Automotive Traveler's Bookshelf:
Presidential Muscle Cars: Untold Tales of America's Gear-Banging Chief Executives
By Steve Statham (Statham Communications; $0.99, Kindle Edition)
Reviewed by Sam Fiorani
George Washington was a great leader. His unique method of leading his soldiers into battle was beautifully illustrated in a Dodge advertisement just a few years ago. In this TV spot, the Father of Our Country drove his trusty Challenger coupe across enemy lines, just as you'd expect him to do!
Following this revelation, author (and Automotive Traveler road-test editor) Steve Statham decided to learn more. Washington had his muscle car, so what great cars did other great presidents drive? What powerful ride best expressed the personalities of Lincoln or Roosevelt? And how many times has a dinner party erupted into a debate on the merits of Benjamin Harrison's decision to bedeck his Dodge Dart Swinger with an enormous rear wing "a full five hand-spans in height?"
Whether or not you've asked these questions, Statham provides the background in Presidential Muscle Cars: Untold Tales of America's Gear-Banging Chief Executives.
Through their own lost journals and speeches, 14 presidents tell why each chose his particular muscle car. After digging through numerous libraries, the author came up with these original source materials from, among other documents, "Washington's recipes for a 1798 batch of Philadelphia porter," Lincoln's chief of security's own memoir entitled One Got Through, and (my favorite) Teddy Roosevelt's scintillating autobiography, On the Art and Skill of Rousting Layabouts From Their Torpor.
The author biography included with Presidential Muscle Cars explains that Steve Statham is "an automotive journalist, photographer, fiction writer, and, apparently, swashbuckling presidential historian." It's not entirely clear which of these hats Statham wore while writing this tome, but it does make for an entertaining read.
Muscle-car buffs and historians of all walks will find this book enjoyable, appreciating how Statham weaves these presidential memories, "in their own words," into humorous anecdotes.
Statham has a full body of work behind him, with stints leading some great automotive magazines and penning several other books. He's even the owner of a classic '68 GTO, which, he's been told, has a history that includes ownership by President Warren G. Harding. Even though Harding ranks among the worst presidents in American history, I think we can say his choice of ride was exceptional.