Gear: 7 Books We Fell In Love With This Month

7 Books We Fell In Love With This Month

By Benjamin Shahrabani
November 10, 2015

Photo by Rémi Dargegen

Oh, the things you can learn from reading! The mailman brought lots of great books from publishers from near and far, new and old, to Petrolicious over the past couple of months. Every enthusiast’s library should contain some books about a subject that is near and dear to their heart, so without further ado, here are some of my picks that may be worthy of a reader parking themselves in your favorite chair for an afternoon or two. 

The book: Ford GT: How Ford Silenced the Critics, Humbled Ferrari, and Conquered Le Mans 
Author: Preston Lerner, Dave Friedman (photographer)
Publisher: Motorbooks
Pages: 224

Henry Ford II is alleged to have said of Enzo Ferrari, “We’ll beat his ass. We’re going to race him.”

And with that, the Ford Motor Company birthed an ambitious motorsports program, completely chronicled in Ford GT: How Ford Silenced the Critics, Humbled Ferrari and Conquered Le Mans, by Preston Lerner and Dave Friedman. The author and photographer paired up to meticulously document the development, setbacks, and victories of the GT40 program up through 1969, when the official GT40 program was ended. This book captures the drama and action of the era with a concise narrative, insightful interviews with the people that were there, and photographs that draw the reader in for probably the best look they’ll ever get at large-displacement racing in the ’60s.

The book: Memoirs of a Hack Mechanic
Author: Rob Siegel
Publisher: Bentley Publishers
Pages: 432

Author Rob Siegel should be well-known to BMW enthusiasts through his long-running monthly column in Roundel, the official magazine of the BMW Car Club of America, and more recently, a weekly online column in Roundel Online. While the word “hack” traditionally means, “to cut irregularly or inexpertly,” other extensions of the word—hack job, hack writer, and so on—often carry connotations of sub-par quality or amateurishness. However, when it comes to the title the writer has given to himself, it’s a bit of a misnomer.

The subtitle of the book states that this is, “a memoir with actual useful stuff”. While there is a prodigious amount of “actual useful stuff”, it is through the author’s attempts to keep his expanding menagerie of vehicles in operational order, find more garage space, and anecdotal stories that keep you turning the pages. Most importantly, the often humorously presented do-it-yourself advice from Siegel delivers insight into what it means to be a modern enthusiast.

The book: Tracks: Nürburgring Nordschleife
Author: Stefan Bogner
Publisher: Delius Classing Verlag
Pages: 224

Stefan Bogner, a writer, and photographer, has painstakingly photographed what seems like almost every inch of asphalt, capturing the very soul of the world famous Nürburgring Nordschleife. Its a fascinating exercise, and Bogner’s photographic technique evokes a moody, painterly quality. There is almost no text in the book itself—the pictures do the talking—but there is an included track map and turn guide annotated by a professional racing and test driver. Ideal for the Nürburgring fan who’s eager to hit the course for the first time.

The book: Auto Reverse
Author: Kay Michalak, Sven Volker
Publisher: Sven Völker
Pages: 32

Artists Sven Volker and Kay Michalak examine the “dark side” of the automobile by photographing their undercarriages. With fifteen automotive photographic subjects ranging from the mundane—a 1961 Trabant with 6,137 kilometers on the clock, to the sublime—a 1968 Porsche 911T with 166,430 kilometers under its wheels, the result is an art book that beautifully presents a subject that, for the most part, isn’t given too much thought. This limited edition book also comes with a print suitable for framing.

The book: Ferrari Hypercars: The Inside Story of Maranello’s Fastest, Rarest Road Cars
Author: Winston Goodfellow
Publisher: Motorbooks
Pages: 240

There are lots of books about the cars that come out of Maranello, but Winston Goodfellow’s guides you through only its “hypercars”.

Starting with the 375MM from the ’50s, a car the author identifies as the first true Ferrari hypercar, expectations of these flagship models may changed through the decades, but the desire to go ever faster has not. Goodfellow engages with photographs, conceptual drawings, archival material, and backroom twists—thanks to reminisces from people who were there. Well written and put together, Ferrari Hypercars would make a nice addition to any Ferrari’s aficionado’s library.

The book: Lancia and De Virgilio: At the Center
Author: Geoffrey Goldberg
Publisher: David Bull Publishing
Pages: 332

Engineers are the unsung heroes of car production, and one who revolutionized the automobile is Francesco De Virgilio. Known for shaping Lancia during its heyday, he made many advances in car design that we might take for granted today. In Geoffrey Goldberg’s recent book, Lancia and De Virgilio: At the Center, the engineer’s work is painstakingly put into context.

During his decades-long tenure at the company, De Virgilio would invent an anti-roll suspension and engineer a four-wheel drive system for the Lancia D-50 race car, among other projects. But perhaps his most well known, and arguably greatest achievement, was taking what was a rough-running V-6 prototype engine and redesigning its internals with the correct balance. The result? The world’s first production V-6 engine, as used in the sublime Lancia Aurelia in 1950.

What makes this book special is the effortless weaving in of De Virgilio’s personal and family life; family was as essential to the engineer as his work. Goldberg, to his immense credit, wisely decided to include that, while at the same time further complimenting what would ordinarily be a dry engineering story with many of De Virgilio’s personal materials, including notebooks, sketches, photographs and drawings, plus material from Lancia’s archives.

Besides the technical feats recounted within, this book is an engaging automotive and human story that would be of special interest for anyone into Lancia.

The book: The Unfair Advantage
Author: Mark Donohue, Paul Van Valkenberg
Publisher: Bentley
Pages: 325

Today, most racing drivers are singularly focused on just one type of racing. But Mark Donohue (1937-1975) stood out from the pack by being practiced and accomplished across several different ones. Nicknamed “Captain Nice,” Donohue possessed a degree from Brown in mechanical engineering. This setup and engineering advantage served Donohue well, for he would go on to win three Trans-Am titles, the Indy 500 in 1972, winning a Grand National race, and dominating the Can-Am series in 1973 with the insane Porsche 917-30. While trying to conquer Formula 1 in 1975, Donohue’s life end at the age 37 after a crash.

If you are interested in the era of American racing from the ’60s and ’70s, you may well enjoy Donohue’s book. It’s a few stories in one, and well worth a read. Previously out of print, the updated edition from Bentley includes a section of color photographs, along with reminisces from Donohue’s contemporaries. 

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Lia Hughes
Lia Hughes
1 year ago

Unpacked Tracks: Nürburgring Nordschleife, watched it, and it already feels like sitting in a race car and racing alone in a loop. The pictures are great, and the accompanying text, helped me write a themed essay about the history of car racing . What could have been added is the Grand Prix course, which is not included. But that’s no problem, it’s still a great book! Thank you, Mr. Bogner, for the wonderful pictures…

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