Our Two Cents: Read these books about automobiles


Welcome to Our Two Cents, a biweekly feature where we ask the team here at Hagerty Media a variety of questions. This time we get them to make recommendations on books you should read.

It seems like a question with obvious answers, as asking a buncha writers about books is an open invitation for group think. But no, as our team’s diverse interests have yet again created unique perspectives for us all to enjoy. And maybe motivate some of us to buy one of these on eBay/Amazon in the future? Well, who knows what the future holds … so without any further ado …

The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby (Tom Wolfe)

Picador | Amazon

This book is a collection of essays that start as a profile of custom car royalty, namely Ed “Big Daddy” Roth and George Barris. But it goes further and turns into a look into America, to a time that will likely never be duplicated. Aaron Robinson (Editor at Large) made his recommendation clear in one phrase, as this book shows “the roots of customizing framed by one of America’s greatest writers.” 

The Greatest Race (Dwight Knowlton)

Carpe Viam

“I’ve read this book at least 200 times! It’s a fantastic, historically significant story with great illustrations that had my kids asking me to read it to them almost on a nightly basis. I got it from a friend (Stefan Lombard) when my oldest was just a baby. This book came with a poster of the MB 300SLR that has now hung in my son’s bedroom for over seven years. All of my kids are car fanatics, and a lot of it has to do with this book (and all the Hot Wheels we buy).” — Ben Woodworth, Senior Video Lead

Car: A Drama of the American Workplace (Mary Walton)

W. W. Norton & Company | Amazon

CAR explores, in detail, Ford’s attempt to create a second-generation Taurus which could effectively take on the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord; in the process, the book reveals why Detroit was utterly unable to compete with Japan for decades. The author was given unfettered access to the chief engineer and the development team—and Ford, you can be sure, will never grant such access again.” — Joe DeMatio, Senior Manager of Content

Cars and Trucks and Things That Go (Richard Scarry)

Golden Books | Amazon

“This is the perfect first car book for kids, because it shows them the entire spectrum of vehicles that occupy our world—plus a few that only exist in the author’s wonderful imagination. I still have my tattered copy, now nearly 50 years old.” — Stefan Lombard, Managing Editor

But wait, we got more to say …

“I still don’t understand how Lowly Worm can drive …” — Ben Woodworth

“How did that get past the fact checker?”Jeff Peek, Senior Editor

Big Sur (Jack Kerouac)

Warbler Classics | Amazon

“Maybe just because it’s what I am currently reading, or maybe because the detailed presence of cars in the storyline is a little of a surprise to me. It’s a book about a lot of things, but driving and cars play an oddly powerful role in defining the characters and how the reader feels about them. The careful description of the Jeep purchased by Dave and how the wagon ties into enabling the group of friends to have a ‘rolling front porch’ to take on adventures means that the car weaves in and out of the story more often than some might realize. Is Big Sur about cars? No, but it wouldn’t be the same if they didn’t play a role.”— Kyle Smith, Editor

The Unfair Advantage (Mark Donohue)

Robert Bentley | Amazon

The Unfair Advantage is a great look at Mark Donohue’s brilliant racing career, as well as Roger Penske’s nascent efforts as a team owner. As a racer, it also taught me how to think methodically about pursuing success within the sport.” — Eddy Eckart, Senior Editor

The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)

Viking | Amazon

Did you read this book in English class? I sure did, and I kinda loved the part about the greedy car dealer. But if you’re like Managing Editor David Zenlea, you might fixate on the best part about it for a car enthusiast.“I barely remember a thing about the book other than Tom Joad struggling to keep that Model T running,” Zenlea says.

How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive (John Muir)

Rick Steves | Amazon

“Anyone even slightly interested in how a car works should read this book. It’s truly artwork: car mechanics explained without ego and littered with whimsical and useful illustrations. The book was first published in 1969 and has the feel of the era. (I am assuming the ‘feel’ of that era, as I was born in 1970.)” — Larry Webster, Editor-in-Chief

Fordlandia (Greg Grandin)

Picador | Amazone

Fordlandia highlights the staggering extent to which FoMoCo was a powerhouse in the world economy in the early 20th century. But as is often the case with major corporations, Ford thought itself invulnerable and squandered an unthinkable amount of time, money, resources, and human capital attempting to create a rubber farming community—from scratch—deep in the Amazon rainforest. It’s an unbelievable shit show that combines corporate arrogance with international politics, environmental science, and global economics. Love, love, love this book.” — Eric Weiner, Executive Editor

Art Fitzpatrick & Van Kaufman: Masters of the Art of Automobile Advertising (Rob Keil)

Rob Keil / Advection Media

“Prior to a year ago, I would have recommended another book—probably The Arsenal of Democracy: FDR, Detroit, and an Epic Quest to Arm America at War, a fantastic account of how Ford Motor Company went from making automobiles to producing the airplanes during World War II. But then Ron Keil’s book came along. Keil’s deep dive into the faithful pairing of Art Fitzpatrick and Van Kaufman, the artists behind some of the greatest automotive advertising ever created, is a can’t-put-down retrospective with both fabulous images (obviously) and excellent writing. You’ll find yourself returning to this book again and again—and loving every minute of it.” — Jeff Peek, Senior Editor

Rude Awakening, and The Reckoning, and Out of the Crisis

While we have an unwritten rule of one submission per person, I’m just gonna go right ahead and pick three books. More to the point, nobody puts baby in the corner, so here I go!

Rude Awakening was a book I bought on a whim on the clearance shelf at the University of Texas-Austin student union bookstore. I was a freshman who believed he had the chops to be an engineer, but the management/finance lessons learned from GM’s stunning fall from grace made me reconsider my path. It spoke to me like no physics or calculus textbook could. The Reckoning was more (a lot more) of the same, although the narration was aimed at a wider audience than just business suits. Speaking of professional attire, Out of the Crisis should be mandatory reading for any automobile enthusiast working at a managerial level.

“The teachings of W. Edwards Deming fell on deaf ears in post-war America, but Japan revered him, and their products proved the success of the partnership. The dominance of Japan Inc. brought Ford to Deming’s table and subsequently made the Q-word into a catchy jingle. Out of the Crisis is a dull and dry book compared to every other example listed here, but sometimes you gotta take your medicine … even if you just read the chapters aimed at management and leadership.” Sajeev “Do as I say, don’t do as I do” Mehta, Senior Editor

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