Detroit once produced the ultimate combination of art and horsepower. This buyer’s guide will present some of the best American Muscle Car books that showcase Motor City’s finest autos.
If you thought big-block muscle cars were a product of America’s post-WWII boom years, think again. Cars such as the 12.7-Ltr Bugatti Royale and the 8-Ltr Bentley-8 blew everything else into the weeds as far back as the 1930s.
But, and as always, it’s a big but, no-one does muscle cars like the Americans. Those oversized, overpowered engines hidden beneath the bonnets of sedate-looking saloons defined the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.
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1. Muscle Cars: A Legacy of American Performance
This coffee table book highlights the glory days of the all-American muscle car. The format is easy-to-read, with lots of big glossy photographs of all your favorite GTO’s, GTX’s, and beyond. The text provides a readout of all of the car’s technical specifications and is accompanied by big clear interior pictures along with those all-important under the hood shots. It manages to pack in lots of detailed information and is written in an engaging, informal way that matches the over-the-top flamboyant nature of the all-American muscle car.
Hardcover: 320 pages
Author: Automotive Consumers Guide Editors
2. American Muscle Cars: A Full-Throttle History
While featuring almost every make of muscle car ever made, A Full-Throttle History also gives a valuable insight into the culture and influences that created them. According to its author Tom Glatch, a buoyant economy, cheap gasoline, and a country full of baby boomers hungry to enjoy the good life provided the perfect storm. He manages to capture the glowering potency of the monster engines beneath the flashy paint jobs, and there’s a good scattering of vintage photos to back them up, too. Taking the reader from the hot rod culture of the ’50s to the muscle cars still rolling out of Detroit today, this book will have you flooring the throttle every time you leaf through its colorful, thick, glossy pages.
Author: Darwin Holmstrom
3. The All-American Muscle Car
This coffee table must-have covers 50 years of big-block madness and showcases the mid-sized cars whose monster engines have defined an era. The editor has chosen some of America’s best muscle car writers, and their essays are as in-depth as they are entertaining. The cars are portrayed with a combination of modern photography and great archive material. Its illustrations are a perfect accompaniment to the engaging text that includes the pop culture surrounding them. It also features the wacky vintage advertisements of the time. Nice touches are the hybrids and rarities featured, such as the Plymouth Superbird and GTO Judge. The book also delves into the resurgence of the modern muscle car.
Hardcover: 192 pages
Authors: Jim Wangers, Colin Comer, Randy Leffingwell, Joe Oldham, Darwin Holmstrom
4. Art of the Mustang
Of all the muscle cars to tear up the American highways, the Ford Mustang is perhaps the most iconic. And if you’re going to buy a one-model book, make sure it’s by an author who knows their stuff. Donald Farr is that man. He is not only a Mustang owner since 1970, but over the years, he has also written and edited every influential Mustang specific magazine in America. His depth of knowledge and sheer enthusiasm speaks volumes. The book’s text is backed up by Tom Loeser’s stunning photography and covers everything from the first ‘Tang’ in 1964, through limited editions to the latest model Mustangs. Its handsome cover guarantees its pride of place on many a muscle car fan’s coffee table.
Hardcover: 240 pages
Author: Donald Farr
5. Detroit Style: Car Design in the Motor City, 1950-2020
In its heyday, Detroit was the center of the universe for car manufacturing, responsible for creating some of the world’s most recognized vehicles. And within its 150 pages, Detroit Style reveals the designs and concepts created in America’s Motor City. The edition covers the 1950s to the present day and tells the intriguing story of the vital role played by Detroit designers in shaping and influencing the automotive world we know and love today. The compelling story is brought to life through dynamic illustrations and rare photographs. From concept cars to production models, this dynamic book is a coffee table page-turner for automobile culture vultures everywhere.
Hardcover: 150 pages
Authors: Benjamin Colman, William Porter (Contributor), Edward Welburn (Contributor), Ralph Gilles (Contributor), Craig Metros (Contributor)
6. Car Design America: Myths, Brands, People (AUTOMOT DESIGN)
This intriguing book takes an in-depth look at the car maker’s designs and cultural phenomenon, albeit in a more academic style. Part of a series studying the world’s automotive industry, it sees its author, Paolo Tumminelli, focus on the influences behind America’s most well-known manufacturers. From the experimental streamliners of the 1930s to the popularity of the sport utility vehicles of the 21st century, Tumminelli has skillfully created an extensive work of reference. Over 400 original archive images accompany the informative text. It is a fascinating read for dedicated muscle car fans, retro culture junkies, or the casual coffee-table book browser.
Hardcover: 392 pages
Author: Paolo Tumminelli
7. The Art of Mopar: Chrysler, Dodge, and Plymouth Muscle Cars
Within the general heading of muscle cars, diehard fans have always had their favorites. And if manufacturers such as Chrysler, Dodge, and Plymouth get your motor revving, this is the book to add to your collection. The Art of Mopar showcases 25 classic examples of America’s favorite muscle cars, all of which benefit from being photographed by ‘light painting’ specialist Tom Loeser. Every one of the rarely seen, beautifully restored cars was at one time part of the mysterious ‘Brothers’ private collection. Thankfully the cars have since been sold and these muscle bound Mopars can be viewed by the public. Author and auto historian Tom Glatch shares the colorful history and technical information relating to each car.
Hardcover: 224 pages
Author: Tom Glatch
8. The Illustrated Directory of Muscle Cars
Boasting 429 pages, when its author claims this book to be a directory, it’s difficult to argue. It leads with the 1933 Ford Deluxe Coupe, which many believe to be the first muscle car, and goes all the way to the 6.4-Ltr 2012 Dodge Charger. Apart from focusing on each era’s outstanding models, The Illustrated Directory also provides information boxes on each car for quick reference. It also considers the pre-war fascination for street and track racing that became an obsession with monster engine muscle cars during the ’50s and ’60s. At 5-lb in weight, it’s almost as substantial as the big block engines it showcases, so minimalistic coffee tables of the world, be warned!
Hardcover: 429 pages
Author: Bruce Wexler
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