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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

4.01  ·  Rating Details ·  334 Ratings  ·  71 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 brought brilliantly to life in thi
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
Charles Moore
Apr 22, 2013 Charles Moore rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Tim Fugate
Jul 29, 2012 Tim Fugate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Rey Dekker
Oct 26, 2012 Rey Dekker rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
...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 before his time...again...the writer has some chops (won a Pu ...more
Sep 06, 2014 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The main idea of this book, which is that there are some cars that had specific cultural impacts or are particular signposts of trends affecting American history, and for each car we see how and by whom it was developed and introduced, is an interesting idea.

The problem with this book is how this approach is developed. As the book proceed chronologically, it shifts from clear pioneers (the first reliable car affordable to a mass audience, the first car from a tiered system of brands) to vehicle
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.
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

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
Marty Greenwell
Jun 28, 2016 Marty Greenwell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Did I give this a "5" star because I am a car guy? Maybe. However the stories are interspersed with humor and not just tech autospeak. Most of the story of the 15 cars is about people not just the "sheetmetal". Humans made decisions based on their forward ( or backward ) thinking. It goes to show that you think something is really cool and will the "thing" autowise but another car ( Honda Accord, Prius, Mustang, BMW 3 series, Ford F-150, etc, comes up and is a world changer. Really a good book b ...more
Aug 24, 2012 Josh rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Henry Le Nav
Aug 08, 2012 Henry Le Nav rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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
Jul 28, 2013 Jeanne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 27, 2013 Phillip Elliott rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 21, 2015 Ann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Engines of Change was a thoroughly enjoyable read! The book - which focuses on the 100 years since the roll-out of the Model T - did a great job of explaining engineering advances, introducing the automotive innovators and entrepreneurs responsible for may of America's iconic cars, and placing them in recognizable spots in our social history. I'm not sure that I agree with all the social analysis, but the author ably placed me in each spot in history.
May 25, 2012 Steve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Carly Delorenzo
Nov 06, 2014 Carly Delorenzo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book because I love cars and any type of automobile. This was a good overview of American Automobiles, I learned a lot but it is so faceted based it's a lot of information to grasp at once. I recommend it to those who want to learn more about American through automobiles and the true impact automobiles have had on American and continue to have. Also to those gear heads who just want to learn more!!
Thomas Stevenson
Nov 13, 2014 Thomas Stevenson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In Engines of Change, Paul Ingrassia argues that the recent development of America and the American Dream can be represented in 15 cars. So rather than merely being manifestations of artists ideas and the engineers models, some cars are indicative of societal transitions. I was skeptical but the author makes a good case and with a welcome degree of irreverence.
Rich Saskal
What's promised is a picture of social change in America through the lens of 15 influential automobiles. I have no major quibbles with the cars Ingrassia chose to illustrate the story, just with the glib, inch-deep veneer sociology he uses.
The 'cultural history' here is the stuff of freshman term papers.
Rick Gokenbach
Great book that is very well written. I don't envy his task of picking the fifteen most influential cars, but he sticks to his theme of the struggle between a car's practicality and materiality. I enjoyed every chapter and felt like I got something new on every page.
harry case
Sep 21, 2016 harry case rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting but pretentious writing detracts from the story

Well chosen subjects lots of interesting vignettes spoiled by name dropping and irrelevant asides. His first book comeback was much better and better written
Apr 29, 2013 Sara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 12, 2016 Johns rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I may have picked different automobiles to profile but this author provides a lot of interesting details behind the development of industry icons like the Chevy Corvette, the VW Beetle, the Ford F-1 pickup and several others.
Bea Elwood
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
Jul 27, 2014 Frank Roberts rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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.
Tim 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.
Jun 17, 2012 Ray rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 26, 2012 Doug rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business, nonfiction
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
Jun 15, 2016 Straker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history
While the author is no great stylist (not a surprise considering he's a veteran of the Wall Street Journal) this popular history is a well researched and readable introduction to some of the more significant vehicles of the 20th and early 21st centuries.
Michael Coates
Apr 26, 2015 Michael Coates rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Heard Paul talk about our Western Automotive Journalists ( 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
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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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