Grand Prix Cars 1945-65

Grand Prix Cars 1945-65 by Mike Lawrence
Published 1989 by Aston Publications Limited
264pp., hardcover

ISBN: 0-946627-46-0

Acquired in a lot from an independent book store liquidation.

In the group of books that included Jaguar: A Pictorial History and Never Complain, Never Explain: The Story of Henry Ford II was Grand Prix Cars 1945-65. I knew nothing about the book, and in fact, knew little about that period of Grand Prix racing. I am actually a pretty casual racing fan. Still, I am always to expand the limits of my library and knowledge.

Grand Prix Cars 1945-65 is an encyclopedic look at the cars and events of the period in Grand Prix and World Championship racing. Constructors are featured alphabetically, and author Mike Lawrence explains his criteria in his introduction…

The World Championship has played a major part in popularizing F1… the two are synonymous, but it has not always been the case… I have included cars which never raced in any WC event but which did (race) to contemporary Grand Prix Formulae.

There is little new to be written about… Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari, Lotus, or Maserati… (but a) fresh, critical look at some marques is anyway long overdue.

On the other hand there are a host of half-remembered marques which did little more than make up the numbers… Each one, however, represented someone’s best efforts… I have also included… projects which never actually made the start of a race.

Mike Lawrence, Grand Prix Cars 1945-1965

The result is 85 manufacturer entries, and we can add a further 13 entries from the chapter ‘Cooper Variants’ and 11 ‘South African Specials’, for a total of 109 constructors. As the author writes, not all of these would have appeared in Grands Prix – some never even took the start line – but they all contribute to the history of World Championship and Formulae racing.

Lawrence arranged each constructor as a chapter, and details the development of cars and the results in a chronological order. In truth, that makes for a somewhat difficult read. Written completely in prose, Lawrence mixes car development, driver information and then various race results.

To be fair, there were an incredible amount of ‘moving parts’ in those years. Constructors often had multiple models active in the same season, while privateers also competed with chassis purchased from works teams, often with various engines. Drivers themselves ran in multiple racing series and sometimes drove for multiple teams. For example, Stirling Moss’ Wikipedia page shows that in 1960 he drove in at least 24 events, mostly for the RRC Walker Racing team, but also for Yeoman Credit/BRP team and 3 other non Formula 1 teams. He drove multiple cars, and even for RRC Walker he drove a Lotus-Climax 18, Ferrari 250 GT, Porsche 718 and a Cooper-Climax T51. And so in Lawrence’s book, there’s snippets of Moss’ career in multiple chapters but often without much context relative to the other chapters.

My unfamiliarity with that period likely didn’t help. I think the author assumes his reader is at least familiar with the era, and to be honest it would be helpful to have that knowledge to really get full enjoyment. To read that Driver A drove Constructor 1’s model X in one race and finished in whatever spot ahead or behind other drivers in other cars, and then the next page read a few races later that Driver B was driving Constructor 1’s model Y and finished ahead or behind Driver A who had moved on to Constructor 2… well you can see how it might make you stop and wonder if you’ve got it all straight.

Don’t mistake this as a necessarily negative critique. This is a really good book. It does indeed contain a wealth of detailed information about the cars, the racing seasons and teams. And, Lawrence is not adverse to adding in his editorial thoughts, the most critical of them seem to be saved for Ferrari. Furthermore, there are a great number of photos, and while many are black-and-white, they are clear and large.

All in all, this book might require either an intermediate understanding of Formula and World Championship racing for the years presented, or a lot of time to read slowly and even take notes, in order to be clear about the events described. Was there a better way to organize the book? Probably not. But as I consider it, I believe that Mike Lawrence’s book is likely best used to read each constructor one at a time. In this way, one gets some separation, and can focus on the events surrounding each without muddying the waters with other builder information. It’s a very good reference to have if you yearn to know more about the cars that raced at the top level from 1945-65.

Pros: Highly detailed; comprehensive coverage of F1 and World Championship racing; many good photos,
Cons: Likely requires some knowledge of the racing, cars and era.
Where to find it: Amazon, eBay, private collections (this book was re-issued in 1999).

You might also enjoy…
Great Marques: Ferrari
Motoring: The Golden Years: A Pictorial Anthology
Automobile Quarterly Volume 7, Number 1

1956 Mercury Montclair

Ford’s Mercury division was conceived by Edsel Ford in the late 1930s as an upscale line to bridge the gap between entry-level Ford and high-end Lincoln. Competing with Oldsmobile, Buick and DeSoto in the medium-price range, Mercury was a mix of concepts over its lifespan. Some years, Mercurys were closely related to Lincolns, sharing chassis and engines with the luxury brand. Other times, Mercury cars were not much more than Fords with a few extra touches like hidden headlamps and more chrome.

That’s not to say there are no memorable Mercs. The term ‘lead sled’ is most often associated with the ‘shoebox’ Fords and especially Mercurys, the attractive 1949-51 models with slab-side body and waterfall grille design. Jack Lord drove black Mercury sedans in the popular Hawaii Five-O TV series. In the 1970s, the slogan ‘At the Sign of the Cat’ was fairly well-known. But, the sameness of cars in the brand-engineered age eventually forced the end of the marque in 2011.

This post features a detail shot of a 1956 Montclair. Montclair was a short-lived nameplate for Mercury, used from 1955-60 and again from 1964-68 to denote the product line above the low-level Monterey. The second-year for the Montclair, the 1956 edition was marketed as ‘The Big M’, due to the large diecast ‘M’ emblem on the hood, and probably also that the 292 cubic inch Y-block was replaced by the new 312 cube version. Styliing-wise, the new ’56 featured a full-length ‘zig-zag’ chrome strip that defined the common two-tone paint treatment. The strip also featured a small circle housing the Mercury crest which had been displaced from the hood by the ‘M’ appliqué. The wire wheels featured the company’s ‘Mercury head’ emblem.

This particular car was shot at the 2016 Fleetwood Country Cruize-In using my Nikon D3200/Nikkor 18-55 set up. It was near 4pm and the day was clear and sunny but the car was parked near the main house and shaded by a number of large trees. The settings were ISO 100, ƒ7.1, 1/200 second exposure. I edited the final product with Photoshop and Topaz Adjust to bring up the reflections in the paint as well as create a vignette affect, while maintaining the details on the chrome in the trim and hubcaps.

You might also enjoy…
Bel Air ’56
1955 Packard Caribbean
Fifties Flashback: The American Car

2021 In Review

As many do, the new year is a time to not only look forward, but also to look back and reflect on the year passed. To be honest, I am not sure how much this type of post appeals to readers, but I include it mostly for myself to sort of track what is happening with my little blog.

Without doubt, my blog has really grown over 2021, with most metrics more than doubling. Of course, double a small number remains are fairly small number, but the point is it’s growth.

By basic numbers, things are good.

  • In 2020, I gained 14 followers; 2021 added 31 new followers.
  • There were 680 page views in 2020; 2021 saw 1832 views, an increase of 169%.
  • There were 200 visitors in 2020, which has grown to 607, up 203.5%
  • Post likes are up from 109 to 317, up 290.8%
  • Unfortunately, commenting is way down – from 57 in 2020 to 48 this year, a drop of 15.8%
  • January was the month with the most views (249), March saw the most visitors (89), and the best single day for views (March 1, 67 views).

Of course, the Home page gets the bulk of the views, but the most viewed individual post this year is 1951 Pontiac (169), by quite a margin over The Big Job (129), then Never Complain, Never Explain: The Story of Henry Ford II (31) and then The Genuine Corvette Black Book 1953-1996 (23). I do understand that photo posts do have their appeal, as they offer a visual treat and are usually shorter than a full review. Frankly, things are still not totally opened up here, so my new photo content is lacking these days. Hopefully this summer with more car shows and cruises I’ll have lots to post.

I was more consistent, posting 48 times (up from 2020’s 37), though I acknowledge there were times I was somewhat lax. I don’t offer an excuse, rather an explanation that frankly, sometimes it takes time to chew through a book, even one you are enjoying. To be frank, I don’t wish to limit my reading to books of only 150 pages or less. On the other hand, reading book of 400 pages takes a fairly big commitment to finish the book and create a post within 7 days. Still, I try to carve out some time as best I can because I do enjoy reading about cars and then offering my take on the books I have read.

Every blogger wants engagement from followers. For me it’s not strictly about ‘numbers’, rather it is about a sense of if my blog has any value. I still intend to write book reviews, and post some photos of cars. I hope my posts prompt some of you readers to comment, whether it’s to add information or to share memories my posts may evoke. I write this blog because I enjoy learning about cars, and I enjoy talking about them.

Thank you to all who follow, view or comment. It’s appreciated!

The Gift of More Reading

Whatever you may celebrate at this time of year, I hope you’ve had a very happy, safe and enjoyable holiday. Like many people, as I get older the holidays become less about gifts and more about spending time with family and friends, and being thankful for the blessings I have. That said, I won’t deny I do appreciate gifts as anyone would.

This Christmas, I received a magazine subscription. I actually knew exactly what I was getting. The gift-giver knows about my automotive hobby, and she spoke to my girlfriend who told her how I enjoy reading. She decided a subscription was a nice gift (and she was correct). Thing is, she really didn’t know anything about car magazines.

So, my lovely partner asked me which magazine I’d like. Not an easy choice. I prefer printed magazines to digital editions, but a number of titles have gone digital only, so that narrowed the selection. I also wanted to be mindful of the subscription price. I mean, magazines have (unfortunately) become somewhat expensive. Among titles I’ve purchased over the years, one approaches high art and features some very high end custom hot rods – and costs $35 to receive just 2 issues a year! I knew I didn’t want a magazine that cost more for fewer issues.

In the end, I chose Hemmings Classic Car. Car enthusiasts will be familiar, as Hemmings Motor News has been published since the 1950s and has a relatively large circulation. I used to spend time on reading back issue articles from Hemmings’ publications. A number of authors who have written for Hemmings have written books that I currently have, and at one time Hemmings reviewed books, which helped me build a wish list for my library. I decided on Hemmings Classic Car as I felt it was most like Automobile Quarterly and another favourite magazine of mine, Collectible Automobile. It covers classic cars broadly, not limited to muscle cars or exotics. And as an extra kicker, Hemmings had a sale on subscriptions, so that was a bonus.

As luck had it, both the January and February 2022 issues arrived before Christmas, and I finally did sit down and dive in yesterday. And I was correct about how it reminds me of AQ and CA. January’s main feature is a 1951 Studebaker Champion Business Coupe, which is similar in look to the Studebaker I posted here. My post was a Starlight coupe, with the large wraparound rear windows, while this modified Studebaker is the lower-tier 2-seat business coupe with small window. Also featured was a 1979 Thunderbird custom convertible, which appeals to me as I’d considered buying a Thunderbird of this vintage, as well as a 1971 Volvo coupe. Finally, there are some good tech articles on updating classic cars with more modern technology such as better braking systems and electronic fuel injection. I like these articles as it gives me something to consider when thinking about my 1976 Grand Prix, even if I never pull the trigger on such work. Speaking of Pontiac, there’s also coverage of the Pontiac-Oakland Club International’s big show.

I am about halfway through January, and looking forward to February’s issue featuring a 1957 Chrysler 300C, a 1972 Chrysler New Yorker, a Jeep CJ-5 and a 1951 Pontiac. I see some writing on Chrysler concepts, including the K-310 which I first learned of in Concept Cars: From the 1930s to the Present.

That’s the advantage of magazines I guess, they fit a number of diverse subjects between the covers. Sure, the information is far more brief than a book, and there’s a ton of ads to look at. Actually, that’s not such a bad thing, as I found an ad for a book I might want on Hudson cars, as well as a company that produces vintage weatherstripping, which is a project for my Grand Prix.

Now, I am not going to be reviewing the magazines I receive. And, I am going to try to not let the magazines usurp too much of my reading hours from my books. But I do hope that this subscription helps me find more books to pursue, which will hopefully enhance this blog.

Happy reading!

A Quick Analysis of The Books I’ve Reviewed

The automotive books I review here make up my personal library. What I mean is, they’re books I’ve acquired over the years. None of these are submitted by a publisher or author, or anyone else, specifically for the purpose of being reviewed. As such, they reflect what interests me, or did at the time I acquired the book.

I’ve looked at the 50 book reviews I have posted (as of December 7, 2021, 51 books total, as the GTO Source books were reviewed together). I really wasn’t too surprised by the statistics I found. This is a fairly basic analysis, just simple criteria. I wanted to quantify what my collection is. I know my interests are very heavily American cars, especially pony and musclecars, and spanning generally from the late 1950s to the mid 1990s, and that was certainly borne out.

I began by looking at nations. That is, the subject material, are the cars from the US, England, Italy, etc. Next, the company of manufacture, the specific make, and perhaps even a specific model. So for example, Opentop Style – An A to Z of Convertible Autos features cars from all over the world and of many makes and models, and so it’s not categorized specifically for nation, make or model. General Motors: The First 75 Years of Transportation Products is about the American manufacturer General Motors, but encompasses all makes and models in the company and therefore classed as US > General Motors. Mustang Classics quite obviously is about a specific model, so it got classed US > Ford Motor Company > Ford > Mustang.

Beyond that, I categorized the books in terms of what the main subjects and themes were. That is to say, did the book include major passages on vehicle development, corporate issues, biographical information on the people involved? Or could one say the focus was on racing, or on collecting vehicles, or motoring in general? A book such as The Buick: A Complete History fits most categories – development and design, personalities, corporate, statistics, and even racing. Wide Open: Days and Nights on the NASCAR Tour is obviously about racing, but also deals with car development and personalities. Of course, these categories could be somewhat debatable, but it’s my blog and my analysis.

Finally, I wanted to see where the books were coming from, that is, the publisher. Again, I already had an idea of which publishers produced the bulk of the books I own, but it was interesting to break it down.

And so, the results…

Nation of automaker: Of the 51 books, 37 focus on cars built by US-based companies. The UK, Italy and Germany are the feature in 1 book each (the remaining books are not specific to one country’s automakers). I regret I have yet to acquire any books dealing in a meaningful way with vehicles of Japanese origin.

Corporation: The big player here is General Motors, with 16 books. Ford is a distant second with 6, including the biography of Henry Ford II. Chrysler is the focus in 3 books, while AMC, Pierce-Arrow, Packard, Jaguar, Ferrari and Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg have 1 book each. To be honest, I’d always considered myself more a ‘Ford man’, but it doesn’t surprise me there is a heavy GM bias. I am quite enamoured of many GM cars, and when certain books, especially histories of marques became available, I tend to grab them.

Make: Chevrolet leads with 7, Ford and Pontiac tie with 4, then Cadillac with 2. AMC, Pierce-Arrow, Plymouth, Buick, Oldsmobile, Packard, Ferrari and Jaguar each have 1. Chevrolet is simply a popular make and there are many books out there on their cars. Aside from my interest in Fords, I also own a Pontiac which accounts for its high standing.

Model: The Ford Mustang and Pontiac GTO are the subject of 3 books each, Camaro and Corvette 2 each, Barracuda, Ford F-Series trucks, Chev Corvair and Chevy Bel-Air/210/150 line each feature in a book apiece.

Vehicle type: I classed these as pony/musclecar (15 books), large/luxury (4 books), sportscar (3), racecar (2), convertible/open (1) and truck (1).

Of the 51 books, 18 could be considered chronicles. Vehicle development is a main focus in 25 books; corporate issues (company formation, leadership etc) is a focus in 19, and 15 can be considered to have significant biographical information on people involved such as Billy Durant, Harley Earl, E.L. Cord and Dutch Darrin. Ten books include a good amount of advertising and promotional material contemporary to the cars. Nineteen have large or recurring sections relating to statistics and technical aspects. General motoring is the focus in 4 books, racing is prominent in 12 books, and I considered pure ‘testing‘ to be in 1 book only (Barracuda Muscle Portfolio 1964-1974 which is a reprint collection of contemporary magazine articles and road tests).

It was not a surprise that Motorbooks International (MBI) is the publisher of the largest number of books, 12. Most of these were purchased new, and were stocked by my local big box bookstore. Crestline Publishing published 6 books, though only 2 that I’ve reviewed to date are from ‘the Crestline Series’ which was the impetus for this blog. Similarly, Automobile Quarterly published 4 of my reviewed books, though only 1 is actually an edition of the quarterly magazine. Publications International Limited (PIL) produced 3 books, while Krause, Lentinello, Bookman Dan and Michael Bruce Associates (MBA) contribute 2 each. Another 2 books are published independently. The remaining 16 books are from 16 different publishers, mostly a mix of American and British companies.

Finally, I call this a blog about old books about old cars. Now, with books, 20 years is not really very old. But, going by what is available in retail bookstores, it can be hard to find editions older than maybe 10 years. I do know that a number of my books are no longer in print, which can also be an indication of age. Anyway, what I found was my reviewed books break out this way… books published in the 2020s: 3; 2010s: 17; 2000s: 5; 1990s: 8; 1980s: 10; 1970s: 5; 1960s: 3. That makes half of the reviewed books older than 20 years. I counted these books by their edition date, so in fact, a couple books such as the Pierce-Arrow book is actually older as my copy is a 1977, but it is reprint of a 1930 edition.

So this confirms what I already knew. I currently have another 25 or so books that are unread/unreviewed, and these books are also fairly typical. They include a good number of publications from Motorbooks, PIL and Crestline.

With that said, I have endeavoured to broaden the scope. Those who have been following recent posts may notice that books on European makes and on racing have been recent reviews. In fact, I am currently working through a British book on Grand Prix cars from the period 1945-65. I do keep my eye out for interesting books, and truth be told, there are many I just have not pulled the trigger on acquiring. But, if you readers have any suggestions, books you’ve enjoyed or are curious about, please feel free to mention them. If I can find it, I may just pick it up.

Thanks for reading!

How to Draw Cars Like a Pro

How to Draw Cars Like a Pro by Thom Taylor with Lisa Hallett
Published 1996 by Motorbooks International
128pp., softcover

ISBN: 0-7603-0010-0

Purchased new from a retail bookstore.

Probably just about everyone has drawn a picture that included a car. The car was probably secondary – part of a street scene, or a parent going to work, and it was likely a very basic box with some wheels and windows. And then there’s the people who were really interested in cars as kids. They drew cars for fun, often designing their own fantastic vehicles, or customizing cars they’ve seen every day. Of course over time, most people draw less often, unable to find time or just because it’s no longer enjoyable.

On the other hand, it can also lead to a lucrative career. If we think of people such as Harley Earl, Dutch Darrin, J Mays, Art Fitzpatrick and Van Kaufman, and Chip Foose, it is obvious how important the ability to draw cars, and draw them well, has been to their careers and to automotive design.

I was one of those who drew cars as a kid, and as years passed I drew less often. From time to time I’d doodle or sketch, but I wanted to draw realistic images. I never could devote the time to refining my abilities. Still, now and again I’d get the itch. In my 20s, I found How to Draw Cars Like a Pro in the local bookstore and I grabbed it, hoping I’d be inspired to take up the pencil again. I still haven’t managed to hone my skills to a level I hoped for, but that certainly was not the fault of Thom Taylor’s book.

To be clear, How to Draw Cars Like a Pro is an art instruction book. Well, it’s not like a textbook, it’s more of a light introduction to drawing, especially cars. Drawing cars is essentially like drawing anything else, though. The rules of drawing apply. Perspective, proportion, light source, colour and shadow… these are elements of any visual art project. Still, cars warrant some special considerations, and Thom Taylor addresses those in each chapter.

The chapters feature fairly short, concise text. Taylor writes a few paragraphs, getting right to the point. But there are plenty of illustrations, because honestly the best way to explain drawing is with drawings. And the illustrations do not lack for captions. Taylor was able to collect work from 14 other artists to go along with his own work, and that goes a long way to showing how style and technique vary throughout the automotive art world.

Don’t get the idea that this is a rigid, “these are the rules” manual. Taylor does talk about the importance of things like paying attention to light and shading and proportion. There’s a chapter about cutaway drawings – now those are pretty technically accurate and require a lot of time and technique. But throughout this book, the author makes the point that experimentation and errors are how one develops their own unique style. There are many examples of cartoons, which bend the rules of realistic drawing but still are professional drawings of cars.

Drawing cars can be a lot of fun. From automotive design to advertising, magazine art to hot rodding, drawing cars is the starting point. For those want to create or refine their drawings, or build a style of their own, How to Draw Cars Like a Pro is a great book to get started with.

Pros: Lots of illustration examples of finished work; text is fairly light and to the point
Cons: A little sparse on step-by-step progressions; the finished illustrations may appear daunting to the novice artist
Where to find it: Amazon, ebay, used bookstores. Note, a second edition appeared 10 years after this publication.

You may also enjoy…
Concept Cars: From the 1930s to the Present
Cadillac: The Tailfin Years
American Cars of the 1960s

The Buick: A Complete History

The Buick: A Complete History by Terry B. Dunham and Lawrence R. Gustin with the staff of Automobile Quarterly
Published 1980 by Princeton Publishing Inc.
444pp., hardcover

ISBN: 0-915038-19-6

Acquired from the estate of a friend and car guy.

I have said before, it’s a shame Automobile Quarterly is no longer published. There was something special to AQ – the fact it was a magazine bound as a hardcover book for a start. But, the real significance of AQ was the depth of the articles, the breadth of automotive subjects, and the gravitas of the article authors and interview subjects. I still have just the one issue of the publication, but I have acquired a number books from the staff at AQ (reviewed here and here). By and large, my feelings are positive towards just about anything published by the quarterly magazine company.

There’s a number of books put out by AQ called The Library Series, and The Buick: A Complete History from 1980 is one of them. The most significant thing to notice is the heft of this book – where the book about the 75 year history of GM was 224 pages, this history of the Buick division of GM clocks in at 444 pages. And those pages are packed with content.

I found the format of this book interesting. It mostly reads as a narrative – conventionally written, the story following chronologically in chapters, like many other books. There are numerous photos throughout in black and white, with 2 relatively large ‘color portfolios’ (broken out like chapters themselves) of almost 40 images each. The interesting thing is, the chapters are followed by 8 appendices spanning 80 pages at the end of the book. These appendices include Buick’s racing record, an explanation of the early distribution system, the development of Buick automatic transmissions including the Dynaflow, Buicks around the world and more.

The word ‘complete’ in the title is really well-used. This is indeed a very complete history of the Buick marque up to the end of the 1970s. The 400+ pages cover just about all things Buick…

  • David Dunbar Buick’s early ventures in business and engine building, his early associations with Walter Marr and Benjamin Briscoe, and the eventual formation of Buick Motor Car Company and the move to Flint MI.
  • William Crapo Durant’s background, how he built Buick into a key automaker, the creation of General Motors and his eventual ouster.
  • Buick’s wartime efforts
  • Detailed engineering passages describing year-to-year features, as well as Buick innovations such as ‘valve-in-head’ engine design, Dynaflow transmissions, as well as failings such as the ‘pregnant’ and ‘Bob-tail’ Buicks and a custom-body plan with Brunn.
  • Development of Buick’s engines, especially the early Nailhead V8s, the small V8 and the V6, which was sold and later reacquired by the company.

The depth of exploration into the subject of Buick is notable, even commendable. Certainly there is a ton of info on the cars, from styling to engineering to performance. But it goes beyond just that. Sales and public response to Buick and its cars is also discussed. Many of the key people involved in Buick, from company presidents to engineers to stylists, are not just named but there is often personal details written in. Some of these people are quoted or their personal papers were accessed, so we are actually privy to their thinking and interactions. Further, much is framed within the context of the Buick Motor Company or General Motors.

The result is quite a complete picture of the marque. Sure, there are resources out there that will go further in depth on subjects such as the Dynaflow transmission or the Buick straight-8. The Buick: A Complete History does accord many of the core subjects significant attention. And so, I believe this volume would have broad appeal to many car enthusiasts. If you’re piqued by engineering, racing, corporate dealings, styling or the people of the industry, there is something here for you.

As mentioned here, many books I review are not necessarily the latest version. Such is the case here. And in this case I certainly recommend seeking out a newer edition. A quick search online revealed there is at a version at least as new as 2005. It contains more than 150 additional pages, including models up to 2004 as well as information pertaining to Buick’s proliferation into the Chinese market. This is significant, as many serious and casual observers opine Buick’s popularity in China was a major factor that saved the marque from the extinction that befell both Oldsmobile and Pontiac.

Overall, I feel this is a great piece of automotive literature that belongs in a serious library. It is certainly not a quick read, nor should it be when recounting the story of one of the oldest and most prominent of American makes. Admittedly, I am a fan of Buicks, however that is not a prerequisite. One only needs to have an interest in the history of the American automobile.

Pros: a very complete history; a wealth of photographs; written in a way that is easily digested; fairly well-balanced in that each era is explored
Cons: there could always be more colour photos; my edition is possibly a first edition, and there are a number of subsequent updated versions
Where to find it: as even the latest edition is likely out of print, the best options remain Amazon, eBay, and private collections

You might also enjoy…
The American Auto: Over 100 Years

General Motors: The First 75 Years of Transportation Products
1932 Buick Series 57S Special Sedan

On old books…

I used to read car magazines almost exclusively, and I usually ended up keeping them. Over time, I found that in many magazines, only about half the articles really appealed to me. Or some articles were basically similar versions of articles from previous seasons or other magazines. And many tech articles were really just ads for the latest car parts. Before long, I had many, many magazines lying around. But, I also had acquired a small number of books. Those, I had specific purposes for. I thought I might buy a Camaro, so I got the Illustrated Camaro Buyer’s Guide. When I had my Fox-body Mustang, I got The Official Ford Mustang 5.0 Technical Reference & Performance Handbook, 1979-1993 and Mustang 5.0 Performance Projects. I read them cover to cover. And somehow I felt better about keeping the books than I did the magazines – though from time to time, I still bought magazine.

Around 2010, I began hanging with my cousin and a group of classic car friends. One gentleman, Bill, was in his 80s and was still a car guy. His daily driver was a Buick Lucerne, he kept a late ‘90s Cadillac Fleetwood because his wife preferred it, and his summer cruiser was a white 1983 Buick Riviera convertible. When Bill passed away, his family allowed his car friends to have pieces of his automobilia collection (save the cars of course), as a remembrance. That’s when my automotive book collection really grew from about 4 books to a dozen, including Auburn Cord Duesenberg and Famous Old Cars.

I’ll come to my point. I’m sure many readers notice that a number of my reviewed books are not just old, they’re also not the latest edition of the title. That was by happenstance, not design. I got Sixty Years of Chevrolet from Bill’s collection, and at the time, I didn’t know there was a 75 Years of Chevrolet out there. Had I known, I wouldn’t necessarily have passed up the book I got, given it was from my friend’s collection. The day may come that I acquire the newer book, but, I’m also a little… not frugal, but let me put it this way: if I see a copy of the newer version available in great condition at a great price, and there wasn’t some other book I desired more, I’d buy it. But until then, I’m fairly happy to keep the one I have.

This is not to say I don’t or haven’t purchased new books, I often do as I sometimes get gift cards and loyalty points for bookstores. Some, such as Cadillac Style, Volume 1 and Corvair Style I’ve purchased direct from the publisher. I want traditional (ie, physical paper) book publishing and production to continue, and that means new books need to be bought. However, I also like giving old books a good home, so I peruse buy and sell sites to pick up a gem here and there. I don’t like seeing books discarded – if it’s something I’m interested in I’ll try to grab it.

I will say this, should I replace any of the volumes I have reviewed with newer editions, I will be sure to update my existing posted reviews. Obviously, some books such as The Genuine Corvette Black Book are meaningfully updated to include additional chapters. That said, it’s also true that some updated volumes don’t really update much, a couple pictures get swapped, sometimes content is edited out to fit a few extra pages of content but keep the page count the same. But I won’t know that for sure until I find those books.

My purpose for this blog is to share information about books about cars, and that’s not limited to just the old, long out-of-print ones. If there’s any automobile books you think I should look for, let me know. I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to find it, but if you think I’d enjoy it and should look out for it, I will.

Thanks for reading!

1954 Studebaker Champion

Following the distinctive bullet-nose design, Raymond Loewy and Bob Bourke created low split-grille design for 1952 which hinted at what was to come. For 1953, the Studebakers had a swoopier scoop front, with a high center crown on the hood. It created a very streamlined look, reminiscent of the cars of the 1940s but much sleeker and sportier, and a lot lighter than many contemporary designs. The coupes also gained a new name, ‘Starlight’.

In the rear, the 4-piece wraparound greenhouse was replaced by a single large rear backlight that fit behind a forward-sloping B-pillar. This basic body design, known as ‘the Loewy coupe’ would last until 1961. This front-end would be reworked with a much heavier chrome ‘fish mouth’ design for 1955, before a major redesign to the face and renaming of the coupes as Hawk (which had variants called Flight Hawk, Power Hawk, Sky Hawk, Golden Hawk and later Silver Hawk).

This particular car is a 1954 Champion Starlight coupe. Funny enough, I found the car at Syracuse Nationals in 2014, where I took these photos. In writing this post, my research online revealed an image of this car taken in New Brunswick and showing Ontario license plates. I went back to my raw photos and found the included ‘full frontal’ shot, confirming the same license plate. As it turns out, the car is from the city I currently live in, though I cannot confirm I’ve actually seen it here in town.

I find the design of the front end really appealing. The smooth curves of the hood metal and the tastefully mimimal use of chrome are beautiful. I love how the model identification is subtly displayed in the chrome bar of the grilles. And the golden ‘S’ set on the chromed V is pure 1950s for me. Overall, it says 1950s but in a restrained fashion.

As for the images, I shot the car with my usual Nikon D3200, 18-55mm lens set up. It was set at ƒ/9.0, 1/320 sec exposure, and ISO 100 speed. I found the image needed little in terms of correction and adjustment, just some minor Photoshop tweaks. I wanted to create a ‘poster’ file, which is why I added the gradient and Studebaker script logo to my final file.

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1950 Studebaker coupe

Many early automobile manufacturing companies began as carriage builders, and could trace their history back many years. One such company was Studebaker. The Studebaker family arrived in Philadelphia from Germany in 1736, and by 1740, Peter Studebaker was building wagons. It was his descendants who began building motor vehicles, beginning development in 1897. Studebaker began production of electric vehicles 1902. By 1904 Studebaker partnered with other companies to build gasoline-powered cars (Studebaker continued building electrics until about 1911, and in fact still sold wagons into 1920).

In the years prior to World War I, Studebaker ranked among the highest in production of cars, reaching 3rd in 1913. By 1933 Studebaker was bankrupt. Reorganization allowed Studebaker Corporation to find relative financial health, climbing to 8th in sales for 1939 and 1940 (the highest of any independent those years).

Following World War II, Studebaker was among the first automakers to offer brand new designs in 1947, while the others continued with warmed-over pre-war styles. Raymond Loewy and Virgil Exner designed the new Stude with the front and rear being almost equal, the “is it coming or going?” Studebaker. But they created a sensation with the 2-door coupe, designing a wraparound rear backlight that was unlike anything on the market.

For 1950 Bob Bourke freshened the front end of the Studebaker with the bullet-nose. The concept was not novel – Tucker had created something similar for 1947, and the very well-received 1949 Ford made the bullet-nose design a prominent feature of its front grille. But, the Studebaker design, used for all model lines, was probably the most pronounced. The motif would be dropped after 1952, but the bullet-nose is still often associated with Studebaker. They were popular, the 1950 bullet-nose cars selling 320,000 units (compare to just under 1.5 million Chevrolets and 1.2 million Fords). Sales dropped off to 246,000 and 167,000 in the following years. Of course, Studebaker and the other independents would eventually exit the automobile business, simply unable to compete with the Big Three.

I found this 1950 Studebaker at Fleetwood Country Cruize-in 2015. This mild custom has had its bumper removed and I believe the headlight/turn signal set up is also be custom (stock appears to be round turn signals). With the bumper missing, it’s easy to see how the bullet nose was also thought to be reminiscent of a propeller driven aircraft, with the chrome ‘wings’ on either side of the spinner.

I did grab a quick ‘straight on’ shot of the front end, but I felt the shot from the side really emphasized how dramatically the bodywork curved under, how round the contours really were. The second image was shot with the Nikon D3200, 18-55mm lens, set at ƒ/7.1, 1/200 sec exposure and ISO 100 speed. I used Photoshop and Topaz Adjust to increase the contrast and reveal some of the reflections in the paint and chrome.

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