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Engines of Change: A History of the American Dream in Fifteen Cars Hardcover – May 1, 2012
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“You will never look at a car the same way after reading Engines of Change—as I strongly recommend to anyone who relishes great storytelling that combines biography, social and political history, science, and romance. Having driven and virtually lived in a 1953 Plymouth on a year’s journey across Eisenhower’s America, and having followed that up many driving years later by writing on the innovations of Henry Ford, I thought I knew something of the history of cars. I was all the more surprised—and vastly entertained—by the riches in Ingrassia’s stories of fifteen vehicles embodying the American dream from the Model T to the Beetle, the Corvair, the Corvette, and the Mustang to the pickups and the Prius (driven by the Pious). Even readers who cannot tell a camshaft from a cami-knicker will find fascination in a gallery of characters depicted by Ingrassia with vivacity and wit.”—Sir Harold Evans
"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
About 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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Top customer reviews
The chapter on the BMW 2002 as an example, started with the problems BMW faced in the aftermath of WWII, got to the introduction of the 2002, then followed into the heyday of the 3-series and the yuppies and yuppie psychology. Really? He had a longer discussion of some of the BMW snobbery than he did of the car itself. There is a chapter on the ford truck which brings in discussions of everybody else's trucks. The Honda Accord's chapter talked more too about the manufacturer's range and history than the model. While the subtitle of the book is "A History of the American Dream in Fifteen Cars," I think he could have made the subtitle more about the makes and been more accurate and maybe have then put the story together a little more coherently than what emerged. Finally, as another reviewer noted, there are few errors in the book but I can't recall them now that I am reviewing this about a month after reading; they were not overly glaring and will only be noticed by those who are car crazy themselves.
I did like the book well enough in the end--I am a car guy after all. It is well written for what it is and I will admit to learning a few things through my read.
The descriptions of automotive history are similarly inconsistent, with detailed explanations of John Z Delorean's wardrobe and personal life, contrasted with a one-paragraph passing mention of how Ed Cole singlehandedly brought unleaded gasoline and catalytic converters to the US market (it this is really true, it deserves more exposition than it received). Finally, Mr Ingrassia's writing style was chatty and breezy, with repeated attempts at "cleverness" and detours into random areas of pop culture in an attempt to provide period "ambiance."
Summary: this book was more like an extended magazine article in terms the depth of research, quality of writing, and clarity of theme. While automotive history is clearly interwoven with American history, this book doesn't do either subject justice.