These Are The 4 Books We Fell In Love With This Month
Besides the two wonderful titles on engines I reviewed a little earlier this month, there doesn’t seem to be much commonality between these other ones: we were sent a graphic novel about an acting and driving icon, a beat by beat photographic pictorial about an inspiring road trip, a book about twenty-nine different models of America’s original pony car, and a guide to making your own engine block coffee table. Perhaps what they all have in common is that they’re all so different, and that’s why we’re happy to spread the word about them.
Art of the Mustang
Author: Donald Farr
Photographer: Tom Loeser
The first Ford Mustang was unveiled at the New York World’s Fair on April 17th, 1964. Named for a World War II fighter plane, and with a starting price of under $2,400, the car would capture the public’s attention in a way never seen before. The Ford Motor Company would go on to sell more than 400,000 Mustangs during its first year of production, far outstripping demand, not to mention all sane and reasonable sales expectations at the time.
In Art of the Mustang, author Donald Farr and photographer Tom Loeser curate and document twenty-nine different models of this iconic car, dating from the original 1964 1/2 model through to today’s version. Choosing to include stock examples, race cars, and barn finds, the authors seek to answer the question of what it is about the Ford Mustang that we love so much.
Each of the twenty-nine chapters covers a single example of the car. Loeser’s lensing is top-notch – sharp and crisp, and shot against a mostly inky background so as not to distract from the true focus of the pictorial. There are two-page photographic spreads of each car, as well as additional shots of other vehicle details, and period advertisements and brochures. Each chapter also contains Farr’s concise and informative text about the history of each model, and providing context for the more than pretty pictures. But this is not a reference book, not that it was meant to be.
Arguably America’s first and most loved pony car today, the Mustang’s fifty-plus years of existence are certainly well-documented, however, a true Mustang enthusiast might consider adding Art of the Mustang to the pile of books they might reasonably be expected to have on his or her bookshelf. This book showcases these Mustangs as more than just the sum of their parts—they are beautiful, crafted pieces of art.
Curves – USA California
Author: Stefan Bogner
Publisher: Delius Klasing
Thinking of taking a California road trip? It is well known that the “Golden State” possesses some of the most iconic driving roads anywhere in the world, including Route 66, the Pacific Coast Highway and Highway 101. Author and photographer Stefan Bogner has traversed countless other roads and highways before, and this time he turns his sights on the west coast of the United States, attempting to document both the essence and pleasures of a road trip within his camera lens, all while driving the latest iteration of the iconic Porsche 911.
“You can’t take the mother of all road trips in any old car. It has to be a 911,” says the author. While others may disagree with that statement, in Curves – USA California, Bogner takes us on a meandering journey starting from Los Angeles, up through windy coastal roads towards San Francisco, and several points in–between, before turning east towards Las Vegas. Then southbound through unforgiving desert roads into the Valley of Fire and through the iconic Hoover Dam, turning west through Palm Springs, Salvation Mountain, and Encinitas, before once again heading back to his point of origin, the so-called City of Angels. The oftentimes magnificent tableaus he views are captured within his lens, and simultaneously he offers driving information, and often-whimsical commentary (in both German and English) about each leg of his route, including distance, altitude, and scenic stops.
It’s an indisputably epic drive, and Bogner’s photography of virtually empty roads, landscapes and places is at the same time eerie and evocative. Armchair travelers might get their fill within the pages of this book, but a much more likely outcome is the strong motivation to get out and go for a drive, wherever that may be.
How to Build Your Own Engine Coffee Table
Author: Gergely Bajzath
Do you have a spouse or partner that understands your deep love and appreciation of cars? Are you also someone who happens to have a spare engine lying around? Yes? If so you may just be able to get the permission and possess the major ingredient one needs to build your own coffee table based on an engine block. So, how do you go about the process if you want to build one from scratch? Enthusiast, fabricator, and author Gergely Bajzath may just have some answers for you.
After blowing the head gasket in his Alfa Romeo GTV V6, Bajzath ended up with an “extra” engine after the repair. With some friendly encouragement from friends and family, Bajzath built his first engine coffee table out of the inoperable motor, and to his surprise found there was a lot of enthusiasm for the table. A business was born, and today the author has built over fifty different engine coffee tables, as well as other types of car furniture.
The author shares his knowledge in How to Build Your Own Engine Coffee Table, taking the reader and would-be fabricator through all the steps of building their own coffee table: choosing the right engine, taking it apart, fabrication, painting, and glasswork. What’s more, almost anyone can do it – no professional skills are required. Sure, you could buy someone else’s creation, but where’s the fun and adventure in that?
Steve McQueen: Full-Throttle Cool
Author: Dwight Jon Zimmerman
Artist: Greg Scott
“I’m not sure whether I’m an actor who races or a racer who acts,” said Steve McQueen. Many know “The King of Cool” foremost as both an actor and consummate automotive enthusiast, but certainly fewer know other salient plot points of his life. Author Dwight Zimmerman and artist Greg Scot examine the American icon, charting some of his professional and personal highs and lows In Steve McQueen: Full-Throttle Cool, a biographical graphic novel.
The narrative takes us from McQueen’s birth to death, with much ground covered in-between—from early childhood when he was abandoned by his father, through his subsequent estrangement from his mother, and his time living with his maternal grandparents and Uncle Claude. It was during this period when McQueen’s Uncle would gift him a red tricycle on the boy’s fourth birthday that is said to have sparked his interest in racing. Later, the future superstar, although he wouldn’t know it yet for a little while longer, would join the Marines where he would serve with distinction. Upon being honorably discharged, McQueen would receive his first acting instruction thanks to funding from the G.I. Bill. The story then shifts, at the same time weaving in McQueen’s film career with his second “job” in racing—as well as his often tumultuous personal life. McQueen would die of complications from mesothelioma in 1980, but his body of work in both acting and motorsport still lives on today, and leaves an indelible legacy.
While the illustrations are clean and simple, and set the scenes quite effectively, the book doesn’t always present a complete picture of its subject. Blame that partially on the limitations of the graphic novel format, and the relatively short page-count. Neither does it paint an always rosy view of the man—the McQueen depicted is alternately selfish, arrogant, and often inspired—an uncharacteristically nuanced view, and to the creative team’s great credit. While there are certainly more detailed, and accurate biographies available, Steve McQueen: Full-Throttle Cool is a good introductory graphic novel/biography for motorsports or Steve McQueen fans, as well as readers who might not be as familiar with the man.