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Publisher's Summary

America was made manifest by its cars. From the assembly lines of Henry Ford to the open roads of Route 66 and Jack Kerouac, America's history is a vehicular history-an idea brought brilliantly to life in this major work by the acclaimed author of Crash Course: The American Automobile Industry's Road from Glory to Disaster.
One of the nation's most eloquent and impassioned car nuts, Paul Ingrassia offers a wondrous epic in fifteen automobiles, including the VW Beetle, the Chevy Corvair, Robert McNamara and Lee Iacocca's Mustang, the Pontiac GTO, Honda's Accord, the BMW 3 Series, and the Jeep, among others. Through them, the author shows us much more than the car's ability to exhibit the particularly American tension between the lure of freedom and the obligations of utility; he takes us through the rise of American manufacturing, the suburbanization of the country, the birth of the Hippy and the Yuppy, the emancipation of women, and so much more, including the car's unintended consequences: trial lawyers, energy crises, and pollution. Narrative history of the highest caliber, Engines of Change is an entirely edifying new way to look at the American story.
©2012 Paul Ingrassia (P)2012 Tantor
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Critic Reviews

"A thoughtful, propulsive assay of the machine that changed a nation, a world." ( The Wall Street Journal)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Geoff in NY on 05-11-12

My Best listen in a while

I'm a car nut and a compulsive reader, growing up I jad subscriptions to Hot Rod, Motor Trend, Road & Track, Car and Driver and Motorcyclist fo good measure. I owned 2 '67 Goats. a '69 Mach 1, various Volkswagens, even a Corvair, although, mine had a 300hp '70
Camaro engine sitting where the back seat once resided. Even though I usually think I know this subject thoroughly, I learned a lot from this book. Well written with surpisingly few technical mistakes (and I might be wrong about those, who knows it might be possible)
He provideds in depth knowledge and analysis of the motivations for the vehcles and their legacies on our world I cannot recommend this book enough to any person wh has an interest in this subject, and maybe a little grease under their fingernails

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8 of 8 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars
By Joshua Kim on 06-17-12

Cars, Computers, and "Engines of Change"

When I was in 9th grade (in 1984) I subscribed to 4 car magazines: Motor Trend, Car & Driver, Road & Track, and & Automobile. Today, my fondest dream is to own zero cars and to rent an occasional Zip Car (preferably a Prius, Volt, or Leaf) whenever the need for driving should arise.

Reading "Engines of Change" was a good reminder for me about how important automobiles once loomed in my worldview. At some point my passion for cars was replaced by a passion for computers and technology. At 14 I thought I wanted to be an automotive journalist, and 42 I'm very happy to work at the intersection of education and technology (and to be driving a minivan - slowly).

I'm betting that my story, one of a shift from a love of automobiles to a love of computers, is not unique. How many teenagers who once spent time changing spark plugs and reading car magazines morphed into building PCs and hanging out on computing message boards? I have this theory that today's computer geeks were yesterday's car enthusiasts - and that is why today's Apple new product announcements are so much more exciting than the new model car launches.

Ingrassia takes us back to a time when new cars really mattered. He profiles 15 cars that have had a large impact on American culture. These stories are all engaging and well-told, and in learning about the Model T or the Corvette or the Mustang or the Honda Accord we also learn a great deal about the times in which they were introduced. This is not a book about the "15 best cars of all time", rather Ingrassia is interesting in describing the cars that had the biggest cultural impact.

Ford's Model T literally changed how American society was organized, as an affordable mass produced automobile was a prerequisite to a rural to urban migration and a mobile society. The Honda Accord was the first Japanese car to be built in a U.S. factory (in Ohio), and ushered in a long-term transition away from UAW dominance and the decline of The Big 3. The Chrysler minivan (a Lee Iacocca encore after bringing to life the Mustang) killed the traditional station wagon, empowered a new generation of soccer parents, and eventually led to Mercedes Benz's disastrous and short-lived purchase of Chrysler.

Ingrassia is a terrific writer, and is also the author of the excellent Crash Course: The American Automobile Industry's Road to Bankruptcy and Bailout-and Beyond. I hope that Ingrassia's next project is about the only cars that really excite me now, cars that run on electricity (although his chapter on the Prius in Engines of Change is excellent).

I think that there is a huge market of computer geeks (and educational technologists!) just waiting to buy our first batter powered car, as soon as the technology improves and the costs come down to a point where electric cars are nearly competitive with gas powered vehicles.

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16 of 18 people found this review helpful

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