July 2012 | Issue #7
Summer beach books for when it's too hot to drive
Sometimes it’s just too hot to drive. While there’s an entire generation of children who don’t know what it feels like to be stuck to a hot vinyl seat on a summer day; what boiling coolant smells like; or why someone might be swearing and packing ice around their fuel lines, we remember, especially this year. Even new cars are having trouble coping this summer, so while the bare-bones attitude of a Camaro without air-conditioning is great on a 60-degree night; it is not what you want to take out for a spin during days of melting tar.
That’s giving many of us extra hours inside in the cool or at the nearest body of water, a perfect opportunity to grab a great car book. We’ve picked out a sample of our recent favorites, both for entertainment and education, but we only have room for a few. Most of us will happily pick up a coffee table book on classic cars and browse through it, but you can really have fun with the following great reads..
Engines of Change
Without question, Paul Ingrassia’s Engines of Change is THE car book of 2012. Ingrassia is both a car guy and a serious writer, having been the Detroit bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal, where he won the Pulitzer in 1993 for his investigations into General Motors management problems. But this is not a scholarly book, nor is it a dry one. In looking at how specific cars—Corvette, VW Beetle, Model T and others—relate to America then and now, he’s funny and full of very interesting observations. Even “regular” readers love it, but car people will love it that much more.
Muscle Car Confidential
An amazing book from well-known writer Joe Oldham, who was front and center as a magazine test driver in the 60’s and 70’s. His book takes his original notes and personal photographs to tell the down and dirty story of driving Detroit’s greatest machines in their heyday. There are secrets and details here that you’ve never seen anywhere else, plus fascinating stories about shenanigans by the manufacturers, street racing, and the whole muscle car scene.
Barris Cars of the Stars
David Fetherston worked closely with legendary vehicle customizer George Barris to produce a book that is page after page of photographs that Hollywood’s elite (as well as a few athletes and politicians) wish had mysteriously disappeared in a fire. You will literally not believe what some people thought was a good idea, like Bo Derek’s “Barrister” Corvette special with down-stuffed kid leather seats, velvet trim and Pakistani marble door inserts. The stars loved them, though, and often came back again and again for another.
Fifty Cars that Changed the World
While Engines of Change is essentially a history of America in the 20th Century looked at through cars, Fifty Cars is a completely different, design-oriented book. From London's Design Museum, these are essentially bite-sized entries that talk very briefly about not only why, but how specific cars came to be made. As an English book, the cars are from all over the world, which could make it a nice, easy to digest introduction to models some Americans might not know much about.
Anyone over the age of 35 who likes cars has some memory of Evel Knievel. Evel was an abrasive, often unlikeable man who nevertheless became a hero to millions. His drive and hard-partying lifestyle are no doubt what made him the king of daredevils, and probably made some kid in your neighborhood break his own ribs doing a jump. It’s a sensational book, from Sports Illustrated’s Leigh Montville, who pulls a wheelie across every page.
East vs. West Showdown
Co-authors Joseph Alig and Stephen “Spike” Kilmer are East Coast hot rodders, who take the show on the road with a book full of original photography of some of the greatest machines and builders from East and West. The focus is the development of hot rodding and how that led to today; and how the overlooked East Coast scene played a role. Is it any good? It’s one of the best all-around car books in years and they sold out their first printing this Spring within 24 hours.
For pure escapism, strap on Robert Turner’s The Driver. It’s an action-adventure story about Marc Lange, an American racer living in England who has to turn to more dubious means of funding when money to run the team dries up. If this sounds like a Jason Statham movie, well, it did to us, too, and Turner plans for this to be book one of six. However, he has an advantage over most screenwriters, as far as we’re concerned: He’s a Porsche Club of America driving instructor, and that makes all the difference.
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