Thumbs-up for th­ese three books for the gear­head on your list

The Province - - DRIVING - GREG WIL­LIAMS Greg Wil­liams is a mem­ber of the Au­to­mo­bile Jour­nal­ists As­so­ci­a­tion of Canada (AJAC). Have a col­umn tip? Con­tact him at 403-2871067 or greg­[email protected]

There’s no deny­ing that books make ex­cel­lent Christ­mas gifts, so in that giv­ing spirit it’s time for our an­nual On the Road book-re­view tra­di­tion. Here’s a look at three ti­tles that any gear­head would en­joy find­ing wrapped up un­der the tree.

First up is Hot Rod Em­pire: Robert E. Petersen and the Cre­ation of the World’s Most Pop­u­lar Car and Mo­tor­cy­cle Mag­a­zines. Writ­ten by Matt Stone with Gigi Car­leton, Hot Rod Em­pire traces the his­tory of one of the most in­flu­en­tial fig­ures in the pub­lish­ing in­dus­try.

Robert Petersen was born in 1926. Af­ter the death of his mother, he lived with his me­chanic/ma­chin­ist fa­ther in Barstow, Cal­i­for­nia. Ac­cord­ing to au­thor Stone, Petersen was told by his high school prin­ci­pal “he’d never amount to any­thing.” Lit­tle could that ed­u­ca­tor have known that Petersen would go on to find his name on the “Forbes 400 list of the wealth­i­est peo­ple in Amer­ica.”

Petersen was trained in the Army Air Corps as a pho­tog­ra­phy tech­ni­cian, and when he was dis­charged in 1945, be­came a pub­li­cist for MetroGold­wyn-Mayer stu­dios. That lasted a year be­fore he was laid off. Petersen and friend Robert Lind­say started their own PR agency, which was hired to pro­mote a Los An­ge­les car and trade show called the Hot Rod Ex­po­si­tion. This con­nec­tion prompted the 22-year old Petersen and busi­ness part­ner Lind­say to be­gin pub­lish­ing in Jan­uary 1948 Hot Rod mag­a­zine, a pub­li­ca­tion “ded­i­cated to the cars, peo­ple, and places of the hot rod move­ment,” Stone writes.

Petersen trained his cam­era lens on the bur­geon­ing South­ern Cal­i­for­nia hot-rod scene and wrote sto­ries about car cul­ture, print­ing an in­au­gu­ral run of 5,000 is­sues of the mag­a­zine. Hot Rod mag­a­zine met with im­me­di­ate suc­cess and formed the ba­sis for what, in­deed, be­came a pub­lish­ing em­pire. The book is filled with archival im­ages that help il­lus­trate hot rod cul­ture and the life of the Petersens, in­clud­ing de­tails about the renowned Petersen Au­to­mo­tive Mu­seum.

Next on the list is Tri­umph Bon­neville 60 Years by mo­tor­cy­cle his­to­rian Ian Fal­loon.

‘Bon­neville’ is one of the most rec­og­niz­able mo­tor­cy­cle names on the planet. It all goes back to Tri­umph de­signer Ed­ward Turner’s 500cc par­al­lel-twin cylin­der en­gine that launched the Speed Twin in 1937. By 1951, that 500 had been in­creased to 650cc in the Thun­der­bird. In 1956, the sport­ing po­ten­tial of the 650cc twin was ex­ploited by Texas-based Johnny Allen. With the aid of ni­tro-meth­ane, Allen pi­loted a highly mod­i­fied Thun­der­bird-pow­ered stream­lined mo­tor­cy­cle across the Bon­neville Salt Flats at an av­er­age speed of 345.188 kilo­me­tres an hour. Tri­umph’s Turner took ad­van­tage of that ac­com­plish­ment and, in 1959 when the man­u­fac­turer re­leased a twin-car­bu­re­tor ver­sion of its more sport­ing T110 model, he dubbed the bike the Bon­neville.

Fal­loon cov­ers in great de­tail all of the fine me­chan­i­cal points of the ear­li­est Bon­nevilles — of­fi­cially known as the T120 — and the book is di­vided into chap­ters that suc­cinctly sum­ma­rize all sub­se­quent devel­op­ment. For ex­am­ple, af­ter the Bon­neville found suc­cess in the Amer­i­can mar­ket, Tri­umph up­dated the twin-cylin­der en­gine de­sign with unit-con­struc­tion in 1963.

Fal­loon cov­ers the tran­si­tion to oil-in-frame con­struc­tion, the Meri­den union strike and, af­ter look­ing like the end of both the make and the model, the re­birth of Tri­umph in the early 1990s and the Bon­neville it­self in 2001. The book is well-il­lus­trated with archival pho­tos and im­ages of rel­e­vant Bon­neville mod­els and is re­quired read­ing for any­one with even a pass­ing in­ter­est in the mo­tor­cy­cle.

And last on this list is a book about one of the world’s most pop­u­lar toys, the Hot Wheels die-cast cars. Hot Wheels: From 0 to 50 at 1:64 Scale is writ­ten by Kris Palmer and the book comes in a col­lec­tor case that’s a nod to the vinyl cov­ered boxes meant to store the lit­tle cars. Palmer re­counts the story about toy mas­ter­mind El­liot Han­dler and his com­pany, Mat­tel, and how the in­ven­tor dreamed up the idea for Hot Wheels cars.

“When Han­dler had the idea for a bet­ter toy car, the mar­ket for die-cast ve­hi­cles was nei­ther un­der­de­vel­oped nor con­sid­ered vul­ner­a­ble,” Palmer writes. “Rather, by the mid-1960s, play cars were a solid pres­ence in stores and be­ing pro­duced by man­u­fac­tur­ers of in­ter­na­tional renown.”

Han­dler as­sem­bled a team of de­sign­ers to cre­ate toy cars with a dis­tinc­tive ap­pear­ance, “with bright paint, high level of de­tail, and cus­tom­ized touches.” The cars that were de­vel­oped rolled faster and farther than any of the com­pe­ti­tion, too, and when re­leased in 1968, Hot Wheels had what other play cars lacked.


Got a gear­head on your hol­i­day shop­ping list? We’ve got three great auto book sug­ges­tions.

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