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Thursday, November 24, 2005


The bookstore post

There's a lot about car mods. Sometimes, you may need a book more than a blog. This post will contain reviews of many of the car books I have read. I'll give you my honest opinion of each book, the bad along with the good. Not only will I review books here, but you can buy them right from this post and have them shipped to your door, courtesy of Amazon.com. I will periodically return to this post and edit in new books. One of these days I'm going to set up a proper home page and give this mini-bookstore a permanent home, but for now this post will have to do. Here's a couple to get you started:

How to Make Your Car Handle, by Fred Puhn.
If you are only going to read one book on what makes a car stick to the road, make it this one. It is relatively accessible for a beginner, but includes a fair amount of equations, math, and science for those who want to really know what's going on. It also covers just about every area of suspension improvement, from comfort to road racing to drag racing to off roading. The only weakness is that it's rather old, written even before the Honda CRX came out. Consequently, it recommends one or two somewhat outdated mods such as cross-drilling rotors or shortening springs by baking them in the oven, neither of which I'd recommend for performance nowadays (even if your car was built before this book was written). Much of the information, however, is timeless.

Race Car Engineering and Mechanics, by Paul van Valkenburgh.
And if you're buying two books on handling, make this your second. This one is not for beginners - although I have a self-published version, you'll see that this one is printed by the Society of Automotive Engineers. It's written by an engineer for an audience that is not intimidated by mathematics or automotive jargon. However, the information here is top-notch if you want to be a serious chassis geek.

Turbochargers, by Hugh MacInnes.
This is a very comprehensive and objective book on turbos, the only problem being that it dates back to the early 1980's. At that time, EFI tuning was still in its infancy. This book mentions some attempts to make fuel injection work with forced induction that I would not recommend trying today, as reprogramming the stock computer or putting in a tuneable ECU like Megasquirt is much easier. You'll want to look for information about tuning your EFI elsewhere. However, what you will find in this book includes information that is nearly impossible to find anywhere else. Not only does this book cover how a turbo works, how to pick the right size, and boost control, but it also covers diesels, water injection, multistage turbo systems making over 100 psi of boost, and racing boats. It also has one of the few detailed descriptions of how to correctly mod a carburetor to work with boost. If you are trying to make carbs work with forced induction, this book is absolutely essential.

Maximum Boost, by Corky Bell.
A newer and more opinionated book on turbocharging. This book provides excellent, practical tips on constructing a modern turbo system. The sections on intercooler design and making exhaust manifolds are particularly useful. He also covers how to deal with fuel injection and writes at length on the importance of keeping a good air/fuel ratio as the boost increases. The biggest weakness is that Corky Bell has a tendancy to freely mix fact with opinion, and he doesn't always tell you which is which. The writing on carburetors is also rather lacking.

If you can only get one book on turbochargers:

Of course, if you're like me, you will probably want both eventually.

Fuel Injection, by Jeff Hartman.
Find Megasquirt's MegaManual a bit intimidating? Or working on an EFI system that doesn't include Megasquirt? This book is a good choice for learning the basics of how fuel injection works from a hot rodding perspective.

The Car Stereo Cookbook, by Mark Rumreich.
This is a very comprehensive guide to in-car entertainment. Very informative, and covers most of the things you need to know when installing a car stereo, from how to connect wires together to what components to choose.

How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive, by John Muir.
Most automotive books have the dry, technical feel of a textbook. Not this one - John Muir is more hippy than lecturer, even having written another book outlining his vision of a perfect society. He outlines how to repair air-cooled Volkswagens in unusually clear English, accompanied by cartoony drawings. Classic VW fans have been rumored to insist on swearing on a copy of this in court instead of on a Bible. Highly recommended if you have an air-cooled VW or are even thinking of buying one.

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