There are books that publishers can assign writers and they will come back with a competent manuscript. However, this is a book that has so much detail, that I, as a sometime publisher, would find it impossible to assign because it literally must have taken years of work. You can’t pay someone for that much time to find that many facts. For instance, if there was a particular Speedster Carrera built and you have the serial number, this book gives you the color it was painted, and the engine number that went with that chassis number and, if it was raced, maybe some racing provenance as well.
I think what happened was that the publisher, in Germany, perceived a need for this type of book and found two fellows who had already been toiling at that mine for many years. All they needed was a professional world class publisher to put it in print.
Now, as a result of being so thorough in documenting Porsche air cooled cars built with the 4-cam Carrera engine, the book is a real doorstopper, at 8.8 lbs. and 860 pages.
The subhead is “The Porsche 4-cam motor and the early years of Porsche Motorsports.” Its scope covers the 356 to the 550 Spyder to the 904 GTS.
GESTATION OF A GENIUS DESIGN
The book’s authors must have talked to the designers of the engine at some point, because they have the trials and tribulations of the engine’s development described in great detail. Ironically, the engine’s “time in the sun” didn’t last all that long, developed around 1952 and pretty much sidelined in 1965, after the build out of the 904GTS, many of which actually had six or even flat eight versions of the engine. Those 904 cars came and went in a couple years and then Porsche was on to other engines for the 911 production cars.
The book is more the results of a fact finding mission than it is wallowing in nostalgia so it is a surprise to find dozens of classic Porsche factory posters reproduced in color. There are also many many historic shots, taken in period, of 4-cam powered 356s, 550s and 904s, those mostly in black and white.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE DATA
Now it is not news to the Porsche collecting community that all Porsche 356s are rising in value, some more than others, and the Carrera powered ones rising the fastest. So the importance of this book is that it gives collectors and dealers a leg to stand on, proof wise, to ascertain the ballpark value of a car being offered at auction, the proverbial barn find or via classified ad. In minutes you can check if there was a car of that serial number built, and if the engine number is the one listed in the book. There are many marques of cars for which there is no similar printed out data base, and those cars are hard to set a value on, say one of the Italian hybrid makes like Intermeccanica or even some DeTomaso Panteras.
FOR THE 4-CAMS A FOCUS ON ORIGINALITY
It is safe to say that the “outlaw” niche of the Porsche field, those maintaining a more or less stock shape but adding a more powerful engine, aren’t that worried about scoring points at concours. This book is more for the concours crowd who wants to bring a car back to originality and win their class at an event like Amelia Island or Pebble Beach.
The book will also be appreciated by model car builders who want to show a Porsche the way it was when it ran in a specific race, even if the number on the side was hand painted on in a rush.
This book is largely consisting of charts and chassis number listings, but there’s gold to be mined there, for instance, take the fact that I found two convertible Ds listed as having 4-cam engines. Now I long ago sold my Convertible D so it’s too late to check if that had been one of those two (mine had a two cam engine) but finding proof that those two existed, even though they weren’t supposed to exist, was exciting.
Apparently "Carrera" existed in an earlier version and the newest one, the one I read, is the one with the racing history. If packaged in a separate book, that alone would make a book worth buying because racing history is one of the pillars of the value of a sports car, and if you can document that for your Porsche, with the same serial number cited in the book, say proving it competed at LeMans or the Mille Miglia or the Targa Florio, or any race in the “major leagues” then your car is going to be worth more. I would even put racing history ahead of celebrity-owned, because a lot of celebs buy cars because they look cool, but if questioned know nothing about them.
In the end, this is not a book that is going to get you psyched up to go buy a Porsche Carrera but, if you are the detail minded type of hobbyist, it will make you appreciate the history of the engine, and the cars that ran that engine. The price is a bit high at 129.99 but justified based on content, presentation and binding.
Hardcover: 860 pages
Publisher: Delius Klasing Verlag GMbH; Bilingual edition (January 17, 2015)
Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 2.4 x 12 inches
Shipping Weight: 8.6 pounds
ABOUT THE REVIEWER: Wallace Wyss’ heavy-on-photos book on the Porsche 356 will be published this summer by Enthusiast Books, Hudson, WI.