With the gift-giving holidays just weeks away, it’s important to remember to give yourself something as well. Consider it your hard-earned reward for surviving the ever-so-exciting election year drama. What you’ll find here is good stuff to read – and hear!
Dieter Landenberger and Jürgen Gassebner. English translation by Colin Brazier. 2015 earBOOKS/Porsche Museum. 250 pages. Plus compact disc. ISBN: 978-3-943573-19-0. $60.00.
No one knows Porsche’s history as well as Dieter Landenberger, head of the company Archiv and co-director of the Porsche Museum. As the author of the massive and impressive 911×911 in celebration of that model’s 50th anniversary, Dieter poured through the Archive’s documents and photos and one might think he ran the well dry. Not so, for there are many images in this book that are unfamiliar.
Text is in English and German, and the page design and layout, by Wolfgang Seidl, is everything you’d expect a Porsche Museum book to be: handsome, and reader friendly.
But without doubt, one of the most enjoyable elements of this book is the soundtrack, audio clips of 30 Porsches ranging from the 1948 356/1 roadster through to a surprisingly robust sounding Panamera Turbo sedan.
This is perhaps the most entertaining way possible to learn Porsche’s vehicle history!
Stile Transatlantico / Transatlantic Style – A Romance of Fins and Chrome
Text by Donald Osborne with photos by Michael Furman. 2016 Coachbuilt Press. 284p. ISBN: Standard Edition: 978-0-9882733-6-8. In Italian and English. $100.00.
This is the companion book to museum exhibitions that will appear in 2017 at the Museum dell’Automobile in Turin, Italy, and the Blackhawk Museum in Danville, CA.
Make your air travel arrangements now. While photographer and Porsche enthusiast Michael Furman jokes that there are no Porsches in this book, there are simply fantastic examples of post World War II Italian and American automobiles that – if you look at the pairings that author Donald Osborne and Furman have concocted, you will suspect that imitation IS the highest form of flattery. There are Ferrari’s with rear wing fins reminiscent of 1959 Chevrolets and Alfas that look like Dodges. Then there are the 1950s Alfas that inspired the 1963 Corvette split-window coupe and Lancias and Cadillacs and Plymouths and Maseratis with nearly interchangeable rooflines and headlight and door handle details.
Miles Collier is fond of what he calls comparative examinations, looking at two cars side-by-side and studying the different and similar ways engineers and designers, product planners and company owners answer questions. This book will give you the opportunity to do that in the comfort of your home – so that when you fly to Turin or Danville to see these cars live, you’ll have formed your own questions.
Kussmaul Chronicles – The Story of Roland Kussmaul’s Contribution to Porsche’s Total Crushing Domination of Sports Car Racing
Craig Watkins, with foreword by Walter Röhrl. 2016 Smart Racing Products. 432 pages. ISBN: 978 0692665749. $64.95.
This is one of the most “insider” Porsche Racing Histories you will find. Craig Watkins sat with – and often next to – Kussmaul on Flying Lizard’s observation cart in practices and ALMS races for years. The two engineers came to understand one another on an almost mental shorthand communications level. And the book reflects that intimate friendship.
Roland Kussmaul is an extremely bright and creative engineer, and a hell of a funny man, and Watkins portrays example after example of Kussmaul’s works and pranks. The book is almost stream-of-conscience in presentation, with subjects frequently changing on a single page. But that’s the way things are when two old friends get together to talk. And thus reading this book is like being invited to sit in on those conversations…conversations in which Kussmaul also shows photos and tells stories.
Watkins chose to write the book as Kussmaul speaks, as a native German for whom English is an additional language. It can seem awkward at first, but Watkins added QR codes – those geometric modern-day hieroglyphics – that link your smart phone or smart reader to his website where you will hear – and often see Kussmaul talking about what’s on that page. It is an extremely clever way to bring a book to life. Then you “get” Kussmaul’s cadence and the reading is easy with history ranging from 917s through international rallies to Le Mans and ALMS.
This book is not for the casual Porsche reader. But if Porsche racing thrills you – as it does the author and his subject – this book is an essential addition to your library.
Brian Redman – Daring Drivers, Deadly Tracks – A Racer’s Memoir of a Dangerous Decade 1965-1975
Brian Redman with Jim Mullen, with foreword by Mario Andretti, and Afterword by Sam Posey. 2016 Evro Publishing. 300p. ISBN 978-1-910505-10-6. $79.95.
For an excellent racing driver, Brian Redman is a damned fine writer as well. This book, filled with mesmerizing images – some familiar, others new – also is filled with Brian’s personality – irreverent, self-effacing – and with lots of insight into what was going on, and how it affected him and his fellow drivers, his teammates, and his team bosses.
One of the fascinating details in Redman’s book is when he takes you for a lap of the Nürburgring, or Piccolo Madonie – the Targa circuit, or Le Mans or Daytona. Still, it is when Brian talks about his fellow drivers that the book becomes most poignant and engaging. His own near-death experience is startling, because of the events, and stunning in Redman’s understated telling.
Redman’s book certainly is a racing history – and it’s a history of racing. Yet in his telling with Mullen, it’s an utterly engaging story of a bunch of talented, funny, passionate personalities whose business was racing cars.
CAN-AM 50th ANNIVERSARY – Flat Out with North America’s Greatest Race Series 1966-1974.
Written by George Levy, photos by Pete Biro, with Foreword by Pete Lyons. 2016 Quarto Publishing Group. 256p. $60.00. ISBN: 978-0-7603-5021-8.
I’ll be honest: I’ve known George Levy since the early 1980s. But I’ve known Pete Biro (and his friend Dale von Trebra who provided extra images for this book) for a decade longer than that. Pete and Dale are part of the reason I moved to Los Angeles in the early 1980s, to work with them shooting motorsports and then writing about it.
Their friend – and another of mine – Pete Lyons has done the definitive facts & figures history of the Can Am series. What Levy and Pete Biro have delivered here is – rather like the experience Craig Watkins provides with Roland Kussmaul, above – eavesdropping and sneak peeking into the wildest sports car racing series North America has seen. George and Pete did more than 75 interviews, not just with racers but also with pit crew and team owners and others…and more folks…and still others. The stories and perspectives accumulate in layers to form a mosaic-like picture of a kind of competition at an extraordinarily high level of technical advancement, driving skill, and major innovations that sometimes occurred between sessions or even during racing pit stops. It was, as they quote one mechanic, “Space-age technology in 1966.”
Speaking of pictures, Biro’s images – take for example Chris Amon getting a shower from his pit crew during a hellishly hot race at Laguna Seca, or Denny Hulme in front of his duplicate dream house in New Zealand, or the mind-boggling shot Pete made of Mark Donohue during a practice session at Riverside… And then consider this: most racing histories are showcases for the photography of a dozen or more of the world’s best shooters, because nobody was everywhere all the time. Except Pete was. That’s the thing you notice about the captions: photo credit is implicit because Pete was everywhere (except for 1974, when Dan Gurney hired Pete for the season, and then Pete’s close friend Dale von Trebra was everywhere.)
And if you read this book carefully, you’ll begin to believe George Levy was everywhere with them as well.
America by Car
Photographs by Lee Friedlander. 2010 D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers. 200p. ISBN: 978-1-935202-08-0. $450.00 (copies can be found for less.)
The views in this book will seem at once intimately familiar and completely, totally novel and unimagined to its “readers.” Friedlander’s mind finds connectivity and similarity, congruity and incongruity, disconnection and difference all within a constrained frame that he manipulates for his own purposes. It’s difficult to comprehend the synapses firing inside his head, cataloguing image after image, relating it to another from different time and place. Everything – seemingly – in the United States enters his eyes, gets processed in his imagination, and comes out at his fingertips and into his camera as a conditioned mechanical response to stimuli. As you scroll through these pages, don’t get lulled into thinking these are just “happy snaps” grabbed on the way from one wide spot to the next. There’s just way too much going on in content, framing, composition, and probably belly laughter as he made many of the images here. You’ll begin to wonder, too, what kind of sound he makes when he’s stuck his tongue far into his cheek, too. It might be important to understand that these 192 selected photos were shot between 1995 and 2010. Or not. He adds that information, along with the geographic location.
There’s a photograph of Friedlander’s long-time friend John Szarkowski (to whom he dedicated this book), three-fourths of the way through it. It’s a portrait by an artist of an artist as an amused friend.
The very few blocks of text are excerpts from songs, and one from a book, the latter making a clever reference to one of Friedlander’s Leitmotifs throughout. This book is a joint project of Fraenkel Gallery in New York City and publisher D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers. Limited to 1,000 copies in its first, limited edition, it is beautifully printed in glorious black-and-white on very heavy-stock pages that measure 13 1/2 inches by 14 7/8ths inches.
It’s possible to say more. But photographs are worth a lot of words and this book is encyclopedic. And succinct.