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Engines of Change: A History of the American Dream in Fifteen Cars | [Paul Ingrassia]

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

America was made manifest by its cars. From the assembly lines of Henry Ford to the open roads of Route 66 and Jack Kerouac, America's history is a vehicular history-an idea brought brilliantly to life in this major work by the acclaimed author of Crash Course: The American Automobile Industry's Road from Glory to Disaster.
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Publisher's Summary

America was made manifest by its cars. From the assembly lines of Henry Ford to the open roads of Route 66 and Jack Kerouac, America's history is a vehicular history-an idea brought brilliantly to life in this major work by the acclaimed author of Crash Course: The American Automobile Industry's Road from Glory to Disaster.

One of the nation's most eloquent and impassioned car nuts, Paul Ingrassia offers a wondrous epic in fifteen automobiles, including the VW Beetle, the Chevy Corvair, Robert McNamara and Lee Iacocca's Mustang, the Pontiac GTO, Honda's Accord, the BMW 3 Series, and the Jeep, among others. Through them, the author shows us much more than the car's ability to exhibit the particularly American tension between the lure of freedom and the obligations of utility; he takes us through the rise of American manufacturing, the suburbanization of the country, the birth of the Hippy and the Yuppy, the emancipation of women, and so much more, including the car's unintended consequences: trial lawyers, energy crises, and pollution. Narrative history of the highest caliber, Engines of Change is an entirely edifying new way to look at the American story.

©2012 Paul Ingrassia (P)2012 Tantor

What the Critics Say

"A thoughtful, propulsive assay of the machine that changed a nation, a world." (The Wall Street Journal)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

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  •  
    Geoffrey Ulster Park, NY, United States 05-11-12
    Geoffrey Ulster Park, NY, United States 05-11-12 Member Since 2007
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    "My Best listen in a while"

    I'm a car nut and a compulsive reader, growing up I jad subscriptions to Hot Rod, Motor Trend, Road & Track, Car and Driver and Motorcyclist fo good measure. I owned 2 '67 Goats. a '69 Mach 1, various Volkswagens, even a Corvair, although, mine had a 300hp '70
    Camaro engine sitting where the back seat once resided. Even though I usually think I know this subject thoroughly, I learned a lot from this book. Well written with surpisingly few technical mistakes (and I might be wrong about those, who knows it might be possible)
    He provideds in depth knowledge and analysis of the motivations for the vehcles and their legacies on our world I cannot recommend this book enough to any person wh has an interest in this subject, and maybe a little grease under their fingernails

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joshua Kim Etna, NH, United States 06-17-12
    Joshua Kim Etna, NH, United States 06-17-12 Member Since 2005

    mostly nonfiction listener

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Cars, Computers, and "Engines of Change""

    When I was in 9th grade (in 1984) I subscribed to 4 car magazines: Motor Trend, Car & Driver, Road & Track, and & Automobile. Today, my fondest dream is to own zero cars and to rent an occasional Zip Car (preferably a Prius, Volt, or Leaf) whenever the need for driving should arise.

    Reading "Engines of Change" was a good reminder for me about how important automobiles once loomed in my worldview. At some point my passion for cars was replaced by a passion for computers and technology. At 14 I thought I wanted to be an automotive journalist, and 42 I'm very happy to work at the intersection of education and technology (and to be driving a minivan - slowly).

    I'm betting that my story, one of a shift from a love of automobiles to a love of computers, is not unique. How many teenagers who once spent time changing spark plugs and reading car magazines morphed into building PCs and hanging out on computing message boards? I have this theory that today's computer geeks were yesterday's car enthusiasts - and that is why today's Apple new product announcements are so much more exciting than the new model car launches.

    Ingrassia takes us back to a time when new cars really mattered. He profiles 15 cars that have had a large impact on American culture. These stories are all engaging and well-told, and in learning about the Model T or the Corvette or the Mustang or the Honda Accord we also learn a great deal about the times in which they were introduced. This is not a book about the "15 best cars of all time", rather Ingrassia is interesting in describing the cars that had the biggest cultural impact.

    Ford's Model T literally changed how American society was organized, as an affordable mass produced automobile was a prerequisite to a rural to urban migration and a mobile society. The Honda Accord was the first Japanese car to be built in a U.S. factory (in Ohio), and ushered in a long-term transition away from UAW dominance and the decline of The Big 3. The Chrysler minivan (a Lee Iacocca encore after bringing to life the Mustang) killed the traditional station wagon, empowered a new generation of soccer parents, and eventually led to Mercedes Benz's disastrous and short-lived purchase of Chrysler.

    Ingrassia is a terrific writer, and is also the author of the excellent Crash Course: The American Automobile Industry's Road to Bankruptcy and Bailout-and Beyond. I hope that Ingrassia's next project is about the only cars that really excite me now, cars that run on electricity (although his chapter on the Prius in Engines of Change is excellent).

    I think that there is a huge market of computer geeks (and educational technologists!) just waiting to buy our first batter powered car, as soon as the technology improves and the costs come down to a point where electric cars are nearly competitive with gas powered vehicles.

    15 of 17 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sara P. Southern Arizona 03-03-13
    Sara P. Southern Arizona 03-03-13 Member Since 2006
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    "Not just for car lovers"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Much like Six Glasses that Changed the World and other historical specific books, this one is a fun cruize through history in 15 cars.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The background story on how cars are developed.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    spoiler - but it was good :)


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No, it was fine to listen to back and forth to work. I enjoyed it.


    Any additional comments?

    Design, Engineering, Speed, Safety, Fuel and the Presidency of the United States all in one well read package.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    A 01-18-13
    A 01-18-13 Member Since 2003

    Love to read. Mysteries, history, romance, biography, current events, science, classic fiction. No vampires. No zombies. No self-help. Find me on GoodReads and BookLikes.

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    "Not just for car enthusiasts"

    This is what I know about cars: _____________________________________________. I can't tell you how a combustion engine works. I can't t talk to you about the relative merits of this vehicle or that--nor would I want to. I drive a car because I have to. All that said, I LOVED this book. I could not put it down (which was really great for flying coast to coast).

    Ingrassia is insightful and he has written a book not just for car enthusiasts but for history buffs, psychologist, sociologists and those who are fascinated by advertising voodoo as well. You don't need to know anything about cars to learn a lot from this book about American history and American society during the 20th century.

    You won't be bored. Ingrassia doesn't just pontificate about cars. He tells a story--actually many stories. He tells us how the cars he has chosen to write about came into being; we go behind the scenes meeting the people who were instrumental in the design and creation. Then he tells us why he thinks these particular cars are significant milestones or turning points -- what changes they wrought -- or were wrought from -- and their ultimate affect on life in America. It is a fascinating look at who we are from a new perspective--and if you aren't interested in the history, the stories are still fascinating.

    This is definitely one that I will read again.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andy Westport, CT, United States 09-04-12
    Andy Westport, CT, United States 09-04-12 Member Since 2002
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    "a great ride"

    Paul Ingrassia does a terrific job taking us on an American journey through 15 or so cars. In addition to filling us in on the story behind the development of the cars, he also gives us a good sense of the cultures they reflected or even helped create. Little did I know that the same two car guys were behind the Mustang and the Mini-Van. Super narration.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Pamela 10-06-14
    Pamela 10-06-14 Member Since 2011
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    "Less about cars, more about car men"

    This is a fascinating topic and there are sections which I really enjoyed in this book. The Volkswagen story was a great expansion on the vague outline I already knew. We have all heard stories of the hard struggle Henry Ford suffered to get his cheap, reliable Model T on America's roads, but I learned new details here.

    But there is way too much that reads like the newspaper articles Ingrassia wrote throughout his career. Names and dates, education, work history, job titles - way too much to remember and certainly too much to care about. The "man on the street" quotes especially grated on me - I do not care why 200 average Joes bought their first Beetle or what they think of BMV drivers.

    The main focus of the book is on the cars of the 1950s to 1970s. I wish Ingrassia had spent time on the shortsighted management decisions of the late 70s and 80s and the blinders the Big 3 wore when it came to Japanese cars. I remember an apocryphal quote from one Detroit-based executive "I am not worried about Japanese imports - no one I know drives a Japanese car." Well, I grew up in California and just about everyone I knew drive a foreign car. From this book, you would think the only Hondas on the road are the Accords built in Ohio. The one exception is the final chapter which discusses the game-changing Prius.

    So while I did learn some new aspects of the business, the scattered focus of this book left me frustrated. This could have been a much better book. I have a nagging feeling that I read this book before - in the front page center column stories of the Wall Street Journal where Ingrassia spent his career. There is a big difference between a great feature article and a great book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer CENTRAL POINT, OREGON, United States 06-07-14
    Amazon Customer CENTRAL POINT, OREGON, United States 06-07-14 Member Since 2012
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    "If you love cars..."
    Where does Engines of Change rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Top 5 of the informational nonfiction books


    What did you like best about this story?

    I learned so much about something I thought I already knew a lot about.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    Learning about John Delorean and how he created the Muscle car.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    YES


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dennis United States 04-26-13
    Dennis United States 04-26-13 Member Since 2010
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    "A well assembled book !"

    I do recommend this book. Well written and great narration. You lean about what it took to bring a bunch of great cars to market and the people and times behind the car. Just read it, you will enjoy it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ray SARATOGA, CA, United States 03-04-13
    Ray SARATOGA, CA, United States 03-04-13 Member Since 2005
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    "I loved this book"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Engines of Change to be better than the print version?

    I have not read the print version.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Ed Cole and his fight to save his reputation over the Corvair.


    Have you listened to any of Sean Runnette’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    Yes, when the author pointed out that the two most important cars in American history were the Model T and the Corvair.I owned 3 Corvairs so it was especially moving to hear the car's reputation vindicated on many levels.


    Any additional comments?

    The book put me in touch with my roots of the 1950/60s.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joseph 02-09-13
    Joseph 02-09-13 Member Since 2011
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    "Fun Book!"

    I really enjoyed this book because I learned a lot about many cars, the people behind their creation and what impact they had on society. I don't consider myself a huge car enthusiast (although, I do own a restored sports car from the 60's), but there wasn't a single car in this book that I didn't enjoy reading about. It is amazing how cars can define a culture, make or break an economy, and even have an effect on our political system. The only bad thing about this audio-book, is that there are no pictures. I was constantly looking these cars up on-line to see what they looked like. I'm sure this would be a great coffee table book because I'm guessing it has some great pictures.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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