This month I have mostly been reading

Been Reading Issue 21

Been Reading Issue 21
I’ve owned three second-gen Camaros in my life, would definitely like to own another (when my six numbers come up) and always thought I knew quite a lot about them. It turns out I knew practically nothing, and half of what I did “know” was wrong… This book is one of those rare titles that manage to combine a whole load of anorak-wearing, OCD-suffering facts and figures into a readable, almost entertaining format. It lists all the features of Chevy’s ever popular second-gen, what changes were made throughout the years, options, details, trim, which parts interchange with other models and which don’t, how to spot a fake Z28, the whole nine yards, and all accompanied by plenty of nice, clear photographs. If the Camaro is your choice of steed, this will be a book well worth owning, even though it’s aimed ...

Been Reading Issue 20

Been Reading Issue 20
If I told you I’d just read an autobiography about the life and career of a salesman, that’d sound pretty dull, right? Not so, in this case, and mostly because this guy was so much more than just a salesman, and because what he was selling means something to me… and to us all. JK Kelly – I don’t know what the JK stands for; perhaps he’s just like JK Rowling – started out his career looking as if he’d be heading into his family’s funeral home business. Fortunately for us (if not for the recently deceased of Pennsylvania) he didn’t, and, by way of a stint as a motorsports photojournalist and a PR gig for Darrell Waltrip’s NASCAR team, he wound up working for a fairly new start-up in the world of specialist racing fuels – VP, a company he ...

Been Reading Issue 19

Been Reading Issue 19
Ah, those were the days. When Ford decided on their ‘Total Performance’ plan in the early Sixties, it seemed like they had an almost bottomless pit of money to shovel into their racing exploits. Sometimes, it was handy to have a third party handle the race car build and development, not only to keep things away from prying (or spying?) eyes, but also to keep them safely away from the corporate bean-counters – it was probably easier for the accounts department to rubber-stamp an order for “One gross of toilet rolls, $10,000” when the order came from a remote facility. These off-site development skunk-works were often responsible for some of the best factory-sponsored racing machinery of their day. Ford’s pet place was Kar-Kraft, and look at what they were responsible for: ...

Been Reading Issue 18

Been Reading Issue 18
All of us like modifying our cars. Of course we do; we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t. We’d be reading Factory Standard Machine. Some modifications are purely aesthetic, but one of the phrases you hardly ever hear at SM-type events is, “That’s quite enough power for me, I think I’ll stop there.” But are those power or handling modifications actually working? This book could help. If you’re into the car club measuring contests, as in “I’ve just fitted an upgraded, polished billet aluminium prepuce stroker to my engine and it cost me £X,000,” just to hear the gasps of admiration, then it’s probably not for you. If you adhere to the principles of what the Americans call ‘Ricer math’ – “the brochure says that my engine turns out 150bhp, ...

Been Reading Issue 17

Been Reading Issue 17
These books are hardly hot off the press, but now seemed like an appropriate time to get them both read. Firstly, the fact that December 8th marks the 50th anniversary of the big media launch of the Pontiac Trans Am; secondly, to mark the passing of the man who probably did more for the Trans Am’s sales and long-term popularity than any other, Burt Reynolds. It’s a beautiful story, too, from the car that started out playing second fiddle to its Camaro sibling, through to being arguably the last of the true muscle cars in the dark days of the oil crisis, and ending up being one of the most iconic cars of the Seventies. Author, Rocky Rotella, has done an amazing job with these books, somehow managing to combine an encyclopaedia ...

Been Reading Issue 16

Been Reading Issue 16
As this issue is a bit of a van special, I thought I’d add this title to the mix to give you some ideas. Turning a van into a camper, dayvan or race van is hardly a new idea, but there certainly seem to be a lot more of them about these days. Perhaps it’s thanks to these guys, and this cool book, Build Your Own Dream Camper Van For Less Than £1000… including the purchase price of the van. It’s a simple premise: buy an old van, buy an old caravan, fit the guts of the latter to the inside of the former and presto! You have a camper. That’s exactly what these brothers did, and they chronicle the process here. It’s not a dry, clinical step one, step two ...

Been Reading Issue 15

Been Reading Issue 15
This Month I Have Mostly Been Reading…. I can’t say I’m a massive NASCAR fan, but anything that involves V8s in “stock” bodies howling around an oval at about 200mph can’t be all bad… Anyway, this story is a tale of one of the sport’s best-loved competitors, Dale Earnhardt Sr. Everybody knows Number 3, ‘The Intimidator’, the hard-charging, paint-tradin’, wall-rubbin’ racer’s racer who won as many NASCAR championships as Richard Petty and wore that moustache without a trace of irony. He won hundreds of races and made it look easy… … almost. The season-opening Daytona 500 was his Everest, his Kryptonite, his Eleanor, his Great White Whale. He could win any race in the season, he could win all the races in the week leading up to the 500, but come race ...

Been Reading Issue 14

Been Reading Issue  14
This Month I Have Mostly Been Reading… This is an odd title, and, having read it all the way through, I really don’t know what to do with it. It’s called Setting Up A Home Car Workshop, and it’s aimed at those in the fortunate position of having a new or rebuilt garage/workshop to refit and equip. There’s a chapter about hand tools, one about fitted tools (bench mounted or installed), one about work stations and benches, one about storage, one about ramps, hoists and pits, and so on. It’s all very nice, and, let’s face it, I’m sure we’ve all built and equipped our dream garages in our heads, but therein lies the problem: we all know this already. I’m not sure who the book is aimed at. It can’t be ...

Been Reading Issue 13

Been Reading Issue 13
I need to be careful here, as this title is teetering on the edge of flat-capped classic bufferdom; however, I’ve always had a major soft spot for Triumphs of all descriptions, so I think I’ll chance it. This book has an interesting new angle in that it’s written by an American, and from the point of view of the North American market, which, after all, is where most of these Triumphs ended up. It begins with a brief back-story about Triumph, a little about the post-war Bergerac-style 1800, then straight into the first of the TRs in 1952. The story follows all the way through to the last of the TR8s, doubles back a bit to encompass the Spitfire and GT6, then ends with a one-page epilogue about the Acclaim, and ...

Been Reading Issue 12

Been Reading Issue  12
You can hardly deny that anything built under the auspices of Mr C. Shelby has had more than its fair share of print over the years; by the same token, plenty of fans would say that you could never have too much. Anyway, here’s a new title with an interesting angle. The title is The First Three Shelby Cobras, which should give the game away somewhat, and is the latest in a Porter Press series called Exceptional Cars. Yes, the author has elected to concentrate on the first three cars – CSX2000, CSX2001 and CSX2002 – to leave the Shelby stable. CSX2000 is, of course, the prototype, and the one to which the ‘multiple paint jobs’ story is attributed. The legend goes that the Cobra was much in demand for car ...

Been Reading Issue 11

Been Reading Issue  11
Here’s a book that’s both glorious and rather sad at the same time. The title of the tome is Carroll Shelby – A Collection Of My Favourite Racing Photos, and what you can expect is exactly that. The author, Shelby’s family friend, Art Evans, has collected together an exceptional library of period photographs of the man himself and all his racing exploits. There are a few early snaps from the family album and his wartime service, then his first steps into motor racing in 1952. From then on, each chapter is a year in his fascinating history, from the early Sports Car circuit, to Formula 1 and Le Mans, through his forced retirement from racing in 1960 to building Cobras and campaigning Ford’s GT40. Oddly, the Mustang GT350s raced in SCCA ...

Been Reading Issue 10

Been Reading Issue  10
There’s been a whole lot of reading going on this month, mainly thanks to a new series of titles from CarTech called Muscle Cars In Detail. There are 10 titles in the series so far, and muscle fans will love ’em. While there are plenty of big, coffee-table books about general cover-all subjects such as Ford’s Mustang or Mopar Muscle, these smaller format, circa-100-page softbacks are far more focused. Each book picks not just a make and model, but a specific model year to obsess over. Oh yes, this is premier league anorak territory. Obviously, there is a bit of build-up to that particular model year, plus a little about what followed, but, by and large, it’s all about that specific model. Production figures, options, engine stats, and how to tell a ...

Been Reading Issue 9

Been Reading Issue  9
This Month, I Have Mostly Been Reading… Air suspension is big news on all sorts of car scenes at the moment, and it’s easy to see why – its way simpler and usually a lot cheaper than hydraulics, and many of the components required can be picked up from eBay or the scrapyard. This book is well timed, and should help anyone thinking of going down that path. The author seems to understand what’s required; he doesn’t just say, “Buy a universal kit from China and hope for the best.” He pitches it well, assuming a degree of understanding on the part of the reader, without assuming that we all have a Masters in pneumatics and fluid dynamics from Oxford. There are chapters on motion ratios and natural frequencies, which are fairly easy ...

Been Reading Issue 8

Been Reading Issue  8
When it’s this cold and miserable outside, it’s nice to curl up with a good book, although when that book’s about such a summery pursuit as drag racing, that’s not necessarily a good thing… Still, if nostalgia drag racing is your bag, this book is a corker. Match Race Mayhem is all about the glory days of match racing back in the Sixties, when big rivalries emerged on the strips, and the emphasis was often on “come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough.” A good grudge match between two famous racers, or between manufacturers in stock classes, would get bums on seats strip-side, and bringing in the punters often meant big cash prizes for the winners. This is how many of the big names of the time got ...

Been Reading Issue 7

Been Reading Issue  7
Automotive Upholstery & Interior Restoration   I know some guys who are amazing at car building. They can make anything out of anything: can turn sheet steel into engineering art, can rebuild engines blindfolded, and could weld wet tripe to a wooden spoon if needs be. However, you suggest that they try their hand at trimming and you’ll get a slightly panicked look and a flat refusal. It’s not a black art, though, and this title gives you a glimpse into the murky world of interior restoration. Note: restoration. This is more about the concours than the custom, and the author seems to concentrate mostly on Fifties Cadillacs and the like. Naturally, he opens with restoring the bench seat; not just reupholstering it, but restoring it from the springs upwards. Then he goes ...

Been Reading Issue 6

Been Reading Issue  6
This Month I Have Mostly Been Reading… I have just finished Creative Industries Of Detroit – The Untold Story Of Detroit’s Secret Concept Car Builder. The length of the title alone should have given me a clue about the content of the book. Back in the Fifties and Sixties, the Big Three would often create outlandish concept cars for Motorama-type displays or as limited-edition ‘halo’ cars for their range. Given that secrecy was key, and that each of the Big Three employed thousands of people, each of whom provided the possibility for leaks, they would farm their one-off work out to a company like Creative Industries, who would have maybe a dozen people, each sworn to secrecy upon pain of death, working on any given project behind closed doors. Now this ...

Been Reading Issue 5

Been Reading Issue 5
This Month, I Have Mostly Been Reading… You know those annoying know-it-alls who, on their specialist subject, possess every arcane and esoteric fact there is, and start most of their sentences with “I think you’ll find…”? Well, now, that could be you! The latest in the series of 1001 Facts books, following on from 1001 Drag Racing Facts and 1001 Muscle Car Facts, is this: 1001 Mustang Facts. The author has dredged the history files to come up with that particular number of fascinating trivialities about Ford’s favourite pony car. Some of them you’ll already know, some you won’t know, and some of them nobody on God’s green earth needs to know, but you’ll doubtless find plenty of knowledge nuggets with which to amuse, irritate and terrify your friends. Play a sort ...

Been Reading Issue 4

Been Reading Issue 4
This Month I Have Mostly Been Reading… Automotive Machining Here’s a tricky book to place. Firstly, it’s not a how-to title; it’s more of a how-someone-else-does-and-why title. Otherwise the first chapter would be ‘How to write a cheque for £1 million at your local CNC machine shop’ and chapter two would be ‘How to acquire a lifetime’s machining experience overnight’. Secondly, it’s not an entertaining read. If you’re after thrills and intrigue, I might recommend George RR Martin’s A Song Of Ice And Fire, the series of books that became A Game Of Thrones. If, however, you want to learn about how to extract the most power, reliability and efficiency from any engine, this is worthwhile reading. Thirdly, while it is still quite accessible for those of us who haven’t got a degree in ...

Been Reading Issue 3

Been Reading Issue 3
This Month, I Have Mostly Been Reading … Unfortunately, there aren’t many of the hot rod royalty still among us today, so we need to get all the history down in print now, before it’s too late. One such guy is Ed Iskenderian, the Camfather, a guy who grew up right in amongst the young California hot rod scene and spent his whole life helping himself and others in the pursuit of speed, over a quarter mile or a whole dry lake. Fortunately, Matt Stone has committed the whole of his life to print in this title, Isky – Ed Iskenderian and the History of Hot Rodding… and yes, they are intrinsically linked. From his iconic little track T to today, where the guy who is approaching the colonial equivalent of his ...

Been Reading Issue 2

Been Reading Issue 2
This month, I have mostly been reading… Think of some classic competition cars from the Sixties. From spindly Formula 1 cars to classic Jaguars and Galaxies on the saloon car circuit, to the Ferraris and GT40s at Le Mans, to the slingshots and muscle cars on the drag strips. Now think about BMC 1800s, Hillman Hunters, Rover P6s, Volvo estates and the Citroen DS. Those are the sorts of cars that competed in The 1968 London To Sydney Marathon, which also happens to be the title of the book I’ve been reading this month. In November 1968, almost 100 cars crewed by a mix of professionals and amateurs set off from Crystal Palace on a 10,000-mile endurance rally through Europe to Bombay, via the Iron Curtain, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, then ...

Been Reading Issue 1

Been Reading Issue 1
This month I have mostly been reading… This book was released last year to capitalise on the Charger’s 50th birthday. Yes, I’m a little way behind, but I’m years behind on my project cars so six months on a book is neither here nor there. It’s a big, thick hardback that has a hell of a story to tell, but does so very oddly. You’d expect there to be a chapter or two of pre-amble about Chrysler’s build-up to the Charger and the B-body muscle that followed; here, you’re halfway through the book before the Charger gets mentioned. Couple that with the last 10% of the book being about the 21st century Chargers, and the actual prime late Sixties/early Seventies muscle cars don’t actually fill that much of their own book. That’s not ...