Even though it might not be entirely non-fiction, Mac’s Motor City Garage can highly recommend Best Damn Garage in Town. Here’s one of the most entertaining car books you’ll ever read.
Let’s get the possibly awkward part out of the way first, and note that some of the stories in Best Damn Garage are demonstrably untrue. Sorry, Smokey fans, but some of his yarns are in apparent conflict with known historical events, the first two laws of thermodynamics, and in several especially amusing anecdotes, medical science.
But that’s okay. Smokey was less interested in telling it like it is than in telling it as he saw it, and we wouldn’t want it any other way. He had his own point of view about a number of things, and he was determined enough to tell it, with no punches pulled, that he arranged to have his three-volume autobiography published posthumously.
No one is spared in this freewheeling, bawdy, and unblushing narrative: not his closest friends including Mickey Thompson; not his sworn enemies like Big Bill France. And he’s a matchless storyteller, as you’ll discover, unencumbered by strict literal accuracy or the rules of grammar.
A little like Mark Donohue’s great book, The Unfair Advantage (reviewed here at MCG), Best Damn Garage is equal parts technical how-to and personal memoir, while also providing a priceless behind-the-scenes look at pro motorsports, its unlikely people and incredible events. However, Best Damn Garage is much bigger, presented in three large, largely unorganized volumes:
+ Walkin’ Under a Snake’s Belly: My So Called Life — Smokey’s childhood, teenage years, military experiences as a B-17 pilot in WWII, putting down roots in Daytona Beach, and exploits in Ecuador. Worth the price of admission by itself.
+ All Right You Sons-a-Bitches, Let’s Have a Race: Stock Car Racing Years — Adventures in the early years of NASCAR and a fascinating chapter on all the drivers he worked with, called “50 good drivers and an asshole.”
+ Li’l Skinny Rule Book & Eatin’ an Elephant: Indy Racing and Inventions — Indy car racing; Smokey’s R&D work for the automakers; the notorious hot vapor engine.
First published in 2001, Best Damn Garage in Town is still available directly from the Yunick family’s publishing house, Carbon Press, at SmokeyYunick.com. Numerous editions are offered, including audio, digital, and the value-priced Racer’s Edition shown above, which consists of 1100 pages and 400 photos in three paperback volumes with a hard slipcase.
You can see that the pictured edition is a bit dog-eared—MCG has gone back and reread it many times over the years. It’s that good. Many gearheads describe Best Damn Garage as their all-time favorite book about racing. You’ll undoubtedly like it, too. Unless you happen to be in it.