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By Larry Edsall
Back to ClassicCars.com Community

Books for car guys (and gals) to give -- and to receive
By Larry Edsall

Larry Edsall at ClassicCars.com If you've clicked your curser to this spot, you not only have an interest in classic cars, but you also are a reader. With the holidays and gift-giving -- and for many people, some time off to tinker in (or finally clean up) the garage, or perhaps get in some additional reading -- we offer this list of recently published books that may be of interest:

Shelby Cobra Fifty Years

In 2009, Colin Comer wrote the Complete Book of Shelby Automobiles. But as it turns out, Complete wasn't quite complete, because a couple of months ago Comer came back with Shelby Cobra Fifty Years, a 256-page, large-format companion to Complete, this time taking on f the form and feel of a high school yearbook, or maybe it's more of a 50-year reunion. Phil Remington and Pete Brock and even Ed Hugus and the other original Shelby classmates are all included in a book full of vintage photos linked by Comer's nicely written perspective.
$40 from Motorbooks (www.motorbooks.com)

Road Hogs

The subtitle on Eric Peters' book is "Detroit's Big, Beautiful Luxury Performance Cars of the 1960s and 1970s." Big is beautiful in Road Hogs, where we take a nostalgic if gas-guzzling drive in vehicles such as the Pontiac GrandVille, Chevrolet Laguna, Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser, AMC Ambassador, Buick Electra 225, Chrysler Cordoba and many more.
$35 from Motorbooks (www.motorbooks.com)

Big Roads

Those big American land yachts were among the first to cruise America's Big Roads, the Interstates, and Earl Swift's book tells "The Untold Story of the Engineers, Visionaries, and Trailblazers who Created the American Superhighways." By the way, if, like the rest of us, you thought the Interstates back to the days when future president Dwight Eisenhower was part of a U.S. Army convoy that tried to cross the nation on its inadequate roads, you'd be wrong. So if Ike wasn't the father of the Interstates, who was? Read Big Roads to learn the real story.
$27 from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (www.hmhbooks.com)

My First Car

Many of us took our first drive on the Interstates in the first vehicle we owned. Matt Stone has collected a My First Car stories from 65 auto racers and automotive and celebrities ranging from Dan Ackroyd to Jay Leno and from Chip Foose to Neil Peart of the rock group Rush. By the way, NASCAR champion Tony Stewart's first car was a 1979 Plymouth Volare that needed oil as often as it needed gasoline. Ah, the good old days!
$28 from motorbooks (www.motorbooks.com)

They Started in MGs

For most American road racers, the first car they took to the track was a 1950s MG. Those bygone days are preserved in Carl Goodwin's They Started in MGs: Profiles of Sports Car Racers of the 1950s. Goodwin profiles 79 men and women, including Carroll Shelby and Steve McQueen, who first took the green flag behind the wheel of a car that was, Goodwin reminds us, so "affordable, durable and easy to drive... you could drive it from Columbus, Ohio, to McDill Air Force Base at Tampa, Florida... drive it [and win your class] in the 6-hour race... and drive it back to Columbus."
$35 from McFarland & Company (www.mcfarlandpub.com)

Steve McQueen: A Passion for Speed

Speaking of Steve McQueen, French author Frederic Brun's big book includes 160 photographs -- most never-before published -- of the king of cool pursuing his passion for speed on wheels. But what ties those images together are Brun's words, which appear first as an Introduction to the book, and then as brief but poignant essays that launch each grouping -- there are five "chapters" of those images -- such as "Speed and the silver screen" or "Racing is life." Read and you'll learn not only about McQueen, but how the automobile has enabled all of us to alter our relationship with "time, distance and freedom."
$40 from Motorbooks (www.motorbooks.com)

Punching Out: One Year in a Closing Auto Plant Larry Edsall at ClassicCars.com

If Brun's book is a eulogy to a bygone hero, Paul Clemons' book is a eulogy to a bygone era, an era in which America was a manufacturing machine, when, for example, a single plant in Detroit spanned two-million square feet in which more than 4,000 people worked on 16 lines shaping steel for the American automobile. Clemons, a Detroit native, spent a year watching that plant be dismantled, with much of its still very useful machinery being preserved and shipped to other countries to continue its work, only with different workers.
$25.95 from Doubleday (www.doubleday.com)

Built for Adventure: The Classic Automobiles of Clive Cussler and Dirk Pitt
Custom Built by McFarlan
Percival Lowell's Big Red Car

I'm grouping these three together because they deal with truly classic vehicles:
Custom Built by McFarlan is a history of a carriage-builder turned early American automaker, and details not only the history of McFarlan, but details about the few examples that have survived.
$55 from McFarland & Co. (www.mcfarlandpub.com)

In Big Red Car, William Lowell Putnam tells a story that stretches all the way from the building of the first America automobiles to Mars and beyond -- to the discovery of Pluto -- and of the 1911 Stevens-Duryea Model Y "Big Six" that carried the author's own ancestor, Percival Lowell, across the country to establish his observatory in northern Arizona, where the car remains garaged and driven frequently.
$25 from McFarland & Co. (www.mcfarlandpub.com)

In Built for Adventure, novelist and car collector Clive Cussler opens his garage doors for all to see, and not only to see but to read Cussler's own words about the vehicles he's collected, vehicles which often end up playing roles in his novels.
$50 from G.P. Putnam's Sons (www.penguin.com)

The Corvette in Literature and Culture Larry Edsall at ClassicCars.com

There probably are hundreds of books about the Chevrolet Corvette. This one is different from all the rest. Basically, this book is Jerry W. Passon's Ph.D. dissertation about the "symbolic dimensions" of the classic America sports car in literature and culture. The book looks at the Corvette's role in film, television and other cultural venues and is far from dry academia. Consider, for example, the chapter, "Women, Sex, and Identity as Power: The Corvette, Baddest Mother of Them All."
$39.95 from McFarland & Co. (www.mcfarlandpub.com)

The Limit: Life and Death on the 1961 Grand Prix Circuit

Michael Cannell's book examines the other race that engrossed sports fans in 1961. In the United States, it was New York Yankees' teammates Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris and their quest to break Babe Ruth's home run record. But in Europe, it was Ferrari teammates Phil Hill and Wolfgang von Trips and their race for the Grand Prix racing championship. Hill and von Trips were close friends, and yet rivals racing against the backdrop of an incredibly dangerous sport and an manipulative team owner. It is a story Cannell marvelously unfolds.
$25.99 from Twelve Books (www.twelvebooks.com)

Fast Lines: Memorable Moments in Motorsports

Pete Lyons was there, writing about and photographing the races in the Hill-von Trips era, and in the years that followed. Fast Lines is a collection of 55 of his columns about those times published over the course of the last 15 years in Vintage Racecar magazine. Note that while these "lines" may be fast, with each column consuming only three or four pages of the book, you'll want to savor them slowly.
$24.95 from Octane Press (www.octanepress.com or www.petelyons.com)

The Crew Chief's Son

This is Michael Clements' "Trackside Memoir of Early NASCAR." Clements' father and uncle were crew chiefs int he 1950s and ‘60s, and good ones at that. Clements' father and his driver, Rex White, won the Grand National (now Sprint Cup) championship in 1960. Michael Clements takes us not only onto the track and into the pits, but to tales shared at family dinners that often included the sports heroes.
$35 from McFarland & Co. (www.mcfarlandpub.com)

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