As a car-crazy boy growing up in suburban New Jersey in the mid-to-late 1970s, there were few places I could access in order to sate my desire to read about (and look at pictures of) cars. I didn’t get out of the house much, and there wasn’t a ton of extra spending money for magazines, so my school library was my outlet. From grades 2-6, I had Car of the Year: 1895-1970 by Henry B. Lent on near-permanent loan; over a spate of 18 months my name appeared on every line on the checkout card tucked into the manilla pouch on the inside back cover.
I think I even asked for a copy of it once for Christmas; in those pre-Amazon days, finding a copy for sale was nigh-on impossible, and it never arrived.For me, in my single-digit age bracket, it was an enthralling read. Every spread gave some history on a particularly significant car of the season.
On the left-hand page was a black-and-white photo of the car in question, often provided by a manufacturer, or a local historical society. On the right, a few hundred words that explained the car’s significance and put it in some context; the text was breezy and didn’t get bogged down in minutia. It was enough of a part of my childhood that I bought a copy online for cheap just a few years ago—an ex-library copy, just like the one I remembered growing up in the ’70s.