Book Review

Defining the most collectible cars is a weighty task. This effort comes in at almost 25 lbs.

by John Wiley
27 August 2021 2 min read
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Photo by Taschen

Coming up with a list of the most collectible cars is one of those things that’s easy to do, yet hard to do well. A new book, the Ultimate Collector Cars does a convincing job of it. Notwithstanding the breezy title, this is literally and figuratively a weighty effort—a near 25-pound(!) two-volume set written by design historians Charlotte and Peter Fiell, who have over 60 titles in their portfolio.

To come up with their list, the authors canvassed and extensively quote experts in the field such as Dr. Fred Simeone (of the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum), the Duke of Richmond (owner of the Goodwood Estate), Sandra Button (chair of the Pebble Beach concours), John Collins (head of classic Ferrari dealership Talacrest), and Shelby Myers (head of private sales for RM Sotheby’s). They also provide clear parameters for what they consider “ultimate”—not value or horsepower but rarity, importance, beauty, and pioneering design/engineering.

The book catalogues 100 cars, organizing them by decade. It attempts to do these picks justice with a massive format—11 inches wide by 14 inches tall, and 900 pages. The photos and some of the descriptions draw upon recent auction consignments; however, the book also uses many high-quality studio photos, along with occasional blueprints and period pictures.

Naturally we have quibbles with the choices. The Maserati MC12 is good, for instance, but surely Wilbur Shaw’s 1939 and 1940 Indianapolis 500 winning Maserati 8CTF would have been better? Similarly, isn’t the 1914 Peugeot L45 a better choice than the 1914 Mercedes Grand Prix Race Car? Having put together a few “best of” lists ourselves, we know such debate is inevitable and ultimately part of the fun—cars, like just about anything that people collect, from art to whisky, are subjective. Some opinions carry more weight than others, though, and Ultimate Collector Cars lives up to its physical heft.

What we have, then, is an excellent primer for someone just getting started in their appreciation of collector cars, but also an entertaining read for the expert. Despite all the pages, the book can be a page-turner, with so many compelling cars and so many excellent photos. The relevant question may not be whether or not to get a copy, but where you’ll put it.

Ultimate Collector Cars, by Charlotte and Peter Fiell.

Published by Taschen. $250. Available on Taschen.com.

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