3 fatal incidents – World Champion Jim Clark at Hockenheim, Mike Spence at Indianapolis, and Lodovico Scarfiotti at Rossfeldstrasse.

I appreciated the depth of coverage found in AQ. Fully half the book is dedicated to Caracciola, his career and his cars. Yes, the Neubauer excerpt is lengthy, but the variety of perspective then offered by the painted images or early racing, Mrs. Caracciola’s memoir, and exploration of a car Rudi drove makes for a much more interesting portrait. The same may be said for the pages dedicated to Darrin and Buick – interesting and extensive information presented in an enjoyable manner.

Sadly, AQ last published in 2012, and it seems it won’t be coming back. Cliche as it may sound, the proliferation and easy accessibility of content on the internet, coupled with the high and hard costs of publishing a high-quality hardbound printed book pretty much ensure there’d be little chance such a periodical could find an audience that would sustain it. However, it is possible to find used copies, many likely in very good condition. If Volume 7 Number 1 is an indication, any edition of AQ will be an enjoyable trip back in automotive history.

Pros: fairly in-depth look at some of the ‘big’ name in auto history; very good imagery, going beyond simple photos
Cons: at worst, the photos of the Mercedes SSK and Packard are ‘dated’ by comparison to what you might see in current magazines
Where to find it: Available on Amazon, eBay, used bookstores.

Road Hogs: Detroit's Big Beautiful Luxury Performance Cars of the 1960s and 1970s

Road Hogs

Road Hogs: Detroit’s Big Beautiful Luxury Performance Cars of the 1960s and 1970s by Eric Peters
published 2011 by MBI Publishing
160 pages, hardcover

ISBN-13: 978-0-7603-3764-6
ISBN-10: 0-7603-3388-2

Purchased new from a vendor at the Toronto Classic Car Auction

I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, and in those years my parents mostly drove full-size cars from the Big Three. A 1960 Olds 88, a 1964 Chevy Biscayne, then a 1964 Buick Electra 225 2-door and finally a 1976 Mercury Meteor Montcalm. My mom inherited her father’s last car, a 1967 Ford LTD 4-door hardtop, and she drove it until 1985. While I certainly loved Mustangs and Camaros and GTOs as any kid would, I always had a soft spot for the big, floaty full-sizers.

That drew me to Eric Peters’ book Road Hogs. At the time, I didn’t recall seeing many books that really showcased these behemoths. Sure, there were anthologies that covered complete marques, and maybe some books that explored top-line luxury cars. But none that seemed to really celebrate the beasts found in most driveways across North America. And make no mistake, Peters’ book is definitely a celebration of these cars, evidenced by this from the introduction…

Great, glitzy ingots of excess, whitewall tired and landau roofed – their mighty prows bedecked in chrome,
their flanks adorned with inscriptions that read d’Elegance and Brougham
These were cars deserving not merely of names, but titles.

The text is light on technical information – mostly wheelbases, overall lengths, cubic inch and horsepower references. And Peters isn’t actually shy about lamenting, as the 70s became the 80s and then the 90s, how the numbers got smaller and more depressing. Let’s face it, there isn’t enough lipstick to disguise the 4500 lb pigs saddled with 400 cubic inch plants that could barely muster 180 horsepower. There is a reason we know it as ‘The Malaise Era’.

What Peters does is laud the size, the opulence, indeed the excess that these cars embody. Take the title of chapter one, ‘Topless Titans: The Anna Nicole Smiths of the Automotive World’, and the first car featured is the Cadillac Eldorado convertible, probably the most ostentatious production car of the era. Like Anna Nicole the Eldo was glitzy, curvy, it had huge… cubic inches. And Peters outlines how the Caddy and its brethren were the height of plush, luxurious road travel – yards of Corinthian leather… wide sweeping dashboards… pillow-soft suspensions… and gobs of stump-pulling torque to get the lumbering beasts moving.

It doesn’t end with the big convertibles. The next chapter features the top-line sedans like the AMC Ambassador and Ford LTD. He devotes a chapter to the ‘mid-size coupes’, the Monte Carlos and Cordobas which dwarf today’s sedans. Of course, the true luxo-barges are also given their due – the DeVilles, Continentals and Imperials that were truly the biggest and best. Finally, Peters even squeezes in a chapter on the family trucksters – the wagons which today are rare after having been driven into the dust carting America’s future to and fro.

Now as I pointed out in my review of Ford Muscle, I do make note of errors I find when I read a book. And I did unfortunately find a few minor things in Road Hogs – the most egregious being finding a 1958 Chevy being represented as a 1958 Buick (which is a shame – the grille on the 58 Buick is a dazzling sight!) I guess everyone makes mistakes from time to time.

The bottom line on Road Hogs though is, it’s a fun read. Peters’ writing style demonstrates his reverence for these cars, and really the era they originate from. At the same time he is able to accept and even poke some light fun at the deficiencies inherent in what are arguably among the most poorly constructed American cars built. The images are a wonderful mix of original promotional material and contemporary shots of survivor cars. Each car gets a little factoid table to fill in the picture. And while some favourite models may be missing (the Monte Carlo is in, but my Grand Prix isn’t), this book really pays homage to these bloated beasts that so many of us spent so many hours bouncing seatbelt-less in.

Pros: great writing style; large colourful photos; 25 models covered
Cons: minor factual errors; maybe a little light on tech info
Where to find it: Available on Amazon, eBay, used bookstores.

Ford Muscle: Street, Stock and Strip

Ford Muscle: Street, Stock and Strip by Bill Holder and Phil Kunz
published 2004 by Krause Publishing, Inc.
160 pages, softcover

ISBN-10: 0-87349-835-6

Received as a Christmas gift

As someone who grew up as a Ford fan, I had high hopes for this book. It’s a nice size, there’s numerous photos. Flipping through it, the chapters seemed logical. Many of the great Ford models were there. And yet, I was left pretty disappointed overall.

For starters, the book is riddled with design and typographical errors. I am a graphic designer and typesetter by profession, so I am probably more sensitive to these types of errors. Missing spaces, incorrectly aligned paragraphs, stray lines… it tends to look sloppy. It really does affect my enjoyment of a printed book. It also makes me wonder – since it seems no one proofread this book, how much of the information in the book is accurate? Seems there are also a number of factual errors. Let’s look at ‘The Thunderbird’ chapter.

  • uneven word spacing through the chapter, often extra spaces between words
  • the last 10 words on page 23 are repeated as the first 10 words on page 24
  • a picture of an engine appears twice – once as an inset and labelled a 430, and on the next page by itself labelled as a 390
  • the caption under what is clearly a 1974-76 Thunderbird refers to it as a 1972
  • the caption under a 1967-69 Thunderbird refers to it as a 1966
  • the text states the Thunderbird was available with a supercharged 3.8L V6 in 1983, but no supercharger was available until the 1989 Super Coupe (the 1980s V6 had no power adder)
  • an image of a 1980-82 Thunderbird has a caption that says “The Thunderbird was downsized in the 1990s”, which had actually been happening since the late 1970s (the 1977-79 Tbird dropped 10 inches and 900 pounds from the 1972-76, and the 1980-82 dropped another 17 inches and 1400 pounds still)
  • arguably an error in content, while the text discusses the heavy cruiser Thunderbirds of the 1970s to some extent, it virtually ignores the Turbo Coupe and Super Coupe of the 1980s and 1990s, which were much more performance oriented.

Stylistically, I found the book somewhat awkwardly written. Thunderbird and Galaxie follow chronographic style, summarizing a year or 2 of the car. The next chapter, Mustang, does not follow this format. Generally chronological at the start, the focus turns to specialty models, the Boss 302 and 429 of 1969-70, and the Boss 351 of 1971 (though they are arranged as Boss 302, Boss 351, Boss 429). Then follows the Shelby Mustangs of 1965-1970, and then paragraphs about Pace Car Editions. Funny enough, very little is shown of the Fox-body Mustangs, widely seen as a rebirth of Mustang performance. Mustangs of 1994-2003 appear in a much later chapter about ‘Modern Muscle’. The writing style is also somewhat juvenile, sprinkled with exclamation points and mild ‘fan boy’ feeling.

Now, there are some good qualities about this book. It is really fairly well organized into chapters about specific models – Thunderbird, Galaxie, Mustang, Cyclone, Cougar etc. And generally, there’s a lot of decent information that is correct, from technical information to notes about styling to product development and racing history, even if it’s somewhat mixed all together. The racing coverage even includes some powerboat racing and notable Fords such as the Bigfoot monster truck. There are many good quality photos throughout. And, despite earlier criticism, there are chapters on Ford advertising and Ford-centered car clubs which are a little incongruous with the rest of the book, but I found were nice to read.

For the knowledgeable fan, someone who has owned and driven Fords especially, this book will probably disappoint. But, for someone who might have a budding interest in cars, especially old Fords, this can be a good stepping-stone book to begin educating and expanding their base.

Pros: covers a number of models; good pictures; interesting ads and club information
Cons: numerous factual, stylistic and typographic errors; inconsistent flow
Where to find it: Available on Amazon, eBay, used bookstores.

American Cars of the 1960s

IMG_1279American Cars of the 1960s by The Auto Editors at Consumer Guide
published 2010 by Publications International Limited
320 pages, hardcover

ISBN-10: 1-4508-0641-1
ISBN-13: 978-1-4508-0641-1

Purchased new (2013) at Chapters in store.

Remember when Mad Men debuted, and people got all caught up in the early 1960s again? The look, that slick Kennedy-era/Madison Avenue polish. While the television show was more about the characters than the industry they work in, there are glimpses of how the ad game worked then, and the automobile figured quite prominently in the series.

American Cars of the 1960s is a book is filled with the colour and energy of 1960s automobile advertising imagery at its best. It is comprised of images taken directly from the manufacturers’ brochures and magazine advertising. Each marque is grouped alphabetically, and then follows a year-after-year format, which is great for seeing how American automotive styling progressed through the 60s. It also shows how advertising was changing.

Brochures and ads heavy on illustrations in the early ’60s
evolved into more realistic photo-based pieces…

Some very recognizable auto ad artwork make appearances. The Pontiac section contains numerous pieces of Art Fitzpatrick’s iconic ‘Wide-Track’ work. Plymouth was out to ‘win you over’. You might catch a case of Dodge Fever. And you’ll be asked “Wouldn’t you really rather have a Buick?”

It is important to note that this book includes images of three marques that ceased production during the decade. The last of Desoto, Edsel and Studebaker are found in these pages. Also interesting is to see how as the decade progressed, the Rambler name, once prominent in ads, is replaced by AMC.

It’s easy to see the allure of the images on these pages. Luxury cars in country club settings. Station wagons full of camping gear and picnic baskets. Personal coupes, sports cars and convertibles parked near golf courses and marinas. Images specifically created to lure you off your couch and into the showroom (hopefully a couple times in the decade) to trade your jalopy in on Detroit’s newest, shiniest, more powerful creation. Light on text and hard information, but heavy on colourful pictures, this book transports you back to when magazine ads and brochures did their best to sell you all the excitement and glamour of new cars in the 1960s.

This book is really just a lot of fun to flip through and soak up.

IMG_1282

1962 Chevrolet

IMG_1283

1964 Mercury

IMG_1280

1966 Chrysler

IMG_1281

1967-68 Lincoln

Pros: filled with colourful, original advertising artwork and photos
Cons: little in the way of substantial information
Where to find it: Amazon, ebay, retail booksellers (traditional and online)

Famous Old Cars

Famous Old Cars: An Album of Automobile Classics by Hank Wieand Bowman
published 1978 by Arco Publishing Company, Inc.
96 pages, softcover

ISBN-10: 0668005971

Acquired from the estate of a friend and fellow ‘car guy’. Currently out of print.

Let’s start with an important note here… my edition of Famous Old Cars is actually a fourth printing, and the book was originally published in 1957. And it’s in this context the book must be taken. Bowman’s focus is almost exclusively pre-WWII, cars the Classic Car Club of America would call Classics. Automobiles that are known and revered, even if the companies that created them have long faded into history.

The difference between the classic automobile and the automobile classic, or famous old car, may sound like so much double talk, but a definite distinction does exist.
Famous Old Cars

That distinction would seem to be the difference between a Ford Model A and a Lincoln Model K, or a Plymouth and a Packard. The automobile classic embodies style, performance and is recognizable as among the best of its time.

So what cars does the author feature? Eight chapters present the pre-1940 cars of eight marques: Auburn, Cadillac and LaSalle, Chrysler, Cord, Duesenberg, Lincoln, Packard and Pierce-Arrow. Truly these are some of the best-known and greatest automobiles of the era. Though each chapter only spans about 8 pages, it’s packed with information ranging from pricing, styling, mechanical specifications, performance and options through the years, as well as background information about the companies themselves. The final 2 chapters cover off 12 further American manufacturers and 14 European brands in a more brief fashion, including Stutz, Mercer, Locomobile, Rolls-Royce, Lancia, Delahaye, Mercedes-Benz and more.

page spread from the chapter ‘Pierce-Arrow’.

I really enjoyed this book. Bowman does an excellent job describing what are among the most revered motorcars created… V16 Cadillacs and Duesenberg Js and Cord 810s and Chrysler Imperial Eights.

But one must remember to read this work in context. The pictures are fairly clear but they are in black and white only. The writing style is definitely dated, very much out of the 1950s, as the following might illustrate…

Maybe the Auburns weren’t very costly in their day, but if you think
they were all floss and appearance, just try to stick with a blown Speedster
some day on a super highway with your new Detroit job.”

Keep in mind that the ‘new Detroit job’ would be something along the lines of cars now defined as among the most recognizable of classic cars, perhaps a 1957 Bel Air or a 1955 Chrysler C-300. In fact, the author speaks to the point that, in 1957 ‘production line cars take on more and more similarity of appearance and mechanical design’. The author may not completely dismiss the new cars of his time, but there is a definite sense that for his buck, the latest offerings will never approach the style or stature of the true Classics. It’s a lament often heard today. Despite this book being very ‘1950s’, in many ways it shows the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Still, at the end of the day this is a great little book that provides a great overview of some Classics that few of us actually encounter in the wild. And there’s an added benefit, as we get a glimpse of one facet of the car collecting hobby as it was 60 years ago, when these famous old cars were still relatively young.

Pros: lots of pictures, lots of varied information including pricing and engineering facts
Cons: only black-and-white photos, reads as a little dated, somewhat condensed European section
Where to find it:
used bookstores, private collections, estate sales, eBay, Amazon

Illustrated Camaro Buyer’s Guide

Illustrated Camaro Buyer's Guide coverIllustrated Camaro Buyer’s Guide by Michael Antonick
published 1985 by Motorbooks International Publishers and Wholesalers, Inc.
160 pages, softcover

ISBN-10: 0879381876

Purchased new in store from Coles Books Stores (Canada). Significantly updated in 1994. Out of print.

In the mid-1980s I was starting to shop around for my first car. Being a teenaged car guy, I considered an old Camaro as a very cool option. I’d been reading Car Craft and Hot Rod for years, but I wanted information about what the car was like new, and what I might find as a typical used car. I wanted to know as much as I could about Camaros. Michael Antonick’s Illustrated Camaro Buyer’s Guide fit the bill.

Antonick has written quite a number of Camaro and Corvette books. He is regarded as an expert on Chevrolet’s top performance cars. The books he has authored have been written to be the go-to reference books when it comes to Camaros and Corvettes.

The Illustrated Camaro Buyer’s Guide is filled with good information. The introduction, which reads a lengthy 11 pages, covers how the Camaro was developed, where the market for the Camaro as a ‘collector car’ was at the time, and offers advice on finding a good, used Camaro.

Most important was the car, and the 1967 Camaro was an instant hit.
Illustrated Camaro Buyer’s Guide

Like other recently reviewed books, Antonick follows a very simple, logical format with chapters broken out to cover specific model years. Each of the early years (1967-73) gets its own chapter, while later models are grouped as 1974-77, 1978-81 and 1982-85. Production numbers are quoted, and a simple ‘investment rating’ indicates what would be seen as the best bets in terms of collectibility and value.

Each chapter is filled with information that motorheads live for. Things like how the SS-only nose stripe proved so popular that by March 1967 Chevrolet turned it into a regular option available on any Camaro. Or that functional cowl induction and heat extractor scoops were added to the 1980 Z/28. And the codes… those fabulous General Motors RPOs. Antonick provides tables for each year with the factory paint colour codes and the regular production order (RPO) numbers (including the pricing). The best known code of course is Z28 – Special Performance Package, but everything, down to a $3.20 visor mirror (code D34, 1970) had an order code. For someone restoring or buying a car, these codes are a fantastic resource.

Now, much of this information is readily available on the internet. But Antonick’s book puts everything together nicely. Further, while there’s lots of factory GM photography used, the author has included a large number of his own photos to show detail. Granted, the photos are all black and white, and that will disappoint some readers. However, the photos are crisp and provide a great complement to the text.

typical page spread in Illustrated Camaro Buyer's Guide

While the pictures aren’t much to look at, the model specifications and options lists for each year are valuable resources.

At the time of this review, Antonick’s first edition of the Illustrated Camaro Buyer’s Guide is 30 years old. It holds up very well, although it’s easy to see it is outdated. The valuations given reflect 1985 pricing, and the collector car hobby was very different. There was no 4-day television coverage of auctions like Barrett-Jackson and most people still felt the performance cars worth any respect were last built before 1973, and that anything coming after was just a used car, and not a very good one. Obviously, there’s no information on post-1985 Camaros, which are now also becoming collectibles.

As a snapshot of the car-collector hobby in the mid-1980s, this book does provide an interesting perspective. The oldest Camaro hadn’t turned 20 yet, and only the rarest, big-cube/high-rev cars seemed to be regarded as ‘investment-grade’. It’s a different landscape today, as even the sub-200hp, early 1980’s Z28s are regarded as “cool toys for Hollywood stars“.

For the average enthusiast, one could take a pass on this book. Even for the hardcore Camaro fan, the out-of-date pricing information and limited model year coverage means this edition has been surpassed by later books, including some by the author himself. Still, if you find it for a couple bucks at a garage sale, it’s worth picking up.

Pros: Detailed information, sound car-buying advice that holds up today
Cons: Dated pricing info, no colour photos
Where to find it: Amazon, used book stores, estate sales

Note – the third edition of this book was published in 1994, and as such would contain information on a larger number of Camaros.