We know – Brian Wilson never supplied his fans with a reading list. But Brian and the Boys didn’t suffer the Endless Summer we endure in Texas, with heat and humidity indexes reading like the ¼ mile speeds of Dodge’s new Demon. So we stay inside, and with the British Open behind us and the NFL not yet in camp we open a book. Or three.
Given that two of the selections this month are coffee table books, if you don’t have a coffee table you’ll want to rent one. And this: Not one of the selected volumes will expand your understanding of autonomy or diesel emissions. For that we’ll refer you to Popular Science or Autoblog.
THE ART OF THE CLASSIC SPORTS CAR: PACE AND GRACE
By Stuart Codling, with photography by James Mann
You need only glance at the automotive auction sites, or become addicted – as I have – to the daily feed supplied by Bring-a-Trailer, to know that the art of the classic sports car has devolved (more often than not) into the ‘art of the deal’. Collectibles are now commodities, and if you want to enjoy one you’d best bring money…or buy this book.
In what is a large – but not too large – format, the The Art of the Classic Sports Car divides the subject into four subcategories. And while those categories broaden what a purist might describe as a ‘sports car’, the expanded definition – classic roadsters, grand tourers, sporting coupes and ‘race bred’ – tell you almost all you need to know about the sports car genre. (And for those of you with a love for Mustangs and Camaros, you can take that money elsewhere; a ponycar is – and never will be – a ‘sports’ car.)
To the author’s credit, this book doesn’t completely draw on the usual suspects. Obviously, the Ferraris, Porsches and – to a lesser extent – Benzes are included, but so is AC, Renault Alpine and Britain’s oh-so-British Marcos GT. The subject matter is rich, deep and varied, and well supported by an informative text. If we have a beef, it’s that the pics – all of which are stunning – are all taken in a studio. We would have enjoyed some outdoor photos, and/or archival photography showing the subjects in competition. With that, the overhead shot of the Renault Alpine is – by itself – worth the price of admission, and after you get past that you have another 200 pages to enjoy. As the jacket blurb suggests, written – we’ll guess – by a one-time realtor: “Buckle in for a ride with the world’s most exciting cars!” And for the $50 window sticker, why not?
THE COMPLETE BOOK OF CLASSIC VOLKSWAGENS:
BEETLES, MICROBUSES, THINGS, KARMANN GHIAS, AND MORE
By John Gunnell
In the spirit of full disclosure, my first car – acquired in high school – was a ’66 Bug in a color not unlike the car gracing (if that’s the word) the cover of this-appears-to-be-complete volume. My intro to the Beetle, however, came from good friend Dale Heiliger, whose succession of Bugs was in stark contrast to my dad’s procession of Dodge’s. Dale was an early convert, and while I’m not remembering what model years Dale would have driven, I know that in Lincoln, Nebraska – a college town with a sizable import community – the VW was still an outlier. A charming outlier.
A good deal of that charm is captured in Gunnell’s 250 (or so) pages, beginning – as he should – with the Beetle’s beginnings in post-World War II Germany and rounding the overview out with Volkswagen’s Thing; yeah, that Thing. In between are all the Beetles, Kombis, Ghias and Squarebacks you can say grace over. There’s even a Motor Trend cover of the 411, a mag I distinctly remember reading. And the info is almost granular, without the reader consumed by its in-depthness(?).
And, thankfully, the author includes much of the classic advertising. That, in combination with a credible dealer network (which the French and British imports notably lacked), was responsible for a great deal of Volkswagen’s American success. Quirky charm – as we’d know – only goes so far.
If we’ve one complaint it’s with the big book format. Sure, that makes the pics and advertising pop, but it’s hard to hold and hard to put down. Regardless, we’ll give it two air-cooled thumbs up.
BOBBY’S GOT A BRAND-NEW CAR
By Zidrous, with illustrations by Sebastien Chebret
Recommended for children 5 to 8, we’re reading this with our 4-year old grandson Rhys as soon as the ink is dry on this review. And in that Bobby’s car goes Vroom!, it may be one of Rhys’ last chances to experience internal combustion.
If you have your ear to the ground, you’ve heard today’s kids don’t enjoy the attachment to motoring their parents (or grandparents) have. And while knowing new tech is a mighty distraction, a visit to Classic BMW’s Cars ‘n Coffee, where you’ll see hundreds of teens and twentysomethings, will quickly dispel the assumption. The affection for motoring may not begin – or end – with an illustrated children’s book, but if you want your kid to have at least a passing affection for cars and transport, this is an enjoyable place to start.
And then, of course, get your kid a go-kart. In the book’s narrative, Bobby buys his own car with his own money. The book – of course – is fiction.