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Petrol Pages: 10 Essential Automotive Books

Every man’s library should consist of great books. Of course, regardless of how many classics you’ve read, if you’re a devotee of automobilia, your shelves should also house some truly great car books.

Bring a napkin to wipe the drool off the pages

Every man’s library should consist of great books. Of course, regardless of how many classics you’ve read, if you’re a devotee of automobilia, your shelves should also house some truly great car books. Though it’s not nearly as good as mashing the throttle on some of the most legendary cars in the world, pouring over vivid imagery and immersing yourself in the pages of automotive history, engineering and design can be pulse-quickening. We take a look at some of the best automotive books around in hopes that you’ll get your hands on some of them, park yourself in a comfy chair and spend a weekend afternoon imagining the sights, sounds and smells of great motoring.

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The Complete Book of Corvette: Every Model Since 1953

With the arrival of the stunning C7, it’s time to look at the Corvette’s marvelous heritage. The iconic American supercar is described and photographed thoroughly in these pages, including in-depth coverage of the first six models, from the curvy 1953 C1 to the ultra-capable C6, which just exited the limelight to make way for the new Stingray. In addition to covering the mainstream models, the book covers prototypes and experimental versions like the XP-892. (named the ‘Two Rotor’ for its twin-Wankel engine.) The book has been licensed by Chevrolet and includes original photographs directly from Chevy, so you know it’s the authoritative publication on the subject. Most importantly, you can see how far the Corvette has come over the decades, and why it’s here to stay.

Buy Now: $11

Go Like Hell: Ford, Ferrari, and Their Battle for Speed and Glory at Le Mans

If you regularly use the words “Ford” and “Ferrari” in the same sentence, you’re probably alone, except when it comes to talking about the raging battle between the two titans of the Le Mans tarmac in the ’60s. Ferrari was crushing everybody, and Enzo was the lone ruler — that is, until Henry Ford II decided to build his own automotive powerhouse to dethrone Il Commendatore. That legendary American race car came in the form of the mad GT40, and the rest is the stuff of auto racing legend. Go Like Hell goes in depth to tell the tale of the bloody, oily warfare that ensued in the dangerous world of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the most grueling car race in the world. This book features Henry and Enzo, toe-to-toe, and all of the glorious racing history from two ends of the ocean.

Buy Now: $11

The DeLorean Story: The Car, the People, the Scandal

This book is less about Marty McFly and more about the demise of both the DMC-12 and its creator, John DeLorean. Written by a DeLorean executive, The DeLorean Story tells a sad tale about what could have been a truly great car, if not for its driving dynamics then for its unique design and materials. The beautiful gullwing doors, the Giorgetto Giugiaro-designed stainless steel body, and the nearly flat profile made for a truly remarkable car. A few short years after starting production, only 9,000 cars were produced and the company went under. Amid accusations of fraud and drug smuggling, DeLorean more or less disappeared from the automotive scene, unable to salvage his soiled reputation. Never before seen photographs and detailed inside information make for a fascinating read about an iconic car and a tragic character from car history.

Buy Now: $20

Formula 1: All the Races – 2nd Edition: The World Championship Story Race-By-Race: 1950-2012

If all you can remember about Formula 1 is Michael Schumacher, here’s your chance to bone up. This book covers all of Formula 1’s 858 races — from the race’s inception in 1950 through 2012 — in minutiae-rich detail. Nothing is spared as the book walks through qualifying races to the checkered flag. The intense driver and team rivalries, as well as per chance occurrences that dictated final race results also show up. Both F1 newbies and die hards will enjoy the vivid pages and words that capture one of the most exciting car races in the world.

Buy Now: $36

Form Follows Function: The Art of the Supercar

Everybody (except for die-hard hippies) loves supercars. We’ve driven them, so we know first-hand what the hype is all about. In Form Follows Function, illustrious automotive photographer James Mann captures twenty saliva-inducing supercars in vivid color. Every car is beautifully photographed against a plain black background, putting the focus on the glorious machines instead of on distractions. Many of the great brands are represented here, including Aston Martin, Bugatti, Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati. History, design commentary and technical specifications are also provided, so the book is more than just a visual feast — it’s some of the best car porn this side of your high school locker.

Buy Now: $27

Drive On!: A Social History of the Motor Car


L.J.K. Setright was a legend for his combination bespoke and ZZ Top fashion sense, as well as for his exhaustive car knowledge. His 2002 book, Drive On! is one of the most entertaining automotive reads you’ll ever have the pleasure of reading. It covers the car’s influence, one decade at at time, on society and culture and vice versa. The late Mr. Setright also includes unique insights on automotive technology, as well as more obscure topics like car term origins and automotive fashion. On the spectrum of fun reads, it’s probably the exact opposite of your owner’s manual.

Buy Now: $57

The Ferrari Book

In this book, famed auto photog and artist Gunther Raupp does more than just provide a slew of red hot Ferrari photos — he makes a true collector’s item for Ferraristi and car lovers everywhere and reinforces the reason why he’s been the official Ferrari calendar shutterbug since 1984. His use of photo effects and backlighting showcase both timeless and modern Ferrari designs in a truly captivating coffee table book.

Buy Now: $88

Porsche – Origin of the Species

This book by author and car historian Karl Ludvigsen and photographer Michael Furman focuses on a single Porsche: Jerry Seinfeld’s Porsche Gmünd coupe 356/2-040. It covers the 356’s undeniable influence on the 911 and all of Porsche design for decades, as well as the inspiration for its unique design that has stood the test of time above and beyond any automobile in history. In fact, just about the only thing it doesn’t cover is why we’re jealous of comedians with garages full of the world’s greatest automobiles.

Buy Now: $80

Mustang: Fifty Years: Celebrating America’s Only True Pony Car

Though no one really knows what the next generation Ford Mustang will look like, there’s no mistaking Mustangs of the past. The original Pony Car, which took form in 1964, has remained a key member in the Ford stable for half a century. Originally intended to be a four-seat sports car for young drivers, the Mustang fan-base knows no age range. This celebratory book displays 400 photos and details on every Mustang model — including special editions such as the Super Cobra Jet and the Boss 429 — in such a way as to make you proud to be an American. The car’s unbroken line of production history speaks to the world’s love affair with the iconic muscle car. No one, however, explains how a snake and a horse can coexist in the same space.

Buy Now: $36

Lamborghini 50

In 2013, Lambo celebrated its 50th anniversary. In order to commemorate the monumental occasion, the Italian automaker collected an elite group of people to cover Lamborghinis remarkable history. Their final project, Lamborhini 50, covers Lambo and the men behind the company, as well as Lambo’s impressive automotive technology, cutting edge design and Lamborghini in cinema. Imagery from each and every Lamborghini car, from the Miura to the Countach to the Sesto Elemento, showcase the mystique of Lamborghini and the house that Ferruccio built.

Buy Now: $51

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