Osprey classic marques

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various authors. Osprey, £9.99 & £10.99.

This series is building into a useful quick pictorial reference source; the text takes second place to the photos, which are excellent in some but not all volumes, with almost as much information in the captions as in the body of the text. This works well when skimming through to read up on a particular model, but it does mean that the main story is sometimes interrupted by four or six picture pages.

Each of these four books is 128 pages long, but subject density varies greatly: Mike Key in Tri-Chevy Legend (£10.99) can spread luxuriantly over a mere three years of Chevrolet products, while Jeremy Walton has the same space for almost the whole history of BMW in BMW Classics (£9.99); thus the latter seems hurried, while the former sometimes dwells on differences of chrome between trim levels. And with a huge variety of models to cover, the Walton book illustrates many of them at one huge American BMW gathering, making it look rather samey. But he doesn’t skip the unusual cars: the pre-war fours and sixes and the post-war twins and V8s all get their credit. The Chevys get more lavish visual treatment, but the word “legend” in the title tells you that nostalgia overrules analysis here, and one has to ask why such a small series of visually extravagant but technically stolid machinery merits this adulatory treatment.

There’s more meat in Lagonda Heritage (£10.99), in which Richard Bird outlines the English marque up to 1939. Here the balance of history, model types, and coachwork variations to be depicted comes out well, making a rounded introduction which should lead the reader on to more detailed works. Duncan Wherrett, too, is luckier with Lotus Elan, even though covering one model only, as the evergreen favourite had plenty of interesting variations in its life. Inevitably, you’ve read the facts before, but that’s not a complaint in a small book like this, and the generous pictures cover all standard versions plus the novelties: the Shapecraft fastbacks, the Hexagon Estate and the Williams & Pritchard Le Mans fastback. The recently dead New Elan (now due to be resuscitated briefly by Bugatti to use up spare engines) also appears.

Specially commissioned photographs make these paperbacks look fresh, and all conclude with a model spec summary. G C