Photo of the book 20th Century Classic Cars (Bloomberg)
Photo of the book 20th Century Classic Cars (Bloomberg)

Stuck at home due to coronavirus? Here are 10 car photography books you can read

If you’re daydreaming about the open road, these beautiful new and classic compendiums will add some inspiration.

Perhaps the most infamous bit of advice about the importance of books comes from John Waters, the American filmmaker and godfather of camp: “If you go home with somebody and they don’t have books, don’t sleep with them!" 

Waters, notorious for his transgressive cult films, used a cruder word for “sleep with," but you get the idea. He had strong feelings about books. 

As do we. As we now find ourselves with more time on our hands than expected, we’re quickly running through the tomes sitting on our shelves. And as we daydream about the freedom of taking weekend trips to drive to more exotic locales, we end up thinking about, well, cars. There could be worse things. 

So here are 10 beautiful new books about cars (and vans and trucks) with which we plan to occupy our time. Here’s to looking—and plotting—for a future purchase. Or escape. 

20th Century Classic Cars

A quirky, handy reference for any apartment or home: the complete collection of car ads from the past century. It’s small enough to hold by hand and extensive enough to hold your attention for hours. As the title description says, “from the populism of the Ford Model T in the 1910s, through the sexy, aspirational cruisers of the 1950s, the quirkiness of the VW Beetle ads in the 1960s, right up to the present day of rugged SUVs and sleek, deluxe sports models." Price: $20

The Impossible Collection of Cars

The book chronicles 100 of the most iconic cars of the 20th century. Standouts such as the 1909 Blitzen Benz and the 1996 McLaren F1 are highlighted for their exceptional design, engineering, and performance. Also featured are vehicles owned by Marlene Dietrich, Ralph Lauren, Greta Garbo, Pablo Picasso, and Elvis Presley. This is for collectors with cash to spare. Price: $895

My Cool Campervan

Volkswagen’s unmistakable T2 camper is just the beginning—there are myriad styles of forgotten camper vans to explore and an idiosyncratic world of individual camper conversions to boot. The owners themselves are the most interesting; in the book they offer road-tripping advice, suggestions for memorable locations, and beautiful photographs of classic models of camper vans. Publish date: May 19 | Price: $14.95

My Cool Caravan

If you’ve ever wanted to exist as a voyeur on all those #vanlife camps, here’s one for you. Carefully chronicled and stylishly shot by London-based photographer Jane Field-Lewis, the caravans included are retro classics as well as mass-produced models from the 1960s onward. Publish date: Sept. 8 | Price: $14.95

My Cool Classic Car: An Inspirational Guide to Classic Cars

Chris Haddon, the longtime designer with a passion for all things retro, includes overlooked and underloved cars in his latest tome, which spans from the 1940s to today. Keep an eye out for the Fiat 500, the Bavarian Goggomobil, the Willys WW2 Jeep, and even the winged Plymouth Belvedere. Some are pristine; some are rusty. None are boring. Publish date: Sept. 8 | Price: $14.95

Lost Wheels: The Nostalgic Beauty of Abandoned Cars

From backyards and fields to forests and desert sheds, the photographs show the decayed beauty of abandoned cars from North America to Europe. Each featured car is identified by year and make, including favorites from Cadillac, Porsche, and Volkswagen. Preorder: available in April | Price: €40 ($43)

IconiCars: Mercedes-Benz 300 SL

Part of TeNeues’s excellent series on iconic cars, the book features 120 photographs of Mercedes-Benz’s most famous, most recognizable model. The photos depict minute details of the steering wheel, wheels, and interiors of the 1950s-era “gullwing" car—and show it shot in iconic places like the Eiffel Tower. (Please note: The limited text is in German. The photos, of course, are universal.) Price: €24.95 

IconiCars: Porsche 911

The longest-running German sports car still in continuous production, the Porsche 911 gets special treatment in this photo book. Alongside American peers the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Corvette, it’s the most recognizable halo car in constant production since the 1960s, so there’s much history to explore. More than 150 photographs chronicle its evolution over the years, including shots of the famous racing cars, 1970s Turbos, and Speedsters. (Please note: The limited text also is in German. The photos, of course, are universal.) Price: €24.94 

Neo Classics

With more than 150 photographs, the book notes the rarest and shortest-run super- and hypercars of modern history, including the Bugatti Chiron, Lamborghini Huracan, and Mercedes-AMG One. Each photo is shot in glowing light and accompanied by explanatory text from Jürgen Lewandowski. (Please note: The text is in both German and English.) Price: €80

Autophoto

A compilation as iconic for the art of photography itself as it is for the love of automobiles, the book shows how cars provided a new medium for many famous and well-established photographers, including William Eggelston, Robert Evans, Yasuhiro Ishimoto, Ed Rushca, and Elliott Erwitt. Created specifically for the photo show at the Fondation Cartier curated by French artist Alain Bublex, it includes a comparative history of automobile design and photography, along with essays by scholars and quotes by participating artists. Copies new and used can be found on Amazon.com. Price, new: $40

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.

Close