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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

Critic Reviews

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

What listeners say about Engines of Change

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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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

9 people found this helpful

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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.

18 people found this helpful

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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 people found this helpful

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  • 01-18-13

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.

2 people found this helpful

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Not very interesting

The author made a good effort to integrate American history and a few cars. A good effort but not very interesting. A tough one to finish even for the car enthusiast.

1 person found this helpful

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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 person found this helpful

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Engines of Change

Excellent stories and excellent narration. It was well detailed. Answered many questions about some great cars.

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An Automotive Essential

Excellent in every conceivable measure. The subtitle "A History of the American Dream in 15 Cars" is somewhat misleading. Rather, the book focuses primarily on each vehicle's impact on the industry and the larger society of the United States, with preferential treatment given to the individual stories behind the cars. I would not have called such an account a history of the American dream, but this is less a criticism of the book than something the prospective buyer should know beforehand. Having been influenced by its predecessor, Crash Course, the book is fairly critical of American companies, but none of it is unfair. The tone is approximately that of a Ken Burns documentary, which is great if you enjoy that sort of thing.

The book itself is spectacular. The history here is objective, but masterfully told. The author digs beyond the bare facts to unveil a long-standing conflict between practicality and pretension in American automotive sensibilities. His personal experience with several of the cars infuses the entire story with liveliness and enthusiasm. I can highly recommend to anyone who enjoys cars in any capacity.

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A telling tale of American culture and it's cars.

Not just for car buffs and automotive enthusiasts. Give it a go... no disappointment here.

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Interesting Historical Perspective

I absolutely loved this book. It was a very quick read, despite the run time. Completely fascinating, and difficult to put down.