Roadster: How (And Especially Why) a Mechanical Novice Built a Sports Car from a Kit

Chris Goodrich, Author HarperCollins Publishers $18 (206p) ISBN 978-0-06-019193-1
Feeling overspecialized and compartmentalized in his career, and suffering a mid-life crisis in his mid-30s, Goodrich (Anarchy and Elegance) decided to take a break from 15 years of reporting, book reviewing and editing by building a car. In this offbeat, captivating auto-biographical memoir, reminiscent of John McPhee's writing in its graceful precision and inquisitive openness to experience, he tells how--over 14 months of agonizing frustrations, unnerving delays, rages and heady adrenaline rushes--he assembled a ""latter-day Model T"" from a do-it-yourself kit for roughly $18,500. For Goodrich, the car he built--the Caterham Super Seven, a roadster based on a 1957 British Lotus--represented a visceral declaration of independence, a return to basics. He imagined himself following a learn-by-doing path blazed by Thoreau and recharted by Robert Pirsig in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. While this genial car-building chronicle lacks Zen's trendiness, it steers clear of the glib certitudes of ""follow-your-bliss"" self-help manuals. Instead, Goodrich resolutely goes his own way, gauging the automobile's devastating societal impact and engaging the ideas of social critic Thorstein Veblen, religious philosopher Simone Weil (who worked on a Renault assembly line for eight months), billionaire automaker Henry Ford and science historian Thomas Kuhn. Roadster is at once an insightful meditation on modern work and on the relationship between humans and machines, a twisting journal of self-discovery and a wry look at America's love-hate relationship with the automobile. Line drawings. Editor, Hugh van Dusen; agent, Rafe Sagalyn; author tour. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 12/01/1970
Release date: 12/01/1951
Genre: Nonfiction
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