The Story Behind Janis Joplin’s Psychedelic Porsche 356: and 49 other Highly Entertaining Tales From the World of Rare and Exotic Car Collecting
Binding: Trade Paperback
Number of pages: 272
Publisher: Enthusiast Books 2016
ISBN Number: 1583883436 / 9781583883433
Order from Enthusiast Books 715-381-9755 $19.95
Wallace Wyss has been contributing articles to VeloceToday since 2008 but now has gotten into a groove with his series of Incredible Barn Find books. This is the fourth book in the softbound series. Previously we’ve covered two of Wyss’s Barn Finds book, Incredible Barn Finds and The Baroness and the Mercedes. The last was “The Story Behind Smoky Yunick’s Boss Mustang” which we didn’t review but I can’t remember why not.
While we don’t know if the run is over…a total of 200 or so barn find stories is a pretty good run after all, and if Enthusiast Books sees fit to publish as many as Wyss can write, they must be selling pretty well. After all, they are entertaining and just the sort of thing that Wyss is good at. And, such books may attract a new generation of car enthusiasts, who in turn may look past the dollars and find the histories fascinating.
“The new book follows the same format as the first three–50 short stories–packed into one handy-sized paperbound book,” says Wyss. “It’s the opposite of those heavy hardbound coffee-table books with lavish color.
“We designed it instead to be something you can take to the airport, and read chapters in 10 minute bites while you’re waiting for your flight,” says Wyss, who has authored 15 automotive histories, starting with a race driver biography, Shelby’s Wildlife in 1977.
The latest book cover features songstress Janis Joplin’s psychedelically-painted Porsche 356C cabriolet, stolen while she was onstage in San Francisco belting out the blues.
The series has no marque preference, says Wyss, who, in his role as a barn finder back in the ’80s, successfully hunted down everything from Bizzarrinis to Bentley Continentals. “I choose a car to write about only if there’s a good story of the hunt,” he says, “not cars bought from car dealers or at auction. That’s too easy…” But note that although Wyss has found his share of cars, these are predominantly stories of other peoples’ finds and most never set foot in a barn as such. So they are stories about the hunt, and when it would have been most ideal to have purchased the subject car.
Although Wyss is sometimes criticized for playing a bit loose with the facts, overall he has done a good job fact checking. When we found something that might be questionable (was Vaccarella really a Ferrari F1 team member?) we checked and the book was correct. What Wyss didn’t do and should was to better notate his sources – he quotes Cavallino but does not provide the date of the issue, ditto other magazines and newspapers. And people that are quoted do not get an interview date, email, etc. that would have been handy to make his chapters more believable.
There are at least two chapters on Ferraris that had other bodies on them for one reason or another, like a 250LM in Switzerland that ran hillclimbs wearing a Porsche body. A second chapter is on a F1 Dino rebodied into a rough-and-ready approximation of a 250GTO.
Other Italian cars featured include a De Tomaso Pantera that was made custom at the factory for a Ford executive, a Fiat 8V found in a motel parking lot covered with snow, and a Cadillac bodied by Zagato; one of Luigi Chinetti Jr.’s most embarrassing faux pas.
Dictators get their measure of ink, one chapter on a Romanian President’s 6-door Mercedes landaulet, liberated after he was executed in a revolution, and then there’s Juan Peron’s Alfa street car that was turned back into the Alfa race car it had been when it was born.
Hollywood celebrities also get some ink, Diana Dors for her Delahaye, Elvis for his BMW 507 and Rolls Phantom and even Hollywood mobster Mickey Cohen for the bulletproof Cadillac that the California DMV wouldn’t let him register. World War II figures in with two stories on prewar Mercedes, the fabled bulletproof “blue Goose” of Herman Goering, and the Mercedes given by Hitler to an Egyptian king.
The book’s conclusion has the author giving barn-finding tips from his own career and from the examples of other collectors. The tips are interesting, relevant, and even useful. The downside to this is that it is becoming much more difficult to find cars, when they are found, the owners always know the value, and the prices in any event are sky high, putting them out of the reach of mortals. The days of finding a Ferrari in a barn and paying only a few thousand dollars for it are long gone and will never return.
Which is why he also suggests becoming not a buyer or a broker, but a source of (paid) information. And this usually just upsets people, and in a market where everyone knows everyone and information is regarded as a right, such tactics can be counterproductive.
The stories each have a photo, but the paper is pulp and none are reproduced large or well. This is unfortunate, because many of the chapters really beg to be properly illustrated. In the past VeloceToday has published a few of the barn find articles and we try to include more illustrations. But doing so in a book format would make it unduly expensive and defeat the intent of the book as a quick, enjoyable read. And much to the author’s credit, that is exactly what they are.
The book can be ordered direct from the publisher, Enthusiast Books, at 715-381-9755.