More than any other technology, cars have transformed American popular culture. Cars have created vast wealth as well as novel dreams of freedom and mobility. They have transformed our sense of distance and made the world infinitely more available to our eyes and our imaginations. They have inspired cinema, music and literature; they have, by their need for roads, bridges, filling stations, huge factories and global supply chains, re-engineered the world. Almost everything we now need, want, imagine or aspire to assumes the existence of cars in all their limitless power and their complex systems of meanings. As the age of the car as we know it comes to an end, Bryan Appleyard's book tells the story of the rise and fall of the incredible machine that made the modern world what it is today.
Compelling ... The rest is, of course, history, and one that is recounted colorfully and wittily in this volume. Appleyard draws upon a vast knowledge of science, mechanics and cultural lore as he successfully supports his thesis that the car didn’t merely influence the modern world — it created it ... Appleyard covers every conceivable automotive trend ... Whatever the future has in store, Bryan Appleyard has written an important account of automotive history that avoids the frequent transgression committed by Those Who Know A Lot: tossing everything in and creating an unwieldy hodgepodge. This book is beautifully restrained, yet manages to communicate a wealth of fascinating information.
At its best, Appleyard’s book stimulates exactly the feeling of being driven by a reckless but charismatic driver. Just as a wild drive is fun until the brakes come on, it is only when you put the book down that you notice the moments that it occasionally careens into bathos ... For the most part, the book rattles along nicely ... Appleyard’s breezy enthusiasm for his subject means that this is less a history, and more of a love letter. That affection is also the book’s shortcoming ... Just as the author is too quick to downplay the social cost of the car, he is too quick to believe Silicon Valley’s promises that the age of the automobile is coming to an end. Still, The Car is a fun ride, while it lasts.
This book is very much in that familiar voice: forward-looking but sceptical, gnomic but penetrating. It also has excellent anecdotes ... Appleyard likes to seize on a poignant detail ... Covers a huge amount of historical and technical territory ... Towards the end the tone turns elegiac.