CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 15 . . . . December 14, 2012
For car buffs, the "Superstar Cars" series, now numbering 10 titles, is a dream come true. Pre-teen boys will gravitate to the books' appealing covers, each of which showcases a flashy, beautifully designed vehicle. The books consist of six or seven chapters, depending on the title, that highlight the featured car's history, design features, performance, sales and awards. History includes information about the founders of the company, the various car models, races won and the race car drivers associated with the company, and the influence on the auto industry of world events and issues such as the two World Wars, the baby boomer generation, recessions, the cost of oil, and the focus on the environment. The authors approach the topic of challenges within each automobile company with both candor and a balanced viewpoint. Some of the text pertaining to the design features is rather technical, but this will not detract from the reader's enjoyment of the books. Several fact boxes provide additional information. One of these is "Vital Statistics" which lists a specific model's production years, the number of vehicles built, top speed, engine type and size, number of cylinders, transmission type, carbon dioxide emissions, EPA fuel economy ratings and price.
The text is targeted at middle school-aged males, but younger students will want to look at the books just for the stunning photographs. (Even dads will want to have a peek at these books because they will be able to relate to much of the information.) A table of contents, a glossary, an index and a timeline are provided as well as a list of books and websites for further study. The websites are all current and well chosen. They include the companies' official websites, car museums and clubs, and the Formula 1 racing site. There are black and white archival photos as well as vibrant full colour photos, but the cars, themselves, shot against bright backgrounds, are the real scene stealers. One very minor flaw in the series is the lack of diagrams indicating some of the specialized parts of each car.
Known for its understated elegance, and among the most luxurious cars that money can buy, the Aston Martin was produced by Bamford and Martin which was founded in 1913 by a mechanical engineer and a wealthy builder and driver of racecars. It got its name from the village of Aston Clinton in the English county of Buckinghamshire. Its current emblem, which consists of the company name set on a pair of outstretched wings, signifying speed, is known all over the world. Despite the company's changing hands and suffering bankruptcy and near bankruptcy many times, as well as reeling from the effects of two World Wars, the Great Depression and the downturn in the economy, the car has survived thanks to many saviors and serendipitous events. From 1991-2007, over 10,000 Aston Martins were produced, more than had been manufactured in the previous 70 years. The car has appeared in several James Bond movies, including Goldfinger, GoldenEye, Thunderball, Casino Royale and Tomorrow Never Dies, its appearance called "the greatest act of product placement in movie history". In Aston Martin, readers will learn interesting facts such as the Lagonda model was the first to feature a digital instrument display, the entire production of the DBS model which appeared in Casino Royale was completely bought out before the first car rolled off the line, and that in order to purchase the V8 Zagato, buyers had to pay approximately $22,000 US just to have their names on a waiting list for the $80,000 US vehicle.
The Bugatti epitomizes the perfect marriage of art and technology and comes with a hefty price tag of up to $2 million US, depending on the model and where it was produced. Its owners include Simon Cowell, Tom Cruise, Tom Brady, Ralph Lauren, and rapper Jay-Z who received his as a birthday gift from his wife, Beyoncé Knowles. The car is known for its advanced engineering, beauty of design, attention to detail and luxury, both inside and out. Bugatti founder, Ettore Bugatti, was born in Milan, Italy, but lived in the Alsace region of France where he set up his company in the small village of Molsheim in 1910. It is interesting to note that he had such a powerful influence on Enzo Ferrari that Ferrari modeled his own company after Bugatti's. Like other car companies, Bugatti suffered hardships and eventually closed down in the 1960; however, it resurfaced in 1998 when Volkswagen bought all the trademark rights. Bugatti features information about various innovations such as a glass engine cover on the EB110 model which offered a complete view of the engine, the retractable rear wing on the 18.3 Chiron which could be deployed at high speeds, and the most powerful engine ever to be placed in a production vehicle, specifically the Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport. The Guinness Book of World Records lists the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Super Sport as the "fastest road-legal production car in the world". It can reach speeds of up to 268 mph (431 km/h).
Like the Ford Mustang, the Chevrolet Camaro is known as a "pony car", a four-seater with a long front hood and a short rear end. Throughout its history, the Camaro, which debuted in 1966, always seemed to be playing catch-up to the highly popular Mustang. During the 1970s, several changes were made to the Camaro's design, and, as a result, the second-generation Camaros were in production for 12 years, which is considered a long time for a specific generation in the automobile business. The oil shortage also brought about changes as gas-guzzling vehicles became things of the past. On more than one occasion, financial difficulties almost brought an end to the Camaro, but thanks to the car's appearance as the Autobot, Bumblebee, in the Transformers movie trilogy, it made a brilliant comeback. Camaro celebrated its 45th anniversary with a special edition model designed specifically for the occasion. Another limited edition model, "Honor and Valor", is only available for purchase by those who have served in the United States Armed Forces, which includes the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines and the Coast Guard. These and other facts can be found in Camaro.
Synonymous with speed, the Maserati rates among the world's top racing and road cars. Its emblem is a trident, inspired by a statue of Neptune in Bologna, Italy, where the first Maserati headquarters were located. The oldest of six brothers, Carlo Maserati worked for a company that made engines for cars and planes. One by one, his younger brothers joined him until, in 1914, they opened a factory of their own, at first building racing cars and engines for other companies. In Maserati, readers will learn that a state-of-the-art production line and the use of a cadre of skilled race car drivers and teams were, and continue to be, the keys to success of the Maserati company. The 8CTF model won the Indianapolis 500 in 1939 and 1940, the first time an Italian car had won the race. Maserati was one of the first automakers to manufacture cars with hydraulic brakes. Its short-stroke engine of 1953 was another innovation. With its smaller pistons, it could produce the same high speeds as other engines but with less wear on the engine. Several changes in company ownership, the effects of war on the auto industry, and the threat of liquidation have challenged the company, but key to its success in staying afloat was its ability to adapt to change. In keeping with this willingness to adapt, Maserati announced the creation of the first Maserati SUV in 2011. The company headquarters have been located in Modena, Italy, since 1940.
With their focus on automobile history and design, these engaging titles will definitely find their way into the hands of young car enthusiasts.
Gail Hamilton is a former teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.