A Quiet Greatness is a gorgeous, must-have book about Japanese cars

As much as Japanese cars have permeated automotive culture, they’ve been lacking in one important aspect: the coffee table book. Walk into any bookstore (if you can still find them in your town), and you’ll see gorgeous volumes on Italian, British, French and American cars. There’s no shortage books dedicated to entire marques such as Ferrari or Porsche, books about certain eras like the golden age of muscle cars, or even books devoted to a single model like the Corvette. But there has never been an English-language title that confers the same kind of reverence onto Japanese cars until Mark Brinker and Myron Vernis’ A Quiet Greatness.

Like the cars themselves, the title perhaps does not convey the depth of what’s contained within. If you purchase it at the book’s website, what’s added to your shopping car is A Quiet Greatness – Japan’s Most Astonishing Automobiles for the Collector and Enthusiast, Volumes 1-4, Plus Supplement and Index. That’s five hardbacks, 1,400 pages, 200,000 words, all held in a beautiful slipcase that anyone would be proud to display at home. The package tips the scales at 32 pounds.

It would be natural to assume that A Quiet Greatness covers the greats, like the Toyota 2000GT and Nissan Skyline, and it does. It also delves into far more obscure cars like the Toyota Sera and Nissan Pulsar GTi-R. There are even chapters devoted to Dome, Daihatsu, and Mitsuoka.

Moreover, the book isn’t merely an outpouring of specs and dates, as many automotive books tend to be. It takes you on a journey, and throughout it all each page overflows with beautiful color photography and history lessons that inform and inspire. The art and graphic design was done by Richard Baron, former head of Road & Track‘s art department, adding to the literal and figurative weight of the material. For those who want info dumps, there’s that too, like the compilation of every limited edition Mazda MX-5 Miata sold anywhere in the world.

An undertaking of this magnitude isn’t for the faint of heart. We spoke to co-authors Mark Brinker and Myron Vernis about what led them to create this incredible work.

“I grew up loving cars,” Brinker told us. “I’d make my parents stop at the dealership to see the latest Corvette. In high school I’d drive 45 minutes to a dealership just to see the Lotus Esprit thorough a window.” When he went to medical school 1,400 miles away from home, he needed a reliable but sporty car to get him there, and got a Datsun 280ZX as his first. After graduating and becoming an orthopedic surgeon, a bank manager essentially gave him a carte blanche loan to get anything he wanted. Brinker chose wisely: an Acura NSX.

Eventually he turned his eye toward the classics β€” aluminum bodied Italian twin-cams and French oddballs β€” stuff you’d see at Pebble Beach. That’s how he became friends with his partner in crime, Myron Vernis.

“My origin story couldn’t be more different,” Vernis said. “I was born in the States but lived in my early years on Crete, which had very little car culture. My dad didn’t even have a car, but my mom always said I’d sit on the balcony of our apartment and look at cars all day.” The first Vernis purchased for himself was a Porsche 356, getting into them when the 911 was the new must-have and 356s were considered “just a used car.”

Of course, the 356 became quite a collector’s car. “Japanese cars were on the sidelines, but over time I got disillusioned with hobby. The 356 crowd cared mostly about the value of their Porsches and complained about how young people don’t care about cars,” Vernis explained. “Awareness about Japanese cars came about with JNC, shows like the JCCS, and events like Touge California. “Everyone was half my age, but just as enthusiastic. It reminded me of myself at that age.”

Brinker and Vernis have known each other for about 20 years, of which six have been given to writing A Quiet Greatness. In the beginning, they’d envisioned a single volume book of about 300 to 350 pages. But as they bought more Japanese cars for their collections and talked more about them with fellow collectors in traditional circles, they realized there was a vacuum that needed filling.

“It was obvious, there was a great subject that so many people in the US and Europe knew very little about,” Brinker said. “At an auction several years ago in Monterey, I was-checking out a Hakosuka GT-R. A guy who worked at the auction asked if I was interested, but as I asked him some basic questions it was clear he didn’t know anything about the car.”

“For example, take the Pulsar GTi-R, for example,” he continued. “Nissan made 10,000 of them. It’s not some one-off show car. It’s tunable to 500 horsepower, it’s AWD, a blast to drive, and people in the US have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to justify a book of AQG‘s caliber. “We went to high-end publishers both in US and UK, guys who make books about exotic cars,” Vernis recalled. “All of them said, ‘This is amazing but it’s about Japanese cars. It’ll never sell.'” So Brinker and Vernis took it upon themselves to go forward with their vision.

To appeal to the Monterey set, the book had to be special. “There are blue blood collectors who say you can’t buy anything interesting for less than $3 million,” Brinker explained. “We felt it was important that it be as nice as any Ferrari or Porsche book. If we’re going to tell the story that these cars are worth searching for and collecting and ogling, then the book had to look the part.”

“We wanted to have it printed in US, but could find only two printers that could do a 12-inch by 12-inch format,” Vernis said. That was five years ago. “By the time we were done writing, neither company could do that any more.” So, they ended up printing it overseas, but the quality stands up to books you’d find in a high-end press. It even made Bloomberg Business‘ best books of 2022 list, a rarity for automotive titles.

The book sells for $395, which isn’t cheap. Still, the duo will be able to make their monetary investment back, not counting the time they’ve put into it. The kicker is, Vernis said, “This would’ve been a $1,000 book if it was about Ferrari or Porsche.”

Clearly, there’s still a chasm between Japanese and traditional collector cars. But price was not a factor when choosing the cars to go in their book. “We didn’t pick the fastest or the most expensive,” Brinker shared. “It’s just cars that were interesting or that would grab attention. It doesn’t matter if it costs $5,000 or $500,000.”

AQG is a limited run print that, when it sells out, will be gone for good. But more than just a pretty book about cars from Japan, A Quiet Greatness another step in bridging the gap that, eventually, will have Toyotas and Nissans uttered in the same breath as Corvettes, Porsches, and Ferraris among car collectors. If you would like to order one, you can do so at QuietGreatness.com.

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14 Responses to A Quiet Greatness is a gorgeous, must-have book about Japanese cars

  1. RainMeister says:

    Wow! This introduction to a work of art is much appreciated. I just placed my order for a copy. It will make a very fine addition to my car library.

  2. Fred Langille says:

    How about a soft cover edition for half price? Or, ablity to buy each volume separately?

  3. Bryan Kitsune says:

    Hmm, maybe I can put it on a payment plan and my wife won’t notice…

  4. Taylor C. says:

    This is SOLID. It will definitely be some good reading. And definitely so true on how most coffee table books are American Muscle or European Exotics, this collection is analogous to the average Joe and his interests in financially attainable cars. Time to whip out the credit card.

  5. Alan says:

    In addition to extraordinary taste in cars, Myron is himself a really special person. I have to set aside some fun money and grab a set while I still can, maybe get it signed at JCCS where he usually enters something utterly off-the-wall.

  6. Ryan Senensky says:

    This would be an incredible audiobook to have on my computer in addition to being a coffee table book

  7. Nigel says:

    Ok this is cool and I want… But are there copies of your JNC book still around Ben ?

  8. Smacc says:

    Absolutely amazing. Appreciate the article, this is a must-have for me

  9. crank_case says:

    Car Design Asia by Paolo Tumminelli is also well worth picking up if you can find a copy

  10. Mark F Newton-John says:

    Four Benjamins? Whew.

  11. Fashion Victim says:

    Is the Soarer Featured /

  12. Legacy-san says:

    I just took delivery of my copies, four volumes and an appendix. Most of the articles are the performance coupes and sedans, and the Toyota Century is also in there, but not the Crown, Cedric or Gloria. I’d never heard of The Dome, while the three rotor Cosmo and the Isuzu 117 are also featured. Time to do some heavy reading.

  13. james says:

    I had to put it on a payment plan, A book like this was too good to pass up and therefore, worth it.

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