Silvio Calabi: Turning pages, not wheels, with holiday car books
Yes, it’s hard to stuff a coffee-table book into a Christmas stocking, but for the right recipients these three are worth wrapping up and laying out under the tree with the big presents. They are beautifully produced and written, illustrated and edited well, and not only attractive but also informative, even authoritative on their subjects.
Ford GT: How Ford Silenced the Critics, Humbled Ferrari and Conquered Le Mans (Preston Lerner & Dave Friedman; 224 pages, 77 color and 223 black and white photos; Motorbooks, $60) After a subtitle like that, do you really need a review? This book is about an event that helped make me a motorhead when I was a teenager: the Ford Motor Company’s stunning one-two-three sweep of the 24-hour endurance race at Le Mans, in France, in 1966. Henry Ford II had got it into his head that he wanted to compete with the bluebloods on Europe’s legendary tracks, so he tried to buy Ferrari. When il Commendatore, Enzo Ferrari, snubbed him, HFII went back to Dearborn in a rage and ordered out the legions. The result was the fabulous Ford GT40 (its roof stood just 40 inches above the pavement), still today an exceedingly beautiful and desirable object. Why were we surprised that one of the world’s oldest, largest and wealthiest car companies could best a tiny, upstart automaker? Read the book and you’ll see. Could it happen again? Funny you should ask. In 2016, exactly 50 years later, Ford will roll out its latest GT, another no-expense-spared, mid-engine super sports coupe, and it too will race at Le Mans against the likes of McLaren, Porsche, Aston Martin, Jaguar, Lamborghini and, naturally, Ferrari. The playing field is more level now, though.
Ford Total Performance: Ford’s Legendary High-Performance Street and Race Cars (Martyn L. Schorr; 208 pages, 133 color and 215 black and white photos; Motorbooks, $45) The GT40 wasn’t Ford’s only successful runner in international motorsports. Purpose-built, V-8-powered Falcons competed in the Monte Carlo Rally in 1963 and ’64. Also in 1964, Mercury Comets survived the East Africa Safari Rally, and then ran for 40 days and 40 nights from Cape Horn, on the tip of Tierra del Fuego, to Fairbanks, Alaska. Carroll Shelby’s Ford Cobras won the World GT Championship in 1965, and in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s Ford-Cosworth engines were the terror of Formula One. And of course thousands of Fords—Fairlanes, Mustangs, Cobras, Torinos, Cougars, Cortinas, Escorts and more—have run and won at domestic venues ranging from Indianapolis and Daytona to the dragstrip in everyone’s home town. Many of those cars are in this book, written by a man who was there. Author Marty Schorr is one of the Old Guard who helped me get started in moto-journalism, 30 years ago, and last week I was driving Jaguars and Range Rovers in Arizona at the invitation of his son Stuart, who is now that company’s V-P for Communications. The world, she is still small.
Barn Find Road Trip: 3 Guys, 14 Days and 1,000 Lost Collector Cars Discovered (Tom Cotter & Michael Alan Ross; 192 pages, 410 color and 4 black-and-white photos; Motorbooks, $35) Nothing gets a car collector more juiced up than a barn find. Whether it’s a rotted-out Isetta three-wheeler, a rusty Edsel or a Bugatti Royale inhabited by raccoons, a “barn find” is a put-away-and-forgotten old crock—festooned with cobwebs, aged like a mummy, but original. Some have sold for millions; most are simply relics of someone’s past; all are weirdly interesting. Who, what, why? With a photographer in tow, a couple of car geeks meandered (in a 1939 Ford woody wagon, no less) from North Carolina through Virginia to Hershey, PA, in the autumn of 2014, looking for “vintage tin.” This is the daily log of their journey, illustrated with evocative photos of the cars they encountered and the people who own and appreciate them. It’s astonishing what a little diligence can turn up—and anyone who’s half serious about such an endeavor may find the authors’ “Top 10 Rules of Barn-Find Hunting” worth more than the price of the book all by itself.
Silvio Calabi reviews the latest from Detroit, Munich, Yokohama, Gothenburg, Crewe, Seoul and wherever else interesting cars are born. Silvio is a member of the International Motor Press Association whose automotive reviews date back to the Reagan administration. He is the former publisher of Speedway Illustrated magazine and an author. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.