The Car – freedom on four wheels

Andrew Anthony in The Guardian:

“Within a few years owning a car,” writes Bryan Appleyard in this entertainingly forthright history, “might seem as eccentric as owning a train or a bus. Or perhaps it will simply be illegal.” Although Appleyard’s intention is to document a way of life that he believes is passing, his book is not a lament or a eulogy, nor really a celebration, but instead an acknowledgment of the extraordinary cultural and environmental impact the car has had on this planet in the last 135-plus years.

We have shaped our lives, our cities, our worlds around the needs and possibilities of internal combustion engine vehicles. And nowhere has this global trend been more conspicuously evident than in the US, a nation whose rise, supremacy and incipient decline closely match the fortunes of the motorcar. In a book that almost delights in the contradictions wreaked by the automobile, one of the more glaring paradoxes is that while the author focuses on America, he is no fan of the cars it has produced – with very few exceptions.

With that discrimination established, it is thankfully not a work specifically aimed at petrolheads and is thus largely free of discussions of camshafts and torque. Instead Appleyard approaches cars through the people who made them – not the assembly-line workers, but the factory owners and designers.

More here.