8 automotive books that’ll really rev your engine
We love the latest and greatest gadgets as much as the next person, but sometimes the best gift you can give yourself—or someone else—is a good book, a comfortable chair, a hot beverage, and a quiet evening. Here are eight automotive books (seven published in 2019) for the car enthusiast in your life… even if that person is you.
Hemi Muscle 70 Years: Chrysler, Dodge, and Plymouth High Performance
By Darwin Holmstrom
Chock-full of information attractively illustrated with stunning photography and vintage advertising, you don’t have to love muscle cars to enjoy Hemi Muscle 70 Years: Chrysler, Dodge, and Plymouth High Performance. You just have to love cars.
In 1950, Chrysler debuted a potent high-performance overhead-valve V-8 engine that was originally called the FirePower but soon became known as the Hemi. Author David Holmstrom shares the complete illustrated story of the legendary Hemi and the cars it powered, and he explores how Chrysler’s engine became the #1 choice for drag racers and stock car racers across the U.S.—drivers like Richard Petty, Don Garlits, and David Pearson.
Stuffed into some of the most desirable performance cars in automotive history—the ’Cuda, Road Runner, Charger, GTX, and Challenger, to name a few—the Hemi made such a lasting impact that Chrysler revived it as the top engine for its modern-day iterations of the Challenger and Charger.
You may be sitting down as you begin to turn the pages of Hemi Muscle 70 Years, but it’ll be difficult to stay there. This book—available for $40 (or less) on Amazon—will surely get your engine revving.
Porsche: Excellence Was Expected
By Karl Ludvigsen
Bentley Publishers, $524.95
If you’re a serious Porsche enthusiast, you’re familiar with Karl Ludvigsen’s masterful work. More than 40 years ago, the first edition of Porsche: Excellent Was Expected was hailed as the definitive history of the German marque, and Ludvigsen followed his original masterpiece with updates and additional volumes in 2003 and 2008. Now comes update/volume #4. With revised work from beginning to end, Excellence Was Expected has grown to 2834 pages, along with nearly 3000 photos and illustrations.
From Porsche’s first coupe in 1948 through the 2020 Taycan, Ludvigsen covers it all. There are 12 new chapters about the 911 (Types 991 and 992), 918 Spyder, 919 Hybrid, Taycan, and Porsche’s company evolution; 10 new chapters with updated coverage of Boxster, Cayman, Cayenne, Macan, and Panamera; 32 new Focus chapters highlighting fascinating people and rare Porsche cars through the decades; and all-new Porsche model timelines, featuring exclusive color illustrations of key Porsche models from 1948–2020.
The hardcover, four-volume Porsche: Excellence Was Expected collection costs a hefty $524.95 at BentleyPublishers.com—Amazon Prime members can get it for $369.99—but hardcore Porsche aficionados will find it invaluable.
Great Grilles of the ’50s
By Mark Misercola and Hank Kaczmarek
M.T. Publishing Company, Inc., $39.95
If you enjoy lists, particularly lists about cars of the fabulous 1950s, you’ll enjoy Great Grilles of the ’50s. What makes the book different, according to co-authors Mark Misercola and Hank Kaczmarek, is its focus on a single aspect of those automobiles—their grilles.
“The 1950s was a golden era for Detroit, reflecting the endless optimism and futuristic view in America following World War II,” Misercola and Hank Kaczmarek say in the introduction. “Car designers and stylists were inspired by current-day fighter jets, space age technology, and chrome. Their creations sported shiny chrome grilles, bullet-nosed bumpers, enormous tail fins, cockpit-styled dashboards, and frames as big as aircraft carriers. Many have called them art work on wheels. The allure and emotional appeal of these cars has been well-documented in countless books over the years. But, without exception, all of these titles look at fabulous ’50s vehicles as the sum of their parts. None focus specifically on what many consider to be the most distinguishing aspect of many of these vehicles—their amazing front grilles.”
Great Grilles of the ’50s lists the 11 best front-end styles of the decade, from the 1953 Packard Caribbean (Chapter 1) to the 1957 Ford Thunderbird (Chapter 11). And although the authors insist the focus is grilles, grilles, and nothing but grilles, the book includes everything else, too—the history of each vehicle, specs, paint codes, and period advertising.
The deluxe hardbound edition is available for $39.95 at mtpublishing.com or by calling (888) 263-4702.
The BMW 2002: The Real Story Behind the Legend
By Jackie Jouret
ID Media LLC, $29.95
Introduced in 1968, the BMW 2002 is one of the best-loved automobiles of all time, but its origins have been shrouded in mystery and misinformation for the last 50 years. Jackie Jouret is out to change all that with her new book, The BMW 2002: The Real Story Behind the Legend. Based on research that Jouret conducted within the BMW Archive in Munich, the book dispels misinformation that has been circulating for decades and reveals the truth behind the influential 2002’s creation.
For instance, the car was not, in fact, built at U.S. importer Max Hoffman’s instigation. The Real Story Behind the Legend begins in 1960, with BMW’s first design drawings for a successor to the 700 coupe, and Jouret’s research includes every engine and body-style variant through the final cars of 1976. Not a simple catalog of specifications, The BMW 2002 delves deeply into the process by which the cars were created… the decisions that were made and the rationale behind them. The book also tells the story of BMW’s business operations in the U.S., from the days of independent importers Hoffman and Fadex through the creation of BMW of North America, Munich’s wholly-owned sales subsidiary.
Just as the 2002 put BMW on the path to becoming a global success story and one of the world’s most respected car companies, Jouret tells the story straight. The book is available on Amazon for $29.95 (or less).
Never Stop Driving: A Better Life Behind the Wheel
By Larry Webster, Zach Bowman, Jack Baruth, and Brett Berk
Hagerty Media, $26.99 ($21.59 HDC members)
As we move closer to a world filled with autonomous vehicles, classic car owners are growing a bit anxious. What is the future of driving? Is there a place for the cars we love? You bet there is. A couple of years ago, Hagerty magazine editor-in-chief Larry Webster read Simple Fly Fishing, and he was struck by how the book was explicitly dedicated to passing the joy of the sport on to a younger generation. It got him thinking, and in that moment the seed was planted for Never Stop Driving: A Better Life Behind the Wheel.
The book, intended to reinforce the notion that each of us has a right to guide our own life behind the steering wheel, celebrates—through glorious photos and provocative writing—the joy of driving and explores the mental and social benefits of engaging with automobiles. It also offers advice on how to enjoy the car hobby and relationships with other car people.
Featuring contributions from Jay Leno, Patrick Dempsey, and Mario Andretti, Never Stop Driving is equal parts how-to and philosophy, and it illuminates our love affair with cars and the car culture in a profound way.
The hardbound book is available for $26.99 ($21.49 for Hagerty Drivers Club members) at The Shop by Hagerty.
Resurrecting Bertha: Buying Back Our Wedding Car After 26 Years in Storage
By Rob Siegel
Hack Mechanic Press, $20
Rob Siegel, Hagerty’s resident DIY instructor, makes no bones about his love for BMWs or his bride, Maire Anne. The two come together in Siegel’s latest book, Resurrecting Bertha: Buying Back Our Wedding Car After 26 Years in Storage.
“To most people, cars are just appliances to be disposed of when they rust, become unreliable, or are outgrown. But to car people, it’s different,” Siegel writes. “Cars are like photographs that occupy physical space. They hold aromas that trigger memories and remind us of who we once were. In addition, to some people, the relationship with the car itself is a real thing. Many enthusiasts pine for the cars of their youth, regret that they ever let them go, and yearn and search for them the way people do with old lovers, hoping to find them and rekindle that old spark.”
In Resurrecting Bertha, Siegel assures the similarly afflicted that this feeling is normal, and he embarks on the journey himself. He details his original eight-year relationship with “Bertha,” his highly-modified 1975 BMW 2002, before selling the car to a dear friend—who stores it for 26 years. In a “weak whisky-soaked moment,” Siegel buys back Bertha and the journey really begins.
“Resurrecting Bertha is about more than just the nuts and bolts,” Siegel writes. “It’s about deciding what’s important, the joy of doing good, and how—if you do it right—not only can you go home again, you can do so in the same car.”
Imagine! Automobile Concept Art From the 1930s to the 1980s
By Patrick G. Kelly
Dalton Watson Fine Books, $90
When people lament that cars just don’t look like they used to, they’re not just simply indulging nostalgia. American designers back in the day painstakingly developed vehicles imbued with personality, imagination, and optimism about the future. In Imagine! Automobile Concept Art From the 1930s to the 1980s, Patrick G. Kelly presents decades of visionary creativity, as seen through the lens of surviving sketches and illustrations from 87 artists who worked at Detroit’s Big Three automakers in the heyday of American car design.
In this 323-page book, Kelly showcases the unsung work of a generation of American creatives. “Many of these individuals could have whole volumes dedicated to their work and stories,” he writes. “I wanted to let the images see the light of day again, not to be stored away and not to be lost to time and other misfortunes.”
The book’s 235 unique images are beautifully presented in this large-format hardcover along with fascinating biographies about the artists, where available.
Ford GT: How Ford Silenced the Critics, Humbled Ferrari, and Conquered Le Mans
By Preston Lerner
Last, but not least… We know, we know, Preston Lerner’s award-winning book about the Ford GT’s rise to victory at Le Mans was originally published in 2015, but with all the hoopla surrounding the recent blockbuster movie Ford v Ferrari, we thought you might enjoy taking a deeper dive into the GT’s fascinating history.
Ford GT: How Ford Silenced the Critics, Humbled Ferrari, and Conquered Le Mans celebrates the 50th anniversary of Ford’s historic sweep of the podium in 1966 (and also includes an updated chapter chronicling the development of the new Ford GT and its win at Le Mans in 2016). Lerner details the program’s progress from ground zero to the pinnacle of motorsports, the technical nuances of the V-8-powered prototypes that changed the face of road racing, and the personalities that made it all happen—and images from Shelby American and Ford Motor Company photographer Dave Friedman bring the story to life.
The 232-page hardcover book can be purchased for $60 (or less) on Amazon.
Would you add recommendations to this list? Let us know your most treasured automotive reads in the comments below.