The New York Times
Engines of Change: A History of the American Dream in Fifteen Carsby Paul Ingrassia
From the assembly lines of Henry Ford to the open roads of Route 66, from the lore of Jack Kerouac to the sex appeal of the Hot Rod, America’s history is a vehicular history—an/b>
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A narrative like no other: a cultural history that explores how cars have both propelled and reflected the American experience— from the Model T to the Prius.
From the assembly lines of Henry Ford to the open roads of Route 66, from the lore of Jack Kerouac to the sex appeal of the Hot Rod, America’s history is a vehicular history—an idea brought brilliantly to life in this major work by Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Paul Ingrassia.
Ingrassia offers a wondrous epic in fifteen automobiles, including the Corvette, the Beetle, and the Chevy Corvair, as well as the personalities and tales behind them: Robert McNamara’s unlikely role in Lee Iacocca’s Mustang, John Z. DeLorean’s Pontiac GTO , Henry Ford’s Model T, as well as Honda’s Accord, the BMW 3 Series, and the Jeep, among others.
Through these cars and these characters, Ingrassia shows how the car has expressed the particularly American tension between the lure of freedom and the obligations of utility. He also takes us through the rise of American manufacturing, the suburbanization of the country, the birth of the hippie and the yuppie, the emancipation of women, and many more fateful episodes and eras, including the car’s unintended consequences: trial lawyers, energy crises, and urban sprawl. Narrative history of the highest caliber, Engines of Change is an entirely edifying new way to look at the American story.
The New York Times
"The whole country in 15 cars—that's crowded! And Engines of Change is indeed packed from rocker panels to sunroof with good stories and salient facts about the automobiles that shaped America, from the oddity of the Model T to the oddballs driving the Prius."—P.J. O'Rourke
"Highly entertaining... lucid... Engines of Change informed and charmed me..."—Joseph Epstein, The Wall Street Journal
"The prose is lapidary, the tone informed by humor.Paul Ingrassia has written an automobile book that goes beyond the genre;it's for anyone interested in modernity and what led us to where we are."—Miles Collier, The Revs Institute for Automotive Research
"Paul Ingrassia knows where the bodies are buried, or maybe where the keys to the American car business got lost. With a swift, sure scalpel honed by years as the industry reporter, he anatomizes Detroit in all its glory and inglorious decline. A thoughtful, propulsive assay of themachine that changed a nation, a world."—Dan Neil, car critic, The Wall Street Journal
"Entertaining and instructive..."—George Will, The Washington Post
"Sure, cars suck up gas, and they promote suburban sprawl, but they also help drive the economy, and drive families from home to school to soccer field. And, of course, cars fire our imaginations. Paul Ingrassia, who won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting from Detroit for The Wall Street Journal, has written a book about cars that may not all be cherished classics or engineering marvels, but have earned a place in America's scrapbook."—Scott Simon, National Public Radio
“Ingrassia succeeds in fashioning well-researched, swift-paced narratives around each of these 15 select automobiles. Using colorful detail, he effectively recasts these significant driving machines in their respective cultural contexts and brings to life the eras they influenced.”—Kirkus Reviews
“A must for anyone with a passion for cars, history, or simply an interest in America’s story." —Bask Magazine
“Ingrassia takes great pleasure in historical irony, and the unpredictable conclusion of each car’s story is so fascinating even those who prefer their MetroCard to the BQE will appreciate the inherent paradoxes of the vehicle’s road to glory.”—New York Daily News
“Paul Ingrassia…is probably the best broadsheet reporter ever to cover the car business…Picking 15 vehicles as tent poles for this sprawling canvas was a good idea, and Ingrassia chose well…Any book on a topic so overwhelming as the car in America has to be more of a goad to, than a proof of, argument. And here Ingrassia has succeeded.”—Weekly Standard
"In this new book, Ingrassia traces the history of some iconic cars and how those models reflected shifts in politics, culture, and technology. He also takes readers inside the industry, skillfully navigating among the soaring tail fins, egomaniacal visionaries, and corporate intrigue that surrounded the creation of these vehicles."—Boston Globe
"Paul Ingrassia’s Engines of Change: A History of the American Dream in Fifteen Cars ranges as widely and quirkily as the title suggests among the people, passions and foibles of
the automotive industry. As a journalist for the Wall Street Journal, Ingrassia shared a 1993 Pulitzer Prize for writing on General Motors Co. In this book he lets out the journalistic stays, enjoying the freedom to openly needle an industry and admire its pioneers without any loss of the good reporter’s delight in detail and a fine tale."—Jeffrey Burke, Bloomberg BusinessWeek
"In Engines of Change, Mr. Ingrassia arguably does for cars and culture what David Halberstam did for a decade in The Fifties. History well researched, made alive, relevant and eminently readable."—John Lamm, The New York Times
“Using his nimble narrative gifts, Mr. Ingrassia turns the creation stories behind the Prius and other cars into gripping accounts of how visionary design, corporate competition and inventive engineering combined to produce automobiles that would come to represent an era or a mind-set.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
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Read an Excerpt
WHEN HENRY MET SALLIE: CAR WARS AND CULTURE CLASHES AT THE DAWN OF AMERICA’S AUTOMOTIVE AGE
Someone should write an erudite essay on the moral, physical, and esthetic effect of the Model T Ford on the American nation. Two generations of Americans knew more about the Ford coil than the clitoris, about the planetary system of gears than the solar system of stars.
—John Steinbeck, Cannery Row1
Just north of downtown Detroit on a small street called Piquette sits an inner-city storefront church called the Abundant Faith Cathedral. By the looks of the surrounding weed-choked lots and empty factories, abundant faith is exactly what’s needed, not to mention plenty of hope. The neighborhood is a postindustrial ghetto, although right across the street from the church is a functioning business called the General Linen & Uniform Service. It occupies the first floor of an old building where, as unlikely as it seems, modern America began.
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Meet the Author
Paul Ingrassia, formerly the Detroit bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal and later the president of Dow Jones Newswire, is the deputy editor-in-chief of Reuters. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1993 (with Joseph B. White) for reporting on management crises at General Motors, he is the author of Crash Course: The American Automobile Industry’s Road from Glory to Disaster.
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In this book the author actually covers a lot more then just 15 cars. He gives us a brief concise history of American Motoring with an emphasas on cars that caused or underscored social trends, from the Model T to the Prius. His snappy prose keeps the material moving along, and he gives just enough detail to satisfy most readers, except for maybe the more serious gearheads. Some readers might argue as to which 15 cars should make this list. The Chrysler Airflow,'57 Chevy, and Ford Taurus are barely mentioned, and the hot rod and custom trends of the 40's & 50's are virtually ignored. There is a heavy emphasis on the buying habits of yuppies - when was the last time you heard anyone mention the 1927 LaSalle - but the author does make a good case for his picks. Read this book yourself and see if you agree!