When I first saw this book I was blown away by the photography. It is a relatively new book published by Motorbooks; Art of the Hot Rod. I immediately knew I had to have my own copy and spend a little more time with it.
I got mine just before Christmas (present to myself). I have now had the opportunity to pick it up and read it over and over again. I have just about worn it out already! It is better than I thought it would be at first glance. I have a number of automotive coffee table books. I was always excited when I first got them. However, when I sat down at home to read through them I was usually disappointed. Typically; I looked at them once; read a few words; scanned some of the photos and put it away and likely never looked at it again. That is definitely not a problem with this book.
The closest thing I can compare it to is when I was a teenager with raging hormones and saw my first copy of Playboy. I knew there were some very intriguing stories inside but I couldn’t stop looking at the pictures!
That is the same way I felt about Art of the Hot Rod. I always go to the photos. You could put this book out on your coffee table, open it up to almost any page, invite some none car folks over to your house and I can almost guarantee you that someone will pick it up and start talking about what they see. Photographer Peter Harholdt is an artist. The way you see these cars through his eyes is amazing. I will never look at a car at a car show the same way again. He taught me a new way to look at cars. I have also had the opportunity to meet Peter while he was photographing some of our cars for a new book that will be coming out the fall of 2009 called the Art of the Muscle Car. Peter is a true car guy and it shows in everything he does.
I finally did get around to reading the text. There are 20 of the biggest names in the hot rod industry profiled in the book. Included are: Bobby Alloway, Roy Brizio, Pete Chapouris, Dave Crouse, Zane Cullen, Rick Dore, Steve Frisbie, Richard Graves, Alan Johnson, the Kennedy brothers, Barry Lobeck, Donn Lowe, Jim Lowrey, Jr., Steve Moal, Don Orosco, Ken “Posies” Fenical, Keith Cornell and Ken Schmidt (Rolling Bones”) Dave Simard, Vern Tardel and Troy Trepanier.
Author, Ken Gross, must have had a once in a lifetime experience meeting all these hot rod legends. The stories about these Gods of Rods range from remembrances of the way it use to be and how some of the veterans got their starts, too their personal business philosophies, too their approach to design. There is something for everyone.
Some of these guys do 100 point restorations for Pebble Beach and others are diehard street car builders; some are after the big prize trophies while others are after the simple smiles from owners after a ride in their rod.
If there is one complaint about this book it is that the builders’ stories go into great detail and wonderful descriptions of the cars that have been important to them in their careers. The stories are wonderful but there are no photos of the cars they describe. The photos of the cars in the book are wonderful but I was drooling over some of the design details described in the text by the builders but there were no reference photos to view.
This book is about the Art and the book has a wonderful continuity of photography and I can see why typical photos of long gone cars would not fit in. However, a reference appendix or small thumbnail photos within the text would have added more meaning to the interview without detracting from the Art of the photos.
Would I recommend this as a gift for that special car guy or gal? Without reservation! Or simply do as I did and get it for yourself.
From what I have seen in the Art of the Hot Rod I will be standing in line for the Motorbooks sequel due next fall; Art of the Muscle Car!
I have included some of the photos that are included in the Art of the Hot Rod to give you a taste of what the book is like. However, seeing these on Internet quality images is no comparison to the impact these make on the printed page. The book is a large one, measuring approximately 12″x11″ and some of the images fill both pages. Now that is a centerfold!