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A Great Resource: Used Textbooks

Instead of reviewing a single book this month I want to let you gearheads in on what I consider to be one of the best resources for automotive information: the used textbook. Every year since the introduction of automotive curricula there have been textbooks issued to compliment the class offered. Everything you can imagine is covered and with diligent searching of used book stores, eBay, flea markets, swap meets, garage sales, Craig’s List, or just borrowing from the local public library, you will be able to find what you need.

When I wanted to know more about suspensions I turned to the classic enthusiast resources but still found myself wanting more, especially an understanding from the ground up (literally) of all the elementary concepts behind an auto motive suspension. When I got ahold of a copy (for two bucks!) of the Harper Collins/Check Chart series “Automotive steering, suspension, and wheel alignment” text the doors were flung open. Suddenly I understood and could get a lot more out of a book like “Racing and Sports Car Chassis Design” by Michael Costin and Dave Phipps (1969 Robert Bentley, Inc.) or Steve Smith’s “Advanced Race Car Suspension Development” (1974, 1995, Steve Smith Autosports Publications).

This has held true on down the line from bodywork to transmissions, engines to brakes. One of my favorite texts is a 1949 edition of “Audel’s New Automobile Guide for Mechanics Operators and Servicemen” by Frank D. Graham (from 1939 through 1949 from Theo. Audel and Co. Publishers). The very basic, well drawn illustrations of steering, brakes, differentials, basic four stroke engines, distributors, suspensions, steering, valve timing, et al., are complimented by clearly written concise text. Even theory is delved into as well as basic physics and how it applies to the automotive field. They just don’t make books this good anymore and if you are a neophyte to all things mechanical then go find one of these books.

A book like this can help lay the critical foundation of understanding needed to get the most out of a book like “Performance Tuning in Theory and Practice: Four Strokes” by A. Graham Bell, 1981, 82, 83, 85, Haynes Publications). It also helps when the factory service manual assumes you know or understand something you don’t.

My library is far from complete, but it serves me well. It is right down here in the garage with the tools and the computer and the cars. It is right at my fingertips and I don’t have to turn on any device other than my own brain to use it. Best of all is no pop up ads. 

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