We're sure glad we decided to go to school that day they taught everybody how to read. Otherwise, how would we be able to enjoy all the great hot rod and custom books that have been published in the past year? Whether it's a coffee table-style photo album, a practical how-to guide to technical procedures, a look back at the history of hot rods, or a kaptivating kronickle of kustom kulture, we know there's got to be something in this latest batch of recent releases to fire your plugs.

When David Perry published his book Hot Rod in 1997, his original and soulful black and white documentary-style photography helped define the look and mood of nostalgia hot rodding (and inspired a million imitators). Hot Rod Pin-Ups and this sequel are a similar trip down a different road than Hot Rod. The traditional rods and settings are the same, but this time Perry provides a colorful personal interpretation of vintage pin-ups. In addition to the beautiful models and well-chosen cars are stories by several well-known hot rod writers--stories we intend to read when we can get past the photos.

Hot Rod Pin-Ups II
By David Perry
144 pages

Eye Candy
Who hasn't wanted to be a Hot Wheels designer and automotive illustrator? Dwayne Vance has done the former and continues to do the second. This new book treats us to his amazing artwork, and includes examples of his drawings as they progress from initial sketches to final images. The book also includes the work of a dozen other top artists, including several R&C contributors, each with different styles and techniques. On top of that, it includes an informative CD featuring animated views of Dwayne's art as it progresses, showing exactly how the pros draw cars. You'll be amazed.

The Hot Rod Art book: Masters of chicken scratch
By Dwayne Vance
102 pages

Operating on the premise that one picture is worth a thousand words, Ken Gross has filled this oversized book with beautiful, immense photos and kept the talking to a minimum. Ken once ran the Petersen Automotive Museum and this is like a 240-page museum you can carry with you. Twenty top-shelf builders are profiled here--Alan Johnson, Donn Lowe, Roy Brizio, Vern Tardel, Joe and Jason Kennedy, to name a few. Each chapter opens with two pages of biography and continues with Peter Harholdt's elegant photography of some of the best work from these elite-level hot rodders. Alex Xydias contributed the foreword.

Art of the Hot Rod
By Ken Gross
Photography by Peter Harholdt
240 pages

We were scratching our heads trying to think up a succinct way to describe the style of rods, customs, trucks, and bikes built by Cole Foster at Salinas Boyz Customs. He gave us the answer in his description of Kirk Hammett's '36 coupe: "kind of a retro-future ride that's sinister and classy." In addition to photos of Cole's best-known projects, this book provides a bio of the famous craftsman--from his childhood working on bicycles and, soon after, on his dad Pat's Funny Car, on his way to becoming one of the best contemporary builders. Mike LaVella's text goes beyond the surface and the outstanding photography provides a knockout presentation of Cole's creations.

Cole Fosterand Salinas Boyz Customs
By Cole Foster and Mike LaVella
160 pages

Being legendary car builders made celebrities out of George Barris and Ed Roth. Not so, with Dean Jeffries, who built some of the most remarkable and best-known '60s custom rods, including the Mantaray and the Monkeemobile, and has since built vehicles for numerous movies. Cotter's book covers the cars, but is mostly about Jeffries himself, from his early days as a pinstriper working with Von Dutch, all the way through his work on Indy cars and his years as a Hollywood stunt driver. Jeffries participated in the creation of the book, which includes more than 200 photos from his personal collection, as well as his accounts and perspective on his amazing career, which continues today.

Dean Jeffries:
50 Fabulous Years in Hot Rods, Racing & Film
By Tom Cotter
192 pages

The format is similar to Church, but the content is completely different in the premier issue of Fuel, which focuses on the traditional hot rod scene in southeastern Australia--the cars and the people who build them and drive them. Pete Elliott's artwork is in addition to the great photography. Creator Luke-Matthew Ray wants to make this a bi-annual publication, depending on how well this one sells. Help him out.

Fuel Magazine
Edited by Luke-Matthew Ray
80 pages
$20 (Australian)