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Car Books & Magazines vs. The Internet

Car Books & Magazines vs. The Internet

I received a really cool car book from my son’s girlfriend.  It’s a big book full of illustrations from 1920-1990.  It caused me to reflect on the evolution of automotive history available for car enthusiasts.  With so much information available online, why would anyone bother with print material when just about anything can be found with a simple Google search.  No one reads books anymore, right?

Wrong!  Online forums and social media sites are great for learning about current trends and new car reviews.  I’m a fan of online resources for those reasons alone; however, there is a time when holding a book, manual or magazine enhances the experience.  This is especially true with historical information and repair instructions.

Accuracy Matters

The advice or information found online is not likely accurate.  The exception is car reviews (especially video), as I accept that those are subjective.  When it comes to the serious stuff (vehicle specifications, historical data points, etc.), do you really want to trust that from an anonymous source? 

I’ve seen too much bad guidance provided by so-called experts.  How can you check their credentials or background when they use a random username?

Pictures and historical notes of Chevrolet Camaros from 1974-1978

Fun Reads

The My Dad Had That Car book shown in the picture at the top of the page is what my son’s girlfriend gave me.  It is about 1,300 pages of illustrations.  Books like this are fun to leaf through.  Curious about the 1978 Camaro?  Flip to that section for highlights.  The picture above shows an example of the layout of each page.  The author appears to have done his research.

The same goes for the California Look VW and Jeep Owner’s Bible books seen in the same picture. One contains the history of a custom VW community, with really great photographs.  The other has repair and maintenance services for Jeep models. The material in these books is rich and extremely helpful from authors who have thoroughly researched their topics.

I have shelves of books like these, even though I no longer own the cars I bought them for.  Who knows, maybe I’ll own another some day (or help someone who does)?  Luckily, I have the resources readily available.

Cover of Hagerty Drivers Club magazine and select pages from the magazine about their bull market report

I put car magazines in the “fun reads” category.  Magazines like Car & Driver and Motor Trend are still available in print (and online), but they mostly cover new car reviews.  Others like Hagerty’s Drivers Club magazine covers the car hobby.  An annual subscription is just $45, and it is probably the finest print magazine available for car hobbyists. 

The stories are from known automotive experts (Jay Leno, Wayne Carini, etc.) and the artwork is high quality. Hagerty prints and ships 6 issues per year (not monthly), so the overall look and feel of each edition is outstanding.

Specification charts for 1967-1968 Chevrolet Camaro

Historical Reference

If you are researching historical details on a car, or looking for vehicle specifications, a printed chart is invaluable.  The few times I find a reliable chart online, I usually end up printing it for my reference and ease of reading anyway. 

It only makes sense to have it in print form from the start.  Having it from a credible source is even more important. I don’t know about you, but detailed charts and other instructional material needs to be held in your hands.  On paper.

Car Shopping:  Brochures

Sadly, this is one area where manufacturers have surrendered to the internet.  I was shopping for a new car last year and was told by multiple dealers that they don’t have print brochures.  They only have online versions that can be downloaded.  Subaru still provides print brochures in their showrooms, but I’m not aware of any others.

I covered this in the article What Happened To New Car Brochures?, so I won’t belabor the point here.  Suffice it to say, if you are making a large purchase it would be nice to have printed material to peruse.  How else are you able to dream about that new car?

When it comes to older vehicles, you can usually find brochures for sale on eBay or Facebook Marketplace. If you can’t find one for sale, I found a website that has brochures online.  Someone took the time to scan printed brochures and link them to a free website.  It’s not as good as a printed brochure, but it beats nothing at all.

The website can be accessed HERE. It only features brochures on American cars and trucks from the 1980s and earlier. Ironically, it is managed by a gentleman from Norway.

Final Thoughts & Questions

I realize my love of print material for cars is likely due to my age; however, I encourage you to give it a try.  I especially like offering books and manuals to younger car enthusiasts.  It’s a great way for them to immerse themselves into the car hobby, as there is nothing better than holding a book, manual or magazine when showing friends your interests.  

After all, the car hobby is so much bigger than a 6 inch cell phone screen.  It deserves a permanent place on your desk, bookshelf or heart!

Let me know if you have any thoughts, questions or a cool story to share.  You can reach me in any of the following ways:


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  1. Chuck

    I agree, although the internet is a great resource I prefer books, I am in my mid 60’s and have acquired automotive books since I was in high school. I have a rather large personal library of them and lots and lots of shop manuals, although I don’t buy many car books anymore I do read and refer to mine frequently and of course my complete set of AQ (Automobile Quarterly). AQ was and is truly the best automobile magazine ever printed in my opinion but not many know folks about it.

    • Bill Taylor

      Thanks for that comment, Chuck. Shop manuals are really hard to read (and maneuver) online or on screen. I needed one for a Subaru that I could only order online. It contains all of the manuals for that car (including owners manual) and is 13,000 pages! It is a PDF and not clickable, so I had to create my own index on paper. Crazy!


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