Auto Biography: A Classic Car, an Outlaw Motorhead, and 57 Years of the American Dream [NOOK Book]

Overview

An unforgettable ode to American car culture, award-winning author Earl Swift's wise, funny, and captivating narrative follows an outlaw-genius motorhead as he attempts to restore an iconic 1957 Chevy from rusted-out wreck to gleaming, chromed work of American art—before the FBI closes in

A classic '57 Chevy, in wretched shape: Its surviving paint is sun-bleached, salt-pocked, and cracked like a dry lakebed. Its engine hasn't turned over in years. Slumped among hundreds of other...

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Auto Biography: A Classic Car, an Outlaw Motorhead, and 57 Years of the American Dream

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Overview

An unforgettable ode to American car culture, award-winning author Earl Swift's wise, funny, and captivating narrative follows an outlaw-genius motorhead as he attempts to restore an iconic 1957 Chevy from rusted-out wreck to gleaming, chromed work of American art—before the FBI closes in

A classic '57 Chevy, in wretched shape: Its surviving paint is sun-bleached, salt-pocked, and cracked like a dry lakebed. Its engine hasn't turned over in years. Slumped among hundreds of other rusting hulks on a windswept patch of eastern North Carolina, the Chevy evokes none of the Jet Age optimism that made it the most beloved and instantly recognizable car to ever roll off an assembly line.

But for its unlikely rescuer—a felon arrested seventy-odd times, and a man who's been written off as a ruin himself—the Chevy isn't junk, it's a fossil of the twentieth-century American experience, of a people devoted to and forever changed by the automobile. For Tommy Arney, it's a piece of history, especially so because its decrepit skin conceals a rare asset: a complete provenance, stretching back more than fifty years through twelve previous owners. So, hassled by banks and the FBI, the Chevy's thirteenth owner embarks on a mission to save the car and preserve the long record of human experience it carries with it—before his own volatile demons doom him and the car.

Earl Swift's masterful narrative charts the shifting dreams and fortunes of the people who've gripped this endangered icon's steering wheel, and in the process captures America's strange and abiding relationship with the automobile as no book has before.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
05/12/2014
In this engrossing and entertaining book, Swift (The Big Roads) tells the story of a car—not the story of a classic car model, but the story of a particular 1957 Chevy owned, in the 57 years since its manufacture, by 14 different people. While at first the conceit may seem itself too manufactured, the narrative tactful unfolds with deeply human stories of struggle, ambition, hopes, dreams. The book's main thread follows Tommy Arney, a charming, foul-mouthed, and endlessly interesting businessman, who is tasked with restoring the Chevy to its original glory. We learn along the way the life of the vehicle and how it fit into the lives of its previous owners; we learn too of Arney's past, marked by violence and struggles of his own. Swift is a wonderful guide and the stories he relates are engaging in their own right. Yielded together, though, these vignettes take on a fuller meaning, as the restoration becomes social metaphor. (May)
TRACY KIDDER
“I’ve never met Earl Swift, but from the very first page of this book I like him. Auto Biography is exuberant, big-spirited, and more than occasionally profound.”
BILL MORRIS
“Earl Swift has done something astonishing. He has let us see the unwinding of the American Dream through the windshield of a single 1957 Chevy-and through the stories of every one of its owners. Auto Biography is funny and sad and wise, an ingenious joyride of a book.”
Booklist
“Fascinating... The author tells Arney’s story deftly and with great, often raw, humor, and it rarely loses momentum.”
Christian Science Monitor
“A true tall tale that doubles as a complicated fable, Auto Biography is the wild and woolly saga of a 1957 Chevrolet station wagon, its 13 owners, and Tommy Arney, the appetite-forward, contradictorily honorable character who restores the four-door chariot to a glory even greater than its original.”
New York Post
“[A] must read … It’s the bromance of the ages: a ruined man and and a ruined ‘57 Chevy find happiness in each other’s arms.”
Daily Progress (Charlottesville
“Dazzling. … Many readers likely will feel the description Swift paints of Arney in the first page and a half of the book is worth the $26.99 price tag alone.”
Matt Stone
“A good fun read. … There’s rust, havoc, renovation and redemption, for the car and several of its owners. … The car talk is interesting and accurate; an easy and well written read. Swift is a big name, award-winning writer, and his chops show well here.”
Joe Bargmann
“A fresh, personal perspective on America’s love affair with the automobile.”
Kirkus Reviews
2014-04-01
In a compassionate yet never overly nostalgic nonfiction portrait of two behemoths from another age, Virginian-Pilot reporter Swift (The Big Roads: The Untold Story of the Engineers, Visionaries, and Trailblazers Who Created the American Superhighways, 2011, etc.) offers a startling portrayal of a violent entrepreneurial misfit. The author, who has an obvious boyish joy for things that go fast, locks in on a guy named Tommy Arney, a local legend in rural Moyock, N. C. Along with a small crew that includes his first mate, Skinhead, his business manager, Slick, Painter Paul and other malcontents, Arney joyfully buys and sells "project cars," those fixer-uppers that dads like to work on with their kids on the weekend. But make no mistake—Arney is no curmudgeonly grease monkey with a heart of gold. He's a profane gladiator from a former age who has cursed all the curses, slept with more women than he can count, and generally drunk and brawled his way through his whole existence. One of the first things Swift relates is that Arney carries surprisingly few scars for a man who is said to have once bitten a police dog back. He's also a man at war with his times. His empire of go-go clubs and industrial real estate has fallen into ruin, and his dodgy bank loans and sprawling shop yard have the city council and the FBI lining up to nail him in court. It may sound straight out of Sons of Anarchy, and in some ways, it is. However, the heart of the story is more Bill Bryson than Hunter Thompson. Along the way, Swift lovingly recounts—despite a palpable frustration—Arney's thoughtful restoration of a classic 1957 Chevy as well as the stories of its dozen owners. Neither arc ends the way readers might expect, which comes as a pleasant surprise. A big, weird, heartfelt book about a badass who could give a damn whether you root for him or not.< BR>★
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062282675
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/6/2014
  • Sold by: HARPERCOLLINS
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 104,919
  • File size: 7 MB

Meet the Author

Journalist Earl Swift has written five books, including The Big Roads: The Untold Story of the Engineers, Visionaries, and Trailblazers Who Created the American Superhighways (2011). Since 2012 he has been a residential fellow of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities at the University of Virginia.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 18, 2014

    I Also Recommend:

    How to tell the Life Story of an Inanimate Object Most of us th

    How to tell the Life Story of an Inanimate Object

    Most of us think about telling our own life stories, but we rarely consider relaying the tale of an inanimate object. In Auto Biography: A Classic Car, an Outlaw Motorhead, and 57 Years, Earl Swift does exactly that. This book lies somewhere between a shop class demonstration and a memoir as it follows Tommy Arney in his quest to save a '57 Chevy that has been owned by 12 people before him.

    This is one book that delves into a world most of us would never consider (at least I sure didn't!) Readers learn about the many challenges of owning a piece of American history, especially when it falls into the hands of a felon with a lengthy record of crimes that would shock even the toughest characters. As readers continue on, they find that there is more to this story than a character who is a bit rough around the edges. This book is about more than Arney's &quot;biceps big as most men's thighs&quot;, &quot;calloused mitts&quot; and &quot;belly nourished by beer.&quot; It is a story about the human condition.

    Swift gets into the details of the story right away, revealing the kind of relationship one can have with a car, as well as how becoming a champion often means doing something as simple as rescuing an inanimate object. It effectively captures America's relationship with auto culture, like so many other fantastic books on car lovers' shelves. (It sits beside my copy of How to Restore the Model A Ford... someday, someday)

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 10, 2014

    me

    enjoyable if your a car guy but to much unnecessary detail on the restoration process

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 10, 2014

    BB

    Umm apparently 10 was mess hall so i brought bella here. I am going to go to the armory

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews

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