It’s hard to imagine a world where Porsche was irrelevant in the racing circuit, but prior to the 1970s, it was. Though ugly as sin and barely driveable in the best of conditions, the 917 finally made Porsche a legitimate threat to the podium. This car introduced the world to the Porsche philosophy of function over form, with a balsa wood shift knob as Exhibit A. Designed as a practical solution to minimize the excessive heat transfer from the foaming-at-the-mouth transmission to the driver’s hand, wood shift knobs seem to be making a resurgence in vintage restorations and even in modern iterations of the Porsche lineup, a la the Carrera GT. Though probably a bit of an anachronism in a modern automobile, and even more out of place on a bookshelf, I think it’s important to be reminded of history.