The Book Tank

6 Best Car Books Every Gearhead Should Read

These Car Books are the Ultimate Gearhead Reference Materials

Updated September 28, 2018

We selected these car books simply because they’re ones we’ve found most useful. Each covers a different dimension of automobiles and the internal combustion engine. Every enthusiast who reads and or all of these auto books will gain a much greater understanding of the cars and trucks we all love.

Prepare to Win

Best Car Books – Prepare to Win

Looking around. race car team manager and engineer Carroll Smith (who won Le Mans twice as Team Manager for Shelby with the GT40s) realized there was no reference source for individuals building race cars. In those days he saw every way possible to build a race car in the incorrect manner, so he set pencil to paper (it was the 1970s) and wrote what quickly became the “bible” for anyone building or preparing a race car. But the value of the information extends to anyone who works on modified street cars, as the concepts are the same. The soundness of his information and advice is clear when you compare an original edition to the edition being sold today and see how few changes have been made. Ask any mechanic in NASCAR, Indy, Sprint Cars, or Karts, they all own a copy of Prepare to Win.

How to Make Your Car Handle

Best Car Books - How to Make Your Car Handle

Not long after Carroll Smith published his book, Fred Puhn wrote his. While not intended to be companion pieces, they fit well together. Puhn, a race car designer and engineer, saw the need to communicate solid fact about vehicle dynamics to replace opinion, rumor, and superstition. His book How to Make Your Car Handle covers that ground well, in easy-to-understand language and actionable advice. Even if you never modify the suspension of your car, the knowledge you gain will help you understand how your car (and any other you drive) behaves and why.

Going Faster! Mastering the Art of Race Driving

Best Car Books  – Going Faster! Mastering the Art of Race Driving

If you’ve always wanted to attend a three-day racing school but don’t have an extra $4,000 laying around, this book is about as close as you’re going to get for anything less. Written by Skip Barber Racing School instructor Carl Lopez with contributions from other Skip Barber instructors every aspect of high-performance driving is covered in lucid detail with actionable advice. And you don’t have plan on racing to receive value from this book, the same techniques can be used on street to make you a better, more aware, and safer driver.

The Unfair Advantage

Best Car Books – The Unfair Advantage

Not an autobiography but an “auto” biography, this book was written by race driver and engineer Mark Donohue during his brief retirement along with engineer and writer Paul Van Valkenburgh.  Rather than following the traditional format of telling one’s life, the self-effacing Donohue chose instead to write each chapter about a particular car he raced. The most fascinating chapters are the later ones, like the Porsche 917 Can-Am car project and the Chevrolet Trans-Am Camaro program, where the team went from clueless to champions in just a few years, and inventing the modern racing sedan in the process. An unusual opportunity to get inside the head of one of the best car developers ever.

Bosch Automotive Handbook

Best Car Books – Bosch Automotive Handbook

Yes, it’s from that Bosch. It claims to be (and its hard to argue) the world’s definitive automotive technology reference, which covers the entire range of modern passenger car and commercial vehicle systems. Detailed enough to address complex technical issues yet small enough to take everywhere, it is the reference of choice for designers, engineers, mechanics, students, and enthusiasts. Topics range from those with their routes in the earliest days of automobiles like lubrication systems to today’s topics like digital signal transmission. What’s nice is that it’s paperback size so you can read it on the flight, no matter how far back the passenger in front you reclines his or her seat.

Internal Engine Fundamentals

Best Car Books - ICE Funadamentals

While Internal Combustion Engine Fundamentals is a comprehensive book for undergraduate students of Mechanical Engineering, you don’t need to be an engineer to understand this auto book. Its clearly-written and any enthusiast familiar with the basic operations of an internal combustion engine can enjoy reading it. The book is broken down into chapters on engine types and their operations, thermo-chemistry of fuel-air mixtures, properties of working fluids, gas exchange processes, pollutant formation and control, engine heat transfer, and engine operating characteristics. In addition, the book features a number of diagrams and illustrations to help the reader better understand the concepts.

Again, our attempt here was to bring together the reference sources that we’ve found the most useful over the years. You may or may not agree with our choices, but if you don’t we’d like to hear which car books you’d recommend so that if we receive sufficient feedback we can post a “reader’s choice” list.


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Chris Riley
About Chris Riley

I have been wrecking cars for as long as I've been driving them but I keep coming back for more. Two wheels or four, I'm all in. gives me a chance to give something back to the automobile community.

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