Escapist Literature, Essential Research


The Cobra in the Barn

Road Scholars - The Cobra in the Barn

NASCAR racing teams, automobile manufacturers, vintage racers, and automotive journalists know Tom Cotter from a wide variety of occupations that he has filled for more than three decades. But some of those people and most of his friends know him for his much more avid pre-occupation: searching for hidden automobile treasures. And then for writing books about those discoveries and the “automotive archeology” as he calls it, that have resulted.

The Cobra in the Barn is one of the series, neither the first nor the newest but appropriate because in this edition of Road Scholars Magazine, Tom writes about a friend and his Cobras. Cotter’s 256-page book is a delightful and engaging collection of short stories of car sleuthing, of peeking through windows, knocking on doors, making patient revisits to recluses over months and decades to pry loose from tightly clenched fists the keys, titles, cars, and spare parts that make up nearly every car lover’s fantasy of finding something wonderful that others have missed.

The book has several stories that follow that line, where an out-of-towner discovers an extraordinary car three blocks or two miles from where a close friend and car collector lives. Others of these searches unearthed historically significant vehicles—Marlene Dietrich’s one-off 1930 Rolls-Royce, Edsel Ford’s 1934 “hot rod”, a unique 1952 Fiat show car first purchased by Packard Motor Car company—whose stories are carefully researched and entertainingly told. There are tales of Fords and Ferraris, Lotuses and Lincolns, AMCs and Alfas. And of course there are stories of Cobras in the barn, in backyards, and even in a bedroom.

Road Scholars - The Cobra in the Barn

The book is a perfect airplane read—the right size (about 6 by 9.5 inches) for a carry-on—and written in brief enough episodes to satisfy a reader between every interruption that befalls a modern air traveler. Organized in 10 chapters and nearly 50 discoveries, Tom’s book actually fulfills one of his own ambitions, amusingly explained in the Foreword written by Road & Track columnist Peter Egan. Riding with Cotter through a small town in Colorado, “Tom’s head swiveled slowly back and forth like a radar dish…. He suddenly turned to me, grinning, with a strange maniacal gleam in his eye.

“‘Don’t you wish’ he said, ‘that you had ex-ray vision so you could spot all the neat old cars that are probably hidden away in these small-town garages and barns?'”

Riding along with Cotter and his co-authors through this book gives readers not only the view behind the closed doors but then also fills in the great stories that make those discoveries exciting and important.

The Cobra in the Barn is available at:

VOISIN La différence

Road Scholars - Voisin - La Difference

Histories of Gabriel and Charles Voisin are few and far between. Their aircraft proved to a skeptical world that a human could fly like a bird, taking off with self-contained machine power, and landing safely. Their planes—reportedly easier to keep aloft than those of the Wright brothers—accomplished more aviation “firsts” than any other maker. They assembled at least 10,000 light bombers for the Allied governments during World War I. When the war ended, although Charles had died in an automobile accident, Gabriel made good use of his aircraft manufacturing skill and prestige, and he headed directly for the luxury car market.

In early 1918, Voisin showed his first chassis. His sales department quickly understood that competition events proved the cars’ durability and speed, and this brought newspaper coverage that spread the Voisin name widely across France and beyond. Over the next several decades he and his cars became the darlings of the world’s stage and film stars, heads of state, and the arts and intelligentsia crowd. The architect Le Corbusier even designed a home for himself whose dimensions corresponded to the turning circle of the Voisin automobile he owned at the time.

In the past, Voisin enthusiasts and automotive historians had to scramble to find long out-of-print copies of a massive slip-cased tome, Voisin Automobiles 1919-1958, published by White Mouse Editions in 1991. More recently, a highly entertaining autobiography, My 1001 Cars, by Voisin, was translated from the original French and released in 2012.

Road Scholars - Voisin - La Difference

A new history of Voisin has just appeared. Written by well-known and highly-regarded Voisin historians Philippe Ladure, Philipp Moch, Pierre Vanier, and Reg Winstone, this elegant boxed edition, VOISIN La différence, is gorgeously produced. Its 320 pages are handsomely designed and they are filled with new information and countless never-before seen photos. In addition, more than 100 pages of new, specially commissioned photos by Alexis Gourre will startle viewers with their inventive and evocative angles and views.

The book was co-produced and co-published by Éditions du Chêne – Hachette Livres in Paris and the Mullin Automotive Museum, in Oxnard, California. All text and captions appear in English and French. With single marque (and even single model monographs) selling for multiples of this price, $108 (plus tax and shipping) for this uncommon book is an absolute bargain.

Available at: Follow prompts to the “museum store.”

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