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New Book Vintage Cars Celebrates the Retro Automobile as Art

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Cars that drive themselves; motors that run on electricity; systems that anticipate, and prevent, collisions: With the options available to car buyers these days, it would seem we’ve already arrived at the future imaged in midcentury pop culture icons like The Jetsons. As dreamy as these advances might have seemed way back when, there’s something about a retro automobile—outfitted with bespoke, artistic details instead of computerized bells and whistles—that can turn anyone’s head.

This November, the Old Masters of the car world are celebrated as visual art in Vintage Cars—a new, 168-page tome from Assouline made up of more than 100 sultry color and black-and-white images of coveted collectibles made between World War I and the early 1960s.

The stylishly cinematic shots from notable French photographer Laziz Hamani are more poetic than informational, eschewing captions lest text interrupt the gawking experience. Casting a car’s most precious details—A Ferrari decal, a baby blue–leather dashboard, a Bentley grill—in a soft spotlight, Hamani’s car porn isn’t just for vintage vehicle connoisseurs. Anyone who has an appreciation for good design and gorgeous photography will be drawn to his visual treats, like the two-page spread of a black-and-blue Bugatti, an up-close, study of a black-and-white Firestone tire and a side-angle portrait of a red-and-white two-door Corvette.

“Looked at today, vintage cars are quintessentially tactile, with their elegant fittings, lacquered wood and faintly aromatic real leather, artfully crafted long ago by skilled hands,” writes Kenneth Gross, the former executive director of the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles and author of several books on cars including Hot Rods and Custom Cars: Los Angeles and The Dry Lakes, in his romantic introduction.

And while nothing compares to seeing these creations up close and in person, these pages let you study a car’s features for as long as you like—before it zips away, out of sight.



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