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A Man & His Car
Iconic Cars and Stories from the Men Who Love Them
By Matt Hranek
Formats and Prices
- ebook $32.99 $42.99 CAD
- Hardcover $45.00 $57.00 CAD
This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around October 13, 2020. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
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A Sports Car News and InsideHook Best Coffee Table Book for Car Lovers
Celebrate That Special Bond Between Men and Cars, and the Stories That Connect Them
Discover actor and director Ed Burns talking about his 1969 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, a model he’d been dreaming about since his days pumping gas. NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal, whose favorite cars are trucks—he loves the wow factor of an International CV Series 6.6. Or Jay Leno on his 1955 Buick Roadmaster, big enough for him to sleep in while trying to make it as a comic. Filled with stunning photographs of the whole cars and of the exquisite details that make car lovers’ hearts beat just a little faster, as well as more than 80 personal stories, it’s a joy for every reader who knows that a car is never just a car.
Comedian & TV host
1955 Buick Roadmaster
I was born in New York but grew up in a rural area of New England. It was an era when you could buy old cars for twenty bucks, fifty bucks—people just abandoned them. My friends and I got an old Renault 4CV running. We were twelve, just driving around the field, our moms watching us through kitchen windows. Now Child Protective Services would be called.
It was a more mechanical age. It was before Netflix, so you’d find stuff to do. People would take things apart and put them back together—watches, crystal radios. Car magazines were black-and-white. I remember those old issues of Road & Track, the images of Carroll Shelby standing with a Cobra, the GT40, the Mustang. Those were iconic images—cars you had to see in a magazine because you’d never see them in person. You’d hang out outside a McDonald’s all night and go home at 11:00 and hear later that a Corvette came through at 11:30 and you’d think, I missed it! I missed the Corvette! I remember we had a Lamborghini Espada go through town when I was a kid. It was a huge deal. Now you just go on the internet, see whatever you want.
My dad wasn’t a car guy. To this day, he doesn’t understand why an old car would cost more than a new one. In 1966, we went to Shawsheen Motors and my dad says to the salesman, “Where are the full-size cars?” He’d just buy what was on the showroom floor. “Give me that one.” The salesman says, “Mr. Leno, you can order a big car, but it will take four to six weeks.” My dad’s grumbling, but he orders the car. I ask if I can pick the engine, and my mother says, “Let the boy pick the engine. What difference does it make?” So I’m sixteen years old, and I know I’m going to be driving the thing. I pull the salesman aside and say: “I want the big Galaxie, 428 engine, CCX heavy-duty automatic, 370 gears. Police-pursuit package with the muffler-delete option.”
Six weeks later, the car arrives at the dealer. My dad walks in and goes, “It’s got bucket seats!” Then he turns the key and the car goes RUHHMMMRUMRUMM and my dad says, “There’s a hole in the goddamn muffler! It’s a brand-new car and there’s a hole in the goddamn muffler!” The salesman keeps showing him the paperwork, saying, “No, Mr. Leno, this is what you ordered, the muffler-delete option.” Now my dad is ripshit. “What the hell do you mean, police pursuit ? What did you have me buy?” He’s screaming at me, screaming at the salesman. We get in the car, he starts it up, puts it in gear, and then: “This thing, it’s a goddamn rocket ship!” He didn’t speak to me for a week. But a month or two later, I’m in my parents’ room looking for something, and I see he got a ticket for going 110. He was the coolest guy in the insurance sales office.
I’ve had this Buick Roadmaster longer than any other car. Since ’72. One day in the early seventies, I was sitting in my apartment in Boston, and I realized that if I stayed there any longer, I was going to want to acquire stuff, move to a better place. My friends were getting married, buying houses, things like that. I said, “I’m going to California right now,” and walked out of my apartment. I told my neighbor, “Take whatever you want,” and I left.
Johnny Carson had just moved to California. The Tonight Show was in Los Angeles. Merv Griffin was in Los Angeles. Everything was in California.
I land at LAX and say to the cabdriver, “Take me to the Sunset Strip.” He goes, “How much money you got?” I say, “I got fifty bucks.” He drops me way down Sunset, on Western somewhere. I walk five miles to the Comedy Store and end up sleeping on the back stairs for a week or so.
I picked up a copy of the PennySaver and saw a ’55 Buick for 350 bucks. Don’t forget, I bought that car in ’72. That would be like going to LA today and buying a car from the late nineties.
Okay, it’s a big car. I could sleep in it. I didn’t have a place to live, but it’s LA—you always get a car before you get a place to live. I slept in the car for a while, usually in the drugstore parking lot after sunset. It was fine. I had it all.
I met my wife, and we dated in this car. I parked it in my future mother-in-law’s driveway in Encino. Other cars came along. Newer cars, younger cars, fancier cars. The Buick just sat there. For seventeen years.
One day I went over to my mother-in-law’s house and there’s a note on the windshield that says, “Somebody obviously doesn’t care about this car. I’d love to buy it.” I said, “I care about this car!” I felt awful.
By that time in the early nineties, I had acquired a garage. I dragged the car back here, and the guys and I did a total restoration, put a Big Block 572 in it, Corvette suspension, Corvette brakes, made our own hubcaps. Put 17-inch wheels on it to make it look a little bigger.
When I got the job guest-hosting The Tonight Show, I took this car to the lot. I took it to my first day at The Tonight Show, and I took it to my last day at The Tonight Show. It’s a memorable car for me.
My wife and I first made out in the Buick. After twenty-five years, I said, “Let’s try to find the place where we first made out.” Of course, it’s a housing development now. I said, “I think it’s right here,” and we’re basically in some guy’s driveway. It’s two in the morning. We’re not quite as agile as we used to be. I lean on the horn—EEEEP! Her hair’s stuck—EEEEP! A porch light comes on. Some guy comes out, and we’re in the front seat like, “Sorry, sorry!”
My wife’s not crazy about that story.
“I didn’t have a place to live, but it’s LA—you always get a car before you get a place to live. I slept in the car for a while, usually in the drugstore parking lot after sunset. It was fine. I had it all.”
Author & photographer
1987 Porsche 911 Carrera Targa & John Deere Gator
I’ve been a car guy all my life. My father was a big influence on that. He loved British cars, had a 1959 Triumph TR3A.
I grew up in Upstate New York, not too far from Watkins Glen. There’s an amazing dirt racetrack called Five Mile Point Speedway, where we used to go as kids. They sold a bumper sticker that said, “If you don’t have dirt in your beer, you haven’t been to a real car race.” My uncles were all gearheads, always had old Impalas around, and my cousins were into cars, buying old Firebirds and restoring them. My cousin Jimmy, in particular, had the coolest cars—brand-new, off-the-lot Firebirds, Trans Ams, Corvette Stingrays.
I was always looking at European sports cars, and particularly Porsches. I had a poster of a 911 Targa in my room. I loved everything about it—the shape, the sounds of the car.
This 911 Targa came to be mine in an extraordinary way. Yolanda, my wife, had been dating this guy in San Francisco, Ira Sandler. Yolanda’s a real car person. She felt that as a big club owner, he needed to represent a bit better than his rusted-out Volkswagen Rabbit, so she takes him to a car auction. This chocolate-brown 1987 Porsche 911 Carrera Targa pulls out on the lot. She says, “You need to buy that.” So he does.
Fast-forward. Yolanda and Ira haven’t been dating for years but remain very close. Ira’s still in San Francisco, and Yolanda and I go out to meet him. At this point, he’s driving a new Audi, and the Porsche is just decaying in a garage. Yolanda and I have been planning a drive down to Palm Springs to meet friends for New Year’s Eve, and she asks Ira if we can borrow the Porsche. He says, “Sure, take the car.”
We end up eloping in Palm Springs on New Year’s Day. It had been such a powerful, amazing, intensely romantic road trip. So epic. But I have to give the car back. As I reluctantly hand over the keys to Ira, I look at it and think, God, someday.
A couple of years down the road, I’m helping Ira with a house project. He asks me what I want for my efforts, and I say, “Ira, I want the Porsche.” Back then, those cars weren’t commanding a lot in terms of price, and it needed TLC—minor interior stuff, some mechanicals. And Ira says, “Okay, deal. You can have the car.”
It meant so much to me. Yolanda found that car. We eloped in that car. People have said to me, “What’s your fantasy car? If you could own any car, what would it be?” It’s that Carrera. That 911 Targa with the tan interior and the CD that my friend Fred made that has all the best music of 1987, on the winding roads of Upstate New York, thinking about that eighties version of myself and how dreams can come true in such a simple and perfect way.
I will have this car until I die, and when I do, I want my daughter to go into the barn and peel back the cover and have her heart race and her eyes dilate the same way mine do. These cars become an extension of you. It’s a connection.
My other favorite car is also stored in that barn. It’s a six-wheeled John Deere Gator. Diesel engine. We call it the “country convertible.” We got it when we first bought our farm.
I don’t know what I would do without that thing. It’s got a dump bed, so it’s great for hauling stuff, like materials to build houses; it’s terrific in the snow. But really, it’s more of a car than a tractor. I taught my daughter to drive on that thing. All my neighbors drive around in their Gators, stop by or meet up for a beer in their Gators. We’re up in the country—no one jumps in the car to go down the road; they jump in the Gator.
Throw a bunch of kids and dogs in the back, some towels, and you’re off to the pond for a swim. It’s just so fun and practical. I love it deeply.
Founding chairman, Petersen Automotive Museum
1962 Cobra CSX2001 & 1965 Bizzarrini A3/C 0222
Being a Southern California boy and a hot-rodder, I’m partial to anything with an American V8 engine. The Shelby fits the bill, as does the 1965 Bizzarrini—not only is it a Le Mans race car that won its class in 1965, but it’s also powered by an American V8, a 327 Chevrolet.
The story of Giotto Bizzarrini is one of great interest to me. He was a race car savant, a race engineer savant. He graduated from technical school in Italy in 1953 and was immediately hired by Alfa Romeo, where he became renowned for his engineering skills and problem-solving. Enzo Ferrari found out about him and hired him away from Alfa four years later.
Bizzarrini was the real secret behind so much of Ferrari’s race car success in the late fifties and early sixties. He designed the GTO, which is maybe Ferrari’s most famous, landmark car. Then, in 1961, the company had what has been called the “Palace Revolt,” when Enzo summarily fired the entire racing group, including Bizzarrini.
But Bizzarrini still had that passion for building race cars, and he eventually started his own company. He built this car and drove it to Le Mans in 1965. The car won its class, finishing in the top ten, and he drove it home. It was the second-fastest car at Le Mans that year, behind only the big-block Ford GT40, which was a 190 mph car. They call this AC3 a 1965 GTO even though Ferrari didn’t make a GTO in ’65. If they had, that’s what it would have looked like because Bizzarrini is the one who designed the ’62, ’63, and ’64 GTOs.
The Cobra is a Southern California car with definite hot-rod roots, and this is the very first Cobra built, CSX2001, Shelby’s prototype. Every time I drive it, I get a deep emotional rush. My car was the first Cobra ever to race, and it was the only Cobra ever to race in the Tour Auto in France. The body and chassis came from Europe, but it was built in the United States. Its first race was in the States, then it was shipped to France. It did the Le Mans trials but never raced it. It would go on to race for three years in France and Europe. I repatriated the car to the States about fifteen years ago.
I think a love of racing is in your DNA. I started getting into it from the age of thirteen, first with scooters, then motorcycles. By the time I was in my late teens, I was racing motorcycles. My parents didn’t know I had motorcycles until I was in my early twenties. For my parents, thinking about cars was a waste of time. Cars were just for transportation. My parents were products of the Depression, and their parents couldn’t afford cars. When I went off to college, my parents purged my room of anything car-related because they figured I’d outgrow my obsession. Just the opposite. A love of cars is part of my makeup.
I don’t consider myself a collector; I’m an enthusiast. And I still don’t call what I have a “collection.” There’s one common thread running through the cars I have, and that’s me: they embody all the stuff I like. Almost all of my cars have found me. Some of my cars are strictly track, but I would say that 95 percent of them I can drive on the street. I’m taking the Cobra out this weekend, actually. I get great pleasure from the process of preparing it, starting it, driving it, sharing it. Whether it’s a watch or a painting or an automobile, the primary motivation of owning it should be that you love it. That’s the important thing.
Actor, writer & director
1969 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme
When I was growing up, we had two car guys on my block: one guy’s out in his driveway working on his El Camino every weekend, more of a gearhead; the other guy had a ’71 Malibu that was just mint, and he was always out front waxing it. Having those two guys and those two cars around, my friends and I became kind of obsessed with the idea of someday becoming a version of those guys. Any friend of ours who had a poster in their room of a Ferrari or a Lamborghini was mocked. That wasn’t our thing at all. We never aspired to that.
When I was in high school, I pumped gas at an Exxon station in my town of Valley Stream, New York. Gearheads worked there, hung out there. This was in ’85, ’86, my junior and senior years. Muscle cars were coming in constantly. That’s when I fell in love with the idea of getting one of those classic American muscle cars when I had enough money.
So one day I’m pumping gas. Some guy comes in with a seventies Buick Skylark. Beat to shit, dented driver’s window, missing the front bumper—but it’s got a For Sale sign in the window. I talk to the guy and get it for 650 bucks after some negotiation. It was a convertible, 350 engine. I got a new door for it, picked up a new bumper from the junkyard. Going into my senior year, I thought I had a pretty sweet ride.
It wasn’t feasible for me to bring that car to college. It never ran well in the winter, and I wasn’t enough of a gearhead to keep it running. Going into my sophomore year, I sold it to my cousin for 500 bucks. He sold it within six months. So that was the end of the Skylark. I always regretted selling it. I wish I had just left it in my parents’ driveway.
After Saving Private Ryan, when I finally made some money, I was determined to buy another Skylark, although I realized that it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for—I think the car we all wanted back then was the 442. Either that or the Chevelle Super Sport. I had a friend of mine, a mechanic, helping with the search. We looked all summer long and couldn’t find one in good enough shape for what I wanted to spend. Which was not a lot. I wasn’t looking to drop fifty grand on a car or anything like that.
Later, my friend Matty and I are going around every used car lot and consignment shop in the Tristate area. In New Jersey, we find a guy who runs a shop, tell him what we’re looking for, and he says, “We just got an old automobile in a couple of weeks ago. It’s under a tarp in the back lot.”
We go back, pull up the tarp, take a look. The car’s got four flat tires, a red carpet, and a white roof. Doesn’t look like much. Then Matty pops the hood, takes one look at the engine, slams the hood back down, and says to me, “You’re going to offer this guy seven grand in cash because he doesn’t know what he has and we have to get it off the lot right now.” The engine was pristine.
The backstory was apparently that a woman put the car on the lot after her divorce. Her husband had fully restored his-and-hers Cutlass Supremes. They get divorced a year later. She wants to get rid of the car, drops it off at this lot, and it sat there for, I guess, a couple of weeks before we showed up.
We take the car to Matty’s shop, and after he’s done with it, it’s a gorgeous ’69, beautiful paint job, cleaned-up interior.
I always aspired to be like the dudes in my neighborhood. I wanted to be the guy who could work on his car, do the restoration himself. Those were badass dudes, and the girls seemed to date those guys. At seventeen, you’re all about your car.
Car design historian & professor, University of Cologne
1982 Fiat Panda 30
“Automotive joy. . . . Stories that will resonate with any car lover.”
“Truly epic. . . . A Man His Car explores the personal connection between an eclectic mix of gentlemen and their cherished rides, from celebrities to collectors to the everyman who fell fast and hard for a certain four-wheeler.”
“A Man His Car pairs gorgeous photos of A-listers' personal autos with first-person essays on their automotive loves.”
“Fascinating. . . . [Hranek’s] gallery-worthy photos are visual testimony to car design as an art form and are paired with their owner's memories and the joys of being a gearhead. . . . Hranek tells the accompanying stories with affection, experience and an underlying passion. This illustrated tale of the love affair between owners and automobiles is certain to take readers on an armchair roadtrip they'll happily repeat many times.”
—Shelf Awareness for Readers
- On Sale
- Oct 13, 2020
- Page Count
- 240 pages