Gear: These Are The 3 Books We Fell In Love With This October

These Are The 3 Books We Fell In Love With This October

By Benjamin Shahrabani
October 26, 2016

The shorter daylight hours of October means more time inside for reading. This month, I picked up tomes about the enigmatic car culture of Cuba, a conversational memoir about a supremely talented Porsche racing engineer, and the restoration diary of a rare Ferrari. All very different and all very good. Moreover, I’m grateful in this internet age that printed books still exist, and the good news is there are more worthwhile automotive books than ever before.

What are you reading? What should we at Petrolicious be reading? Please let us know in the comments.

Cuba’s Car Culture: Celebrating the Island’s Automotive Love Affair
Author(s): Tom Cotter, Bill Warner
Publisher: Motorbooks
Pages: 192 pages

Why does Cuba still have so many classic cars driving around on its streets? Well, it wasn’t exactly a choice. The American embargo—and Fidel Castro’s near simultaneous decree for Cuba to be more self-sufficient— was imposed after the revolution in 1960 meant that no new American cars would be allowed into the country. In addition, because Cuban per-capita income was (and continues to be) low, imported cars continue to be out of reach to most ordinary Cubans.

This all meant that cars that are already on the island became and remain extremely valuable commodities in more than one way. They’re certainly not to be disposed of or sent to the crusher when something breaks or if an accident happens. In Cuba’s Car Culture: Celebrating the Island’s Automotive Love Affair, author Tom Cotter and photographer Bill Warner recount their recent journey to the island where their interactions with everyday people and enthusiasts showed the duo how seemingly adverse conditions have led Cuban drivers to an enduring and fervent love affair with mostly pre-1960 U.S. built cars, as well as a home-grown ingenuity that is often needed to keep these vintage iron cars rumbling along Cuba’s often ramshackle roads.

While you may have heard that Cuba is now changing, Cotter’s words and Warner’s images take readers inside Cuba which is an almost uniquely isolated car world that hasn’t changed. How much longer can these cars possibly run? Take a read, and perhaps you’ll find out.

Kussmaul Chronicles: The Story of Roland Kussmaul’s Contribution to Porsche’s Total Crushing Domination of Sports Car Racing
Author: Craig Watkins
Publisher: Smart Racing Products Publications
Pages: 432 pages

Porsche’s rise to become one of the most dominant forces in racing had humble origins. Not long after the first 356s rolled off the assembly line, if it could even be called such at the time, Porsches went racing. However, it wasn’t until the 1970s that the company emerged as the dominant competitor we know today, and much of that success must be due to Roland Kussmaul. Unless you’re really in the know, the name Roland Kussmaul might not immediately be familiar.

And that’s a shame, because over a forty-two year career at Porsche (thirty-six in the motorsports department) Kussmaul became one of company’s most esteemed racing engineers, with a hand in developing every car the company destined for the track or even off the beaten track, from 1975 through 2008 when he “officially” retired. Up until now there has never been a volume that explores the immense contributions this talented racing engineer made to the company, but that changes with Kussmaul Chronicles: The Story of Roland Kussmaul’s Contribution to Porsche’s Total Crushing Domination of Sports Car Racing written by Craig Watkins in his literary debut.

Kussmaul’s career in motorsports started off almost by accident. Literally. Fresh out of the University of Stuttgart with an engineering degree, he started at Porsche in 1969 working in the development center where one of his first projects was working on a new prototype Panzer tank. Kussmaul fabricated a set of pedals that weighed about 5 kilograms—perhaps too lightweight for a combat vehicle—that during testing broke off when the test driver applied too much pressure.

While disaster was ultimately avoided that day, Kussmaul’s boss realized his innate talents for lightweight construction were perhaps better off served in another department within the company, and Kussmaul was soon transferred to Porsche’s racing division. It was here that the young engineer found his place, helping not only develop with often inspired engineering solutions, but also in many cases also drive competitively. Which cars? Le Mans-winning sports cars, Group C prototypes, the Paris-Dakar RSR 911 SC RS, GT3 Cup and GT3 RSRs, and some street cars like the RS Spyder and Carrera GT, among countless others.

This four-hundred plus page book is breezily told by the author in an almost entirely conversational format, a neat touch which makes for a most enjoyable read. Additionally, many wonderful photographs, and illustrations are littered throughout so the reader can also visually follow Kussmaul’s career through the decades. If you have any interest in the history of Porsche, in particular of Porsche motorsport, this book is highly recommended.

Ferrari: 275 GTB #08011
Author(s) Ken Gross, George Saitas
Publisher: Assouline
Pages: 168

Car restoration is a business not to be taken casually. Depending on the complexity of the job, it requires time, money as well as blood, sweat, and tears. Whether you decide to perform some or all of the work yourself, or realize your limitations and drop it off with a restorer and write a check, the process can take anywhere from several months to several years. However, once the job is complete and the final product is ready, there is undoubtedly relief, satisfaction and joy.

But in between the beginning and the end, there is that middle part of the process of the heavy lifting,  which is often fascinating when you see it in person. But if you can’t see it in person, the next best thing is this book.

Photographed by George Saitas with an introduction by Ken Gross, Ferrari 275 GTB #08011  illustrates how a very special alloy-bodied 1965 Ferrari 275 GTB – often lauded as the last of the classic Ferraris was restored from beginning to end by the skilled craftsmen and artisans that work under Bruce Canepa at his renowned restoration facility in the foothills of the Santa Cruz mountains in northern California.

This particular book is not a step-by-step guide to restoring a Ferrari 275 GTB. That book doesn’t exist, and most likely never will. Besides the introduction and additional viewpoints from the car’s (lucky) owner and Bruce Canepa, there is little additional text.

The book just glides along, pages and pages of lushly-photographed Ferrari, without getting bogged down by too much detail. And that’s what this book is and doesn’t pretend to be anything else. It’s a stunningly photographed overview of the restoration/highlight reel showcasing snapshots of key moments in the car’s metamorphous change into serious concours contender. Designed by Pininfarina and executed by Scaglietti, the 275 GTB was an especially organic but aggressive and purposeful design. Through Saita’s inspired lensing, all the glorious details are there for the reader to behold.

If you’re an extremely lucky Ferrari 275 GTB owner, or just a vintage Ferrari enthusiast, you might just enjoy having this on your coffee table.

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Melissa Haley
Melissa Haley
3 years ago

Cuba’s Car Culture is composed of car lovers who love vintage cars and need a history of vintage cars written by Tom Cotter and Bill Warner. If you want to hire professional writers to write creative books then just visit and avail the best and professional services with unique and concise content.

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger
7 years ago

Ahem .. methinks thou mistaketh one book for another seeing as how the author only recently received his pre-publication copy and a search across the Petro site comes up negative [ unless its hiding within all the technical gremlins of late ] . This is the book of which I speaketh .

As for the negative vote … for shame … and …. thpppppt ! 😉

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger
7 years ago

Yup .. if y’all hadn’t suggested it I would of done so for you . The Kussmaul book . Ordered and on its way .

A suggestion coming in the near future ; ” Vincent Motorcycles : the untold story since 1946 ” A legendary and iconic brands story … told by one of the leading experts within the Vincent community [ check out his Egli-Vincnent website ] Coming our way January 2017 . Trust me … I’ve seen the previews .. its worth every last penny it’ll cost you .. and FYI .. it don’t come cheap .

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