John's Reviews > David Buick's Marvelous Motorcar: The Men and the Automobile That Launched General Motors

David Buick's Marvelous Motorcar by Lawrence R. Gustin
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's review
Dec 04, 2011

really liked it
Read from January 01 to 16, 2012

If you could go back in time one-hundred years, then you might see that the men who created America’s automobile industry bear some resemblance to today’s high-tech pioneers. As I read through the book, I found myself comparing David Buick to Steve Jobs. Each could be described as “creative inventor,” “patent holder,” “first-generation American,” “separated from biological father,” “relationally challenged in the workplace.” And, like the evolution from mainframe to PC to notebook to smartphone, the tale of automobile innovation and improvement is full of interesting characters, many of whom are introduced to the reader of this book.

I found Lawrence Gustin to be an engaging storyteller, capably weaving together material from a variety of sources, and letting the reader know when he necessarily is filling in gaps with supposition or harmonizing conflicting memories. He exercises the care of a good investigative journalist, with careful citations, acknowledgements, and indices. GM engineer and amateur Buick historian Kevin Kirbitz supplied some helpful insights to this updated edition; I especially appreciated his six-page sidebar explanation “Valve-in-Head: Technology in Historical Perspective,” which allowed me to envision and understand the advantages of this design feature.

Though David Buick’s biography forms the structure around which the book is built, and as the subtitle suggests, I never had the sense that documenting his story was the only point. Actually, it felt more like there were three foci: 1.) David’s life, particularly as it related to other historical figures in the development of the automobile; 2.) The Buick engine, particularly as it related to the evolution of automobile technology; and 3.) The early twentieth-century business development of Buick and General Motors, and the Michigan communities that both shaped and were shaped by that development.

This book probably never will be a hot bestseller like a biography of Steve Jobs, but it deserves to be read. I enjoyed it very much!
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