If you like reading about cars, then this holiday season offers up a great quartet of books for you to choose from. Whether you’re on Santa’s “nice” list, or buying it for yourself or a loved one, you’re sure to find at least one of these literary delights quite pleasing.
Happy holidays to one and all, and be sure to let us know your favorite automotive books from this past year in the comments below.
Transatlantic Style: A Romance of Fins and Chrome
Author: Donald Osborne, Michael Furman (Photographer)
Publisher: Coachbuilt Press
Format: Hardcover, 288 pages
In the years directly after World War II, there was something of a renewed cultural exchange between the United States and Europe. After years of wartime austerity many fashionable traits in the areas of dress, music, architecture, and automobile design that were put aside were able to sustain a comeback. This last subject – automobile design – is undertaken by author and noted Italian car expert, columnist and television presenter Donald Osborne, in his new book, Transatlantic Style: A Romance of Fins and Chrome.
As the only industrial power left standing after the war, the United States was in the best position to more immediately resume automobile production. It had intact facilities, even somewhat enhanced and enlarged by construction for military needs. But while there was pent-up demand for new vehicles, the cars produced were predominantly based on older, pre-war designs. Stylists soon looked across the ocean for inspiration. In conjunction with photographer Michael Furman’s Coachbuilt Press, the author examines this fertile period in car design where, during a period that took place from 1947-1960, many Italian cars took their cues from the more extravagantly styled cars from the United States which was enjoying a brash and prosperous post-war motoring boom. At the same time, American designers and manufacturers started to incorporate Italian style in their domestic offerings.
Accompanied by both English and Italian text, the author divides the time period under examination into five distinct subsets – The Birth of a Style, A Romance is Born, Cultures Merge, Mid-Atlantic/Mid-Decade, and Italian Style Triumphant – and shows the birth of a burgeoning American-Italian design language through the examinations of thirty-eight significant cars including the 1938 Buick Y–Job, 1947 Cisitalia MM Aerodynamic Coupe, 1954 Dodge Firearrow II 1955 Hudson Italia, 1955 Alfa Romeo B.A.T 9, 1956 Ferrari 410 Superamerica, 1958 Lancia Flaminia PF Coupe, 1959 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham, 1959 Maserati 5000GT, and Alfa Romeo 2000 ‘Praho’ to name some standouts. By the time the last section is reached, the author has ably illustrated in both words and pictures that the tables had turned and “the classic style developed by Italian designers had banished almost all of the earlier American influences and American cars began to be made over in an Italian mode”.
Covering 288 pages and rendered on beautifully rendered, glossy pages, the cars depicted in this book are truly striking, with the bulk of the photographic work superbly lensed by Furman, while carefully researched text from Osborne informs the reader on the evolving stylistic influences of each model depicted. An education in design itself, Transatlantic Style must come highly recommended
If you’ve read Waft 1, 2, and 3, you’re probably pretty familiar with the handiwork of publishers and husband and wife duo Bart Lenaerts and Lies De Mol. For the uninitiated, the previous Waft volumes are somewhat difficult to personify, but in the simplest terms they are themed anthology style books offering up a curated and stylish selection of moving stories, conversational talks with people who eat, live and breathe cars in often very different ways, and profile pieces on cars, places, and artwork.
This time around, Waft profiles and features diverse “personalities” such as the Jaguar D-Type, Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus, designer Karim Habib, and GM’s Ed Wellburn amongst many. A musical tribute to car culture, Waft 4: Music Was My First Love, is much like the volumes that precede it – somewhat unusual and challenging – but once you settle in for the ride, it offers up oodles of passion for the automotive medium. Content varies from chapter to chapter, much like a good album, but as with any book from Waft, is always beautifully presented.
Recaro: Seating in Motion
Author: Frank Jung
Publisher: Delius Klasing
Format: Hardcover, 400 pages
Sitting comfortably? A new book from publisher Delius Klasing has recently been released about German seat maker Recaro. While perhaps best known for their high-performance car seats, Recaro also has a very intimate connection with car manufacturing, having once been part of Reutter Karosserie-Werke, the coachbuilding company that produced bodies for the Volkswagen Beetle, and later the Porsche 356. After Porsche acquired the Reutter factory in 1963, what was left of the company was renamed Recaro and refocused its operations to car seat manufacture. Today, the company is alive and well, and besides producing seating for a wide array of production cars, and racing applications, it also produces a diverse repertoire of other products such as seating for commercial airliners, wheelchairs, trains, chairs for Europe’s top soccer clubs, child seats for your baby or toddler, and even tanks.
Written by Frank Jung, the company’s “Head of Tradition”, Recaro: Seating in Motion, is a celebration of over fifty-years of Recaro history, and design. To that end, and with unrestricted access to company archives, and personnel, the author paints a picture of a company that was able to quickly pick itself up after the market for car bodies dried up. Focusing predominantly on the post-1963 reformation, the book highlights dozens of innovative seating developments the company has wrought for a variety of applications through to the present day like the first seat with side bolsters (1965), integrated seat belts (1971) and pneumatic lumbar support (1977), all features we think of as commonplace today. Much like the company it pertains to, the book is well produced and designed, illustrated with hundreds of photographs, sketches, schematics, graphics and period advertising, as well as reminiscences and conversations with customers, users, management and designers, both past and present.
While Recaro: Seating in Motion certainly veers towards the “niche” side of things, in actuality the information contained within is quite fascinating, and gives the reader an unparalleled look into an extremely important part of car design we don’t often think about, but probably should, as the seat is our biggest physical connection to a car besides the steering wheel.
Can-Am 50th Anniversary: Flat Out with North America’s Greatest Race Series 1966-74
Author: George Levy, Pete Biro
Format: Hardcover, 256 pages
Rules and regulations are generally a good thing in motorsport as it helps keep a level playing field, and foster participant safety. However, in 1966, the SCCA’s U.S. Road Racing Championship introduced a new racing series with the cooperation of the Canadian Automobile Sports Club with a rulebook the size of a matchbook. The Canadian-American Challenge Cup – or Can-Am for short – would become, arguably, the greatest form of motor racing the world had ever known. To commemorate what would have been the series’ golden anniversary, George Levy and Pete Biro, both longtime veterans of automotive journalism, recount the antics and personalities of the short-lived series that is recognized as the proving grounds for many technological and aerodynamic developments, and attracted many of the world’s finest drivers in Can-Am 50th Anniversary: Flat Out with North America’s Greatest Race Series 1966-74.
Besides four tires and a mandated passenger seat (!), for the most part Can–Am was an unambiguous challenge to build the lightest body possible, and within that body fit the most powerful engine available. Manufacturers including McLaren, Lola, BRM, and Porsche constructed some of the most exciting racecars ever built, using turbochargers to enable some of the cars to produce well over 1,000 horsepower, while oversized rear wings and other body modifications prevented more than a few from literally taking flight. Racing luminaries as Mark Donohue, Dan Gurney, George Follmer, Vic Elford, AJ Foyt, Graham Hill, Phil Hill, Denny Hulme, Peter Revson, Bruce McLaren, Mario Andretti, Bob Bondurant, David Hobbs, and Jackie Stewart all competed in the series.
And it was an incredible blast while it lasted. The Can Am racers were a diverse group of immensely fast machines, driven flat out to record-breaking lap times, and fans were excited, but alas, all good things must come to an end. The double whammy of driver Bruce McLaren’s death in 1970, and Porsche’s subsequent domination of the 1972 and 1973 championships with their all-conquering 917 Turbo suffered a death blow on the series which was cancelled in 1974.
Can-Am 50th Anniversary offers a detailed, but extremely readable and accessible text accompanied by a plethora of often striking period photographs in both color and black and white, as well as an appendix covering all nine thrilling Cam Am racing seasons. If you’re an aficionado of this racing series from a bygone and never-to-be-repeated era that truly did just about everything in excess, this book should be considered essential to your library.