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

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

by Earl Swift


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A brilliant blend of Shop Class as Soulcraft and The Orchid Thief, Earl Swift's wise, funny, and captivating Auto Biography follows an outlaw auto dealer as he struggles to save a rusted '57 Chevy—a car that has already passed through twelve pairs of hands before his—while financial ruin, government bureaucrats and the FBI close in on him.

Slumped among hundreds of other decrepit hulks on a treeless, windswept moor in eastern North Carolina, the Chevy evokes none of the Jet Age mystique that made it the most beloved car to ever roll off an assembly line. It's open to the rain. Birds nest in its seats. Officials of the surrounding county consider it junk.

To Tommy Arney, it's anything but: It's a fossil of the twentieth-century American experience, of a place and a people utterly devoted to the automobile and changed by it in myriad ways. It's a piece of history—especially so because its flaking skin conceals a rare asset: a complete provenance, stretching back more than fifty years.

So, hassled by a growing assortment of challengers, the Chevy's thirteenth owner—an orphan, grade-school dropout and rounder, a felon arrested seventy-odd times, and a man who's been written off as a ruin himself—embarks on a mission to save the car and preserve long record of human experience it carries in its steel and upholstery.

Written for both gearheads and Sunday drivers, Auto Biography charts the shifting nature of the American Dream and our strange and abiding relationship with the automobile, through an iconic classic and an improbable, unforgettable hero.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062282668
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 05/06/2014
Pages: 368
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.50(d)

About 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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Auto Biography: A Classic Car, an Outlaw Motorhead, and 57 Years of the American Dream 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
naher More than 1 year ago
Recommended for anyone who loves cars. The '57 Chevy is a favorite of many and mine too, as I once was a second owner of a black 4 door, 210, six with a stick shift. It had plenty of power to climb hills but the vacuum windshield wipers would stop when climbing. It was interesting to read about this model Chevy. This book would be liked especially by those who customize old cars, but I found the elaborate details of restoration became tedious and made the book too long. I also did not like the repeated use of profanity.
A_Sloan More than 1 year ago
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 "biceps big as most men's thighs", "calloused mitts" and "belly nourished by beer." 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)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
enjoyable if your a car guy but to much unnecessary detail on the restoration process
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Umm apparently 10 was mess hall so i brought bella here. I am going to go to the armory