Are We There Yet?: The American Automobile Past, Present, and Driverless

Dan Albert. Norton, $27.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-393-29274-9
Albert, writer for n+1 magazine, outlines the growth of American car culture with wit and insight in this well-researched history of the automobile. From the steam engines of the 1800s to the autonomous cars of tomorrow, Albert traces technical advancements of features such as the aerodynamic unibody called Airflyte in 1949, and CB radios, which, among other things, helped truck drivers organize protests over oil shortages. He explains the early development of electric cars in the 1890s, before the gas-powered Ford Model T became the industry standard. Important figures including Henry Ford receive in-depth biographical treatment, and while Albert praises Ford’s assembly-line production, he doesn’t shy from his anti-Semitism (in 1925, Ford had placed the antisemitic screed The Protocols of the Elders of Zion on the seat of each Model T sold). The never-ending race for market dominance among the major car makers is thrilling, but the pace slows in perfunctory-feeling chapters about the development of air bags and government infrastructure projects. When Albert recounts his own driving and car maintenance, his narrative truly shines, such as when he professes his early love for the slant-six engine, which he worked on in his 1978 Dodge Adventurer pickup. This is a perfect narrative for gearheads, but those who spend time behind the wheel will also surely enjoy the ride. (June)
Reviewed on : 04/11/2019
Release date: 06/11/2019
Genre: Nonfiction
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