These fantastic books and articles are a great introduction to sports cars and racing. My brief reviews will help you decide which to get first. Some are so much fun to read that you'll happily ignore your remote control or smart phone for an hour. Don't let another year pass without taking a break with one of these wonderful books or articles.
The Red Car
By Don Stanford
This book — first published in 1954 — is 250 short pages long (less pages in paper back). It was written for the enthusiast not yet old enough to own a driver's license. I discovered it about the time Ian Fleming's James Bond arrived in paper back. This book was the Catcher in the Rye for me. The setting is the little town of Bullet (no this book is not related to that movie but probably had something to do with Steve's name) on the other side of the mountains from Colorado Springs, where Hap Adams falls in love with a wrecked MGTC parked behind Frenchy's gas station. Frenchy is an ex-pat racing driver and mechanic in hiding from guess where. Hap pleads for work to buy it, pay for repairs and advice. In the process Frenchy teaches everything we hold as dear gospel about the soul of a sports car. Also a mysterious article in the Denver papers designates Bullet as the next venue for a road race for high rollers, and real drama ensues. Not the Italian Job, this is the Rockies with a simple cash prize, but just as much fun, an inspirational read, even for adults today. Remember the TC is the car that started both Phil Hill, Carol Shelby, John Fitch, and Bill Pollack on their automotive careers. If Hap Adams were to morph into Harry Potter for a new edition, vintage car clubs would not be dominated by the AARP crowd.
SBN 10: 1-56849-731-8
ISBN 13: 9781568497310
Red Wheels and White Sidewalls: Confessions of an Allard Racer
By Bill Pollack
Bill Pollard has more than twenty years on me. That’s why he raced what I restored, an MG-TC, against much faster exotics and “American” specials. More interesting is where — southern California. His father was a prolific screenwriter. He grew up first knowing a lot of Hollywood’s royalty, then the early importers and owners of sports cars. Soon he owned one himself. Then he started racing other owner’s cars because he was that good. Finally he mastered the fine art of muscling an Allard around the legendary early road racing circuits on the west coast. Phil Hill competed in almost every race too, and you’ll read how. There is no better book to acquaint you with the west coast’s influence on sports cars in America and it’s only native F1 champion than reading this book. Carroll Shelby raced against and sometimes socialized with Bill Pollard. He wrote the Foreword. Start there, it’s that easy.
Kings of the Road
By Ken Purdy
Ken Purdy is the Dean of American Automotive Journalism. He invented the road test for Popular Mechanics before we had car magazines. In this book, Mr. Purdy sets out to re-educate and enlighten his American audience about the purpose, nature, heritage and charms of sports cars and their road racing origins. Some of its chapters are reprinted from Atlantic Monthly and True magazines. The first brief chapter’s title is "What We Have Lost." Here he reminds us of some magnificent automobiles no longer produced in the U.S., describes how cars are mass produced today (1950s) but have lost their connection to adventure and our need for thrill and pleasure of their performance. In other chapters he describes his personal encounters with Bugatti, Rolls Royce, Mercer, Mercedes, Alfa Romeo, Cord and Citroen, the Green cars at Le Mans, Duesenberg, MG, Isotta-Fraschini and Hispano-Suiza.
A whole chapter is about Tazio Nuvolari, another about the Indy 500, plus a half dozen more about other automotive topics. Although context and topics are dated, there is a great deal to enjoy, learn, and appreciate — most of all the pleasure of reading about the grandest automotive topics as pitched by our Hemingway of rolling sculpture.
Library of Congress C.C. # 52-5867
By Peter Stevenson
Peter Stevenson and this book deserve a lot more credit. It is one of the most fun to read books on my shelves. Grand Prix racing, hill climbs and land speed record breaking between the wars are fascinating automotive topics for sure, but this book delivered ten times more enjoyment than anticipated. Mr. Stevenson tells the many very personal stories about heroic drivers of race cars developed like combat equipment, managed like a paramilitary mission, when the words safety and speed never coexisted on the same page; of how their wives and lovers feared not only about the dangers at speed but their dangerous flirtations with political incorrectness and mockery of political figures. Hitler's choice to subsidize both Mercedes and Auto Union created a brilliant surge in power and design. It is fun to speculate what might have transpired had he been smarter and also funded the development of better tires. This book's facts, details, and atmosphere are distilled from 30 books and articles. It brings into marvelous focus the points of view of the legends dedicated to victory and records through speed and survival, racing to entertain and boast national superiority. The foreword is by Hans-Joachim Stuck. His father was there.
The Unfair Advantage
by Mark Donohue with Paul Van Valkenburgh
Our two decades in the space race were also exciting break-through years for automotive technology. Although horsepower was found in the 1930s, only a government's budget could afford to field teams with enough of it back then. This changed after the war. With corporate sponsorship, rapid advances in brakes and tires could not be properly deployed without getting serious about chassis dynamics and aerodynamics. No racer was better prepared than Mark Donohue to take us there and explain this fascinating history because he was first an engineer with a Corvette for weekend racing, then a serious amateur, and finally the consummate professional working and driving for Roger Penske, with Ford, then Chevy, then Porsche and finally McLaren. Each chapter is about a car, every handling challenge leads to insight and each breakthrough is an unfair advantage until others figured it out and copied or protested it. This book is simply fascinating and totally educational.
ISBN 0-8376-0073-1; soft cover 0-8376-0069-3
ISBN 0-8376-0069-3 (Brand new edition with 60 more photos and more)
Motorcycling Across Michigan
by William Murphy
Why not benefit from the enthusiasm and enterprise of fellow enthusiasts who happen to make do with two wheels? This book by William Murphy, a retired Michigan Department of Natural Resource employee, is full of chapters each describing a nice one or two day tour on wonderful roads around Michigan. Ever wonder why the roads less traveled are in much better condition? Maintenance funds are allocated to counties based upon how many miles they have, not on how much traffic they support. And our fixed 17 cents per gallons tax on gas is part of the maintenance funding formula — it's been that way for three decades as if inflation doesn’t exist. Anyway, this book is a terrific way to explore our touring possibilities before consulting a map or resorting to the boredom of the expressway. Keep in mind, there are a hundred more miles to explore between Ann Arbor to Houghton in the Upper Peninsula as Ann Arbor to Washington D.C., plus there are a lot more lakes and shoreline and light houses along the way.
Motorcycle Journeys Through the Alps and Corsica
by John Hermann
I know this is far out, but hey you've got a bucket list too don't you? And I have good automotive reasons for suggesting this book — because by far most sports and GT cars in the world were conceived of and created within a day drive of these mountains; fabulous cars for their time designed to enjoy and excel on these roads and passes. Sure, we have some nice comparable stretches of tarmac here in the U.S. such as Montana's Highway to the Sun (closed for repair), California's Highway 1, Colorado's Million Dollar Highway, and the Appalachian Trail. But in the time and effort spent to drive those, if and when you are near the Alps you can enjoyed ten times more, kind of like going out to eat occasionally vs. two weeks at the Ritz. The benefits are so many choices (some in the Dolomites even start on farms and lead through tunnels to nowhere in particular now but long gone cannons from WW I), roads uniformly well maintained, and you rarely bump into a tourist car/camper jambs, only occasionally some serious motorcycle riders or a squadron of bicyclists. All are paved but many are very narrow.
By Mike Riedner and Ulrich Bethscheider-Kieser
Originally published in German Motor Klassic magazine in April 1994 and translated from German by Peter Pleitner
A convenient and economical way to shop for used and out of print books is offered at Abe Books.