One of my most treasured possessions as a child was the Ladybird Book of Motor Cars. I don’t still have the copy I had as a child, I moved too many times, but I did pick up a copy as an adult from a secondhand book store.
I had three different editions as a child the 1966 edition, the 1968 edition and the 1972 edition. There was also a 1960 version. The book featured 72 cars illustrated by David Carey, with a paragraph of information on each and some technical details.
In the self-isolation brought about by COVID-19, I have tried copying some of the illustrations with pencil and paper, my skills, I fear, are rather rudimentary.
I realise now, that the book gave me a warped impression of the size of some cars, like the Lancia Flavia Saloon, a full 20 inches longer than an Austin 1800, but which looked small in the picture, or the Volvo “Amazon” 131 which looks small in comparison with the MG MGB below.
The book began with small engined cars like the Reliant Regal, Fiat 500 F and Honda N600 and finished with the big American-engined cars: the Jensen Interceptor, Buick Riviera and Cadillac Eldorado.
If I still had my childhood copies, they would have been marked with spots as I would often sit at the window marking down the cars I saw drive past. I don’t remember seeing an Eldorado, but the pages with the Morris Minor and Ford Escort were very spotty.
Some of the first words I learnt were related to cars, now I teach my grandson, Lazare to identify the car badges as we walk in the street. He likes the Lexus logo as it is an L in a circle and his name begins with an L.
In the 1968 book, there was no Lexus, the brand didn’t exist, there were only two Japanese cars, a Honda N600 and a Daihatsu. Maybe half the cars were British; in the index at the back are listed 5 Triumphs and 6 Austins, two marques sadly gone as Britain no longer has its own mass produced car companies. Jaguar and Land Rover are still made in England but they are now owned by the Indian Tata company. Even the Rolls Royce, the archetypal English car is now German owned. The world has changed significantly since the book was published.
Despite my keen interest in cars from an early age, the cars I owned in real life have been rather mundane: an Opel Corsa, a VW Polo, a Citroen ZX, a Honda Civic and a Peugeot 306. Living in a big city, I don’t have a car at present, preferring to walk or use public transport and not have the headache of finding somewhere to park.
I do have several hundred little cars, this is another nostalgia thing which I examine in more detail in another post: Why I collect Model Cars.
I like to find the cars in the book, my favourite era for cars is the late sixties and early seventies.
I was asked recently, what my favourite books were as a child, and I thought of books like those of Roald Dahl and Dr Seuss, but on reflection I think my absolute favourite as a kid was this The Ladybird Book of Motor Cars, much as I loved Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Cat in the Hat, this book got more, erm… mileage out of me.
Pages from the 1961 edition (like that below) can be seen here: Ladybird Book of Motor Cars (1961)