I'm not the kind of guy who deludes himself into thinking he knows a lot about everything. I clearly don't know much about anything and, at my age, that's not likely to change. In the words of Dirty Harry Callahan: “A man's got to know his limitations.”
I am in awe of a handful of my auto-media colleagues who can glance at a 40-, 50- or 60-year-old car and rattle off its statistics. One such colleague, long-time pal and former Washington Times editor Vern Parker can look at a 1956 Hudson Hornet – or just about any other car assembled between 1920 and 1980 – sitting in a museum, a driveway or barn and tell you that the taillights aren't stock. I've seen him do it.
The only reason I can remember what I had for breakfast this morning is that I almost always have the same thing: a protein bar. There's no way I can look at a 1955 Chevy Bel Air and opine that the wheel covers are from a '54. I'd be as likely to accurately explain string theory. “Uh, it's a theory about, um, strings.”
It's in this spirit of self awareness that I added a new coffee table book to my collection. Published by Motorbooks, it's titled, American Muscle Cars and costs $32.15 on Amazon. Although it primarily covers, what author Darwin Holmstrom calls, the classic muscle car era, spanning the ten-year period from 1964 to 1974, AMC also provides some historic context for the phenomenon, as well as the series of technological developments that made muscle cars possible.
Graduating high school at nearly the center point of Holmstrom's classic muscle car era, I have an enduring affection for those smaller cars with big-honking V8s. That I can't rattle off from memory statistics or years of production, doesn't diminish my enthusiasm for those vintage GTOs, Cudas and Challengers.
Illustrated with some brilliant photography from Tom Glatch, AMC is brimming with historical and anecdotal information. Holmstrom's writing style is as entertaining as a Dave Barry column and as comfortable as an old pair of Hush Puppies. Readable? You bet.
As a freelance journalist, I am always on the lookout for source material for the articles and stories I am assigned. AMC now plugs the glaring muscle-car gap that was in my home library. The comprehensive index is a Who's Who and a what's what of not only the muscle car period, but also for the pre-and post-periods.
Full disclosure: I haven't read it cover to cover, but certainly intend to. I have cherry picked a couple of chapters to write this post, finding them extremely readable, as well as rich in information.
My guess, though, anyone who is truly a muscle-car fan, will find AMC difficult to put down. Whether, like me, your library is absent a solid muscle-car tome, or you already have a book or two on the subject, American Muscle Cars will prove to be a valuable addition to your collection.