With the most Indianapolis 500 victories of any team in auto-racing history, Team Penske has been chasing speed since 1958—and when its sponsor, Pennzoil, wanted to commemorate the team’s 50th anniversary, they needed a winning idea, fast. The company’s agency, J. Walter Thompson of Toronto, could have ordered trophies or filmed a video to mark the milestone—but instead, they turned to print design. The design team came up with the unique concept of a custom, hardbound book filled with historical racing photos and facts as a gift for Team Owner Roger Penske and select drivers. But this wouldn’t be just any coffee table book. Equipped with a functioning speedometer, Chasing Speed sets a new record for creativity.

“We love print at J. Walter Thompson—and we wanted to create something Roger Penske would like to keep on his table and share with other people,” commented Yen Chu, Creative Director of Design. “As you’re turning the pages of the book, each spread reveals a new year in auto racing—so you also get a sense of moving through history. The photos go from black and white to color, and it’s very immersive. If we had produced this as a digital piece, it would not have created the same tactile, emotional experience.”

Getting the book across the finish line required hard work and collaboration. Paul Bradley of Exodus Graphics Corporation was in charge of printing.

“I thought it was a spectacular concept,” Bradley said. “They merged conventional print methods with GPS technology, bringing the historic and new together. Here we have a traditionally finished book with a speedometer linked to satellites in space to make it function.”

As unique as the idea was, it was not without technical challenges. Bradley admits that while his first thought was “This is going to be fun,” his second thought was “How in the world are we going to do this?”

While the quantity was quite low (only 10 to 12 books), the quality had to be perfect. Exact registration was critical to ensure the die-cut in the center of the book, which sliced through every page, lined up perfectly, revealing the speedometer bound into the back.

A key challenge for the team was to create the speedometer itself. Kevin Tam, Group Technology Director at J. Walter Thompson, developed the technology for the device in-house, designing and printing the components using a 3-D printer. Exodus printed the dial inside the speedometers, and the whole team conducted speed tests by driving around with the speedometers in the passenger seats of their cars.

Once the speedometer was designed and the pages were printed, the book was bound by Anstey Book Binding. The bindery designed a special box in the back to hide the electronic components of the speedometer. Specs included a hardbound cover, debossed end papers and gold edges.

The finished print design piece evokes all the senses, creating a unique gift that will be treasured and stand the test of time. And because such a small number of pieces were printed, each one is even more rare and valuable. Today, the books are in the hands of Team Penske’s owner and drivers. In the future, they may be passed down through families as heirlooms or placed on display in the Penske Racing Museum in Phoenix, Arizona, for racing fans to enjoy.

Chasing Speed proves quantity is no limitation when it comes to creating something memorable in print—and it can even be an asset. “While the total quantity of books per press run has decreased, we are seeing growth in smaller press runs, with superb quality,” McLean says. “Digital printing today can be done with such high quality that it’s possible to self-publish, print and bind a book, even with a limited quantity. You don’t have to be a major publisher to produce a beautifully bound book.”

Bradley agrees: “People want something that is lasting. This book is going to be around for a long time. It’s a piece of history.”

 

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