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BOOK REVIEWS
Art of the Classic Car and
Art of the Le Mans Race Car

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Wed, Jan 15, 2014

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

DOUBLE LA CAR BOOK REVIEW By Doug Stokes These two new offerings from Quayside/Motorbooks are a quite perfectly-presented argument that books are still viable and that printed pages still work—particularly when it comes to enjoying great automobiles. In each of these works, the pages load up with details that engage (no, make that require) the reader’s attention. They make review and comparison a matter of easily flipping a few pages forward or back, and best of all they are fully portable and eminently shareable. Both books are celebrations of style. In these works, the word “art” means the whole picture, the tech underneath as well as the indelible looks. Let’s take them one at a time because they each richly deserve your full recognition.
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Art of the Classic Car (Peter Harholdt photo)

ART OF THE CLASSIC CAR In Art of the Classic Car, photographer Peter Hardoldt and writer Peter Bodensteiner have chosen twenty-five automobiles that are fully qualified, bona fide Classics (with a capitol “C”). Divided into for sub-categories: Open Cars, Convertibles, Coupes, and Sedans; those plainly prosaic chapter titles belie the glory that hits the reader right between the eyes when this book is opened to any page. I honestly challenge anyone to simply pick this one up and start reading straight through starting at page one without spending at least half an hour flipping through this wonderful collection. Taking a quick lap through this one is like entering a fine restaurant through the kitchen—an appetizing walk through the flavors to be set before you. In fact, and even though we know that the photographer and the writer very carefully organized the above listed groupings, it’s okay (you have my permission at least) to start wherever you want to in this one. Wherever you do you’ll find stunning photos of and salient text about some seriously significant machines, each one a legitimate high water mark in its own time and setting. I’ll pick eight of this treasure trove to list as my personal picks; you’ll pick up the book and question my judgment as to how I could have left the (insert your pick here) out of any group of favorites. The book is stacked in the favor of making anything like a list of favorites … every car is that special. Open Cars: 1914 Edsel Ford Model 40 Special Speedster, and the 1935 Duesenberg Model SJ Mormon Meteor 1 Convertibles: 1930 Jordan Model Z Speedway Ace Roadster, and the 1936 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster. Coupes: 1930 Bentley Speed Six Blue Train Special, and the 1938 Dubonnet Hispano-Suiza H-6 “Xenia” Coupe Sedans: 1936 Cord 810 Model C92 Beverly Sedan, and the 1941 Chrysler Town & Country (The Bentley Blue Train wins my personal overall but there are seventeen more magnificent machines available after the eight above that I’ve not even called the names of here, each in its own way that deserves your full attention.) Please let me here put in a few kind sentences about Bodensteiner’s words that accompany Hardoldt’s salon-quality photographs: they are excellent. And a few more: they’re friendly, accurate, informative, and there are just enough of them to frame the moments. If you are anything like this reader, you will have scanned the color plates here this book at least two or three times before going to the text. But when you do, you’ll find that I called it right above. Swung open to its full 25 inch width the double page photos in this book are nothing short of breathtaking, full of the sort of detail that shows the full identity of the machine. These pages could all be snobby, snotty stories and photos about cars that 99.999 percent of the world’s population could probably never even stand next to in a museum, let alone ride in, and/or (perish the thought) own. They are not. The tenor of this book is thoughtful celebration. The simple joy that incredible machines like these were designed, built, driven, and are still around is the real story here. - DS Art of the Classic Car Photography by Peter Harholdt Words by Peter Bodensteiner Hardcover - 224 pages (12.5 x 10.75 inches) 206 color photos MSRP: $50.00 EAN (ISBN-13) 978-0760344156 Published by Motorbooks, an imprint of Quayside Publishing Group Available at Amazon here

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Art of the Le Mans Race Car (James Mann photo)

ART OF THE LE MANS RACE CAR The other Motorbooks/Quayside offering is every bit as intriguing and involving as the first. This one is further up my alley due to the subject matter: racing cars in general and Le Mans in particular. Twice around the clock, the classic endurance road race, the race and the place that for many of us quite simply is long-distance racing—the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Again, as in the above, this book has the word “Art” in its title, and again, the word is used in the broadest possible sense of the word. The American architect, Louis Sullivan, had the words that apply here: "form ever follows function." In fact, I believe that that those words apply far more directly to racing cars than to buildings. In this book, aptly subtitled “90 Years of Speed”, author Stuart Coding has carefully chosen an outstanding group of racing machines that fully and forever prove Sullivan’s dictum. Again, the reader is hereby fully excused for simply rifling through these pages at race speed. They call the first hour of this race “the Grand Prix of Le Mans” as everyone in every car runs as hard as they can, seemingly oblivious to the grueling 23 hours that will follow. Same with this book, Mann’s photos will get your attention instantly, fully. Only after that do Coding’s words start to sink in and make the pictures really come to life. As in the first book we looked at, the text and the pictures, flow together to become better than just photos and words that explain the shots. There’s a lot of information passed in the text that reminds of the greatness of this great race. The drivers, the crews, the cars … the incredible drama that swirls about born of the idea that people would even consider driving sports cars as fast as they could go, on a circuit fashioned from roads criss-crossing the French countryside, for 24 minutes, let alone 24 hours! Once that act of faith is completed we have a race (and we’ve had it since 1923). Although many of the cars in this book are outright Le Mans winners, not every one of them won at the vaunted Circuit Permanent de Sarthe, however, every one of the here-chronicled 27 machines has every right to be included in this regal roll-call of racing cars that was tested at the toughest and most-celebrated long distance race of them all. A nice aspect of this book that each race car’s Le Mans record—drivers, year(s) run, finish position(s)—is right there on the page with the machine. In addition each entry is here accompanied with a quote (or two) from widely-varying expert (they were there living it) sources that the author inserts to set the tone of the times and the importance the particular car to its day and place in the 90-year history of event. Divided into eras (1920s and 30s, 40s – 60s, 70s and 80s, and the 90s to today) each of the Le Mans cars that characterized those segments comes up on stage for a turn in the lights and a bow and (in most cases) a set of intriguing facts about a the machine and the people who animated it. From the Lorraine-Detrich B3-6 that raced four times 1923-26 at Le Mans and won the race twice to the incredibly-complex Audi R18 that won back-to-back 24’s in 2011 and 2012, each car is an independently incandescent example of what the purists used to refer to as: “improving the breed”. The business of testing new ideas about cars as well at the abilities of the drivers. Among the breeds that Codling chooses to present to us: the Alfa Romeo 8C 2300, the C and D-Type Jaguars, the Aston Martin DBR1, the Ford GT40, the Ferrari 500TC, Porsche 917, 956, and 962, McLaren F1 GTR, and the Peugeot 908 stand out as bellwethers of their times. And there are fifteen just as worthy of the reader’s study in this list of the mechanical heroes of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. In the end, all of the above adds up to a superb dramatization of the 24 hours … the visual and written evidence of its greatness -DS Art of the Le Mans Race Car Author: Stuart Coding Photographs by: James Mann Introduction by Derek Bell Hard cover - 240 pages (12.25 x 10 inches) 312 color, 12 b/w photos MSRP: $60.00 EAN (ISBN-13) 987-0760344378 Published by Motorbooks, an imprint of Quayside Publishing Group Available at Amazon here Reviewer’s note: It was particularly nice to see the final machine in this collection of cars photographed as it came off the racing surface in on that June afternoon back in 2012. Oil-streaked and pockmarked as it was, the Audi R18 still seems a smiling warrior, nicked, knocked about … not sanitized for the cameras. You can still feel the heat coming off the engine, hear the cracking and popping as the exhaust system cools. You can almost smell the still up-to-temp Michelins at 20 minutes after 3 in the afternoon on that certain Sunday in June. - Doug Stokes

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