Gear

Our 15 Favorite Coffee Table Books

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Writing about cars is just as fun as reading about them, so we took an office poll for ten essential automotive publications. The coffee table should be an inviting space for family and friends, so no service manuals are allowed. To keep your significant other appeased we suggest an equal ratio of art and engineering books offer something for everyone. Coffee Table reads should never end in tragedy, so please avoid anything involving Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Saturn, Plymouth….Just to name a few. If you like cars, these are the books you need to own.

1. Zora Arkus-Duntov by Jerry Burton. Without a doubt, Zora Duntov was one of the greatest automotive engineers of all time. As a Russian Jew who barely escaped the Nazis in Paris, his first major success was a dual overhead cam conversion kit for the Ford flathead V8. After seeing a prototype Corvette at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York, he wrote an infamous letter to GM engineers. His words were never sugar coated, and his influences can be found in all modern performance cars.

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2. Enzo Ferrari by Brock Yates. A book about a legend, written by a legend. Brock Yates was the Editor of Car & Driver for almost half a century, which gave him the ability to describe Enzo as more than just a figurehead. This book dives deep into his motivation for winning races by pushing men and machines harder than anyone else. It also sheds light on his personal life and the stress of dealing with the press and tabloids.

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3. Ayrton Senna’s Principles of Race Driving by Ayrton Senna. Published only a few months before he left us, the legend divulges the secrets of driving. Even if you aren’t a Formula1 fan, Senna’s approach to aerodynamics and chassis control are essential reading for all forms of motorsport. Don’t blame us if you purchase a  first gen NSX after reading it. This is how Senna should be remembered. In his own words in the present tense.

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4. Unique Lalique Mascots: Automotive Radiator Hood Ornaments by G.G. Weiner. Only the finest cars in the world were worthy of having a radiator cap of Lalique Crystal, and author G.G. Weiner offers a brilliant collection for your perusal. If your hood ornament is more valuable than the GDP of third world countries, this book is for you!

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5. National Park Roads by Timothy Davis. Our Nation is filled with scenic beauty, and our forefathers saw fit to make sure we can experience them in our cars. A massive 344 pages goes into detail about how to get to the parks and what to look for once you are there What could be better than experiencing our natural wonders with your favorite car? We also approve this book as a distraction for your significant other if you need to change the conversation.

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6. 100 Years of Harley Davidson by Willie G. Davidson. No other manufacturer cares as much for their origins as Harley-Davidson. Written by the man responsible for saving his Grandfather’s company, it is loaded with historical images and iconic advertisements from the past to present.

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7. King of the Kustomizers: The Art of George Barris by Brett Barris. King of the Kustomizers is a look at the life and wild creations of George Barris. The man responsible for the Batmobile and the Munsters Koach, his work embodied the essence of the Kustom Kulture movement. Without Barris, Hot Wheels would be boring and Adam West would probably drive a Yugo. Written by his son Brett Barris, it is a fitting tribute to a talented builder.

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8. N.A.R.T.: A concise history of the North American Racing Team 1957 to 1983 by Terry O’Neil. N.A.R.T. was the North American Racing Team founded by Luigi Chinetti. His team became the motorsports division of Ferrari and had unparalleled success for thirty years. Innovations on the track led to performance on the street, and this book illustrates how tough racing can be. He was the first Ferrari dealer in the US, and every Scuderia Shield is a fitting tribute to his perseverance.

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9. Porsche 911: 50 Years by Randy Leffingwell. If you have a chance to read anything by Randy Leffingwell you will enjoy it. His photos and research are first class. Covering everything from the first prototypes to the 991 series, you will have an opportunity to see and understand the first 50 years of the iconic 911.

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10. Our First Issue. Your favorite classic car is probably affordable in 1985 dollars. A gallon of regular gas was 97 cents, and supercars struggled to make 300 horsepower. Issue 1 should be part of your library, but good luck finding a copy. An anonymous eBay user known as “duPontTom” has been buying every one that surfaces. We don’t know his intentions are for them, and he has not replied to our emails. If you find one, name your price in the comments below.

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11. Top Gear: The Cool 500: The Coolest Cars Ever Made by Matt Master. Top Gear: The Cool 500 is a collection of the most important cars ever made. Loaded with quirky British humor and stunning photos, Matt Master has compiled an amazing list

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12. Go Like Hell: Ford, Ferrari, and Their Battle for Speed and Glory at Le Mans by A. J. Baime. The Grandson of Ford’s founder, Henry II had the money and marketing prowess to buy Ferrari from Enzo, but he wouldn’t sell. Having been rebuked and embarrassed, Ford decided to beat them at their own game. The story culminates in the successes of the GT40 and the men who built it. The battle still rages with the new Ford GT taking on the world, and this is how it all began.

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13. Form Follows Function: The Art of the Supercar by Stuart Coding. Instead of stunning landscapes in the background, author Stuart Codling placed 20 of the world’s most beautiful cars in a blacked out studio to highlight their beautiful designs. Commentary by designer Frank Stephenson and photography by James Mann are why this should be part of your library.

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14. Lamborghini Supercars 50 Years: From the Groundbreaking Miura to Today’s Hypercars by Stuart Codling. Lamborghini Supercars 50 Years is another collaboration of James Mann and Stuart Codling. It covers everything from Miura to Aventador with stunning images and history of each model. Horacio Pagani was chief engineer of the Countach, and his influences are clearly seen in the car’s Evolutzione .  

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15. Luxury Toys Volume 2 by Teneues. If you need the motivation to advance your career, this book features indulgences only available to the super-wealthy.

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Honorable Mention: SR-71 Workshop Manual. Haynes Service Manuals have been the go-to resource for working on your car. Once you master the art of rebuilding the world’s fastest airplane, any automotive procedure will be a cake walk. Before reading this, my SR71 had an idle problem on cold mornings, and I was able to trace it to one of the twin Chevy 454 big blocks in the start cart. It also addresses severe jetlag. Flying west at medium throttle will outrun the sun and it will set in the east behind you. Upon landing you will have the same day to enjoy. Richard Rawlings and Dennis Collins claim to have the fastest NY to LA time of 31 hours in a 550 Maranello, but the SR71 did it in 1 hour 54 minutes.

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Tell us what books are on your coffee table and stay with us for more recommended reading.