Gear: These Are The Books We Loved In August

These Are The Books We Loved In August

By Benjamin Shahrabani
August 15, 2016

While many authors and publishers are no doubt taking a well deserved summer break, a couple of interesting books came over the transom in August. While we have a perfect 50/50 mix of motorcycles and cars, the differences don’t stop at the number of wheels: one book takes a look at the big picture and casts a wide gaze toward Ducati’s finest, while the other is all about a single Porsche family that’s been traditionally overlooked.

The first looks at the total output of the vibrant Italian motorcycle manufacturer, Ducati, up until the present day, while the other looks at just a single model, the Porsche 912, produced for only a few short years, and once thought of as a “ladies car” and “little brother” to the 911 for a number of years. August continues to bring high temperatures…and good reads.

Please do let us know what you’re reading in the comments…

The Complete Book of Ducati Motorcycles: Every Model Since 1946
Author: Ian Falloon
Publisher: Motorbooks
Pages: 256

In 1926, Antonio Ducati and his three sons Adriano, Marcello, and Bruno Ducati founded Società Scientifica Radio Brevetti Ducati in Bologna, Italy, as a manufacturer of radio and electrical components. During World War II, the company would make an industrial leap when the Italian government pushed the company into the production of much-needed military equipment. It was only after hostilities ended, Ducati surprisingly found much of its production facilities intact, and decided to turn their attention to ideas for useful post-war products. One of these was transportation, and in decimated post-war Italy, people needed inexpensive transportation to get around.

The first Ducati motorcycle, called the Cucciola – Italian for puppy – was a crude but practical machine, essentially just a small pushrod engine mounted on a bicycle frame. Nonetheless, it was a successful pairing, and the firm sold almost 200,000 in conjunction with Siata by 1950. Shortly thereafter, Ducati would move upmarket, and start to produce the larger, and faster bikes that have since become synonymous with the storied company.

Ian Falloon has written many best-selling books on motorcycles, and in The Complete Book of Ducati Motorcycles: Every Model Since 1946, the motorcycle historian and author delves into over seventy-years of Ducati production, presenting and cataloging every model to bear the Ducati name since the company’s beginnings in 1946 to the present day, from the Cucciolo to the latest Panigale superbike, and everything in between, with each passing decade seemingly producing yet another groundbreaking machine like the Mach 1, 750 Super Sport, 916, and Monster: names that may still be familiar to you even if you’re not a biking enthusiast.

Pretty pictures, even ones that show intricate and interesting details like in this book are nothing without context, but Falloon doesn’t disappoint here either, presenting each bike with a block of pertinent facts, figures, specifications, as well as a load of well-researched history. While perhaps not an all encompassing book from a writing standpoint because it covers so much ground, this is a wonderful overview of the development of Ducati, key technologies, and a timeline of when different bikes were introduced.

If you’re a Ducati rider or even just an aficionado, you’ll like this book.

Porsche 912: 50 Years
Author: Jurgen Lewandowski
Publisher: Delius Klasing
Pages: 176

When the Porsche 911 was introduced in 1964, the car was both more sophisticated, and higher performing than the 356 it supplanted. It was also more expensive than the outgoing model, hence the 912—produced from 1965 to 1969 and in 1975—was conceived by company management and developed to satisfy demand for a lower-cost and more economical entry-level model. The 912 had the same body and most of the same attributes as the 911, but its engine bay contained only a humble pushrod 1.6 liter four-cylinder engine producing 90-horsepower to shed some of the costliness. Sheer speediness aside, the Porsche 912 drove much like its flat-six equipped big brother, and was a hit with buyers, outselling the 911 in its first production year by a margin of two to one. Widely credited as a key in stabilizing the company’s finances and securing the long-term success of Porsche’s most recognizable nameplate, it is a wonder that no significant book has been written on this somewhat misunderstood model. Until now.

In Porsche 912: 50 Years, historian and serial author Jurgen Lewandowski tells the story of the of the company’s four-cylinder “911 Junior” model. With seemingly unencumbered access to Porsche’s archives, as well as people involved in the program—Dr. Wolfgang Porsche even provides the foreword.

The author conveys a large amount of technical information in telling the 912’s story, but by design it is thoughtfully presented in an extremely accessible manner, so it seemingly disappears into the overarching historical narrative. More importantly for a book that has never been written as in-depth about the subject, the author uncovers and reveals a treasure trove of previously unknown information, revelations, and scoops on the model’s development including that the 912 was developed in tandem with the 911, instead of as an afterthought as previously believed.

The focus throughout most of the book is predominantly on the development and design of the car over its lifespan. To that end, many wonderfully reproduced photos, illustrations, blueprints, and copies of internal communications help fill in the storyline.

Adding extra dimension and perspective, the author also saw fit to include chapters on the 912’s career in motorsport, the later 1967 912E, as well as selection of reminiscences and impressions from owners and others. As a whole, then, this work must be considered the benchmark tome on the 912, a car that perhaps is only now getting the respect it should have gotten in the first place.

Without a doubt, an absolute must for any 912 owner.

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7 years ago

Lewandowski has brought considerable attention to the 912. The first German edition of 912 copies of Porsche 912: 50 Years sold out in a matter of days, including those sold in the Porsche Museum. A second printing is in the works. Apparently, this car and book is much appreciated in Europe. Why not as much in the USA?
For most of the last 50 years, 912 owners have had to endure bad press and misrepresentation of their Porsche model. “Entry level”? No; consider that in 1966 original pricing for a 1966 Corvette Coupe was about $4,300, while a Porsche 912 coupe was about $5,000. Afterthought? No, the 912 was authorized in 1962, and the 912E designed by 1973. Replaced by the 914? Temporarily, due to emission regulations plus the 914-6 [since the factory needed space to build those for 1970], however the 912E marked its return after the 914 ceased. Slow? Depends on the type of race; the 912 won a European Rally Championship in 1967, and with better agility 912s can still beat newer and more powerful Porsches in an autocross. “Poor man’s Porsche”? No again, currently mint 50-year-old 912s are headed for the six-figure range.
Can’t wait for the next Porsche 912 book to further raise the bar.

7 years ago

Really, you guys liked the Porsche 912: 50 Years ? It’s nice that there was a book for 912s, but Lewandowski phoned it in… minimal research, reuse of other text and forum postings, very average pictures, some of them pixelated and yet blown over an entire page, factual errors galore… The thing was absolutely panned by the 912 community. I was going to give mine away (that’s how bad it is) but instead I’ll stick it in my 912’s trunk abd use it as moveable weight for better weight distribution.

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger
7 years ago
Reply to  alesi27

Yikes ! And from DK to boot ? Seriously that is a very harsh indictment and very disappointing . DK’s books used to be the very epitome of quality and information albeit somewhat oriented towards the dilettante rather than serious enthusiasts .. but still enjoyable by both . Sounds to me from your comments though that DK has gone down the same Rabbit’s Hole Gestalaten has been occupying of late . Poor Quality at a premium price . Thanks ! In spades !!!!

Benjamin Shahrabani ‘ Since when did ‘ no other book like it ‘ become an excuse for lousy quality at premium prices ? [ that much for a mere 176 pages ??? ] Better to do without and wait for something better than waste ones money on junk . Because lets face it … despite all the hype and hyper inflated prices of late … the 912 isn’t exactly a significant car in Porsche’s overall scheme of things . Fact is it was a bargain basement special created t keep the tax man happy . Sure … when the prices were as they should be I loved em and advocated the purchase [ and resto modding ] of them . But now ? A ‘ Just Say No ‘ [ for the moment ] mobile if there ever was one just waiting for the Porsche bubble to burst

So in conclusion Ben one must be blunt …. your saying .. ” this is the best there is “… is in fact an oxymoron if it isn’t worth the price of entry . And if you really are that desperate for solid information and history about the 912 … might I suggest buying the appropriate back issues of Excellence ..and tracking down the corresponding issues of Christophorus … where the information will be accurate and the quality up to par in accordance with the asking price

Sigh … after that major disappointment … here’s hoping Ian Fallon’s book lives up to his previous endeavors .. rather than falling down the same Rabbit Hole DK seems to of done …. sigh … can nothing be relied upon in these trying NeoLiberal NoBrow times ?