3 Books That Teach You How to Concentrate in a Digital Age

Attention

By Joshua Cohen

Elevator Pitch: For most of our history, “distraction” described a mental illness. With that meaning in mind, Mr. Cohen draws a wide-ranging map of our collective cultural distraction, from the death of the circus to how smartphones have created “datasexuals” (who derive a thrill from monitoring, say, their steps or heart rate).

In Brexit Britain, London’s Empty New Penthouses Seek Owners

House hunters in search of prestige, privacy and panoramic views, get ready: It’s penthouse season in London. And an abundance of luxury apartments have made it a buyer’s market.

An overseas buyer recently spent £105 million, or about $136 million, on the penthouse plus a second apartment at One Grosvenor Square, the reboot of former U.S. Embassy office building in the Mayfair neighborhood of central London.

Nearby,…

Pies That Bind: Thanksgiving Recipes From the Heartland

Apple Sage Gouda Pie
Apple Sage Gouda Pie Photo: E.E. Berger

FOR ALL OF US Sister Pie in Detroit, the month leading up to Thanksgiving is filled with nerves, muscle flexing, flour flying and the occasional dance break. The bakery’s staff, a gregarious group of 15 diverse women, speeds through the kitchen; ’90s R&B dominates the speaker. “Crazy in a good way” is how my co-workers Tianna and Brittney describe it.

I never considered opening a bakery anywhere but in this city, where I’m surrounded with kind, resilient people who care about their home. My grandfather started a plywood company on 7 Mile and John R Street in 1967, and my father still runs it today. Family business runs in my blood. At Sister Pie, I’m working with my staff to find our own definition of family and business.

CRUST OF THE MATTER Tianna Bogan shapes dough at Sister Pie in Detroit.
CRUST OF THE MATTER Tianna Bogan shapes dough at Sister Pie in Detroit. Photo: E.E. Berger

The staff is split simply into an AM team, a PM team and two kitchen managers, with no hierarchy dividing front-of-house, back-of-house and dishwashing. Anji, our office manager and keeper of all information, works tirelessly to ensure the system runs efficiently. Working this way, as a team, allows us to make more food and broaden each employee’s set of skills. Everyone has a voice, and we tweak the system obsessively. During a typical week, we make about 200 pies.

The AM team clocks in at 5:00. Everybody stands on footstools around the maple-wood prep table to gain the leverage needed to make dough in big stainless-steel bowls. We work quickly so the butter stays cold and because there’s plenty more to do. Next, the group breaks to do dishes, bake morning muffins and sweep the front of the shop. The PM team starts at 10:00 in the morning, mixing the fillings, rolling out dough and assembling pies. Everyone gathers for certain tasks—scooping cookies, folding breakfast galettes. Each day is a slightly different version of this.

Thanksgiving week, we make about 1,000 pies. “No sleep ‘til Thursday,” we joke. The Tuesday before the holiday, the bakery feels like an above-average family gathering: too many people for the space, competing kitchen smells and joyful shouts across the room. Customers line up along the side of the building before the sun rises. We take bets on when the earliest will arrive and run cups of coffee outside to customers in gratitude. The doors open at 8:00, and the energy is electric. As the final pies are sold for the day, the staff stops to high-five and eat sandwiches. Then it’s back to work.

Sister Pie menu board.
Sister Pie menu board. Photo: E.E. Berger

The recipes featured here tell you a little about what we do at the bakery. They’re popular with our community of customers, crowd-pleasing and distinctly Sister Pie. They include familiar fall ingredients and also some elements of surprise.

A finished pie at Sister Pie in Detroit.
A finished pie at Sister Pie in Detroit. Photo: E.E. Berger

It all begins with our go-to dough. Every pie baker seems to have an opinion on the best combination of fats for the crust. Is it lard, shortening, butter or a combo? Our basic dough is a pure and simple ode to unsalted butter and all-purpose flour. We think it produces the best-tasting, lightest, flakiest crust. We add a little apple-cider vinegar too—once thought to tenderize the gluten, thus preventing a tough crust. There isn’t actually any scientific evidence that vinegar makes a difference to the texture, but we keep it in our recipe for its tangy flavor and out of respect for tradition.

The cranberry crumble pie is my favorite—fresh whole cranberries sweetened with warm spices and sugar, mixed with a simple stovetop cranberry compote and grated pear, topped with an oat crumble. I love it at room temperature or even straight from the fridge the morning after Thanksgiving, all mashed up with a dollop of plain yogurt.

Many folks enjoy a cup of coffee after a big meal. For Thanksgiving, I thought it made sense to translate that into a pie. Caffeination comes in two forms: a cold-brew syrup and espresso powder. The filling is smooth as the voice of Gerry Rafferty, and a topping of whipped cream is essential.

The apple sage Gouda pie reflects an age-old tradition and our own opinion on apple pies: They should always be served with cheese. We grate aged Gouda into the dough and rub sage into sugar for the filling. We change our apple mix each year; this season’s winners are Jonagold and Cortland. It’s the kind of pie that could be served as dessert or even with the appetizers.

‘The apple sage Gouda pie reflects tradition and our own opinion on apple pies: They should always be served with cheese.’

If you want to make a pumpkin pie with fresh ingredients but less fuss, why not make a sweet potato coconut pie? The textural contrast between the creamy filling and the toasted coconut chips on top is reason alone. Throw the sweet potatoes into the oven while you make the dough, then kick back and read a book. (The essays and poems assembled by Jesmyn Ward in “The Fire this Time” are my idea of good Thanksgiving reading.) A couple hours later, you’ll be ready to roll out the dough and fold the sweet potato into a coconut milk-enriched filling.

Spare a thought for us at Sister Pie, where there will be no kicking back this week. But we’ll be baking for our family all the same.

All-Butter Pie Dough

TOTAL TIME: 4 hours (includes cooling and freezing dough) MAKES: 2 (9-inch) discs

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

2½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup unsalted European-style butter, chilled

1½ pounds dried beans

1 large egg, beaten

1. Fill a 1-cup measure cup with 1 inch water and freeze. Before mixing dry ingredients, remove from freezer, top with 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar and fill with water. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar and salt until well combined. Place sticks of butter in bowl and coat with flour mixture. Cut butter into ½- inch cubes. Working quickly, separate cubes and lightly coat in flour. Cut each cube in half.

3. Use a pastry blender or fork to cut butter into flour while turning bowl. Continue to blend and turn until largest pieces of butter are pea-size and the rest resembles canned Parmesan.

4. Add half the water-vinegar mixture. Use a bench scraper or spatula to scrape as much flour mixture as you can from one side of bowl to the other until you can’t see visible pools of liquid anymore. Use your hands to scoop up as much of mixture as you can, and use tips of fingers and a lot of pressure to press mixture back down onto ingredients in bowl. Rotate bowl a quarter-turn and repeat, until dough is a cohesive mass and no dry bits remain.

5. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface. Divide into two equal pieces. Gently pat each piece into a 2-inch-thick disc, working quickly to seal any broken edges. Wrap disks tightly in 2 layers of plastic wrap. (If you’re portioning for a lattice-topped pie, shape one half into a 2-inch-thick disc and the other half into a 6-by-3-inch rectangle.) Refrigerate dough at least 2 hours or, ideally, overnight.

6. Roll out pie crust: Lightly flour work surface and place unwrapped pie dough in center. Use a rolling pin to bang dough from left to right, striking about four times. Rotate dough 180 degrees and bang across from left to right again. Use one end of rolling pin to press and roll along edge of round, rotating disc 45 degrees after each press, to enlarge circle. If dough is sticking to surface, lift it and lightly flour surface. Place rolling pin in very center of dough. Apply pressure to pin while rolling it away from yourself, being careful to stop rolling about 1 inch from edge (to avoid over-rolling areas you’ve already rolled). Rotate disc 45 degrees and roll again. If top surface starts to feel sticky, flip it onto floured surface. Continue roll and rotation process until you have a circle 12-13 inches in diameter. Gently run rolling pin over dough to ensure even thickness.

7. Invert a 9-inch pie tin or dish onto dough circle. Use a pastry cutter or knife to cut a circle around tin 2 ½-3 inches beyond edge of tin. (Dough scraps can be wrapped in plastic and kept in refrigerator for another use.) Remove tin and turn it right-side up on work surface. Gently fold dough circle in half. Place folded dough in pie tin so it covers one half of tin. Unfold dough and gently press to fit snugly into tin, making sure it is completely centered and pressed all the way into bottom of tin.

8. To create a crimped edge for a single-crust pie, roll dough overhang in toward center of pie, creating a ring of dough around circumference. Use thumb and index finger of one hand to form a “C,” and position that hand inside pie pan. Position opposite thumb on outside of pan. Use “C” fingers to push and press rim of dough up and away from pan, simultaneously pressing thumb of other hand in to crimp dough. Continue until entire ring of dough is crimped. Freeze pie shell at least 15 minutes. If you don’t plan to use crust that same day, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and store in freezer up to 1 year.

9. To blind bake: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Set rack on lowest level. Remove pie shell from freezer. Tear off a square of aluminum foil slightly larger than pie shell, and gently fit into frozen shell, covering crimp with foil. Fill shell with dried beans, all the way up to crimped edge. Place pan on a baking sheet. Transfer to oven and bake until crust is light golden brown, 25-27 minutes. Transfer pie pan to a cooling rack. After 6 minutes carefully remove foil and beans.

10. To extra blind bake crust: Blind bake crust as above. Immediately after removing pie from oven, fold back foil, exposing crimps, but keep foil and beans in center of pan. Brush crimps with egg and return to oven. Bake until crust is deep golden brown, 5-7 minutes.

Cranberry Crumble Pie

TOTAL TIME: 5¾ hours (includes cooling time) MAKES: 1 (9-inch) pie

Pies That Bind: Thanksgiving Recipes From the Heartland
Photo: E.E. Berger

For the compote:

12 ounces cranberries, rinsed and picked over

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar

¾ teaspoon grated orange zest

1 tablespoon fresh orange juice

For the crumble:

1 cup rolled oats

½ cup packed light brown sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled

For the filling and assembly:

¾ cup granulated sugar

¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

½ teaspoon ground allspice

¼ cup tapioca starch

1½ teaspoons kosher salt

8 ounces cranberries, rinsed and picked over

½ Bosc or Anjou pear, peeled and grated

2 tablespoons cream cheese, softened

1 (9-inch) all-butter pie shell, blind baked and cooled (recipe above)

1 large egg, beaten

Vanilla ice cream, for serving

1. Make compote: In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over low to medium heat, combine cranberries, brown sugar and orange zest and juice. Cook until cranberries begin to burst. Remove from heat and set aside to cool completely (or set in freezer for a quick chill). Compote can be made up to 4 days ahead of time and kept in an airtight container in refrigerator.

2. Meanwhile make crumble: In a large bowl, combine oats, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt. Place butter in bowl and coat on all sides with flour mixture. Cut butter into ½-inch cubes. Use your hands to break up cubes and lightly coat with flour mixture. Cut cubes in half.

3. Use a pastry blender or fork to cut butter into flour mixture while turning bowl. Once most of butter is incorporated, use your fingers to fully break down butter until no longer visible. Do not overwork mixture. Crumble can be completed up to 4 days ahead and stored in refrigerator.

4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Make the filling: In a large bowl, combine sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, tapioca starch and salt. Add cranberries, pear and cooled compote, and mix thoroughly.

5. Spread cream cheese evenly over bottom of pie shell. Brush crimped edge with egg. Layer cranberry mixture on top of cream cheese (it should come up to bottom of crimps). Cover fruit with crumble topping, leaving a small hole in center where cranberry filling is visible. Place assembled pie on prepared baking sheet.

6. Transfer baking sheet with pie to oven and bake until juices are beginning to bubble in center and crumble topping is a uniform deep golden color, 60-70 minutes.

7. Transfer pie to a wire rack to cool to room temperature, 4-6 hours. Serve slices of pie with a big scoop of classic vanilla ice cream. Pie will keep, well wrapped in plastic wrap or under a pie dome, at room temperature up to 2 days.

Pies That Bind: Thanksgiving Recipes From the Heartland
Photo: E.E. Berger
Sweet Potato Coconut Pie

TOTAL TIME: 6¼ hours (includes cooling time) MAKES: 1 (9-inch) pie

1 pound sweet potatoes, scrubbed

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

¾ cup packed light brown sugar

¼ teaspoon ground cardamom

½ teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons fine yellow cornmeal

½ cup full-fat canned coconut milk

¼ cup heavy cream, at room temperature

6 large egg yolks, at room temperature

1 (9-inch) all-butter pie shell, extra blind baked and cooled (recipe above)

1 large egg, beaten

½ cup large-flake coconut, toasted

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Wrap sweet potatoes in aluminum foil. Use a fork to poke a few holes through foil and into sweet potatoes. Transfer to a baking sheet. Bake until you can smoosh foil package with your oven mitt, 40-60 minutes. Remove from oven, carefully remove foil and place potatoes on a wire rack. When cool enough to handle, peel skins from sweet potatoes. Transfer flesh to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Set aside.

2. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Make filling: In a large bowl, combine sweet potato puree with butter, brown sugar, cardamom, salt, cornmeal, coconut milk, cream and egg yolks, and whisk until well blended.

3. Place pie shell on prepared baking sheet. Brush crimped edge with egg. Pour sweet potato filling into pie shell until it reaches bottom of crimps. Transfer baking sheet with pie to oven and bake until edges puff and center jiggles only slightly when shaken, 40-50 minutes.

4. Transfer pie to a wire rack. Let cool 15 minutes. Decorate perimeter of the pie with toasted coconut. Let cool fully, 4-5 hours. Pie will keep, well-wrapped, in refrigerator up to 2 days.

Coffee Chess Pie

TOTAL TIME: 5½ hours (includes cooling time) MAKES: 1 (9-inch) pie

For the filling and assembly:

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1 cup cold-brew coffee

½ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

¼ cup espresso powder

¼ cup fine yellow cornmeal

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1 cup heavy cream, at room temperature

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 (9-inch) all-butter pie crust, crimped, extra blind baked and cooled (recipe above)

1 large egg, beaten

1. Make filling: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, whisk together brown sugar and cold-brew coffee. Cook until sugar has dissolved and mixture has reduced by one-third, using a metal ruler or handle of a wooden spoon as a gauge. Pour into a medium bowl and let cool slightly. Add melted butter, sugar, espresso powder, cornmeal and salt, and whisk to combine.

2. Crack eggs into another medium bowl. Add cream and vanilla,and whisk to combine. Slowly pour egg mixture into coffee mixture, and whisk to combine. Place extra blind-baked shell on prepared baking sheet. Brush crimped edge with egg. Pour filling into pie shell until it reaches bottom of crimps.

3. Transfer baking sheet with pie on it to oven and bake until edges puff and center jiggles only slightly when shaken, 40-60 minutes. The filling will continue to set as it cools. Remove from oven and transfer pie to a wire rack to cool to room temperature, 4-6 hours. Pie will keep, well wrapped in plastic or under a pie dome, at room temperature up to 2 days.

Apple Sage Gouda Pie

TOTAL TIME: 10 1/4 hours (includes chilling dough and cooling pie) MAKES: 1 (9-inch) pie

Pies That Bind: Thanksgiving Recipes From the Heartland
Photo: E.E. Berger

For the aged gouda pie dough:

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

2½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup unsalted European-style butter, straight from the fridge

1 ounce aged Gouda, grated

For the filling:

2 pounds Northern Spy, Idared or Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and sliced

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

¾ cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons minced fresh sage

¼ cup packed light brown sugar

¼ cup tapioca starch

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon turbinado sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and chilled

1 large egg, beaten

1. Make the dough: Fill a 1-cup liquid measuring cup with 1 inch water and freeze until completely frozen. Before mixing dry ingredients, grab it from freezer and fill with water plus 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar. Set aside while mixing other ingredients for dough.

2. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar and salt, and stir to mix well. Place sticks of butter in bowl and coat on all sides with flour mixture. Cut butter into 1⁄2-inch cubes, working quickly to separate cubes with your hands and lightly coat with flour. Cut each cube in half.

3. Using a pastry blender or fork, cut butter into flour while turning bowl. Continue to blend and turn until largest pieces of butter are pea-size and the rest of mixture resembles canned Parmesan cheese. Add Gouda and mix it in quickly with pastry blender until evenly distributed.

4. Add half of the water-vinegar mixture. Use bench scraper to crape as much of the mixture as you can from one side of the bowl to the other, until you no longer see visible pools of liquid. Use your hands to scoop up as much of mixture as you can, and use the tips of your fingers (and a lot of pressure) to press it back down onto ingredients in bowl. Rotate bowl a quarter-turn and repeat. Scoop, press, and turn, quickly forming mixture into one cohesive mass. Incorporate any dry, floury bits that have congregated at bottom of bowl until dough is formed and no flaky bits remain.

5. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and divide into two equal pieces. Gently pat one half into a 2-inch-thick disc, working quickly to seal any broken edges. Wrap tightly in 2 layers of plastic wrap. Pat other half into a 6-by-3-inch rectangle. Refrigerate dough for at least 2 hours or, ideally, overnight.

6. To roll out pie crust, lightly flour work surface and place unwrapped pie dough in center. Use a rolling pin to bang dough from left to right, striking dough about four times. Rotate dough 180 degrees and bang across dough from left to right again. Use one end of rolling pin to press and roll along edge of round one time, enlarging the circle. After each press of the edge, rotate disc 45 degrees clockwise. If you sense that dough is sticking to surface, lift dough up and lightly flour surface. Place rolling pin in center of dough. Apply pressure to pin while rolling away from yourself, being careful to stop rolling about 1 inch away from edge to avoid over-rolling areas you’ve already rolled. Rotate disc 45 degrees and roll again. If it becomes difficult to rotate dough, lift it up and lightly flour surface beneath. If top surface of dough starts to feel sticky, flip it over onto floured counter and roll on other side. Continue roll and rotation process until you have a circle 12-13 inches in diameter. Gently run rolling pin over dough to ensure even thickness.

7. Invert a pie tin or dish onto circle. Use a pastry cutter or knife, with pie tin as a guide, to cut a circle around tin that is 2 ½-3 inches larger than edge of tin. (Dough scraps can wrapped in plastic and kept in refrigerator for another use.) Remove pie tin and turn it right-side up on work surface. Fold dough circle in half. Place folded dough in pie tin so it covers one-half of tin. Unfold other half, and gently press dough to fit snugly into tin, making sure it is completely centered and pressed all the way into bottom of tin. Chill at least 1 hour.

8. To make lattice strips, roll out rectangle to same thickness as pie shell and cut into 6 equal strips. Chill until ready to use.

9. Make the filling: Transfer apples to a large mixing bowl and toss with lemon juice. In a medium bowl, combine sugar and sage, massaging together with your fingertips. Add brown sugar, tapioca starch, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Add apples and toss until evenly distributed.

10. To assemble: Remove unbaked crust and lattice strips from refrigerator. Sprinkle sugar-flour mixture all over bottom of crust. Layer apples on top, being careful not to mound them in center. Dot apples with butter cubes.

11. Place one strip of lattice across center of the pie. Take another strip and lay it on top, perpendicular to the first one, creating a cross. Lay the next two strips on either side of the first strip you laid down, so they are parallel to each other and the original strip. Next, working with original strip, fold back both ends toward center, then place the last two lattice strips down on either side of second (perpendicular) strip. Fold original strip back down, so that it lies across and on top of newly placed strips. It should look like a woven lattice. Tear off ends of lattice pieces so they are flush with perimeter of tin. Roll edge of crust in, sealing lattice. Crimp, pushing crimps down and into pie, as opposed to keeping them too loose on the edge. Put assembled pie in the freezer for 15 minutes.

12. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Remove pie from freezer and place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush lattice and crimped edge with egg. Transfer baking sheet with pie on it to oven and bake until crust is evenly golden brown, 15-20 minutes. Turn temperature down to 325 degrees and continue to bake until pie juices are bubbling in center, 50-70 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer pie to a wire rack to cool to room temperature, 4-6 hours. Pie will keep, well wrapped in plastic wrap or under a pie dome, at room temperature up to 2 days.

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You Too Can Own James Bond’s Aston Martin—Some Assembly Required

FROM LEGO WITH LOVE The DB5 is equipped with all of Bond’s iconic gadgets, including an ejector seat.
FROM LEGO WITH LOVE The DB5 is equipped with all of Bond’s iconic gadgets, including an ejector seat. Photo: F. Martin Ramin/The Wall Street Journal

I’VE ALWAYS DREAMED of having a project car in the garage. Something friends and I tinker with on the weekends as we drink beers, hats backward, staring into the engine and making excuses for its inadequacies. “Probably the exhaust manifold,” I’d say, not really knowing what that means.

This weekend, sans garage (or friends), I more-or-less achieved my fantasy, putting the final touches on an automotive classic I’ve lusted after for 30 years: James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5. Debuting in 1964’s “Goldfinger,” it is the definitive 007 car, complete with radar tracker, machine-gun masking fog lights, revolving license plates and ejector seat. Granted, my DB5 was made of Legos and fit on my lap, but it was only slightly less seductive than the one Sean Connery steered through Switzerland, evading henchmen.

It felt a little silly to spend a Saturday night piecing together a child’s toy when I’m no longer limited by curfews and am capable of growing a full beard. But play is important for adults, explained Barry Kudrowitz, associate professor of product design at the University of Minnesota. It helps foster creativity thanks to what he calls the Mary Poppins Effect—play being the spoonful of sugar that helps us learn more effectively.

You Too Can Own James Bond’s Aston Martin—Some Assembly Required
Photo: F. Martin Ramin/The Wall Street Journal

“As we get older, society says you’re not supposed to play anymore. Don’t be silly,” Dr. Kudrowitz said. “You have to learn by reading a book or listening to a lecture. But we should be embracing play, in education and in society.”

So I decided to playfully confront the 1,295 Lego pieces in more than 20 bags that comprise the company’s new Aston Martin kit, part of its Creator series (“expert level”). Though I have a disrespect for authority, I followed the instructions to a T, collecting all necessary pieces before snapping any two together. What started as an awkward mess of interlocking shapes evolved into the DB5 during the 15-odd hours it took to build. At times, I wasn’t sure which part I was crafting until I slid it into its place, completing a satisfying puzzle.

On two different nights I looked up to see the clock winding closer to 2 a.m. But I didn’t stop. Each small step took only a handful of minutes so why not complete a few more before bed? That meditative, immersive high is what Dr. Kudrowitz calls flow. “When the challenge matches your skill set you’re fully engaged in an activity,” he said. “That is when you’re most creative.” Too easy and you get bored. Too complicated and you get stressed and frustrated and quit.

Lego Aston Martin DB5

You Too Can Own James Bond’s Aston Martin—Some Assembly Required
Photo: F. Martin Ramin/The Wall Street Journal

Series: Lego Creator

Build Level: Expert, Age 16+

Price: $150, lego.com

Pieces: 1295 pieces, 263 steps

Size: 1:8 scale, 4x3x13 inches

Build Time: About 15 hours

Fun Level: 9 (of 10)

Frustration Level: 3 (of 10)

Whatever the box says, I’m no “expert,” so I encountered plenty of frustration. At one point, I realized I’d snapped two integral pieces into the wrong place (by one measly Lego stud!) eight steps ago, utterly preventing any progress. Instead of throwing my DB5 against a wall (my go-to as a kid) I calmly backtracked, fixed it and moved forward again. I guess this is growing up.

I loved the details of the DB5 kit, like a small red phone hidden behind a secret compartment in the door. But I was oddly let down once I snapped the four tire scythes onto the car’s chrome wire rims. After 263 steps, I was done, but I no longer had a project to occupy my mind and satisfy my curiosity. Now I just had a toy I didn’t really need. OK, yes, I zoomed it around the room for a few minutes. It’s a surprisingly smooth ride, if a little delicate in my adult grip. But I can already imagine it gathering dust.

“I have a super cool Lego Saturn V on my shelf,” said Brian Volk-Weiss, creator of “The Toys That Made Us” on Netflix. “I’d never in 100 years do it, but it would be great to smash it and start again. It always bittersweet when it’s over.”

That’s because Lego doesn’t exactly create toys, said Dr. Kudrowitz. It creates experiences. “The fun is in making it. To get another fun experience you need to buy another kit. That’s how they get you.”

The beauty of Lego is that anyone who wants to up the challenge can dismantle a kit, take the scattered pieces and create their own experiences. My friend Kyle Wigboldy has the savant-like ability to envision the world as if it’s made of Lego. He once built a 11:1 scale Porsche 911 from scratch, complete with independent suspension. “I see some car on the road or in a magazine,” he said, “and think ‘I’m going to make that.’” He then appeals to the auto maker for blueprints and starts scaling it to the wheel size, and then breaks his build down into specific Lego parts, both ones from existing kits he owns and others he orders a la carte on bricklink.com.

“I determine the scale and hardpoints,” Mr. Wigboldy said. “Then I start building around that, taking into account structures, aesthetics, colors.” For “significant” designs he documents the process to create instruction booklets he sells on Flickr. A perfect mix of work and play.

SNAP TO IT / Challenging Sets to Get You Started
You Too Can Own James Bond’s Aston Martin—Some Assembly Required
Photo: LEGO

Beginner: Construct the Shanghai skyline from Lego’s Architecture series. 597 pieces, $60, lego.com

You Too Can Own James Bond’s Aston Martin—Some Assembly Required
Photo: LEGO

Advanced: Erect a Rough Terrain Crane complete with working motor. 4,057 pieces, $399, lego.com

You Too Can Own James Bond’s Aston Martin—Some Assembly Required
Photo: LEGO

Expert: Build the Millennium Falcon, Lego’s largest most detailed set to date. 7,541 pieces, $799, lego.com

More in Gear & Gadgets

The Coolest, Under-the-Radar Ski Towns in the American West

SNOW BOUND Historic Truckee, Calif., conveniently near the major ski areas of the Sierra Nevada.
SNOW BOUND Historic Truckee, Calif., conveniently near the major ski areas of the Sierra Nevada. Photo: Scott Thompson

AS SOON as the first big snow falls, tony ski hubs like Aspen, Telluride and Park City get all the love, but a clutch of small mountain towns all over the American West perk up in winter too. Places like Ogden, Utah, and Frisco, Colo.—both a short drive from top ski resorts—aren’t just more affordable alternatives to the usual suspects. Filled with locals and die-hard skiers, these small towns exude a low-key coolness you just won’t find around the fire pits at the luxury resorts. Here, four under-the-radar destinations for ski season.

Ogden, Utah

About 40 miles north of Salt Lake City International Airport, Ogden makes a swell base for skiing at both swank Snowbasin and scruffy Powder Mountain. A former rail hub that hit a rough patch, it’s rebounded in recent years by banking on an active nightlife that upends Utah’s staid reputation. Most of the action centers around Historic 25th Street, lined with several bars and restaurants. One culinary standout is Hearth on 25th, where that titular hearth turns out yak meatballs and oven-roasted rabbit (195 25th St., hearth25.com). For accommodations, the Bigelow Hotel (built in 1891) clings proudly to its 1920s heyday; the décor is all art-deco chandeliers and ornate ceilings reliefs (from $120 a night, bigelowhotelogden.com). Come weekend mornings, you’ll find some of the biggest crowds in Ogden milling around Grounds for Coffee, a good place to quiz locals about their favorite double-diamond runs (111 25th St., groundsforcoffee.com). Want a break from the slopes? Check out the indoor Salomon Center, home to a wave pool, a rock-climbing wall and the “iFly” skydiving experience (2261 Kiesel Ave.).

Frisco, Colo.

Several top Colorado resorts, including Vail and Breckenridge, are within a 30-minute drive from Frisco, sitting pretty at 9,000 feet next to the Dillon Reservoir. And it takes just 10 minutes to reach underrated Copper Mountain. Right within city limits is the Frisco Adventure Park, where you can go tubing, snowshoeing, dog-sledding and cross-country skiing. A former beneficiary of the local silver-mining boom, Frisco retains some of that frontier-town appeal, starting with a cinematic Main Street lined with mom-and-pop businesses, including the 40-year-old Butterhorn Bakery and Café, which serves a killer breakfast (408 Main St., butterhornbakery.com). But Frisco has its share of lively new spots, too, such as the HighSide Brewing craft-beer bar (720 Main St., highsidebrewing.com). Built in 1885 as a stagecoach stop, the Frisco Lodge Bed and Breakfast is smack in the middle of downtown (from $194 a night, friscolodge.com).

20 MINUTES AWAY Wyoming’s Grand Targhee Resort, a quick drive from the small town of Driggs, Idaho.
20 MINUTES AWAY Wyoming’s Grand Targhee Resort, a quick drive from the small town of Driggs, Idaho. Photo: Grand Targhee Resort
Driggs, Idaho

Tucked in the Teton Valley, Driggs sits near two great Wyoming ski areas: Grand Targhee is a 20-minute drive away while Jackson Hole is an hour. With fewer than 2,000 inhabitants, Driggs lacks the hotel bounty found in larger cities, but both Airbnb and VRBO list an ample supply of affordable lodging options. Bonus: You can stock up for groceries at Driggs’s excellent supermarket, Broulim’s. Alternatively, Warbirds Café, nestled inside the tiny Driggs airport, prepares some of the tastiest food in town, skewed toward local products—think grilled bison chile tamale or seared steelhead trout (675 Airport Rd., warbirdscafe.com). For après-ski cocktails back at your rental—or for a curious Idaho souvenir—stop in at the Grand Teton Distillery to pick up a bottle of huckleberry-flavored vodka (1755 N. Highway 33, tetondistillery.com).

Truckee, Calif.

A few miles inland from the north shore of Lake Tahoe, Truckee is about a 15-minute drive from the major Sierra Nevada areas such as Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows and Northstar, and about 30 minutes from Homewood Mountain Resort. Unsurprisingly, thanks to its location, this old logging town has morphed into a sporty tourist center over the years. These days it’s better equipped to wine and dine those tourists. The farm-to-table ethos rules at Truckee Philosophy, specializing in sous-vide meats and colorful salads (10412 Donner Pass Rd., truckeephilosophy.com), while beer aficionados can bar crawl between Truckee Brewing Company, FiftyFifty Brewing and Alibi Ale Works. Last year, the latter opened a second location, dubbed the Truckee Public House (10069 Bridge St., alibialeworks.com), that offers live music and chimichurri beef nachos. As for accommodations, the Cedar House Sport Hotel is a decidedly modern take on the rustic mountain lodge (from $180 a night, cedarhousesporthotel.com).

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Your Puffy Coat Is Too Puffy

THE BIG TIME George Costanza’s winter coat on ’Seinfeld’ was a laugh-out-loud gag, a symbol of sacrificing style for warmth…not that there’s anything wrong with that.
THE BIG TIME George Costanza’s winter coat on ’Seinfeld’ was a laugh-out-loud gag, a symbol of sacrificing style for warmth…not that there’s anything wrong with that. Photo: PhotoFest

AT SOME POINT every winter, on one of those 20-degree mornings here in New York, I envy George Costanza. To be more exact, I envy one particular coat worn by the “Seinfeld” grump (I’ll keep my full head of hair, thank you very much). In “The Dinner Party,” an episode in the sitcom’s fifth season, Jason Alexander’s curmudgeonly character waddles into Jerry’s apartment in a poofy black Gore-Tex jacket. Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) calls him “bubble boy,” yet George is unperturbed. It’s cold, and his feathery cocoon is toasty. “You wish you had this coat!” he spits back. And I must admit, I do.

Well, I covet its coziness, if not its overblown profile. George’s coat exemplifies function over fashion: It might serve as a portable sauna, but it makes him look like a bloated gorilla. This winter, two decades after that episode aired, high-fashion brands like Jil Sander, Givenchy, Rick Owens and Burberry are overstuffing their own outerwear—with a difference. The shells are matte, not glossy; the shapes are longer, even debonair. These suddenly stylish inflated coats aren’t just being created by labels with inflated price tags: Affordable brands such as Uniqlo and Zara are flinging out their own fluffy puffers. Then there are the stalwarts: Outdoor labels like Patagonia and Marmot have long marketed practical marshmallowy parkas, and this year the North Face re-released its poofy Nuptse puffer from 1996, which, like many bubble coats, was popular among rappers and their fans in the waning 20th century.

“In the early ’90s I lived in Wisconsin and it was cold, and all of the hip hop kids, all the streetwear kids, wore really big puffy jackets,” said Jeremy Smith, 41, the owner of Standard and Strange, a denim store in Oakland, Calif. Along with chunky sneakers, rugby shirts and bucket hats, the renaissance of chubby parkas aligns with a larger ’90s fashion revival. That may shed light on why jackets are expanding, but the larger question remains: Does any man actually require a coat that huge?

SERIOUSLY? A new ultra-bloated look by 5 Moncler Craig Green.
SERIOUSLY? A new ultra-bloated look by 5 Moncler Craig Green.

“You don’t necessarily need a giant puffy jacket unless you’re somewhere really, really cold [like] Manitoba or Saskatchewan in the middle of winter at -40 degrees Celsius,” said Renata C. Mannino, the product line manager at Arc’teryx, a Vancouver, Canada outerwear company. Since the amount of insulation does roughly relate to how warm a jacket is, in most cases an extravagantly inflated puffer constitutes overkill.

In Burlington, Vt., where 28-year-old digital strategist Tyler Sandoval lives, many locals own “comically large” the North Face puffers for skiing and backcountry hiking. Yet they pose problems off the mountain, he said: Bigger is not necessarily always better, especially when most spaces are vigorously heated throughout winter. “Walking around it’ll be cold in the winter,” said Mr. Sandoval, “but then you go into every store and it’s warm as hell.” And in a restaurant or movie theater, a gigundo down jacket takes up so much space you might as well pay for an extra seat. Mr. Sandoval finds his slender Patagonia down jacket plenty warm on most days, though he did qualify that its thinner shell is more susceptible to snags (“mine’s covered in duct tape”) and so he primarily wears it underneath a Barbour jacket, which works as a scratch-proof cover.

Puffiness also hinders mobility and scope for styling. “When you have a very bulky jacket it’s definitely warm, but you can’t do a lot of things in it—you definitely can’t layer it,” said Kim Smith, head of product at Everlane, which just launched its first recycled synthetic-down jacket, made with Primaloft. Unlike down, this environmentally friendly fill is not plucked from animals and reuses existing materials. Everlane’s puffer, added Ms. Smith, is “lightweight so you can go for a run in it, do a long walk in it,” tasks that George Costanza’s restrictive Gore-Tex juggernaut would render mighty challenging.

GAINING WEIGHT / The Season’s Puffer Coats, Ranked From Thin to Kingpin
Your Puffy Coat Is Too Puffy

1. Arc’teryx Veilance Jacket, $550, arcteryx.com; 2. ReNew Puffer, $98, everlane.com; 3. Moncler Grenoble Jacket, $1,515, farfetch.com; 4. Herno Parka, $895, 212-226-1432; 5. Silas Puffer, $595, saturdaysnyc.com

Write to Jacob Gallagher at Jacob.Gallagher@wsj.com

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How To Work Out Efficiently If You’re a Workaholic

How To Work Out Efficiently If You’re a Workaholic
Illustration: Victoria Tenter-Krylov

WHEN CINDY PRESENT hops on her paddle board to commute to her job as director of fitness and activities at Lake Austin Spa & Resort in Texas, the 54-year-old isn’t thinking how meta the situation is. She just wants to be sure to factor her own workout into a grueling 12-hour workday. And even if she doesn’t get off work until 10 p.m., Ms. Present simply flicks on her board’s navigational light for the return: “Going home by the light of the moon is epic. There’s never a tough day at work after a paddle home.”

Hard-charging, driven types have found myriad new ways to wedge fitness into a day at the office. Whether it’s attending shorter versions of cult boutique classes, lifting heavier weights less frequently or streaming fitness apps, disciplined exercisers are getting creative about their workouts. How to take a page from their reps logs:

Be efficient “Spending an hour in the gym is old-school thinking,” said Amy Shapiro, a registered dietitian and founder of nutritional counseling service Real Nutrition NYC. “For my clients who work a lot, I recommend shorter, more intense workouts of 20 or 30 minutes.” Fitness purveyors are increasingly creating quickie versions of signature classes. SLT’s 30-minute “Express” individual session, offered at its SLT/X location in Manhattan’s Flatiron district, shaves 20 minutes off what its website calls its “slow-paced, fat burning” original. Type-A Angelenos flock to a 25-minute class at Lagree Fitness Studios’s Westwood and West Hollywood locations that equips each user with a patented Space Age-ish contraption called the Supra, which both inclines and tilts.

Be more stringent With the goal of doing more in less time, many quickie workouts incorporate heavy weights. Publicist Dianne Vavra, 51, swears by once-a-week sessions at InForm, a Manhattan-based pioneer of the 20-minute workout. Ms. Vavra, who lifts the heaviest weight she can handle, said, “They work you to failure. This is the only time when failure is good.” Another New York studio, Shock Therapy Fitness, deploys Electro Muscle Stimulation, the exercise technology used by in-flight astronauts, for its high-intensity, 30-minute classes.

Be digital With the explosion of streaming fitness services, excuses not to exercise are so mid-aughts. Ms. Shapiro, the dietitian, enthused about Aaptiv, an audio fitness app that offers workouts as short as five minutes. Trainiac ($50 a month, trainiacfit.com) is a new app that pairs members virtually with a personal trainer, who works around your schedule. Still not app-y? Just flick on your TV. With the growing roster of speedy fitness classes served up on Amazon Prime, including the popular BeFIT Transform, that “Homecoming” binge may just have to wait.

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The WSJ Debuts U.S. Airport Rankings

The Best of the Biggest U.S. Airports
Photo: Oli Winward

Call it the Mile-High Miracle: Denver International Airport is the best airport in the U.S. in the first-ever Wall Street Journal U.S. Airport Rankings. Once a symbol of high cost and dysfunction, Denver soared in rankings of reliability, value and convenience.

The rankings scored the 20 largest U.S. air depots in 15 categories, from on-time reliability to longest walk. The rankings are designed to reflect what matters most to travelers, including categories like security-line wait times, Wi-Fi speed, average Yelp scores for restaurants, average fares, Uber cost to the local convention center, rental-car taxes and fees, number of nonstop destinations and market dominance of the largest airline.

Inside the Airport Rankings

The Journal has ranked the 20 largest U.S. airports after weighing 14 key factors plus a survey of over 4,800 readers. Below are the overall rankings, as well as their rankings in groups of measurements labeled most reliable, best value and most comfortable. Click on the airport name to see more details.

(1) The average of an airport’s reliability, value and convenience scores. (2) Includes on-time arrival percentage, flight cancellation percentage, average arrival delays, average time between gate departure and takeoff and TSA screening times. (3) Includes domestic fares, market share of airport’s largest airline, cheapest on-site parking rate, car-rental taxes and UberX fare to convention center. (4) Includes Wi-Fi speeds, Yelp restaurant ratings, maximum walking distances, non-stop destinations and a WSJ reader satisfaction score.

The rankings also relied on an extensive survey of WSJ readers whose input on overall experience, ease of use, security, restaurants, shopping, airline clubs, bathroom cleanliness, electric charging outlets and other categories was graded and scored.

[Need a winter coat? Airport vending machines are going beyond soft drinks to offer gloves, makeup and fresh salads.]

Airports world-wide have come to realize that offering good food turns out to be more profitable than peddling $10 hot dogs off rolling warmers. Having clean, modern facilities matters, and airports across the country have upped their game significantly. Airports say their own research shows what often matters most isn’t dramatic public art or even comfortable seating or power plugs. It’s clean bathrooms.

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“Most or even all U.S. airports have made huge strides over the past decade,” noted reader Bob MacLeod of Orlando, Fla. “I love flying through an airport I have not been to in a while just to see what’s new.”

In the total rankings of all 15 measures, Denver edged Orlando and Phoenix for the top spot with high scores in reliability value and convenience categories. Denver was the only airport to place in the top four in each of those three broad categories.

Orlando, which ranked second among the 20 airports overall, scored high in convenience—walking distance is low, for example. Phoenix, third-best overall, benefited from a low percentage of canceled flights, short average delay and taxi time for departing aircraft and cheap on-site parking rates.

Two giant hub airports—Atlanta, the world’s busiest, and Dallas-Fort Worth—scored very well in the 15-category WSJ rankings. Big congestion often means big inconvenience and higher cost at airports, but ATL and DFW overcame their size disadvantage. At the bottom of the comprehensive rankings? No surprises: the three New York-area airports, LaGuardia, Kennedy and Newark. Among the woes: delays, cancellations, high fares and lousy food.

Denver International Airport is located a ways from downtown, but the rail system has helped make the trip into the middle of town easier.
Denver International Airport is located a ways from downtown, but the rail system has helped make the trip into the middle of town easier. Photo: Gary A. Conner/Getty Images

The top three airports—Denver, Orlando and Phoenix—have one major factor in common: strong competition among airlines. Denver is one of the few airports with three major airlines connecting customers: United, Southwest and Frontier. In Phoenix, American and Southwest compete with connecting hubs. In Orlando, the largest airline, Delta, controls only 28% of passenger traffic.

All three airlines big in Denver compete head-to-head on some routes, and so far, it’s working. “Each has found its niche with a different sort of customer, and all three are growing,” says Kim Day, chief executive officer at DIA.

The Fare Is Fair

Tourist destinations Las Vegas and Orlando offered the best average domestic ticket prices for the first quarter of 2018.

Lowest average fare

New York LaGuardia

Since no airline has more than 50% of Denver’s traffic, “no one gets to dominate the discussion and tell us what to do,” she notes. That frees airport management to spend on improvements even when airlines might prefer cost-cutting.

Denver, Phoenix and Orlando are all strong business and leisure destinations that benefit from ample airline service and low fares. All three airports spend heavily on improvements. (Airports in the U.S. can charge each departing passenger $4.50 built into the ticket price. That helps pay for major construction projects.)

Orlando now has a customer-service department that trains all airport employees, from fast-food workers to skycaps to TSA officers, on how to make eye contact, be productive and pick up trash. The airport hands out recognition awards.

“Our challenge is we’ve got frequent fliers and we’ve got infrequent fliers and sometimes that’s a volatile mix, because the frequent fliers never want to get [stuck waiting] behind the infrequent fliers,” says Phillip Brown, CEO of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority. “We really need to try and figure out better ways to accommodate both.”

Journal readers voiced particular fondness of smaller, less-crowded airports, but the rankings focus only on larger airports that dominate travel and together share unique challenges of accommodating 30 million to 100 million passengers a year each.

Among big airports, readers graded Detroit, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Denver highest. Bringing up the rear? New York LaGuardia, Los Angeles, Newark, New York Kennedy and Philadelphia.

Uber-Expensive

No airport averaged a higher cost of an UberX ride to city center than New York’s JFK. Charlotte and Phoenix tied for the lowest, with just under $13.

Most expensive UberX fares from airport to convention center

New York JFK

New York LaGuardia

Big hubs dominated by a single major airline would seem to be at a disadvantage in the WSJ rankings because they typically suffer from delays and higher fares. But Atlanta, where Delta carries 73% of passengers, and DFW, where American controls 69% of traffic, proved much stronger in other categories than other large hubs.

Atlanta benefits from Delta’s strong reliability—it had the second-best on-time arrivals rate among all airports. Both ATL and DFW have expanded with low-fare carrier competition and spent heavily on refurbishing terminals and improving services. Atlanta, for example, invested in a new Wi-Fi system that scored third-fastest in Ookla’s Speedtest for airports conducted January to April this year.

Readers praised Atlanta’s clean and modern amenities, appreciating the ease of catching flights and making connections even though the airport is the world’s busiest. High on the list: food options, efficient underground train service and good airline clubs.

“It is easy to get to parking, terminals and gates, and there is usually a good flow through TSA checkpoints,” says reader Thaddeus Roppel of Auburn, Ala. “Ground transportation is reasonably easy to access and the nearby freeway infrastructure makes getting to downtown or suburbs fairly straightforward. If only Atlanta traffic were as well-managed.”

DFW has flights to more cities nonstop than any other U.S. airport, the third-lowest average TSA wait time and, after major effort by the airport to boost offerings, the second-highest food ranking. The airport has recently spent $2 billion updating its three oldest terminals.

But DFW CEO Sean Donohue says sometimes what matters most to travelers are the simple things. The airport made a decision three years ago to spend $5 million more to raise janitorial wages and the frequency of bathroom cleaning. Another recent improvement: High-tech glass that helps lower the temperature in terminals on hot Texas days. After installation, sales at one bar doubled.

Reader Jeff Terry scored DFW best in his evaluation. “Shortest car to gate. Most destinations. Great amenities. Many entry points thru security. Good inter-terminal transit. Easy to get to. #1 globally no doubt,” he says.

Explore the Airports

Atlanta | Boston | Charlotte | Chicago | Dallas-Fort Worth | Denver | Detroit | Houston | Las Vegas | Los Angeles | Miami | Minneapolis-St. Paul | Newark | New York JFK | New York LaGuardia | Orlando | Philadelphia | Phoenix | San Francisco | Seattle-Tacoma

Write to Scott McCartney at middleseat@wsj.com

Corrections & Amplifications
Denver posted high scores in reliability, value and convenience in the WSJ Airport Rankings. Orlando had a high convenience score. Phoenix ranked fourth in value. An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Denver had the highest reliability score, Orlando had the highest convenience score and Phoenix had the second-best value score.

Appeared in the November 15, 2018, print edition as ‘THE BEST U.S. AIRPORTS 2018.’

How to Own a Rare Piece of Automotive History

The Italian car styling firm Bertone produced some of the most important supercars of the 20th century, but an auction this month will be the closing chapter for this storied autos styling house. Photo: Lamborghini

EARLIER THIS year, auction house Aste Bolaffi sent its car historian Massimo Delbo to the outskirts of Turin to catalog the contents of a factory once owned by Bertone, a century-old Italian car styling company that went bankrupt in 2014. Mr. Delbo expected to spend a single day picking through the factory’s remains, but once he cracked open the doors, he realized the project could take him months.

Drawer after drawer, room after room revealed thousands of beautifully hand-drawn sketches, design models, technical prints, full-scale concepts and production cars of some of the most important and unique automobiles of the last 50 years, from famous Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Alfa Romeos, to wildly creative prototypes.

Alfa Romeo Montreal, 1971, estimated price: about $79,000-$96,000.
Alfa Romeo Montreal, 1971, estimated price: about $79,000-$96,000. Photo: Garage Bolaffi

“Everything there was left covered in dust. That, usually, in the classic car world is a good sign” said Mr. Delbo, because it means the pieces are undisturbed by weather or human hands.

Many of the materials, including silk-screen prints of the Lamborghini Countach, Ferrari Dino 308 and Lancia Stratos that once adorned Bertone headquarters are up for auction this weekend in Turin (register for the auction at astebolaffi.it). None have a reserve price.

With designers such as Marcello Gandini—who at 25 began drafting what would become Lamborghini’s Miura and Countach—Bertone defined the aesthetics of supercars in the mid-to-late 20th century. “He created something that was simply outrageous,” said Mr. Delbo.

Some brands that hired Bertone produced the exotic designs; others took only small details of a sketch, such as a light cluster. Many ideas never made it to showrooms but they represent a vision of what might have been, which is why, as classic car auctions become big business, models of Bertone designs are in high demand by collectors.

Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione ‘Pandion’ 100-year anniversary car, 2010, sold for $650,000.
Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione ‘Pandion’ 100-year anniversary car, 2010, sold for $650,000. Photo: Garage Bolaffi

If there were any question about Bertone’s artistic value, it was answered when, ahead of a similar auction held in May, Italy’s Ministry for Culture declared that many original drawings were part of Italy’s heritage and could not leave the country.

Owning these relics might seem an attractive investment to someone with more than enough to spend at auction, but they’re “not like a share or a bond that you can buy today and sell tomorrow,” warned Adolfo Orsi Jr., co-author of the “Classic Car Auction Yearbook,” an annual publication of data, trends and sales from all major auctions in the U.S. and Europe.

The market can be dangerous, blowing hot and cold, he added. In his 1993-94 yearbook, the most popular marque was Rolls-Royce, which accounted for 11% of all dollars spent at auction and aftermarket sales. Porsche brought in less than 1%. Things are different now. Over the past 12 months, 28% of the $1.2 billion exchanged at car auctions was spent on Ferraris; 8% on Mercedes Benzes, 6% on Aston Martins. If the market turns against you, it could take months before a car sells, or you might have to consider taking a big loss: “You have to buy the car because you like the car. With any luck, you’ll also make a return on your investment.”

Alfa Romeo 2000 Veloce, 1974, about $39,000-$51,000 (not available at auction).
Alfa Romeo 2000 Veloce, 1974, about $39,000-$51,000 (not available at auction). Photo: Garage Bolaffi

The best bargains: cars that have already had lots of restoration work, said Mr. Orsi, because the financial hit someone took to spruce them up is rarely reflected at auction. A third of cars sold at U.S. and European classic car auctions in the last three years had no reserve and sold for the hammer price, plus fees, no matter how low the winning bid.

Conversely, buying a very cheap car that needs restoration is rarely worthwhile as parts can be scarce, said Mr. Orsi. “Most of the time the [restoration] cost is higher than the value of the car.”

Along with the classic-car category—anything older than three decades—two more groupings have recently been defined. One is “youngtimers,” cars under 30 years old. Easier to maintain and to find, these autos tend to fetch less at auction than their original asking price.

The other, considerably more expensive, group is the “instant classics.” When Ford released a new version of its GT in 2017, it quickly acquired this status. The same could be said of certain Bugattis, Ferraris and Paganis, often built in limited editions. But the same warnings about fickle market sentiment apply.

Chevrolet Corvette Mantide, 2000, rejected 1:1 full-scale design model, about $1,100-$1,700.
Chevrolet Corvette Mantide, 2000, rejected 1:1 full-scale design model, about $1,100-$1,700. Photo: Garage Bolaffi

“Design is about history, not the future,” said Mike Robinson, a car designer whose career was inspired by a Bertone Stratos Zero prototype poster he saw in college and who eventually became the brand’s final design director, adding that we may not know which designs were truly influential for 50 years.

This November auction allows classic car enthusiasts to buy into Bertone’s archives of innovative vehicles, and also discover designs that remained hidden until now.

There are a number of cars for sale at the auction, including a 1971 Alfa Romeo Montreal and 1968 Fiat Dino Coupe. Among the more unusual designs being auctioned: the 1:5 scale BMW Pickster, a 1990s prototype pickup truck for the German brand. There’s also a 1:5 scale model of Chevy’s Ramarro, Bertone’s 1980s reinvention of the Corvette. And if you have the space, a full scale 1:1 nonworking model of the Chevrolet Corvette Mantide, another variation on the American classic.

Lamborghini Countach 1:5 scale design model, about $1,700-$2,800.
Lamborghini Countach 1:5 scale design model, about $1,700-$2,800. Photo: Garage Bolaffi

Other design mocks likely to attract enormous interest include Mr. Gandini’s models, an Alfa Romeo Carabo and the Lamborghini Athon. Most of these lots have modest guide prices, starting at about $570, but it’s conceivable that prices could soar.

The auction also includes more esoteric lots such as spare parts, rims, cars seats, an ax that was used to mark wood deemed of suitable quality for use on Bertone cars and a drafting table likely used by Mr. Gandini.

It’s not the same as driving a Lamborghini—but in many ways it’s better.

More in Gear & Gadgets

Airport Rankings Table and Methodology

Inside the Airport Rankings

The Journal has ranked the 20 largest U.S. airports after weighing 14 key factors plus a survey of over 4,800 readers. Below are the overall rankings, as well as their rankings in groups of measurements labeled most reliable, best value and most comfortable. Click on the airport name to see more details.

(1) The average of an airport’s reliability, value and convenience scores. (2) Includes on-time arrival percentage, flight cancellation percentage, average arrival delays, average time between gate departure and takeoff and TSA screening times. (3) Includes domestic fares, market share of airport’s largest airline, cheapest on-site parking rate, car-rental taxes and UberX fare to convention center. (4) Includes Wi-Fi speeds, Yelp restaurant ratings, maximum walking distances, non-stop destinations and a WSJ reader satisfaction score.

Methodology

The Wall Street Journal U.S. Airport Rankings are based on 14 different measures important to travelers plus an extensive survey of nearly 5,000 subscribers.

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Reader comments and evaluations were scored in a customer-satisfaction grade for each of the 20 busiest U.S. airports, making the 15th category. With both user experiences and data on convenience, cost and reliability, the rankings offer perhaps the most comprehensive evaluation of U.S. airports.

The rankings were limited to the 20 largest airports to provide fair comparisons at airports dealing with the complexity of tens of millions of passengers. Many readers have favorites among smaller airports, but they don’t always deal with the same challenges of congestion, delays and crowds.

The measures used were selected by Middle Seat columnist Scott McCartney and several editors. They fell into three main categories:

Convenience

1. WSJ reader survey. More than 4,800 subscribers participated in an online survey of airport preferences and experiences. Comments and evaluations were scored into an overall customer-satisfaction grade for each of the 20 airports.

2. Non-stop cities served. Non-stop flights offer convenience for travelers. Airports offer incentives to airlines for new service, and most have active recruitment programs to expand service. Having more destinations scored higher. The number of destinations was reported by each airport.

3. Wi-Fi speed. Average download speed from Ookla Speedtest conducted at airports January-April 2018 on available free Wi-Fi.

4. Longest walk. Provided by each airport. Airports were asked for the longest possible walk from the curb of the terminal to the farthest gate, including use of escalators, moving walkways and trains or trams.

5. Yelp restaurant rating. Yelp provided averages of its ratings for all restaurants at each airport, as of October 2017.

Reliability

6. On-time arrivals. Bureau of Transportation Statistics data for the 12 months ending July 2018 showing the percentage of flights at each airport arriving at gates within 14 minutes of scheduled time, the Transportation Department’s definition of on-time.

7. Percentage of flights canceled. BTS data for 12 months ending July 2018. Reliability matters and this category, like others, showed wide operational differences. At LaGuardia, more than 4% of flights were canceled. At Seattle, less than half of one percent.

8. Average arrival delay. This is the measure of when flights are delayed, how badly do things go. BTS data for 12 months ending July 2018.

9. Aircraft taxi-out times. This measure reflects both congestion and traffic delays at airports as well as the layout of the airfield. Taxiing is a significant part of a flight. Las Vegas had the lowest average taxi-out time, but it was still close to 15 minutes. Data from BTS for January through July 2018.

10. TSA wait times. Waits in standard lanes (not PreCheck), January-July 2018, provided by TSA. Note that TSA collection of wait-time data has been questioned for reliability since managers could take discretion on when data is collected. Several airports are moving to automatic systems that can post current wait times.

Value

11. Average domestic fare. The cost to fly into and out of each airport, based on a sampling of tickets collected by BTS for the first quarter of 2018.

12. Largest airline’s market share. This measures the dominance of the largest carrier at an airport and reflects how much competition there is. A lower passenger share—more competition—was scored higher than having one airline with a fortress hub. The data are from BTS for a 12-month period ending June 2018.

13. Cheapest on-site parking. The cheapest parking rate (provided by each airport) represents a direct measure of value at an airport—how concerned it is with accommodating its most budget-minded travelers.

14. Rental-car taxes and fees. Based on total taxes and fees on a $100, two-day rental at Hertz. Not all taxes and fees are airport-related; some include fees for sports stadiums, state-imposed and city-imposed taxes. Many airports do collect added fees to pay for constructing consolidated rental-car facilities and other costs, and many communities have taken to heavily taxing visitors.

15. Average UberX fare to convention center. Uber provided its average UberX fare from each airport to the city’s primary convention center for October.

Data research by Mark Secada, Phillipa Ramirez and Allison Foley of the WSJ R&D team.