These classic car coffee table books will transport you back in history to when the car was the king of the road. With curves, lines, and contours, the starting point for every automotive designer.
The motorcar first took to the road in 1885. And although some car manufacturers are still going strong today, there are many whose heritage you can only find in museums or as part of a personal collection.
In the automobile industry’s early days, all cars were laboriously hand-built by craftsmen. While mechanization revolutionized the assembly line, some car manufacturers managed to produce such exquisitely designed and executed vehicles to guarantee their place in automotive history.
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1. The Classic Cars Book
Revised Edition 2016
Packing 304 pages like the original, this book is a more manageable, smaller format edition of Lewandoski and Staud’s 2014 master class in classic cars.
As always, Staud’s ability to capture every curve and nuance of yesterday’s automotive favorites is impeccable. Lewandoski’s text is authoritative and readable and complements Staud’s photographs of automotive classics shot against a backdrop of contrasting settings.
With a compelling cover photo and content printed on high-quality art paper, this book is a page-turnable favorite for classic car enthusiasts everywhere.
Hardcover: 304 pages
2. A Man & His Car: Iconic Cars and Stories from the Men Who Love Them
Published 2020 / #1 Best Seller
If most coffee table books win their place based on their cover photo, ‘A Man & His Car’ would perhaps get overlooked. And to do this would be a great pity.
Within the book’s 240 pages, author Matt Hranek’s photographs feature the beloved cars of the stars. What’s more, he allows owners to share their four-wheeled love affairs in their own words, and it’s a format that gives a unique feel to the book.
Former professional basketball player and rapper Shaquille O’Neal talks of his obsession with trucks. Meanwhile, actor Ed Burns waxes lyrically about the 1969 Oldsmobile Cutlass he always dreamed of owning during his days of pumping gas. Jay Leno’s sentimental recollection of the 1955 Buick Roadmaster he called home as a fledgling comic is well worth the cover price alone.
Hardcover: 240 pages
3. Art of the Classic Car
Nothing draws the reader in like a well-executed detail photograph of a pre-war classic. Harholdt’s photograph of a 1920’s Mercedes on the cover of Art of the Classic car provides a tantalizing glimpse of what’s to come within the pages.
This stunning publication focuses on cars built during 1910–1940 and features the ultra-rare and restored classics that defined an automotive era dominated by luxury and art.
Author Peter Bodensteiner does a fine job of supplying sufficient text to place the cars within their historic timeline while taking nothing away from the stunning photography.
Although covering a specific timeframe, if you are searching for only one classic car book to grace your coffee table, this is the one!
Hardcover: 224 pages
4. Classic Cars Review: The Best Classic Cars on the Planet
Journalist and author Michael Brunnbauer is responsible for producing a book rich in magnificent photography and masterful archive shots. Featured within its 300+ luxurious pages is a comprehensive selection of well-presented vintage cars.
This opulent coffee table book celebrates the classic car and showcases such icons as the Aston Martin DB5, Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing, and the Rolls-Royce Phantom III.
Brunnbauer includes coverage of exhibitions and competitions, including Italy’s Mille Miglia, the Goodwood Festival of Speed, and California’s Pebble Beach Concourse d’Elegance. Here, he manages to capture the atmosphere, respect, and enthusiasm these rare and beautiful cars demand.
An entertaining read, and a visual treat, this book is as elegant as the vintage cars it features.
Hardcover: 304 pages
5. The Classic Car Book
Author Giles Chapman is one of the best car journalists around. The reoccurring theme in the prodigious number of books he’s authored and edited is the engaging and exciting style he writes. Acting as editor in chief for ‘The Classic Car Book,’ his influence is ever-present. The format is highly readable and provides a wealth of information without being overly formal.
He showcases the best of British, America’s finest, and classic gems from Europe and beyond. A great deal of work has gone into the book’s eye-catching layouts, with plenty of detail and photos.
Be warned, though, this book won’t stay on your coffee table for long as you and your guests will be too busy thumbing through its pages.
Hardcover: 319 pages
6. Million Dollar Classics: The World’s Most Expensive Cars
For the rich and famous, classic cars are a must-have. As the title suggests, ‘Million Dollar Classics’ is a unique look at 50 of the world’s most sought-after vintage and classic cars ever to reach the auction block. Each featured car achieving a seven-figure sum and, in the majority of cases, far beyond.
Martin Derrick’s text which accompanies the detailed photography of specialist automobile photographer Simon Clay, relays the history and story behind each dream car.
‘Million Dollar Classics’ featuring some of the most sought-after cars in the world, is an impossible-to-put-down coffee table book in every sense of the word.
Hardcover: 192 pages
7. Classic Cars: A Century of Masterpieces
This hardcover masterpiece covers classic cars from the early 1930s through to the new millennium’s dawn. It is perfect in achieving its purpose of highlighting the metal masterpieces to grace each decade.
The book leads with the Alfa Romeo 6C Gran Sport, a car as successful on the track as it was popular on the street. And it concludes with the high-performance and brooding Lamborghini Diablo.
Simon de Burton’s synopsis of each featured classic car includes technical details, cost when new, and engaging anecdotes from famous owners.
The foreword is supplied by Robert Coucher, editor of Octane magazine.
Hardcover: 324 pages
8. Ferrari 70 Years
Award-winning author, historian, and photographer Dennis Adler is one of America’s most published automotive writers. Adler is considered a classic car expert across the board but judging from this book, it’s clear that his favorite make of car bears the symbol of the prancing stallion.
Adler highlights the stand-out models from amongst a stellar collection of iconic vehicles covering seven decades. He also features Enzo Ferrari’s time at Alfa Romeo spent as a fledgling race manager.
The foreword is by former Ferrari racer Luigi Chinetti Jr along with many outstanding photographs taken of the Ferrari in its natural habitat, out on the road.
Hardcover: 320 pages
9. Classic American Cars: An Illustrated Guide
For author and hot rod and vintage car fan Craig Cheetham, this book is a labor of love.
Cheetham’s text covers big, bold, and beautiful American automobiles from the 1920s onwards and brings every model’s history and development milestones to life.
From the 1920’s supercharged Auburn Speedster’s sensual curves to the indestructible Willys Jeep, the text is accompanied by 1000+ specially commissioned color photographs, additional facts, and eye-catching graphics.
If classic four-wheeled Americana floats your boat, this in-depth, colorful, and fact-filled book will be a favorite atop your coffee table.
Hardcover: 320 pages
10. The Science of Supercars: The Technology that Powers the Greatest Cars in the World
This book has it all, from Karl Benz’s groundbreaking three-wheeled Motrwagen to the jaw-dropping beauty and technology of the Bugatti Chiron.
Classic car fans that have ever wondered how science, engineering, and Art influenced some of the world’s most outrageous sports cars will find this a coffee table must.
Pictures, diagrams, and illustrations help the text explain and describe the brain-aching science in understandable terms. Together with interviews from prominent name designers and engineers, from Bugatti, McLaren, and Lamborghini, this is a book that is impossible to put down.
The foreword is by Formula One driver David Coulthard, and the book ends with technological challenges facing future supercar designers.
Hardcover: 224 pages
11. The Ferrari Book: Passion for Design
If you only have space on your coffee table for one classic car book, this may be the one. Let’s face it, at a colossal 416 pages and weighing in at 9.97-lbs, you may not have room for anything else!
Automotive writers, Zumbrunn, Lewandowski, and Blunier, under the editorship of Michael Kockritz, offer a vast authoritative work covering 40 outstanding Ferraris.
Encompassing seven decades of the Cavallino Rampante, the authors produce the physical details and history of each model and convey the evolution and passion that lies behind.
The book features an impressive selection of high-quality photographs and rare archive shots.
Hardcover: 416 pages
12. The Art of the Automobile: The 100 Greatest Cars
Automobile historian, author, and renowned car show judge Dennis Adler is well known in classic car circles. Here, in ‘The Art of the Automobile,’ he pulls out all the stops and showcases some absolute gems.
The book features 100 of the most elegant motorcars ever to grace the road. Apart from all the regular design classics from the glory days of automobile history, you’ll find the ultra-rare and achingly beautiful Hispano-Suiza (the Rolls-Royce beater of its day) to Hollywood heart-throb Clark Gable’s beloved Duesenberg. You will not be disappointed.
Backed up by over 200 beautiful photographs, this could well be ‘the’ coffee table book for you.
Hardcover: 256 pages
13. Gentlemen, Start Your Engines! The Bonhams Guide to Classic Race and Sports Cars
There isn’t a car collector or enthusiast that hasn’t heard of Bonhams, one of the world’s most famous auction houses. Their auctions of rare and significant cars consistently reach record prices.
Author Jared Zaugg, in collaboration with the largest auctioneer of classic cars, showcases the classic race and sports cars that stand-alone among decades of supercars.
Some of the unique cars include Steve McQueen’s Baja Boot race buggy and the 1925 Bugatti Type 22, recovered from Lake Maggiore after 75 years underwater. The photography is striking, and the background stories enthralling.
Hardcover: 288 pages
14. Speed, Style, and Beauty: Cars from the Ralph Lauren Collection
Have you ever wondered what one of America’s most iconic fashion designers does with his vast fortune? This coffee table must-have will give you an insight into the world of the rich and famous.
Ralph Lauren’s car collection is considered one of the finest in the world and is valued at around $350m. Among his 70+ cars are 29 rare and priceless gems with a chapter dedicated to each of them. And here featured is one of the most beautiful cars ever built, the Bugatti 57SC Atlantic, one of only two in the world. This car is so rare; it’s impossible to value.
The rich text is the perfect complement to Michael Furman’s exquisite photography and provides a visual feast for all classic car fans.
Hardcover: 210 pages
That was all for now! I am sure there is something for all lovers of the classic car scene. From the ultra-rare to the most elegantly designed, any of these fine books will add the finishing touch to your coffee table.
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