Books – Racing in the dark

“RACING IN THE DARK: When The Bentley Boys Conquered Le Mans” – Peter Grimsdale

I have a confession to make. Until very recently, in my eyes Bentley was just a “cheaper Rolls Royce”. Yeah, they had a lot of victories at Le Mans and won again in 2003, nonetheless for the last 50 or 60 years it was just a luxury brand. Very good cars, no doubt, yet only a luxury brand. However, that view changed a lot after I read Peter Grimsdale’s book. With a fluid and enticing writing, Grimsdale showed me the story of W. O. Bentley, and his saga to make a great car. And he did, with blood, sweat and tears he made what was at the time, probably THE best sports car in the market.

Unfortunately though, financial strife ended his dream, to the point where the once great Bentley Motors became a cheaper Rolls Royce 😣. I truly loved the book – honestly, without a doubt the best car book I read in the last couple of years. A hardback with not too many photos (unfortunately), it is easily available at Amazon. Despite the title, I would say this book would be for all motorsports enthusiasts.

Books – Porsche 917

“Porsche 917: Zuffenhausen’s Le Mans and Can-Am Champion” – Karl Ludvigsen

I got this book a few years ago, and for the 917 enthusiast, it’s one of the best books out there. Soft cover and with LOTS of pictures, the great Karl Ludvigsen offers a plethora of technical details on the car. In fact, he focuses more on technical aspects than on race history. You still can find it on Amazon, however like most good paper books nowadays, it won’t come for cheap. Well, I can’t say it is really expensive, yet I would say the price is a bit high for a soft cover. So, is it worth it? For the casual gearhead maybe not, though for the 917 fanboy it’s awesome.

Books – So-Cal hot rods

“So-Cal Speed Shop” – Mark Christensen

After World War II, many returning American servicemen turned their eyes onto motorsports. One such person was Alex Xydias, an ex-B-17 airman. Xydias opened his shop in 1946, in Burbank, California, initially selling parts for car owners to boost the performance of their race cars. With these cars achieving good results and breaking a few records mostly on the salt flats, the So-Cal brand became a trusted name among the land speed record community.

Christensen tells the story of how the So-Cal Speed Shop moved on from a small car parts shop to one of the most famous hot-rod brands. The book is a hardcover, and it’s chock-full of high quality photos, though most black & white. Unfortunately out of print, though you can find a used copy on Amazon. An easy and very interesting read, I’m sure it will appeal to the gearhead in general.

Books – Ford vs Ferrari

“Ford vs Ferrari – The battle for supremacy at Le Mans 1966” – John Starkey

I’m pretty sure everyone here already saw Ford v Ferrari the film. You didn’t 😲??? What do you mean, you didn’t see it?!? Unless you just shipped in from a colony on Venus (or Uranus), something is wrong… No, it’s not a fantastic work of art in cinematography, far from that. Well, Le Mans the film also kind of (royally?) sucked in that regard. Yet, that’s beside the point. The fact is that both are GREAT car movies. And from that perspective, Ford v Ferrari is maybe even better than Le Mans. So if you’re a gearhead or car person, you need to watch it. ASAP.

Anyway, the book is not about the film. It’s about the events that inspired the film. And in terms of a literary piece of work, it’s pretty good. The only part that I didn’t like (or better, that I missed), was the lack of coverage on Ferrari and their cars. The book is “Ford-centric”, so not much is said about Ferrari’s cars. And we’re talking about the 330 P3 (among others), which is undoubtedly one of the most gorgeous Ferraris ever. The book has a ton of photos, so more Ferrari eye candy would have been nice. Despite not much on Maranello’s cars, the author presents the facts that lead to Ford’s victory at Le Mans in 1966 in a pretty good way. Their are other books out there on those events, however John Starkey is right to the point. And shows lots of photos.

This book, fortunately (for once), is still available in paperback format, and best of all, cheap (about $20). And because of the photos, I strongly recommend the regular book version and not the e-book version. The e-book is cheaper, yet for photos a Kindle is far from great, so if you can, go for the tree-unfriendly regular book version.

Books – Against Death and Time

“Against Death and Time: One Fatal Season in Racing’s Glory Years” – Brock Yates

Originally published in 2004, I got this book around 2006 or 2007. It was a gift from my friend Jeff, a fellow moderator at DiecastXchange, at the time the biggest 1:18 diecast forum on the web. Back then I was an avid 1:18 collector, trying to build a focused collection 🙄. I wanted to stick to Le Mans and Silberpfeile, and just a few road cars, yet in 1:18 those themes were scarce. And books like this didn’t help either. Brock Yates tells a great story about the 1955 Indy 500, and Bill Vukovich’s tragic accident. He also talks about the 1955 Le Mans tragedy and the aftermath. For both cases, it was VERY interesting to see how much a pilot’s safety (and life) was important. Or better said, how little that mattered. He also writes about the death of James Dean, in the last part of the book. However, being honest, that part was subpar compared to the rest. Being blunt, he could have stopped at Le Mans.

Even so, all in all a good book. To the point that I branched my 1:18 collection into vintage Indy racecars 😣. Despite the James Dean part, it’s a very good book. However, I looked it up at Amazon and it’s out of print. If you get a chance to get one, even if you’re not into Indy, it’s a good way to understand a little how racing was done in the 50s. Oh, Brock Yates also wrote “Enzo Ferrari: The Man and The Machine”.

Books – 917/10

“Porsche Legend: The Can-Am L&M Penske Porsche That Made Racing History” – Stephen Cox

I just finished this book on my Kindle: “Porsche Legend: The Can-Am L&M Penske Porsche That Made Racing History”. Quite short, dirt-cheap, yet I found it to be a gem. It is totally specific to the L&M Penske 917/10 in the 1972 Can-Am season, and that’s why it is so brief. Nonetheless, it brings some great stories of what happened behind the scenes in the Penske camp. It is very light on the technical side, with almost nothing on stats or specs of the Penske cars. Even so, the book is a nice read, and you can basically finish it in one sitting.

With all that, I don’t think it will appeal to all gearheads, being so specific (and brief). Yet, for the price (less then 3 bucks!) you just can’t go wrong. So, if you have an interest in the 917/10 or Can-Am, it´s a nice read.

Books – Niki Lauda

“Niki Lauda: The Biography” – Maurice Hamilton

Since I’m a gearhead, of course I have some interest in F1. Yet, I’m not exactly a big fan. While that may be so, I do have more than a passing interest in the sport’s history. And a BIG part of that history in my eyes is occupied by Niki Lauda. To me, he was one of F1’s finest personalities, both in the cockpit of a F1 car and in the back scenes. And quite frankly, it is hard to find another driver with such colorful history.

I got this book on my Kindle, and it’s a bit poor on the photo content. Even so, it makes up with loads and loads of stories from Lauda’s carreer. And just as enticing, it gives a good idea of the inner workings of the F1 circus in the 70s and 80s. So I would say this is a must read to the Niki Lauda fan and a great book for the F1 fan.

Books – The IROC Porsches

“The IROC Porsches: The International Race of Champions, Porsche’s 911 RSR, and the Men Who Raced Them” – Matt Stone

Right around when I ordered my 911 RSR IROC #1, I also ordered this book. It took a looooong while to arrive, and I just finished it this week. Hardcover, with an embossed cover, 192 pages and a gazillion photos. The author dives DEEP into the 1973/74 IROC season and the cars that were in the race. To the point that he describes the history of every single one of the 15 chassis that participated in the championship. For the Porsche fanboy (me) a treasure trove of information on this specific model. For the gearhead in general (me again) a fantastic description of a very interesting race series.

The eagle-eyed coffee connoisseur probably identified that coffee as Nespresso 🤮. Yes, I confess, it is Nespresso. No, I don’t drink Nespresso (last one I had was before the pandemic, I think). Yet, I was in a hurry and didn’t have time to fire up my ECM and make a proper espresso. Looking back, though, I should have made a pour-over, instead.
May the God of Speed have mercy on my soul.

Books – Enzo Ferrari

I’m half way through this book, and I can’t recommend it more. Very nicely written, with tons of info specially about the back-stages of what happened in Maranello. I always knew Enzo Ferrari was kind of an a-hole, but in reality, the man was a grade A+ summa com laude a-hole. Still, the best thing about the book in my opinion is to see how absolutely brutal GP and F1 racing was back then.

Even if you are not a ferrarista, this is a very interesting read for the gearhead and race fan in general.