Help Kickstart The Little Red Racing Car Project
Do you try to raise your kid to be a car lover like yourself? Have you searched for the perfect car picture book for toddlers only to be disappointed by what’s out there? If so, Dwight Knowlton shares your pain and is doing something about it!
Dwight set out to write and illustrate his own children’s book, The Little Red Racing Car, after a fruitless search for a book for his newly-born son. The story of the book, as well as Dwight’s story of his project, are both universally inspirational. The project is on Kickstarter and needs our help to make it become a reality before its deadline—this Thursday, February 28. We hope you will be inspired to make a pledge to this worthy project.
Q: Word about your project spread quickly amongst the vintage auto enthusiasts, and we all want to see your project succeed. It seems like you’ve struck a chord with this community. Was the reaction surprising?
A: It’s far exceeded my expectations. The project really just started as “I’m going to do this for my son, and I’m going to be public about it”, but it has far exceeded any hopes, especially since the book isn’t available yet. I think it says to me that there are many people out there who feel like I do: let’s have a real car book for kids.
Q: What, in your opinion, makes a perfect automotive picture book?
A: One of the things that became obvious when I was searching for the perfect book was that publishers believe that they have to dumb down the car in order for kids to get it. The car had to have eyes, had to act goofy and sneeze, and other gimmicks like that, and I don’t share this belief.
I think that the perfect automotive children’s book would be one that’s equally appealing to the kid sitting on a lap and the father on whose lap the kid is sitting.
Q: Can you give a brief synopsis of the story?
A: Well, the story begins with a beauty of a Maserati 300S crossing the finish line at a great race such as Sebring or perhaps the Nurburgring. But as it ages, the car ends up forgotten and eventually boarded up in an unused barn. Decades later, it’s discovered by a boy and rebuild with his dad. During the tear down, they even discover a pack of papers tucked away in the car that reveal this Maserati as a car once raced by the great Stirling Moss—one of the greatest drivers ever to have gripped a wooden wheel!
This last bit is thanks to Sir Stirling Moss himself, who graciously responded to a letter I wrote him and wrote me back giving permission to use his name in the book.
Q: Your day job is in marketing, yet this project seems to be driven more by instinct than market research.
A: I want the book to be true to my vision. I don’t want to try to appeal to as many target groups as possible. I want to stay true to the core target audience: car-loving parents. And I definitely want this to be appreciated by sons or daughters; grandparents with their grandkids.
For example some publishers have complained that “carburetor” may have too many letters for kids, and there’s been other criticism. But that’s alright with me. The market will ultimately decide whether they want it or not, and you don’t need a strategist to tell you that.
Q: You have put a lot of effort into ensuring a high level of accuracy in the most minute detail of the illustrations. Why do you think it was necessary?
A: I set out to do two things to make sure the story is not dumbed down. The first is the illustrations. For example, if the car is going into a turn, then I want it to be leaning the right way. This may appeal more to the adults, but it’s fun for the kids, too. It makes the illustrations more dynamic. I want all the detail on the car, such as placement of gauges, to be accurate as well.
The second is accuracy of the story. What I’m trying to do is to tell the whole story but make it more succinct. There’s a part in the story, for example, where the father and son unbolt the Weber carburetors and tear them down on the workbench. I want the kid to know that there is such a thing as a carburetor. Think of it as a series of micro-stories. They took six hours to rebuild the carburetor, but I might say it in only 12 words.
Q: What are some of the extremes you have had to go to in order to achieve this level of accuracy?
A:Some of it’s been costs. For my research, I bought a Walter Bäumer Maserati 300S book which set me back $250. I also bought a 1:18 CMC Model for about $400. Reference material has not been cheap.
I’ve also gone to great lengths to capture the 300S in various settings. I built several cardboard stages and placed the 1:18 model on the stages and photographed them from multiple angles and various lighting conditions. The photos help me make sure the car is true to life in all my illustrations. Fortunately Forza 4 has the 300S as one of the cars you can race, so I’ve played with that quite a bit and used the camera feature to capture the car’s driving dynamics. I even snapped photos of the screen with my SLR while playing.
Q: So is learning about mechanics important here too?
A: I want to touch on that, and it depends on if the Kickstarter project is successful. I would like to include an enclosure or fold out page of a blueprint of the Maserati with technical specifications and frontal, side, and top views. It’ll be somewhat simplified blueprint, but it will cover additional info not in the story.
Q: What’s your dream goal if the Kickstarter project gets funded?
A: It would be incredible to me for this brand to have some longevity. You know, each car-producing country has historically been associated with a color. The British with their racing green, the Italians with red, the Germans with silver, and the French with blue. I really hope to hit each of these iconic themes from each of those countries. For example, I’d love to do a book about a Jaguar XKSS in British racing green. For my next book, I’ve already thought about the title and subject. It’ll be called the Small Silver Speedster and it’s going to be about a Porsche 550 Spyder.
The project is on Kickstarter and needs our help to make it become a reality. Let’s help the project reach its goal before Thursday, February 28 at 2 PM EST.
Photography courtesy of Dwight Knowlton