Aaron Widmar
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Review of “The Art of the Classic Sports Car” by Codling/Mann

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A book that thoroughly explores the true heritage of sports cars

Art of the Classic Sports Car book review Motorbooks Codling Photo Pages cover

4.5 out of 5 stars rating



The term “sports car” has been criminally overused in today’s automotive marketing, being used in ill-fitting, exaggerated ways to sell even the most nonathletic vehicles. As ones who saw this atrocity and desired to return the “sports car” moniker to its original import, Codling and Mann have created The Art of the Classic Sports Car, a visual and historical exploration of two dozen vintage sports cars—many of which are nameplates that today’s tech-obsessed culture has forgotten.

The Art of the Classic Sports Car: Pace and Grace
Written by Stuart Codling, Photographs by James Mann

Product Details: Hardcover, 208 pages, 12.25″ × 10″
Retail Price: $50.00 USA
Publication Date: June 2017
ISBN: 978-0760352168
Publisher: Motorbooks, an imprint of Quarto Publishing Group

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The Art of the Classic Sports Car: Book Summary

Art of the Classic Sports Car book review Motorbooks Codling Photo Pages contents

As the book’s introduction identifies, The Art of the Classic Sports Car is not for fans of contemporary sports cars that are distilled, streamlined vehicles cheap in price and mass-marketed. Its focus is on the OGs of sporting transportation—models like the Austin-Healey 100S, Mercedes 300SL, Renault Alpline A110, and Lotus Elite. Thus, the majority of vehicles spotlighted in the book are European, rather than American or Japanese.

Still, even for readers unfamiliar with some of the models being showcased, author Codling includes a wealth of OEM history, powertrain/performance specs, and model significance, turning each chapter into a learning experience. The book covers four different sports car categories: Classic Roadsters, GTs, Sporting Coupes, and Race Bred.

The 200-page publication itself does justice to the quality contents inside of it, being firmly bound and printed on heavy paper at hi-res quality. The widescreen layout allows many great two-page spreads of cars without cropping out or shrinking all the fine details. Mann impeccably captured the elegance of each vehicle by contrasting their vintage colors against a black backdrop.

Pages are filled with images and text; there’s no wasted space, yet the pages don’t feel crowded.

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Art of the Classic Sports Car book review Motorbooks Codling Photo Pages vehicles

The Art of the Classic Sports Car: Book Review

First of all, full props to Codling and Mann for recognizing the true lineage and legacy of the sports car. The selection’s heavy lean toward European influence might disappoint some American readers, but at least the authors don’t compromise on what they value—just like the makers of the vehicles being honored.

The text does tiptoe around why most of the models didn’t survive and are now defunct, which would’ve been insightful into the shifting market over time. What information is included, though, is detailed, filled with examples and timelines that make the narratives easy to follow and supports the author’s opinions.

The photographs are what truly sell the book, though. The sharpest-looking, colorful, polished, and well-preserved specimens were chosen to be showcased. The variety of angles explored aren’t limited to simple eye-level exterior shots of each vehicle; the combination of close-ups and above-angle perspectives give readers unique views of these mechanical bodies that wouldn’t often be seen. Indeed, The Art of the Classic Sports Car gives many of us what could be the closest look possible at these ultra-rare classics.

The Art of the Classic Sports Car: Pace and Grace is available through the publisher’s websiteAmazon, and other retailers.

Product provided for review by publisher.

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