Engines of Change: A History of the American Dream in Fifteen Cars
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Engines of Change: A History of the American Dream in Fifteen Cars

3.98 of 5 stars 3.98  ·  rating details  ·  224 ratings  ·  59 reviews
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 brou...more
ebook, 416 pages
Published May 1st 2012 by Simon & Schuster
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Steinbeck, in Cannery Row, said that there should be a definitive history of the American car, for it has become a definitive part of the American landscape as food, independence, and sex.

Ingrassia identifies two major trends in American cars - the austerity, practicality, and efficiency which started with the Model T, and the flair and ostentation which started with LaSalle cars in the 1920s and continued through fins in the 1950s, muscle cars, and beyond. Power, allure, and prestige. Many cars...more
Charles Moore
EofC is a really good look at the Detroit Big Three back when they really were the Big Three. Ingrassia covers fifteen of what he sees as the cars that changed America. Included are Mustang, Corvette, the Corvair. It was fun and interesting to read about the luck, the mistakes, the changes over 40 years and since that's the same 40 to 50 years I've been driving I remember a lot of what he talks about.

My favorite by far is the chapter on the Jeep which talks more about the changing tastes of Ame...more
Nate Briggs
I'm often startled by how old I am, so I was surprised that - with the exception of the Model T and the LaSalle - I remember the introduction of all these cars.

I was excited by the idea of this book. But it turns out to be a pretty lackluster effort.

Postwar corporate politics at GM, instead of the Tucker Story.
Blah blah blah about the Corvair, instead of discussing Saturn and the first appearance of Japanese manufacturing techniques from a Big 3 company. Very little about Rambler (my father owne...more

I listened to this book on CD and it was so much fun that it felt like pure indulgence. The author tells the story of the automobile industry and the relationship of American people to their cars. He selects 15 cars to tell the story – of course, part of the fun was figuring out my own 15 car choices. My husband and I loved going to old car shows and rallies and we are old enough to have owned cars that are now considered classics. (My first car was a 1957 black and silver Bel Air.) But this is...more
Overall this was very good book. It tells the story of fifteen cars and the impact they had on American life. Some of the choices were no-brainers such as the Mustang or the Volkswagen Beetle. Both cars are included and the stories, though fairly well known, are detailed and presented in an enjoyable manner.
What I really enjoyed were the not-so-obvious choices. My favorite among these stories were the tales of the Honda Accord and the Chrysler Minivan. I like the subject of cars and frequently r...more
Henry Le Nav
Ingrassia does for cars what Halberstam did for the Fifties. Well maybe not quite that good, but really a great book that explains the effects of the various cars on the American way of life.

One thing to note about the book, it is not predominately about the car itself. It is more of a look at the history, the people, and the trends that created the car and how the spirit of the car affected American society. So gear heads beware, you are not going to get a chart that shows you the engine displ...more
If you love cars, and I do, this book examines the zeitgeist and the cars that mirrored the decades. Ford's Model T, the car that Americans bought for decades, begins our automotive age. Our cars have always been a mirror of our times from the gas-guzzling road yachts, to the VW Beetle, to the minivan, the Corvette, DeLorean, BMW and Mercedes Benz, Toyotas, hybrids, electric, and all of the players like Iacoca, DeLorean, Ford and a host of others. What were the influences that brought the Japane...more
The Model T Ford, the Corvette, the 1959 Cadillac, the Volkswagen Beetle, the Chevrolet Corvair, The Ford Mustang, Pontaic GTO, Honda Accord, Chrysler minivans, BMW 3 Series, Jeep, the F-150, and the Toyota Prius are the models former Wall Street Journal reporter Paul Ingrassia covers in his book. He deemed the vehicles as significant for a variety of reasons, some technical, one legal (the Corvair), some reflecting the state of the industry (the Accords discussed in the book are those made in O...more
Phillip Elliott
This is an excellent book. I completely enjoyed it. The author chose cars to tell the history of the last 100 years in America. His book, his perspective, the choices of cars and the story were fantastic. This is a great perspective for anybody who wants to review American culture over the last century.

Paul Ingrassia seemed to be worried that his choices would be argued and in conflict, but I can't think of automobiles that have more of an impact on American culture. more than this Paul delves...more
This book starts with the Model T (the car that put America on the road) and the cars that follow are each picked for some way they directed or reflected American society. Some of the cars are there for their positives the (VW bugs comeback after WWII) some for their negatives (the Corvair and it's contribution to the litigation society), and some for both (Lee Iacocca saving the iconic Jeep brand and Chrysler with it, but the Grand Cherokee then starting the SUV as daily driver culture). I foun...more
Tim Fugate
This book (like the title suggests) is the American dream in fifteen cars. Some of the facts about those cars, the history behind their existence, and the history they represent were very surprising. I didn't know that the Corvette almost wasn't made and the war of the great tail fins happened. Nor did I know the story behind the Prius and the Beetle. This book showed me what the American Dream is all about through the lens of a subject I love; cars. It changed my view of how we the people have...more
Charles Ameringer
This is more than a "car book." It is culural history at its finest; a unique approach and informative on a grand scale. It deftly traces the evolution of the automobile industry and its influence on changes in American entertainment and life styles, and vice-versa. It will bring back memories to readers of all ages. I was not prepared for the pleasure I found in this book.
I like cars, corporate histories, and sociology, so this book should have been a clear winner for me. It was okay. The best three chapters were: Model T, VW Bug, and the Chrysler Minivan. I recommend that you should skip through the book and read about the cars that are interesting to you.

Gripes: the book was well researched, but the author's occasionally glib tone was off-putting to me. And maybe it's because I'm from a very poor county in Tennessee, but I have no idea why the author believes...more
Bea Bolinger
You can tell the author loves his subject matter even if some of his joking around is totally inappropriate at times (kind of like talking to a car guy in real life). An easy and enjoyable read and as someone who is not a car person I found the discriptions of engines and car parts easy to follow. Although I'm not sure his thesis at the beginning - about wanting to trace the evolving American dream by the cars we are driving - holds throughout the book it is still really interesting reading abou...more
Frank Roberts
A look at the cars that defined their eras, that were part of significant social movements, or that changed how Americans relate to their cars. Among these are the Model T, the Mustang, the VW Beetle, the minivan, the Prius, and others. Also a history of the automobile industry over the last century. Well-written, and very enjoyable.
Tom Timberly
Not a bad book about some important cars in American history. Like any list, not everyone will agree with what Ingrassia included. Still, the book is an interesting and easy read.
Paul Ingrassia never disappoints. His theme is clear: a selection of automobiles, native and foreign-made, are symbolic of the eras of automobile evolution and the unique cultures that inspired and characterized their eras. His research is, as usual, impressive. His writing is clear and sparkling. (To a boy who knows that talking of horse power involves counting horses, even sparkling prose and a book in the line of studies such as those of Fredrick Lewis Allen (e.g., The Big Change) may seem aw...more
A look at fifteen cars and how they personified America's economic and cultural identity. Of course, the author considers the Ford Model T to be the most influential car of all time, it's the car that really set America on a course to be a car culture and gave the idea that cars can be for the masses, and not just the rich. What I thought really interesting is that the author considers the Chevy Corvair to be the second most interesting car, it was widely considered a failure, but it paved the w...more
Rey Dekker
...good read over all...certainly for car-guys and gals but interesting in it's historical presentation and interpretations...the chapter on pick-up trucks was probably the most humourous and the Prius the most educational...didn't know much about the genesis of the alternate fuel auto...and, Dr. Ferdinand Porsche also showed up there...turns out he too had one on the drawing board and even made it into producing a one-off model...man before his time...again...the writer has some chops (won a Pu...more
Michael Coates
Heard Paul talk about our Western Automotive Journalists (www.waj.org) group meeting recently and scored a free book, which I had asked him to sign. The presentation he gave and book have much the same cadence. It's stories and stories about cars, but stories about cars of significance. Significant cars not because of their technical prowess or popularity, necessarily, but because of what they meant and how they have impacted American culture. A fun, but important book, full of wonderful facts a...more
This was my Mother's day present from my family, and I read it the last two weeks that school was in session.

I loved it. The cars he chose, the reasons he chose those cars, the photographs in the books, and the way Ingrassia writes are all reasons to read this fantastic book. Ingrassia includes the social and political changes, the characters behind the cars, some of the technological changes that brought about the vehicle...it's all fascinating and very readable.

I highly recommend this book for...more
Andrew Lumley
Loved it and this book is not just for those who love cars.
Mary Rhodes
The fundamental framework of the book distinguishes cars, drivers, and readers as pretentious or practical. I am so fond of both styles that I continue to read.

The premise endured to the ending chapter on the Prius. I am not sure is that car is practical or pretentious.

The book was wonderful romp through stories of some cars and the accompanying history. The personalities were handled with gentle appreciation of foibles and emphatic adulation of talents. All combined for a fun trip in the fast l...more
Thomas Gates
I think this book was really informative about the past automotive manufacturers and how they got to where they are today by the cars they manufactured like how the Model T was revolutionary for the world in that it was the first car to be sold to the general public or how the Corvette helped chevy skyrocketed in sales which pushed ford to make the Shelby Cobra (One of my favorites) but overall this book was a Great read i would recommend it to anyone with a Passion for cool cars.
A good listen in my car.
Chandler Jordan
Very very good. It was a great book. Very humorous. An intriguing study of not only the history of cars in the United States but of their affect on the culture too. Can't recommend it more.
Pierre Lauzon
Paul Ingrassia is a well known and prolific automobile writer and this is an excellent book. He picked 15 cars to weave the history of the automobile with American, European, and Japanese history. Among the cars he covers are the Corvette, 1959 Cadillac, VW Bug, Corvair, Mustang, GTO, Minivans, Jeep, F-Series Pickups, and ends with the Prius. The choices are the author's, and one wonders why some other cars were not picked. A fun read.
History of the 20th Century US through cars, an interesting premise and an entertaining book. The book really has some interesting insights into how American thinking on cars has changed and has been influenced by car designers and companies. For example Lee Iaccoca's influence on the baby boomers: as teenagers he gave them the Mustang, as thirty somethings he gave them the mini-van, and as empty nesters he sold them Grand Cherokees.
Here's a fun book for car lovers and for folks who study American culture. Ingrassia selects 15 cars that reflect the sometimes changing and sometimes constant cultural tension in America. From the Model T to the GTO to the Prius, each car represents some aspect of our culture - small is beautiful, the need for speed, corporate greed, environmental concerns. Some interesting pictures and commentary round out a decent book.
Although the author's choice of vehicles was initially questioned, Ingrassia subtly built up a case for each vehicle to be considered as instrumental to the history of the automotive industry. A great mixture between both personal accounts/memories and convincing rhetoric, Engines of Change is a great read for anyone looking to dip their toes into all things automotive.
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“In our age where the average person is a cog wheel who gets pushed in the subways, elevators, department stores, cafeterias, lives in the same house as the next fellow, has the same style of furniture, [and] wears the same clothing, . . . the ownership of a different car provides the means to ascertain his individuality to himself and everybody around,” he added.16 In his own awkward way, Duntov had expressed the potential of the Corvette.” 0 likes
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