Car Wars: Fifty Years of Greed, Treachery, & Skulduggery in the Global .....

Jonathan Mantle, Author
Jonathan Mantle, Author Arcade Publishing $24.95 (288p) ISBN 978-1-55970-333-8
Reviewed on: 09/02/1996
Release date: 09/01/1996
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-1-55970-400-7
Prebound-Sewn - 978-0-613-92066-7
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Even readers with only a passing interest in cars will be drawn into Mantle's unorthodox history of competition and corporate backstabbing among the automotive giants. Most auto buffs assume the Volkswagen ""Beetle"" was born in 1934 when Hitler commissioned cunning Austrian-Czech engineer Ferdinand Porsche to build a ""people's car."" Mantle fills in the story, providing details of Porsche's Nazi Party and SS membership (1923-1929) and his employment of slave labor; further, the VW Beetle's unsung progenitor was Austrian engineer Hans Ledwinka, based in Czechoslovakia, who gave Hitler a detailed drawing of a rear-engined car he had designed, which the Fuhrer then passed on to Porsche. In an astonishing section, Mantle details how General Motors's Opel subsidiary, based in Nazi Germany, manufactured Blitz trucks and fighter-jet engines for Hitler's forces. In 1967, GM received $33 million in tax exemptions from the U.S. government for damages sustained by Allied bombing of its German factories. Biographer of Andrew Lloyd Weber and author of a book about Lloyd's of London, Mantle spins tales that revise modern history: Fiat's Cold War balancing act as its ex-playboy-turned-dealmaker Gianni Agnelli clinched a pact to build cars in the Soviet Union in the mid-1960s; Toyota's ascent from near-bankruptcy in 1950 through its revolutionary production methods; Nissan's start-up in 1930 when its engineers plagiarized a British Austin Seven; Detroit's 1980s' slide from Motor City to Murder City; and the battle for global dominance among European, Japanese and U.S. automakers. Packing in tales involving Renault, Peugeot, Mazda, Ford, Hyundai, BMW, Volvo and Land-Rover, Mantle closes this eye-opening chronicle with a look at the massive smuggling of stolen cars into Eastern Europe and China. Photos. (Oct.)
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