16 more automotive books to fan your flames

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yellow vw volkswagen beetle bug on shelf of books unsplash / Olia Gozha

Along with grease, gas, and ball bearings, the automotive world runs on curiosity. How many chapters in the history of Chevy’s small-block started with the question, “How can we make this better?” The same is true across manufacturers on different continents, and it’s also true of each of us.

When we can’t call up a fellow gearhead about the eccentricities of air-cooled engines, or talk to someone who knew Innes Ireland, the internet doesn’t always satisfy; we need a book. 

Last week we picked 16 staff favorites and asked you to submit your fave automotive reads. You didn’t disappoint, filling the comments with everything from biographies of renowned drivers to introductions to NASCAR physics. While our favorite interactions with the hobby occur hands-on-the-wheel or face-to-face with fellow enthusiasts, learning about the industry or diving into the history behind a familiar name can also enrich our automotive life. And sometimes we’d love to journey to distant continents in exotic machinery—what better (and more cost-effective) way to start than with a book? 

Check out the selections below, submitted by your fellow enthusiasts. If checking them out of your local library isn’t an option, never fear—10 out of the 15 books called out are available on Kindle, and we’ve included the corresponding links. 

Biographies 

You called out some outstanding biographies of men whose personalities were nearly as big as their impact on their times: Innes Ireland (All Arms and Elbows), Enzo Ferrari (written by Brock Yates), and Graham Hill (Life at the Limit), to name a few. If you’re up for some book store exploring or willing to wait for shipping, don’t forget a memorable female contributor to automotive history: Helene Delangle, also known as Hellé Nice. Captured in Bugatti Queen: In Search of a French Racing Legend, she danced off the French show stage in the ’20s and into the Grand Prix spotlight in the ’30s. She set several land speed records before an accident in Brazil derailed her racing career, and she survived both the German occupation of France and, in 1949, accusations of being a Gestapo agent. 

If you don’t have the option of bookstore hunting and still want your racing driver biography fix, check out Tom Rubython’s Shunt: The Story of James Hunt, available on Kindle at Amazon. 

Epic road trips 

In our original article, we called out some great stories of American road trips, but if you’d like to take that odyssey to the intercontinental stage, look up Phil Llewellin’s The Road to Muckle Flugga: Great Drives in Five Continents. Unfortunately, like the best road trips, this book could take a while—in current shipping conditions—to reach your own doorstep. Check out John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley in Search of America on Kindle, a 21-page short read that’s perfect for a mid-garage-project break.  

Behind the scenes 

Want a peek behind the scenes of the more eclectic automotive scenes? Crawl behind barn doors with our own automotive archaeologist Tom Cotter and his Best Barn-Find Collector Car Tales. Revel—but we beg you, do not replicate—the exploits of Brock Yates and Dan Gurney and that infamous Sunoco blue Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona in Cannonball!

If you’d prefer some on-track drama, Jade Gurss’s Beast could be right up your alley, since it chronicles the story of the Ilmor-Penske race car and its bonkers, hush-hush Mercedes-Benz pushrod engine that put out nearly 1000 horsepower and stunned the field at the 1994 Indianapolis 500. 

More of a NASCAR fan? Diandra Leslie-Peleckey’s Physics of NASCAR is an entertaining, fascinating breakdown of the intricate science behind this deceptively simple, “just turn left” series. Making it Faster, by Dan Binks and Norm DeWitt, cuts a broader swathe of racing series, documenting the endless tango of those who make the rules and those who, strategically, find ways around those restrictions. Whether your automotive sport of choice is F1, IMSA, or Trans-Am, you’ll find something intriguing in this book. 

History

Don’t want to twiddle your thumbs waiting for uncertain shipping? Pulitzer-Prize-winning author Paul Ingrassia wrote this masterful cultural history, Engines of Change: A History of the American Dream in Fifteen Cars, and you can buy it for $15 on Kindle right now. From manufacturing developments to the emerging suburbanization of America, Ingrassia traces the impact of vehicles such as the Jeep, BMW’s 3 Series, and even the Honda Accord on U.S. culture.

Muscle and pony car fans, fear not: the Pontiac GTO and the Mustang also made the cut. For a somewhat shorter read and, arguably, a must-read for any car or business aficionado, grab Bob Lutz’s Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business. Another first-hand, insider account that focuses on the manufacturing side, don’t underestimate Ben Hamper’s Rivethead: Tales from the Assembly Line, a collection of illuminating essays that doesn’t flinch from the gritty realities of factory work. 

We’re always looking to add to our automotive libraries. Have more recommendations? Be sure to share them in the comments below.

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