BOAL: Car Spotter’s Encyclopedia 1940-1980 – Book of a Lifetime

Behold the one of the oldest and most prized possessions in my modest automotive library: The Car Spotter’s Encyclopedia 1940-1980, by the Editors of Consumer Guide.

I purchased this book new in 1982, at the tender age of 14, and it has been with me ever since. It has stuck with me through countless college dorm rooms and bachelor pad apartments. Somehow I managed not to lose it through multiple trips to Hershey.

So what is in this book? Exactly what it says on the cover. Like many things, it is easier to demonstrate than to explain.

Not sure of the subtile differences between a 1960 Chrysler Windsor and 1960 Chrysler New Yorker? Gotcha covered.


Unsure if that roadside hulk is a 1969 Mercury Marquis or the virtually identical 1970 model? Done.

Other than a brief introduction, there is no writing to speak of. Just page after page of line drawings and black-and-white photos of every American-made car from 1940 to 1980. It is utter simplicity, and single-minded of purpose. Composed of nothing more than just photos and close-up line drawings, it is automotive pornography in the truest sense of the word.

As the encyclopedic claim in the title suggests, it is fairly comprehensive, covering even relatively obscure makes like Allstate, American Bantam, Crosley, Graham, Hupmobile, and even Avanti. Of course modern readers will quickly spot the flaw in the book’s claims to comprehensiveness: As no foreign-made cars appear in it, the title should have been more accurately called the American Car Spotter’s Encyclopedia. We’ll give them a pass on this, as back in the evergreen days of 1982, just covering American-made cars seemed to be sufficient cause for using the all-inclusive title.

Out of print since 1988, primo copies are now going for upwards of a hundred bucks. Thumbworn copies like mine with a ripped cover and yellowing pages are probably closer to $20 (which is probably still more than I paid for my new one).

Almost as soon as I had gotten it, I started wishing for a follow-up edition, covering models after 1980, but after 35+ years of waiting it is pretty clear that no sequel is forthcoming. Of course, one that covered non-US vehicles and vehicles made before 1940 would be nice too, but that would be just plain greedy.

As I ever so slowly approach my 100th post on this esteemed site (Paul, I have no idea how you do 8 to 10 of these a week), my secret is now your secret. You too can be an expert car spotter.


Year Published1982
ISBN Number0-517-352044
Number of Pages256 Link: