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Affordable entry-level automotive history books worth reading

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Back in 1980, Octopus Books Limited of London, England, started publishing a series of single-marque history books on a variety of automobiles. This was the time when the publishing of serious automotive books was finally starting to gain momentum, yet the industry was still in its infancy compared to today’s increasing roster of thoroughly researched books on single models and even notable individual cars of historic importance. But back then, most car books were general in scope. If you’re new to the collector-car hobby and just starting to build a library, but don’t have the finances to buy the big-dollar, three-figure books that are now commonplace, the Great Marques series makes an excellent and worthy addition to anyone’s collection library.

Octopus focused on the most popular European brands, with the four best-selling editions–Alfa Romeo, Bugatti, Ferrari, and Mercedes-Benz–pictured above. The other books in this series were on BMW, Porsche, and MG, with the lone American make being Cadillac. Each was a hardcover book, and unusually large in size at 9 1/2 x 12 3/4 inches. Full color throughout, and with a dust jacket, they were either 80 or 96 pages in length.

The layouts are well designed and loaded with many engaging, professional-quality photos, both past and present. Spec boxes add a touch of quick-read entertainment.

With racing playing a significant role in nearly each of these marques early days, there’s lots of competition history included, along with all the necessary historical information centering on a marque’s production record. And with the authors being some of the best and most knowledgeable experts in their field, the information within is insightful and accurate. The photos are a combination of vintage and modern day (from the ‘80s) with a cross-section highlighting both popular and rarely seen models. Spec boxes are littered throughout each book, with all the pertinent mechanical information of the car being highlighted.

Best of all, they’re cheap to buy. I always see them for sale at Carlisle or Hershey for $5 – $10, and have even found them online for as low as $3.99. These very well may be the best book bargains on the market today!

The Great Marques Books: Ferrari history

Non-English editions were published as well. I bought this French version of the Ferrari book while in France back in the mid-‘80s. Aside from having a different cover photo than the English version, the rest of the book features all the same information and photographs.