June 10, 2014

News & Features

Auto books look at legends, design and manners

New York Times News Service


If a picture is worth a thousand words, what about a book of pictures? Here are two books rich with images, plus two just for nostalgic reading. Readers of these auto-related books should find something of interest, either for themselves or as a Father's Day gift.

"McLaren From the Inside"

Photographs by Tyler Alexander, $50
In 1963, Tyler Alexander, a young American mechanic working in England, met a race car driver from New Zealand named Bruce McLaren. Alexander "recognized that Bruce was a special person" and soon joined the racing team McLaren was starting.

Today, the McLaren team is one of the hallowed names in Formula One, long outliving its founder, who was killed in a testing accident in 1970. But in 1963, the sport was not the slick, overproduced brand it is today. McLaren was just one of many gung-ho racing startups — part sports heroes, part barnstormers.

Alexander, who eventually rose to team director, is also a skilled (and self-taught) photographer who documented the team exhaustively in the 1960s and '70s. Many of these black-and-white photographs are compiled in "McLaren From the Inside."

Because of his role with the team, Alexander was able to capture unguarded portraits, notably of Bruce McLaren, who is seen in the most intimate photo in the book, napping on his back on a stack of tires, hands in the pockets of his white racing suit, with his feet, encased in dark loafers, propped up against a retaining wall. — Richard S. Chang

"Hard Luck Lloyd: The Complete Story of Slow-Talking, Fast-Driving Texan Lloyd Ruby"
By John Lingle, $50
If you want to pick one American driver whose career best tells the history of motor sports in the 1960s, your first choice is Mario Andretti. But Lloyd Ruby, based on his versatility, could give him a good run for that distinction.

Ruby showed his skills in midgets, Indy cars, sports cars, motorcycles — and even brief forays into Formula One and NASCAR. Unfortunately, he did surpass Andretti in at least one category: bad luck at the Indianapolis 500. From 1966 to 1971, Ruby led in five of six races but each time found a way to lose, from oil leaks to fires.

Although the author, John Lingle, too easily slips into clich├ęs (and can't decide whether to refer to his subject as "Lloyd" or "Ruby"), his writing style is easily readable, and he interviews a wide array of Ruby's contemporaries.

You have to be impressed with a driver who could beat Dan Gurney, Jim Hall and Jim Clark in a sports-car race. Lucky thing for Ruby, who died in 2009 at 81, that he drew Lingle as his biographer. — Joseph Siano

"How to Be a Good Motorist"
Edited by Bodleian Library, $11
As ever, the only way to learn to drive is by hitting the road — and hoping that's all you hit.

But that's never stopped the learning-by-reading lobby from writing guides on driving.

"How to Be a Good Motorist," abridged from a British book written by Harold Pemberton in 1923, gamely confronts automotive woes, including how to handle a skid, a flat tire and livestock grazing in the road.

There are 28 chapters jammed into this little red book, small enough to tuck into a pocket. They include "Choosing a Motor-Car," "The Woman Driver" and "Oiling and Greasing."

Some advice, though nearly 100 years old, is timeless. The best comes in the chapter on learning to drive, and is probably more apt today than it was in 1923: "When driving, look on all other drivers as fools." — Dana Jennings

"Automotive Jewelry, Volume One: Mascots and Badges"
Photographs by Michael Furman, $100
For almost a century, automakers have been adding frills, logos, statues and chrome lines to tell you what the car is — and what it is all about. In Michael Furman's sumptuous book of photographs, this "automotive jewelry," as the title has it, receives star treatment. Each badge and mascot or hood ornament is lighted to bring out its every sweep and swirl, zig and zag.

In addition to documenting familiar icons with a care bordering on fetishization, "Automotive Jewelry" also serves to remind readers of the beauty of humbler shields and logos. — Aaron Betsky


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