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, with internal-combustion-engine, driver-controlled vehicles due to die in 2030 Bryan Appleyard’s brilliantly insightful book tells the story of the rise and fall of the incredible machine that made the modern world what it is today. ‘This book is a mosaic of stories and characters,’ writes Brian Appleyard in his introduction to THE CAR, ‘A strictly linear form would not be true to the multifarious history of the car with its connections to politics, economics and art as much as to engineering, industry and consumer society. Only by setting these themes side by side is it possible to understand the world the car made, because in this world everything touches everything else. ‘
THE CAR celebrates the immense drama and beauty of the car, of the genius embodied in the Ford Model T, of the glory of the brilliant-red Mercedes Benz S-Class made by workers for Nelson Mandela on his release from prison, of Kanye West’s ‘chopped’ Maybach, of the salvation of the Volkswagen Beetle by Major Ivan Hirst, of Elvis Presley’s 100 Cadillacs, of the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost and the BMC Mini and even of that harbinger of the end – the Tesla Model S and its creator Elon Musk.
THE CAR: The Rise and Fall of the Machine That Made the Modern World which is published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson on 17th March.