Saturday, July 09, 2022

July 09 - Review Motor Legenden - Elvis Presley

Following books on ‘Motor Legends’ James Dean and James Bond Siegfried Tesche published a new volume on Elvis Presley, a man known to have driven, own and given away “a few” classic cars. 



The design of the 240-page car-biography titled 'Motorlegenden - Elvis Presley: Autos, Flugzeuge & Co.'  follows previous titles in this series. The full-color book has 50/50 balance between text and illustrations, 150 in total. The coverphoto remains a great one, no matter how often you see it.


Most pictures of Elvis Presley are well-known to most fans, but for car-enthusiasts these images of Elvis as an actor, a performer or just at home, provide a complete backdrop to tell the story of the king and his cars. 

The book does not contain any paperwork on the cars, that’s an omission as it would contribute to the credibility of the information presented. 

That said, it looks like the author did his homework reading the many details on when, where and for what amount Elvis bought many of his vehicles. 

The German text is easy to read. Tesche - a professional journalist, presenter and author of 31 books - has an illustrative and fact-driven way of writing. A nice nod to the Elvis fans are the titles of the chapters and paragraphs, using song titles from our man, this works great.




Elvis and his cars are both legends, who doesn’t associate our man with that iconic pink Cadillac. You might even say Elvis was a petrol head as he owned numerous interesting automobiles that are as legendary as their owner. His fleet included cars like a Cadillac Fleetwood 60, a Messerschmitt KR200, a BMW 507, a Volkswagen Beatle, a Rolls-Royce Phantom V, a Mercedes-Benz 600, a Ford Thunderbird, a De Tomassa Pantera, a Stutz Blackhawk, a Ferrari Dino 308 GT 4 and many more. 

Enough to fill a museum, so it is good someone took on the task to write a book on his cars. 


Going from rags to riches, the cars Elvis bought follow the same pattern. The first cars the Presley’s used and owned were second hand cars, most 10-plus years old and  bought on the basis of monthly instalments, or functional as Elvis drove them for various jobs he had. 

After Elvis recorded his first music, he needed wheels to go on the road with Scotty Moore and Bill Black and with the money coming in, the cars became better, newer and more expensive. Once Elvis made it really big, he was able to buy what he wanted, and he did. 


This book covers many of the cars Elvis owned and his relation with these vehicles. The fact that Elvis shot his yellow Pantera illustrates that he had a love-hate relation with some of his cars. But he also kept a few of them throughout his life, like his first bike (who still owns his or her first bike? Well Elvis kept his!) or the Lincoln Continental Mark II which he bought on August 4, 1956 and sold twenty years later in November 1976. 


Besides the cars, there is also a chapter dedicated to the motorcycles Elvis Presley bough, interesting as this is something we tend to forget thinking about Elvis and his “wheels”.

Siegfried Tesche doesn’t claim to be complete, and rightfully so. New discoveries are still being made as with Elvis BMW 507, his bike, or the discovery of remains of a Dutch Solar Midget race car at a metal scrapyard in 2017. Somehow no-one knew that Elvis owned the car, that he crashed on the Graceland grounds in the late fifties. And each year various cars or motorcycles, owned or given away by Elvis, appear on the auction block.  


Two critical remarks have to be made. First, the focus of the book is on the first 33 years of Elvis life which take-up the first 200 pages of the 240-book. The remaining 9 years are covered on the next 10 pages. The period 1977 to present day fill the next 20 pages. I didn’t really mind, as the first years are the most iconic, it does feel a bit out of balance. As the author did a follow-up on his first James Bond cars book, a second volume of Elvis seventies vehicles could complete the story.


The second remark is that the book doesn’t contain an index of all the cars known. I wasn’t expecting a reference book, but as the book does features various lists like an overview of the money he made with his first jobs, concerts and later with his movies, music and tours, a list of some of his bigger expenses and another list documenting his expensive gifts and list of “highest earning dead celebrities", I would have expected an overview of the cars featured in the book, including the main facts and figures and pictures of our man with the vehicle. 




Siegfried Tesche wrote an entertaining book in which the Elvis story provides a perfect backdrop to tell the story of his cars. The Elvis story and the cars complement each other and outline the proper historical context for each other. Readers interested in music and cars will enjoy the entertainingly written and nicely illustrated book. 


For Elvis fans this book is an interesting introduction to the subject, but the omission of an index and factual overview of the cars and the necessary statistics, make that this book isn’t the reference that it could have been. Carlos Varrenti's 'The Airplanes and The King' book focussed a bit more on the planes and the details and that set-up worked a better for me. But as I haven't read any of the other titles in this series, it could be that this isn't the format used for this series.

The book is available from Amazon and the publisher's page at >>> which also has a preview of the first chapter.