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Recommended Reading – “The Face of Change: Portraits of Automotive Evolution”

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Think, for a moment, about all the external forces that have shaped the development of the automobile, from the earliest days of the Mercedes-Benz Patent Motorwagen to the hybrid-drivetrain supercars of today, such as Porsche’s 918. Emerging technology has certainly played a role, but so have government regulations, economic conditions, cultural norms and even geographic requirements. The Face of Change: Portraits of Automotive Evolution, a new book from author John Nikas and photographer Michael Furman, with contributions from noted automotive stylists, journalists, and restorers like Dave Marek, Larry Printz, and David Cooper (many with ties to the ArtCenter College of Design), takes a look at this process in depth.

The Face of Change is not written in linear, textbook fashion. Instead, its chapters follow a winding road, with numerous expert voices weaving narratives about design, safety, aerodynamics, technology, and even racing, which played a significant role in the advancement of the automobile (and its growing appeal to the masses). The 298-page hardcover book is illustrated throughout with over 200 of Michael’s photographs, which is enough, on its own, for us to grant an enthusiastic purchase recommendation.

Chapters include “Portraiture – Revealing the Essence,” “The Automobile as Idiom,” “The Face of Change: From Model T to Model S,” “Milestones of Automotive Design,” “The Coachbuilder’s Art,” “Form and Function,” and more. In addition to Michael’s stunning artwork, the book includes historical images and manufacturer-supplied photos, each helping to detail the discussions within the chapters.

Historical images, like this 1934 photo of the speed record-setting Renault Nervasport, are interspersed with contemporary photos by Michael Furman.

The Face of Change is not a traditional reference book, and you won’t find charts of performance numbers or sales numbers within its covers. It’s also not marque-, segment- or even continent-specific, discussing everything from the earliest automobiles (including Nicholas Cugnot’s fardier à vapeur steam tractor of 1769), to the influence of the Space Age on global automotive design, to the drive to improve automotive safety, which began long before buyers saw this as a selling point. American cars and trucks are featured, but so are vehicles from Europe and Asia.

Concept cars and prototypes are heavily featured throughout as well, woven into the narrative to explain how design traversed through point A to point B. The emergence of retro-styled cars, like the Nissan Figaro, 1999 Ford Thunderbird concept, and Volkswagen New Beetle, is discussed, reminding the reader that nostalgia sells, and that very little, in terms of design, is truly new and unique.

Available from Coachbuilt Press, The Face of Change: Portraits of Automotive Evolution is priced at $100. The book would make an outstanding holiday gift for those passionate about automotive design and history.