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Auto Culture Spawns Plenty of Books for Holiday Gifts


Porsche 75th anniversary book cover

In the scramble to find a last-minute gift, books always seem to be top of mind as anyone who has stumbled into a Barnes and Noble on or before Christmas can attest.

Fortunately, automobiles have a long tradition of serving not only as vital literary props and symbols, but also as subjects of artful photography. This year’s crop of automobile-oriented gift books is particularly rich, ranging from an exploration of “Barn Finds” to detailed histories of the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Corvette as well as brands such as Porsche and BMW.

Porsche 75th Anniversary: Expected the Unexpected. By Randy Leffingwell. 255 Pages. $60.

Leffingwell is a journalist and author. This coffee table-size book offers dozens of photographs and engineering drawings that even the most dedicated fans of the German automaker have probably never seen.

The BMW Century second edition book

The author is diligent, going back to the origins of post-World War II Germany and through its long history in racing throughout the years. The racing history is played up, but the company’s skill at marketing to fans and motorists interested in the brands design and performance isn’t neglected. 

One of the bonus features of “Porsche 75th Anniversary” is a forward by Hurley Haywood, an American-born driver, who piloted a Porsche at LeMans. He later went on to serve as an ambassador for the Porsche brand and set up a highly regarded school for Porsche owners and drivers. Right from the start, Porsche offered a very different experience from Ford, Cadillac and Packard, Haywood observes.

The BMW Century: Second Edition. By Tony Lewin. 240 Pages. $55.

The publisher of this volume, Motorbooks, has updated and refined its history of BMW cars and motorcycles. Established in 1916, amidst the chaos of World War I, BMW is one of the industry’s oldest and most respected brands even as the company passed through a “myriad,” of changes and transformations. 

Corvettee 70 Years book cover

This book manages to track most of them. It also dwells on how the company was re-invented and rebuilt in the years following World War II when Germany, moving from destitute enterprise to become a global powerhouse.

Lewin has been given wide access to BMW archives, and he assembled an impressive compendium of photos and anecdotes to fill out the text in this coffee table-sized book, which will keep even casual fans of BMW or classic cars in general turning pages.

Corvette 70 Years: The One and Only. By Richard Prince. 256 Pages. $60. 

Ford Mustang book cover

Corvette has acquired many fans over the years. But this coffee-table volume is just for fans of the cars. It is also a deep dive in the long history of one of the most iconic vehicles to ever roll off an assembly line. Created with the cooperation of General Motors, author Richard Prince brings to light the engineering and design stories behind one of the most famous cars ever built by GM.

The research and access are nicely blended by Prince, who spent years hanging around with the people and design and purchase Corvette’s into a story behind the story of Chevrolet Division’s most famous model. Each iteration of the Corvette has developed its own unique aesthetic and its group of fans. This book manages to look at all of them.

The Complete Book of Ford Mustang. By Mike Mueller. 317 Pages. $55.

The Ford Mustang is the most popular car ever built by the Ford Motor Co. and is in serious contention for consideration of being the most popular car built in past 50 or 60 years. The Mustang also has spawned its own literature and stack of coffee table books for its legions of fans. The publisher, Motor Books, has obtained a license from Ford, which has given it access to a large archive of Mustang related books.

Hot Rod Magazine book cover

The book, which is an updated version of any earlier volume, boasts it has a picture of every model produced since the Mustang’s debut at the New York World’s Fair in 1964 amid a legendary publicity blitz the global auto industry has found it impossible to match.  Mustang also has inspired some great photography over the years and one of the strong points of this volume is that it contains an impressive pictorial array. The dust cover describes it as an “unmatched historical reference.”

Hot Rod Magazine: The Definitive and Official History. By Drew Hardin. 207 Pages. $50.

For 75 years. Hot Rod Magazine has been at the center or pretty near the center of automotive culture in the United States. So, any book offering the magazine’s “official” history is bound to be of interest to the magazine’s legion of readers and fans. The tales told in this book is engaging and artfully illustrated with photography drawn from the magazine’s pages over the past seven decades. Since the magazine’s writers and photographers have always had an erring eye on what is unique about the way cars can be customized, the book offers a look at a genuine American art form, which has now been exported successfully to other countries.

Secrets of the Barn Find Hunter book cover

The author, Drew Hardin, a long-time member of the staff at Petersen Publishing, where he has worked on a variety of the company’s magazines, including Hot Rod. He has done an impressive job in pulling together the stories, personalities, and photographs, which made the magazine so popular over the years.

Secrets of the Barn Find Hunter. By Tom Cotter. 207 Pages. $30.

Looking for the treasure of the Sierra Madre is a lost cause. But in among a certain group of car collectors, there is always the hope that some lost piece of automotive treasure is out there somewhere, perhaps in a barn or perhaps not, just waiting to be found and salvaged by a diligent hunter more interested in the find than monetary reward. Barn finds seem to revolve around vehicles tucked away under a tarp in some corner of rural America after their original owner failed to return from a secret mission over Burma during World War II. 

Tom Cotter’s new book offers some the secrets and stories, which go along with the search for the lost artifacts of automotive history, which also invariably have a personal story behind them. Unique discoveries in out of the way places have contributed to car collections and museums for years.


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