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Auto industry, Cars, Transportation

The cars that drove the culture

This book review appears in the Winter 2012 edition of CAA Magazine

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

Engines of Change (Simon & Schuster, 2012) by Paul Ingrassia is a fascinating look at the intersection of cars and culture. And it’s as much about the ground-breaking cars of the 20th century as it is about the people who championed and built them, like Lee Iacocca and Hal Sperlich

In 1961 Iacocca, the relentless marketing man, tapped into the fast-growing “youth movement” and found that young Americans were hungry for a small, fast, sporty car. He and Sperlich, an ambitious product planner, led the teams that took the chassis of the dowdy Ford Falcon and gave it a modern sleek body, creating the Mustang. The car personified youthful optimism and ushered in the Pony Car movement and Detroit’s horsepower wars.

Iacocca and Sperlich were both eventually fired from Ford and found their way to Chrysler in the ’70s. As Iacocca fought to save Chrysler from collapse, Sperlich saw potential profits in a new type of family vehicle: the minivan. He bet that the young people who had bought Mustangs in the ’60s now had families and needed a more practical vehicle. Ford had already rejected Sperlich’s idea, but Chrysler had little to lose. And they had a front-wheel-drive platform that begat the dull but successful K-car, which in turn would underpin the Dodge Caravan when it debuted in 1983.

Engines of Change is full of great stories and anecdotes—from Honda’s audacious entry into North America to Jeep’s many near-death experiences. Even the most oil-stained car enthusiast will be entertained for hours.

Paul Ferriss

 
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About Paul Ferriss

Paul Ferriss is a writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He is editor of CAA Magazine (published for the Canadian Automobile Association by Totem, a custom content agency.) He's also Totem's director of creative and editorial. Previously he was executive editor at Marketing, a magazine covering advertising, media and marketing, where he also covered automotive marketing and managed an editorial team. He also works as a freelance writer and has written for a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites including The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, National Post and Canadian Business. He's the author of Never Too Fast: The Paul Tracy Story.

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