Day One Brings the Muscle Car Era to Life

Day One

68 Pontiac GTO
1968 GTO Ram Air V at the Miami Dragway
Yenko Chevys
Yenko/SC 427 ’69 Camaro and Chevelle, plus a 1970 Nova 350/360 COPO Deuce

Day One Book coverIt’s great to learn about vintage cars from lavishly photographed books written by historians, restoration specialists and self proclaimed experts in their particular field of expertise.  This book, Day One: An Automotive Journalist’s Muscle-Car Memoir , breaks that mold by delivering a first-hand account from a man who witnessed and participated in the entire muscle car era first hand, Martyn L. Schorr.  Schorr is in a unique position to write on this subject. Starting in the early 1960’s, Schorr wrote for and later became editor for the iconic CARS magazine, as well as other automotive magazine titles that where owned by the same company. He was the head of a group of respected but rebellious, tell-it-how-it-is automotive writers working for an independent publisher that survived on newsstand sales, not corporate advertisers and not influenced by the major car manufacturers.

After some introductory chapters, the book’s chapters are broken down chronologically, starting with 1962 and ending in 1973-1974. In this manner, the reader follows the birth, success and ultimate demise of the muscle car era and how each manufacture responded to the public and each other in racing, styling and horsepower.  Each chapter is packed with great vintage photos, mostly shot by the CARS magazine staff, of cars being rung out on test tracks and the drag strip. Very cool.

Even cooler is the behind the wheel driving impressions of not only rare, brand new muscle cars, but factory test cars, race prepared cars and prototypes that the public would never be able to buy, much less drive.  And drive them they did! In 1964 Dodge gave Schorr the lightweight “Candymatic” Ramcharger backup drag car to use for a couple of weeks, equipped with a blue printed, race-ready, Stage lll , 12.5:1 426 Max Wedge, Torqueflight, jacked torsion bars and cheater slicks. Schorr writes: “Before returning our candy-striper, I managed to spend one Saturday running on Woodhaven/Cross Bay Boulevard in Queens. I dusted off a few 409 Chevys, 421 Pontiacs, and even a fuel-injected Sting Ray.”

The book if full of great stories about driving awesome cars from Yenko Chevrolet, Bladwin-Motion, Royal Pontiac and others. While today these cars are worth a king’s ransom, when they were new Schorr and his staff thrashed them on the street and strip without mercy, trying to squeeze as much power out of them as possible to achieve the lowest ET they get at the strip and shut down as many contenders they could on the street.

Cyclone Spolier
1969 Dan Gurney edition Mercury Cyclone Spoiler

There is a lot to like about this book, and I highly recommend it to anyone that likes muscle cars and would like to learn more about them.

Hardcover. 208 pages. Available from Motorbooks and from Autobooks-Areobooks 

Marty Schorr CARS magazine

Book Review: 100 Years of Ford Trucks

1961 Ford Trucks

100 Years of Ford TrucksFord trucks have been part of the American landscape for a century.  Early on, Model Ts where converted to delivery vehicles and the rear sections of the body could be easily removed and fitted with a variety of aftermarket pickup, flatbed, depot hack or other configuration to make them suitable for commercial use.  But the model T was a light weight car, not a heavy duty truck.   Ford answered the call to produce a dedicated truck line when it launched its one-ton commercial truck chassis, the Model TT, in July of 1917. Ford would go on to become the best selling truck in the world, and the best selling vehicle of any type in the United States with the F-Series. Today Ford sells over 700,000 F-Series trucks, and over 1.5 million trucks of all types just in the U.S. annually.1961 Ford Trucks

Ford Model A DUMP TRUCKPatrick Foster’s new book Ford Tough, 100 Years of Ford Trucks, explores the full, rich history of Ford trucks produced over the past century.  The book is comprehensive in its coverage of different models, including the Model A Roadster pick-up, 81C pick-up, the famous F-1 and F-100 pick-ups, plus the Bronco, Ranchero, Courier, Ranger and even the Econoline.  Seldom-seen images of light and heavy duty commercial vehicles from the Ford archives help bring their history to life. A well written, informative text is complemented by 100 black and white and 200 fabulous color factory photos.  There are no restored examples featured here, only Ford factory photos are presented.  The large, crisp, vintage images are worth the price of the book alone.

Patrick Foster is a respected and well known automotive writer and historian. All his books are excellent, and this one is no exception. The book is hardback, with 208 pages, and 9.25” x 10.97” in size. I highly recommend this book.  It is available at QuatroKnows.com, or anywhere fine books are sold.

Ford F-100 vintage

Airstream: America’s World Traveler

I have to admit, I’m not much of a camper.  My idea of camping is a poorly stocked mini-bar.  That being said, I think Airstream campers are cool.  Airstreams are retro-cool and high-tech all at the same time.  They have been called the Rolls-Royce of campers and after reading Patrick R. Foster’s new book Airstream : America’s World Traveler, I have an even higher opinion of these shimmering silver land-yachts.

Eighty-five years of Airstream history is covered in this book, bringing to life the story of Wally Byam, camping enthusiast, inventor, salesman, founder of the company   that would create an American icon.  Wally was more than just a businessman out to make a fortune, he was a dreamer.  Perhaps that is what the world needs more of today, dreamers.  Wally was a dreamer with big ideas and the strength and fortitude to get things done.

Wally knew the best way to test his product was in the field and on the road.  The United States is a big country, but not big enough for Wally Byam.  Leading caravans of Airstream owners on epic trips through Mexico, South America, Europe and across Africa, Wally became legendary amongst loyal Airstream owners in the fifties.

Wally Byam
Wally Byam

Battle-tested on the road and perfected in the company shop, Airstream trailers were simply the best   engineered and efficient trailers produced.  From its humble beginnings in a small shop in Southern California, the company stayed in business through the great depression, came back after World War II, survived the gas crunch and the recession to remain a high-quality, respected product to this day.  Airstream owners are among the most loyal and enthusiastic people in the camping community, and for good reason.

Airstream: America’s World Traveler is delight to read and has a trailer-load of fantastic factory photos to enjoy.  The author was able to access the factory archives to fill the book with great images and interesting insight into the company’s history.  A must read for any camper fan or lover of Americana.

Hardcover with 192 pages and 464 images.  Available now from Motorbooks or on Amazon.

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The Riva Tunnel in Monaco

Checking another box off on my bucket list, I attended the Historic Grand Prix Races at Monaco in May of 2016.  Monaco is famous for its Grand Prix races and I was excited to see the race and all the great cars, but I was drawn to the fabulous boats in the harbor as well.  Dozens of boats and large yachts are docked next to the track and near one of the race paddocks during the race.  I mentioned my affection for Riva boats to a friend, knowing that there had to be more than a few in Port Hercule, one of the world’s wealthiest and exclusive marinas.  “Are you going to the reception at the Riva Tunnel?” my friend asked.  Riva Tunnel?  I had no idea what or where it was but I knew I wanted in.  My friend emailed me the link and I secured a media pass.  This is something I had to see.

The Riva Tunnel has been the home of the Monaco Boat Service since 1959.  It was created by burrowing for two years through rock under the Grimadi Palace, and holds about 100 boats.  Riva is the maker of one of the most expensive, exclusive and beautiful lines of boats ever created.  Vintage models are coveted and highly prized by collectors today.  During the Grand Prix, a paddock full of priceless vintage race cars is temporary located directly in front of it.  The tunnel is lined on both sides with classic Riva boats parked at a forty-five degree angle twenty feet in the air.  The floor level during the event was full of historic Riva race boats dating back to the mid-thirties, culled from private collections around Europe.  What a sight! 

The event was organized to celebrate Riva’s racing heritage and also to launch a new book on Riva racing.  Author Riccardo Sassoli was on hand to talk about his new limited edition book Riva Corsa : The Origins of the Myth along with Lia Riva, representing the Riva family.  The boats were fascinating to see.  One was powered by a Ferrari motor and all had an important race history.  The incredible boats and the fabulous food were amazing. The evening was capped off for me when I got to speak with both Riccardo Sassoli and Lia Riva and have them sign my copy of the book.     

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Book Review: Cuba’s Car Culture

Buick in Cuba

Everyone that loves old cars is intrigued with the photos they have seen of colorful vintage cars running around the island nation of Cuba.  Although it is only 90 miles away from Florida, it seems like a distant land from the past.  In some ways this is true.  Questions about the cars in Cuba come up in car enthusiast’s conversations all of the time.  How many cars are there?  How did they get there?  How did they keep them running with no extra parts?  Are there any rare treasures hidden on that island?  Can I buy one and take it back to the United States?

All these questions, plus many more are answered in a new book entitled Cuba’s Car Culture, Celebrating the Islands Automotive Love Affair  by  well known automotive writer Tom Cotter and Bill Warner, writer, photographer, racer and founder of the prestigious Amelia Island Concours.  This is more than just a coffee table photo book.  The authors have visited Cuba multiple times and dig deep into a Cuban automotive history and culture of importing, selling, manufacturing, collecting, and racing cars from the beginning through to today.  The history of Cuba is shown through an automotive lens, giving the reader a full understanding of Cuban history and how the automobile fits into it.

One of the more interesting parts of Cuban automotive history is the Cuban Grand Prix races that were run from 1957 to 1960.  The book covers these events in detail and features many high-quality period photos of the race.  Did you know that the famous driver Juan Manuel Fangio was kidnapped just before one of the races?  It is worth the price of the book just to read the about Fangio!

As most people know, soon after Cuba fell to the rebels in 1959, the United States placed an embargo on all products coming in and out of Cuba, including cars and parts.  Many things became difficult and challenging for people in Cuba after that, and even more so for car owners wishing to keep their vehicles running.  The determination, ingenuity, and perseverance of the Cuban people is magnified and brought to the forefront in the pages of this book.

I highly recommend this book.  Cuba’s Car Culture is available from Motorbooks, Amazon and at book sellers. It is hardcover, 192 pages and features 160 color and 38 black and white photos.

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