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

Branding Cars Driving

Giddy up. My new dream car is a truck

I’ve decided I want a Ford Bronco. Not the bloated monster-truck style Bronco or even the bouncy Bronco II, but the square Bronco from the mid-seventies. The one with the small tires and wheels that made it look like it was hiking up its pant legs to wade across a creek. It’s the simple design and square, rugged lines that appeal to me, and to others like newsman Chris Gailus, who, with his Bronco, was the subject of the “My Car” feature in Friday’s Globe Drive. A 1976 Bronco was even featured in the auctions section of last month’s Automobile, where a nicely restored one sold for US$37,000. And it’s also the choice of some hipsters, particularly those with a taste for classic American style and design.

I think what we all like about the Bronco are its clean lines and overall simplicity, because let’s face it, simplicity is not often found in new cars. To me, it’s a classic that’s not a classic of my father’s generation but of mine. And, like the new Range Rover Evoque, it’s a cool truck that can also be considered a really cool car.

While I still want a Porsche 911, if someone were to appear at my door and offer me a choice of a new 911 or an old Bronco, I’d take the Porsche. Then I’d sell it and buy a slightly older Porsche. Then I’d take what’s left over and buy a Bronco.