Nicholas Clairmont at The New Atlantis:
In Bryan Appleyard’s sweeping history of the automobile, The Car: The Rise and Fall of the Machine That Made the Modern World, he quotes a likely-apocryphal line from Henry Ford that is too good not to include. A journalist interviewing the aged industrialist “suggested that perhaps his views were now out of step with the modern age. ‘Young man,’ Ford replied, ‘I invented the modern age.’”
Appleyard agrees with the idea behind the joke: Modern life was built around the car as much as the car was built to navigate modern life. He tries to tell the story of how the car defined a society for a century by showing us portraits of the people who made cars. First we meet the tinkerers at the end of the 1800s who rearranged existing inventions, like bicycles and rubber tires, into the right formula to create the car as we understand it. They did this partly to make a plaything for the rich and idle but more importantly to solve an environmental problem caused by the number of horses that had started to live in industrial-age cities. We then meet the tinkerers and racers whose many early American car companies were eventually consolidated into the Big Three Detroit car firms: General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler.