Rebecca Bernard
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Book Review: ‘The Complete Book of Classic Volkswagens’

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4.5 out of 5 stars rating



No matter how many problems the modern Volkswagen company might have, there will always be an undying love for its classic cars. Normally we hear about the VW Beetle or the rarer VW Bus, but Volkswagen is also famous for The Thing, Type 4, Type 3, and the Karmann Ghia Type 14. If you are looking for a coffee table book that takes a closer look at the wider range of vehicles made by the German brand over the years, consider taking a look at The Complete Book of Classic Volkswagens: Beetles, Microbuses, Things, Karmann Ghias, and More by John Gunnell.

The Complete Book of Classic Volkswagens: Beetles, Microbuses, Things, Karmann Ghias, and More
Written by John Gunnell

Product Details: Hardcover, 272 pages, 10.1 x 1 x 12.2 inches
Retail Price: $50.00 USA
Publication Date: June 2017
ISBN: 978-0760349878
Publisher: Motorbooks


Complete Book of Volkswagens: Book Summary

When I was first told we would be reviewing this book, I took a short look through the other books in the Complete Book series from Motorbooks. All of the other volumes range in topic from Chevy Corvettes to muscle cars, motorcycles, Ford Mustangs, and more. Each tome had a color scheme that complimented the vehicles inside, but in general the designs focused on darker colors highlighted by red or blue. It was a pleasant surprise when we opened up the package for this book and saw a cheerful retro tome inside. The combination of tan and light blue on the dust jacket conveys just the right dose of quirky vintage we would expect from something representing this brand and its uniquely shaped vehicles. This theme continues under the dust jacket to the light blue cover and the bright colors used to complement the text and classic images.

On the interior, the book is clearly divided into sections for each model of classic Volkswagen it covers. The pages are in full color with vintage advertisements and publicity photos featuring celebrities of the day. Each section also has a timeline that discusses the different years the cars were made, the measurements of that year’s model, colors it was offered in, and other details. The text offered in this book is pretty extensive and well-researched, which can be a rarity in similar works.

In our time reviewing car books, the staff at The News Wheel have seen a fair amount of coffee table books. A lot of them are filled with great images from manufacturer and publishing archives that are accompanied by facts about each vehicle. This book does the same thing, and presents all of it very well. One thing that has started making a difference to me, however, is when these books feature original images of the vehicles they discuss. These often show new angles of the vehicle or closeup shots of some of their finer details. In the Complete Book of Volkswagens, there are a small handful of photos of collector’s cars, but they are all pretty standard images with not a lot of new imagery to offer. I knocked off half of a star from my rating because I expected more original images but I also acknowledge that it can be difficult to find a classic car in good condition to photograph.

Complete Book of VolkswagensBook Review

Complete Guide To Classic Volkswagens

Of all the topics in the car world, classic Volkswagen vehicles is one of the most popular (especially given the disappointment with some of the modern versions). This book covers the same material as other tomes, but we have to give it credit for the wide range of Volkswagen models it covers. Many books focus on the popular VW Bus or Beetle, but this tome does a good job giving more love to other cars like the sporty Karmann Ghia. When it does come to the favorite VW Beetle, the book goes into great detail about each era of the vehicle and what feature identifies them.

I appreciated that this book had a fair amount of car-speak, but it was easily accessible language for VW lovers at all levels of car appreciation. Instead of simply focusing on what makes each classic Volkswagen move, Gunnell frequently makes remark about body style and little design tweaks that a non-mechanic could learn to look for when they get up close to a vehicle like this.

All in all, this is a solid book about the classic Volkswagen cars we all know and love, as well as possibly introducing us to something new. The quality images of the vehicles from when they were sold brand new help tell the VW story and are an interesting look into the past. Not only does it have the content we all look for in a book like this, but its cover and interior design make it a beautiful addition to any coffee table or bookshelf. Fans of Volkswagen or classic cars in general will not be disappointed.


The Complete Book of Classic Volkswagens: Beetles, Microbuses, Things, Karmann Ghias, and More is available through the publisher’s websiteAmazon, and other retailers.

Product provided for review by publisher.

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