Book Review: ‘American Muscle Cars: A Full-Throttle History’ Delightfully Recounts an Automotive Legacy
Whenever someone talks about American cars, it is hard not to think of a roaring engine packed into a mid-size car– whether a Dodge Charger or a ’60s Shelby Mustang–what became known as “American muscle cars.” With roots in war-time engineering and post-war thrill-seeking, America was characterized from the 1960s on by the muscle car, and has recently seen a resurgence (have you seen the 2017 Camaro yet?), making this the perfect time to remember America’s metal beasts.
American Muscle Cars: a Full-Throttle History chronicles a time when Americans added more and more power to their cars and also sheds light on historical context to help explain where muscle cars came from, how they grew, how they fell, and how they have begun to return.
American Muscle Cars: a Full-Throttle History
Written by Darwin Holmstrom, Photography by Tom Glatch
Product Details: Hardcover, 224 pages, 9.75 x 12 inches
Publication Date: April 1, 2016
Publisher: Motorbooks, an imprint of Quarto Publishing Group
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American Muscle Cars: A Full-Throttle History lays out, in five chapters, the entire history of America’s muscle cars, from their origins in lakebed-racing Ford Model Ts all the way through the first true muscle car in the Pontiac GTO and to the revamped muscle cars of today.
To supplement the sprawling tale of muscle car history, author Darwin Holmstrom teamed up with photographer Tom Glatch and drew from the vast archives of TEN: The Enthusiast Network Magazines, LLC to add contemporary and modern-day photos of the muscle car icons he discusses.
In addition, interspersed throughout the book are short vignettes lifted from car writers discussing these historic cars at the time they came out, mostly quoted from Hot Rod magazine. These offer a glimpse into how well the cars we nostalgically think of today were received in their time.
Plus, tucked nondescriptly about two-thirds of the way through the book is a gorgeous artistic fold-out, on one side featuring a three-page spread mural of historic muscle cars from GM, Ford, and Chrysler (and two cars from AMC). On the other is an illustrated, abridged version of the book itself, from Ford’s ’32 flathead V8 to the 2016 Chevy Camaro SS.
Holmstrom begins and ends this odyssey through motor history in one of the most satisfying ways possible—by bringing it back to the beginning, finishing the book with a rephrased version (the original includes the creatively used term “clackers”) of the final paragraph of the introduction:
“Real muscle cars don’t run every driver input through a committee of computers to decide if said input is really a good idea. Real muscle cars don’t have 19 airbags. Real muscle cars don’t have traction control. Real muscle cars don’t even have power steering or air conditioning. Instead they have big engines for people daring enough to use them. And that’s about it. What more do you need?”
It is hard to find a part of American Muscle Cars that hasn’t been meticulously and beautifully executed. The pages are thick, glossy paper. Every photo is displayed in as much vibrant color as is possible, often with multiple images of different aspects of the same car. The binding and cover (without the dust jacket) are wrapped in a soft, durable black material. The inside front cover is a stunning full-spread image of a bright red 1971 Dodge Super Bee and the inside back cover is a just as stunning image of a bright red 2016 Chevrolet Camaro (both faced to be visually driving out of the book). The original art and photography are wonderfully done. And, the dust jacket itself is folded on all four sides so that it won’t get damaged from something accidentally catching the bottom edge.
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American Muscle Cars is a fantastic book, sized perfectly for any coffee table. The writing is informative yet thrillingly engaging, creating an extremely rare occurrence: a coffee-table book that is still fun to read straight through. Holmstrom is often irreverent (note the “clackers” use mentioned above), but is so in a charming, funny way which allows him to simply say what he means—the best example is when describing what post-WWII babies wanted from their cars: sex appeal.
Overall, American Muscle Cars is a well-written, well-laid-out, entertaining read that would be a joyful addition to any auto enthusiasts’ book collection.
And that’s about it. What more do you need?
American Muscle Cars: A Full-Throttle History is available through the publisher’s website, Amazon, Walmart, Barnes and Noble, and other retailers.
Product provided for review by publisher.
Daniel Susco is a native of the Dayton-Cincinnati area, and has written on a multitude of subjects. He can discuss Shakespeare, expound on Classical Mythology, and even make witty jokes about Pliny the Elder (More like “Pliny the Rounder,” right?). In his free time, Daniel enjoys reading, cooking, woodworking, and long walks on the beach (just kidding – sunburn is no joke). See more articles by Daniel.