How to have fun on winter nights

Every week, I receive dozens of requests for advice from all over the world.

Some of these requests are questions concerning sources for parts for antique and classic cars. But by far the most common requests are from people desperate for advice on mechanical or restoration problems they are having.

To be honest, I often don’t have time to answer these questions in the detail they deserve. A one-line question can often require a two-page reply.

In the past, I have referred many to articles I have posted on my website.

Recently, however, I have chanced upon another, more extensive source of answers to queries.

I started reviewing books for Motorbooks, a U.S.-based publishing house. A few months ago, it sent several copies of a new line of books it’s publishing that are bannered Motorbooks Workshop.

These books cover a wide range of topics in a great amount of depth. For instance, one called “Hot Rod Body and Chassis Builders Guide” – a catchy title – covers almost everything one might need to know about building hot rods, but it also has applications for anyone restoring an antique or classic car or even someone trying to save a little money doing rust repairs on her old daily driver.

The book is well illustrated, the photographs are clear and the descriptions concise. Too often, how-to books can be a little confusing as the authors forget they might know the subject intimately but their audience might not.

This can lead to some pretty big gaps in the “how” part of the how to.

I also liked the sections describing the various tools and machines that can be used, which also outlined the way they are operated.

There are a number of books within the series that are targeted at a far more sophisticated audience, although they are still written well enough for a neophyte to understand. These are books such as “Chevy Small Block Interchange” and “How to Build and Modify GM LS-Series Engines.”

My favorites, however, are a little less technical. I like the books on restoration, especially those dealing in things the home enthusiast can actually accomplish for himself and have fun doing. A good example of these books is the one dealing with restoring automotive trim and hardware. This is a very handy book and can save a lot of money for the hobbyist who uses it. Restoring trim in cars is a time-consuming and fiddly process and one that can rack up huge bills if a professional shop has to do it. This book explains and details a lot of time-consuming jobs that could actually be fun during those long, dark winter evenings.

Another more ambitious book is entitled “How to Restore Your Collector Car.”

It’s packed with a lot of information and, while I think beginners could get themselves in trouble if they attempt major renovations just using this book, it is very appropriate for an old-car owner to peruse if he is thinking about restoring a car or if he has one in a shop being restored. A reputable restoration shop likes nothing better than a well-informed client, and a dishonest shop will be found out quickly by anyone who has armed himself with the information in this book.

Other books of merit include “How to Keep Your Muscle Car Alive” and “How to Keep Your Collector Car Alive.” These contain information any owner will find handy on a day-to-day basis when living with an old car.

Motorbooks has another series similar to the Workshop books, and these are the Idea Books. I have only seen two, but I really enjoyed leafing through both.

The first is “Hot Rods, Roadsters, Coupes and Customs.” It’s a picture book showing dozens of cars and their treatments from engines to wheels. It’s interesting to see how different hot rodders stamp their cars with their own artistic ideas. This book is also fun to read even if you have no intention of owning a rod or custom.

The other Idea Book is “Automotive Custom Interiors.” I like it for all the same reasons as the first. There are interior treatments running from the tacky to the breathtaking, and it is an education in just what can be accomplished in such a small space as a car’s interior.

While few of these books have appeal on a wide basis, there is certainly a title in the range that will appeal or be useful to anyone involved in the old-car hobby.

If you get stuck with a problem with your old car and you have not been able to figure it out, Motorbooks might have the answer. Checking out its list of how to books could save you enough money to get back into your spouse’s good graces.