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HISTORY'S GREATEST AUTOMOTIVE MYSTERIES MYTHS AND RUMOURS REVEALED James Dean’s Killer Porsche NASCAR’s Fastest Monkey Bonnie And Clyde’s Getaway Car And More

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Published on Thu, Jan 3, 2013

By: The LACar Editorial Staff


BOOK REVIEW History’s Greatest Automotive Mysteries Myths And Rumors Revealed James Dean’s Killer Porsche NASCAR’s Fastest Monkey Bonnie And Clyde’s Getaway Car And More By Preston Lerner and Matt Stone Motorbooks $26.00 US With lots of period illustrations (we didn’t count them) ISBN: 978-0-7603-2 Review by Doug Stokes This review will be necessarily short, because this book is all about cool, weird, wonky, and strange car stuff that you really need to find out about by reading the information for yourself. Besides, that damn title gives away some of best stories. Anyhow, as that very long and un-punctuated title indicates, veteran automotive authorities Preston Lerner and Matt Stone have teamed up once again (their previous effort was the excellent racing biography of Paul Newman titled: “Winning”). This time they’ve taken on some of the oldest, most persistent myths, legends, rumors, four-wheeled folklore, and twice-told tales of automonium. In their 256 pages (with a good index, by the way…I love a good index)* these two top pro automotive writers administer a large dose of verbal truth serum to some of the best and least-known stories about cars and given each of them their full professional journalistic attention. I recommend this collection quite highly. It can be read by the chapter or just a story a night. I conservatively estimate that the information gleaned can be used (as race shop loose talk, water cooler conversation, or bar bets) for weeks at a time. You’ve likely heard something about some of these stories, but you’ve never heard them in this sort of intriguing detail. This book is precisely why you need to buy books to get stories like these, most TV programs on the same subject would give you two or three minutes of content in an hour’s show (padding the rest with inane/maddening repetitions of the same information). These stories all read as they were written: with great interest and intelligence. H’SGAMMARRJD’SKPN’SFMBAC’SGCAM (as we literary insiders like to call this book) is nicely divided into six major categories: Urban Legends, Crime, Racing, Hollywood, Death, and Inside the Industry. There are at least four chapters under each of those categories; and the twenty-eight (in all) tales that told here are each fun, educational, entertaining, and capped off with one or the other (sometimes both) author’s own personal judgment of the veracity of the story. Agree, disagree, or use their stories as a springboard for your own investigation—either way, you have a great time ahead here with this read. Here’s one for you from the Hollywood section: Did you know why the underride guard structures on big trucks are sometimes referred to as Mansfield bars? That mystery is revealed in the story of the untimely death of the busty movie blonde bombshell Jayne Mansfield. Among the others who you’ll meet and hear their automotive adventures are: Smokey Yunnick, Paul Newman, James Bond, John Dillinger, Steve McQueen, Jocko Flocko (the monkey mentioned in the title), Liz Carmichael (a man), Edsel Ford (at least his name), Mario Andretti and Bobby Unser (who BOTH won the 1981 Indy 500), Isadora Duncan, Achille Varzi, Pierre Levegh, Lance Macklin, “Soundbarrier Stan” Barrett, Ralph Mumford (the winner of the first Indy 500?), Akido Toyoda, a flying Pinto, a pair of “drowned” cars (a sinful Bugatti and a Chrysler dream car) and even Mister Rodney King! I’ve left out a couple people (and their automobile-involved stories) here, but you get the idea and hopefully, you’ll meet them all soon. Now get the book … If you’re local to Los Angeles there’s no better place to personally pick this one up than at Autobooks-Aerobooks over in Burbank on Magnolia. Tell them that we sent ya! -DS


*Hey, there’s a good bibliography too. Like any good bibliography, it offers many good references and “further reading” suggestions. To purchase the book on Amazon, click here

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