Automania by Don Jessen
Updated: Aug 27
My first impression of this book is that it is an ideal coffee table book. It is the sort of book that can be picked up and flicked through for a few minutes or read in-depth. Due to the nature and quirkiness of different people’s automotive collections, there is no way to predict what will be on the next page. It can be picked up again after a week or a few months and there will always be a new discovery that had been casually overlooked the previous time the book was perused.
Like many, I had no idea so many of these private collections existed and it is a big thrill to me that these people with their private collections are prepared to share them. Don Jessen certainly brings them to life in this 300-page hardbound book.
After flicking through the book a few times, I settled down to read it and I was not disappointed. It does not get bogged down in detail with the history of the cars, instead, Don gives some of his own anecdotal stories about the car and often backgrounds how the car made it into that particular collection. Many of these stories are as interesting as the car itself and are different for every collector. One car that tickled my fancy was the AMC Pacer that had been turned into a replica of the car from the movie Wayne’s World. Many would ask, why would you do that to a perfectly good AMC Pacer? Albeit these days the words ‘perfectly good’ and ‘AMC Pacer’ do not often appear in the same sentence I applaud the effort that the owner Mat, went to make the car look authentic. A great example of automaniac.
The title of the book clearly gives the answer. Although some collectors in the book collect cars to preserve history, others do it just because certain cars took their fancy. The Wayne’s World Pacer and the Triumph Herald Ute are examples of these. Personally, I enjoyed the stories about how these collections came into existence most of all.
Not being into motorbikes, I was going to flick through this section but decided I had to read it to do the book justice. I surfaced about an hour or so later having gotten completely caught up in the backstories, reminded that what makes most hobbies so interesting is the hobbyist who is taking the time to share his passion with others.
Don uses the word ‘eclectic’ more than once throughout the book and is the reason why I would recommend this book with those who have an interest in New Zealand automobiles. The eclectic variety of vehicles contained in its pages means that it is the sort of book that can be rediscovered and enjoyed even after several years on a library shelf.
Reviewer: Patrick Harlow
See a review about Patrick's most recent car book here!