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the cover of the book

Don't Judge A Book By Its Size...

We check out the book "The Big Book Of Tiny Cars" - maybe it should be on your Christmas wish-list?

By Doug Stokes

Fri, Dec 10, 2021 10:43 AM PST

Book Title: The Big Book Of Tiny Cars

By Russell Hayes

176 Pages: 250 Color and B/W photos

ISBN: 9780760370629

$40.00 US $53 CAN

Published: November 16, 2021

Motorbooks an imprint of Quarto


list of cars from the book

This book comes into our hands at a time when gasoline prices are very close to a full fin (that's 5 dollars) and the most popular vehicle here in southern California is a full-size pickup making (downhill with a tailwind) 14-15 mpg of $4.89 a gallon gasoline.

Seems counter-intuitive almost … but this is a book about cars of the past. Well, most of them qualify as "cars" anyway. Not exactly a freak show, but close, when these "Tiny Cars" are exposed to present day standards and practices. The undertitle of the book is "A Century of Diminutive Automotive Oddities" and some, a few, of these cars were actually pretty good ideas.

There are a grand total of 76 brands represented by some 100 plus models that all (pretty much) fit under this book’s title. Some, like the Pinto, Vega, and Gremlin (Ford, Chevy, and Chrysler respectively) were pretty good sellers in their day and (by far) not the mini-est of the mini by any means. They are about the only "household names" that readers will run across here.

Just for fun, here’s a list of marques that are NOT guaranteed to ring any bells out there - in fact, anyone who recognizes more than half of them probably needs some sort of counseling… OK, deep breath... You have: the Autozam AZ-1, BiscÜter 100, Corbin Sparrow, DAF Variomatic, ElCar 1000/2000, and the Frisky Sprint. Then there’s the GogoMobile, Heinkel Kabine, Iso Isetta, the King Midget, Lightburn Zeta Runabout, and the Messerschmitt T950. And who could forget (or remember for that matter) the Nissan Figaro, the Plymouth Cricket, Reliant Regal Mk1, the Sebring Vanguard CitiCar, the Trabant P50, and (mercifully) the Zundapp Janus.

image from the book
Wait, is that a Ford?!

That’s 23 out of 76 this book gives us a good look at - every one of them is pictured, many "at work and/or at play" - which leaves a whole lot of "Diminutive Auto Oddities" for the reader to read up on and marvel at their - oft-times "unusual" - designs. Furthermore, there are great little stat boxes furnished with many of the entries, and it’s OK to marvel at the horsepower numbers and top speeds there.

clippings found in the book

This book really has more to do with Europe, where "petrol" prices blasted through the roof years and years ago producing a far more frenzied (and sustained) "econobox movement".  Although ... it was not all that long ago LACar got a test hop in an American/Canadian/Italian mini-machine called (and for a very good reason): the "Solo".

a classic tiny car from Europe
a stat-box from the book

It’s rare that one does this, but I’m going to close this session with a direct quote from a senior marketing manager at Motorbooks, mainly because its something of a more "serious" summary than I might come up with for a book that’s just plain good fun for me:

"Gas, diesel, or electric...tiny cars have a rich and curious heritage reflective of motorists' concerns for their pocketbook, the environment, or both. The Big Book of Tiny Cars is your ultimate collection of microcars, minicars, bubble cars, kei cars, subcompacts, and compacts that have been built, sold, and driven all over the globe for 120 years." (Amen, brother)

a tiny red car
a three-wheeled tiny red car

Cars are like people, they have personalities, quirks, chinks in their armor, strange haircuts, lovable moments, laughable moments, teachable and impeachable moments, and (just about) every emotion in between.

These tiny cars stand as their own unique (even if a bit shaky) paean to … fuel economy (go back and re-read the first line).

About The Author

Doug Stokes's profile picture

Doug Stokes

Doug has a long and wide-ranging history in the motoring business. He served five years as the Executive Director of the International Kart Federation, and was the PR guy for the Mickey Thompson's Off-Road Championship Gran Prix. He worked racing PR for both Honda and Suzuki and was a senior PR person on the first Los Angeles (Vintage) Grand Prix. He was also the first PR Manager for Perris Auto Speedway, and spent over 20 years as the VP of Communications at Irwindale Speedway. Stokes is the recipient of the American Autowriters and Broadcaster’s 2005 Chapman Award for Excellence in Public Relations and was honored in 2015 by the Motor Press Guild with their Dean Batchelor Lifetime Achievement Award. “… I’ve also been reviewing automobiles and books for over 20 years, and really enjoy my LA Car assignments.” he added.

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