December 31, 2013

News & Features

New auto books: The open road to a good read

The Virginian-Pilot


As temperatures drop and daylight becomes more precious, there's no better time to catch up on a little reading. If a favorite topic is cars, here are a few new volumes from which to choose.

"A History of Electric Cars" by Nigel Burton

Here's a timely book that traces the evolution of electric and gas-electric hybrid vehicles in America and Europe, from their earliest incarnations to the present day. Written in England, this book lacks the green-colored bias that some American books on the subject have. It honestly assesses why electric cars went from among the most popular to the least popular vehicles in little more than a decade in the early 20th century.

That makes this a great introduction to a part of automotive history often ignored, reminding us that the electric car's continued commercial failure might yet repeat itself to a generation that has ignored its history. (Crowood, $44.95)

"The Bentley Book" published by teNeues

Weighing a hefty 10.4 pounds, this tome is as much a sales brochure as a history of the brand. After all, no author is listed and at least half of the book is devoted to current models and a peek inside the Bentley Motors factory in Crewe, England. The remainder highlights the brand's legendary history.

With little text and a lot of photos, a more accurate title for this work might be "Bentley for Dummies." For casual Bentley fans, this is a true gift, albeit an indulgent one. For brand loyalists, it's a quick read, one that serves as a testament to their devotion. ($125)

New from local car buff
    As host of the weekly TV series "The Vintage Vehicle Show," Seattleite Lance Lambert has heard plenty of tales about cars. He shares his own stories in the book "Fenders, Fins & Friends: Confessions of a Car Guy" (Wooded Isle Press, $14.95), for sale at area booksellers. For more details about Lambert, visit — NWautos staff

"Inside Shelby American: Wrenching and Racing with Carroll Shelby in the 1960s" by John Morton

Imagine starting as a janitor at Shelby American in the early 1960s and rising to become a driver on the team at the peak of Shelby's activities in the 1960s. John Morton did, working alongside such racing legends as Dan Gurney, Ken Miles, Bob Bondurant, Phil Hill and designer Pete Brock.

Each chapter is a series of concise vignettes. It's almost as if you're sitting down with Morton over a beer as he tells his tales without getting bogged down in detail or nostalgia. Funny, exciting and very entertaining, this book is a great gift for any Shelby or racing fan. (Motorbooks, $28)

"American Auto Legends: Classics of Style and Design" by Michael Furman with Tracy Powell

Photographer Michael Furman is widely regarded — and copied — in the automotive industry. Unlike many photographers, who place cars in a particular setting, Furman eliminates backgrounds, which allows the exquisitely shot vehicles to reveal their true personality.

Tracy Powell's text concisely reveals each vehicle's importance. Although this book has many photographs Furman initially used in other collections, its price is a bargain given the usual cost of his tomes. And if you like American iron, you'll love this book — there are no foreign cars. (Chartwell, $49.95)

"The DeLorean Story" by Nick Sutton

With its gull-wing doors, stainless-steel body and company founder who came from the top of General Motors, the DeLorean DMC-12 sports car, immortalized in the film "Back to the Future," garnered not just the financial backing of the British government, but a fair number of buyers as well.

Only DeLorean's drug bust caused the company to crash after surviving four years of money shortages, civic unrest and building 9,000 cars. Author Nick Sutton, a senior manager at the company, details its hopeful ascent and painful decline. It is a riveting read. (Hayes, $28.95)

"Porsche 911: 50 Years" by Randy Leffingwell

It is easy to forget that Porsche was, for most of its existence, a family business. That's how a car like the 911 could survive for so many years. Author Randy Leffingwell efficiently traces the car's history through four major themes: its birth, evolution, switch to water-cooled engines and racing.

Yet this is more than a litany of sheet-metal changes and engines. It also traces the history of the people who influenced the car. As with Leffingwell's other books on cars, this one is a must-have for its balance of in-depth detail and good pace. (Motorbooks, $50)


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