By on July 18, 2012

Having tracked down a copy of Car by Mary Walton, I am now eyeballs deep in the birth and gestation of the DN101 Taurus.

I don’t think I can ever review a car, or write an obnoxious “Brand X Needs To Build Vehicle Y RIGHT NOW” article after reading the unbridled tsuris that results from deciding where to place a rearview mirror. And I really wish I went into some kind of STEM field (who am I kidding, my best math mark ever was a “D”).

Since I’m clearly not a Science or Math kid, all I can do is read. So far I’ve knocked off Arrogance and Accords, and have Car Wars and Where the Suckers Moon in the queue. What else should be added to the pile?

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79 Comments on “QOTD: What Should Be On My Bookshelf?...”


  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    I really can’t recommend anything else, but enjoy and savor that book.

    It offers an outstanding peek into the bowels and guts of realism of the auto industry grind, at least circa 1990s (and I doubt that much has changed since in terms of The Anatomy of a Dissection of a Competitor’s Car), and into the epic and forever battle that lives in the belly of every automaking beast between engineer and bean-counter.

  • avatar
    relton

    Of the 4 you mentioned, Mary Walton’s book is by far the best, in my opinion. I worked at Ford during the time she writes about, though not on the DN101. I actually knew some of the people in the book. Her takes on people are, again in my opinion, very accurate.

    Note that after the book came out, Ford top management said, in effect, “never again”. That is, never will they let an outsider record the development processes of a car at Ford again.

    If you want an insider view of what it used to be like in the car industry, “Fun at Work, Hudson Style” by Harry Krause, available from Olde Milford Press, is entertaining. I may not be objective about this, since I edited the book, but I think it’s a good read.

    David Halberstam’s book, The Reckoning, is also a good read, even though he misses a few things at Ford. It was written in 1986, and misses entirely the impact of the first Taurus.

    Another book of past carmakers is David Bonsall’s “More than they promised”, about Studebaker. His companion book, “Disaster in Dearborn”, about the Edsel, is also great. I wrote my thesis about Studebaker, and I have a 4 foot shelf of literature about Studebaker, and these 2 books are the best.

    • 0 avatar
      Monty

      Relton – I would appreciate if you would provide a more thorough listing of the Studebaker titles you have on your bookshelf.

      I search used bookstores and the internet for books, but sometimes, without titles, I’m searching blind.

      I’ve always had a curiousity about Studebaker, which was only whetted more after I visited the Studebaker Museum in South Bend last year.

    • 0 avatar
      flameded

      “David Halberstam’s book, The Reckoning,”

      Amen. I found that book 3 years ago in a hotel in NH while on vacvation with my ex-wife. Couldn’t put it down (Hmm..wonder if that had anything to do with the marriage?..)

      Anyway, that book changed my entire outlook on the auto industry, the economy, manufacturing in general etc. (well that book and working in the aircraft industry for the last 20 yrs.)

      Great book. If he was only around to see where we are now.

      • 0 avatar
        Steven Lang

        David Halberstam is a superb writer.

        Rivethead, The Fall & Rise of The American Automobile Industry, The Machine That Changed The World, Getting The Bugs Out, Call Me Roger… the late 80′s to early 90′s was an absolute heyday when it came to great books about the car business.

        Oh, one other… Customers For Life.

  • avatar
    npbheights

    CAR is an excellent book. Everybody that follows TTAC should be into cars enough to enjoy it. Can be picked up for a few bucks on amazon.

  • avatar
    JCraig

    The Yugo: The Rise and Fall of the Worst Car in History by Jason Vuic. A very interesting look at what (and who) brought the Yugo to the US. You already know it was Malcolm Bricklin, but it’s a great story.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    “Wheels” by Arthur Hailey. An excellent read, but from 1971. The “Orion”, the subject car eerily resembles the 1996 Taurus!

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Sloan’s “My Years with General Motors” provides some good insights on how GM could become the world’s largest car company, and why the same ideas and attitudes that could work well in the past could set them up for failure later.

    Jim Womack’s “The Machine that Changed the World” is almost a sequel to Sloan’s book, as it shows how TMC could disrupt the traditional production model in order to dethrone the Americans. It’s a bit fawning, but well worth reading.

    Along similar lines is David Halberstam’s “The Reckoning”.

    “Rude Awakening” by Maryann Keller.

    I know that Michael Karesh hates it, and it is agitprop of sorts, but Keith Bradsher’s “High and Mighty” is also worth reading.

  • avatar
    86er

    “Once upon a Car” was a good summary of the bailout period (and I recall was prominently reviewed on TTAC).

    “On a Clear Day You Can See General Motors”.

    “Guts” isn’t a bad read; I didn’t find “Car Guys” as edifying.

  • avatar
    Jack Baruth

    OBVIOUSLY,

    “All Corvettes Are Red”

    • 0 avatar

      This one is ten times better than the Walton book. Walton started observing the development of the Taurus well into the process, and as a result had to rely on interviews overly much.

      Walton is perhaps my least favorite book on the development of a specific car. Either hers or Brock’s on the Chrysler minivan. Brock was too close to the subject to not paint a rosy picture.

      The three best:

      1. All Corvettes — author spent seven years on the project, then died a year or two after publication

      2. Car Launch — little known, product of MIT research at Ford, tracks the development of the last Continental (though this isn’t stated in the book); the best from an academic standpoint

      3. Schnayerson on the EV1; don’t remember much about it except it was better than the other two

      Others have already mentioned other good books on the history of the auto industry. I’ve always really like Keller’s book, but Halberstam and Yates are also very good.

      • 0 avatar
        Glenn Mercer

        Just checking: do you mean Car Launch by George Roth? I want to make sure I get the right book. I have heard of every other book listed so far, not that one. Thanks! GM (my initials haunt me….)

      • 0 avatar

        That’s the one. Beyond the development of the Continental, following which the program manager’s career came to an end, the book also describes Ford’s inability to learn.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    You may enjoy “Sixty to Zero” by Alex Taylor III which gives alot of insight about the last thirty years up to the 2009 bailout. I very much enjoyed it.

  • avatar
    vcficus

    Ben Hamper’s “Rivethead” is required reading IMHO even though it’s a little dated… everytime I think of Quality Cat I smile.

    The assembly line view from the over-educated side is Solange DeSantos’ “Life On The Line”, she starts out an observer but ends up closer to Ben than she realized.

    I agree with most of the others mentioned… “Cars” is typical Hailey but has some historical perspective as well, don’t take it seriously though.

  • avatar
    readallover

    I concur on `All Corvettes are Red`
    Also, Jim Wangers book `Glory Days` about pontiac and advertising and marketing cars in the 1960`s is a good read.

  • avatar
    Autopassion

    “The Golden Age of the American Racing Car”, by Griffith Borgeson. Beautiful book covering the work of Offenhauser, Goossen, Miller, Dusengerg and Chevrolet between 1910 and 1930

  • avatar
    readallover

    Almost forgot: Beijing Jeep by Jim Mann on the early days of AMC-Jeep in China

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    “A Savage Factory”, about life in a Ford transmission plant was excellent although eye opening as to the animous between line and management. Certainly the bad old days I assume.

    “Taurus: The Making of the Car That Saved Ford” is about the development of the original Taurus and how it was a crap shoot. If it failed Ford would have had to declare bankruptcy.

    Walton’s book is excellent in that you see such a huge culture shift from the Gen 1 development. By the early ’90s Ford was solvent and swimming in Explorer bucks….and was swinging for the fences again, but to what end? I for one (of many methinks) thought Gen 2 was hideous…different just to be unique, but so was the Suzuki SX90. Since the 1992 refresh was so successful, why not sharpen that design?

    But no, Ford felt it was more important to swing for the fence and ovoid the world (and also charge Accord+ prices…). Shudder.

    I also think that market slap made them go REALLY conservative on the Five Hundred, which was when they needed to go big against the Chrysler 300…

    • 0 avatar
      dtremit

      Oddly, the failure of the ’96 was in part due to the success of the ’86. The original Taurus was pretty outlandish for its segment, and a lot of more conservative buyers were reluctant to buy it in the first few years. However, that design sold well for ten years with only one refresh in part because what was groundbreaking in ’86 was mainstream by ’92.

      I believe the thinking was that by going radical, the design would get early adopters in ’96, and then be embraced by more conservative buyers later in its lifecycle.

      Had the ’96 actually set a style trend, maybe they would have been proven right — who knows. Sadly, it was obvious fairly quickly that the design had missed the mark.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    Love “Car”. “Ford: The Men and the Machine” is pretty good, the early bits covers the gestation of the American auto industry quite nicely. It’s long and a bit ponderous, but it covers a lot.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      “Ford: The Men and the Machine”

      I forgot that one. I read it and it is excellent. I also enjoyed “Iacocca”, also enjoyable, and there was another one that featured the big 3 logos on the cover, but can’t recall the title. I read it while on vacation in 2005. It did kind of fawn on Carlos Ghosn as if he was the coming savior of the industry, but not too bad overall.

  • avatar
    bkmurph

    What a coincidence! I just started reading “Car” as well, having found a lightly used hardcover copy for sale online.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    “The Betsy” for your beach vacation. “The Fords an American Epic” by Peter Collier and David Horowitz, dated but still a good read. Thanks to everyone for their recommendations.

  • avatar
    racingmaniac

    A book of more pornographic nature(automotively speaking), Driving Ambition.

  • avatar
    Monty

    “The Last Onslaught on Detroit” – the story of Kaiser – Frasier

    “The Toyota Way” – explains the genius of Toyota manufacturing

    “Ford – The Men and Machines” – a really entertaining look at Ford

  • avatar
    Driver7

    Seconding the recommendations of “The Machine that Changed the World” and “Ford: The Men and Machines.”
    Also read: Brock Yates’ “The Decline and Fall of the American Auto Industry.”

  • avatar
    jhefner

    I read in the order that they happened in history:

    Taurus: The Making of the Car That Saved Ford by Eric Taub

    Car: A Drama of the American Workplace

    Ford Taurus in Nascar: How Ford’s Best-Selling Sedan Became Nascar’s Hottest Racing Machine

    I think I enjoyed them more reading them collectively in order; especially as the 1995 Taurus wagon in my avitar was in the shop at the time being restored after sitting dead in the driveway for four years. It has made this year “the year of the Taurus” for me.

    Of the three, I enjoyed Car the least; probably because I was more interested in the technical side of how cars came about; rather than the personalities involved. It felt at times like I was reading a car-based soap opera.

    • 0 avatar
      jhefner

      One interesting nugget from Car is that Ford originally planned to retain the 1986-1995 wagon, and graft on the new front end. Apparently, a clay model was made of it; when someone saw it and remarked it looked like an applicance, they did a hasty redesign into the production version with the teardrop side windows in the rear and the oval rear glass.

      Would like to see what it originally looked like. I have a paper model of the 1992-1995 Taurus wagon, and a paper model of the NASCAR Ford Taurus; toyed with the idea of trying to build it in paper.

      • 0 avatar
        Wheeljack

        My favorite nugget from “Car” is the story about how the headlamp engineer quit the company (if memory serves) over the marketing inspired “jewel-like” clear-lens headlamps that won out over properly engineered faceted-lens units. He was so upset about it he just didn’t want his name associated with the end product. Bravo sir! History shows you were right – the 1996 Taurus headlamps were truly awful.

      • 0 avatar
        dtremit

        I’m a little bit skeptical of this story — not saying there’s nothing true in it, but I know a lot of work went into unique details on that wagon. The rear suspension was a separate design they were quite proud of, and I recall there was a lot of care put into balancing weight and strength in the tailgate, ultimately using laser-welded blanks for the stamping.

        Incidentally, the “soap opera” comment is spot on — my father was an engineer on the program, and I seem to recall him thinking the personalities in the book were massively exaggerated.

  • avatar
    Advance_92

    Is there anything good about the current method of design and production? Car already feels pretty dated, and I’m not so keen on 50s-70s nostalgia.

    • 0 avatar

      They don’t seem to have gotten up the nerve to let anyone else inside after the late 90s batch.

      Towards the end of my observations inside GM Jerry Palmer walked up to me, shook my hand, and said, “So, I hear you’re writing another Corvette book.” I’d managed to fly below the radar until then. My observations ended a few days later. They were very clear that there would be no more “Corvette books” until they’d forgotten about the first one.

      The key challenges are human, not technical, anyway. The existing books will remain relevant as long as humans make the key decisions and have to rely on a large number of other humans to do much of the work.

  • avatar
    markholli

    I’m currently reading Lee Iaccoca’s autobiography. It was a bestseller in it’s day (1980s) but I haven’t gotten far enough into it to have a strong opinion of whether it’s a good read.

    Before that I read “Car,” which was an incredible read. I came away from that book appreciating every car that has ever been developed and produced at a much deeper level. Even the stinkers (**cough** Aztek) required millions of man hours, meetings, arguments, sacrifices, etc.

    I also really enjoyed Bob Lutz’s book “Car Guys vs. Bean Counters.” It’s a quick read, and a little bit of a pat-on-the-back by Lutz to himself, but it offers some great insight to why GM failed and almost imploded in the 2000′s.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      “…it offers some great insight to why GM failed and almost imploded in the 2000′s.”

      Not to make a mountain out of a taxpayer backed more-hill, but “almost?”

      (And before anyone accuses me of anti-GM sentiment, I’d rather have GM/Chrysler bailed out than parasitic banks on Wall Street, although I tend to lean against state bailouts of allegedly private enterprises in most cases but never more so than with useless parasites of banking)

  • avatar
    motoringjourno

    I considered this a while ago (http://motoringjourno.com/2012/04/build-motoring-library/) and concluded that LJK Setright’s ‘Drive On!’ was the only essential motoring book – but ‘The Gold-Plated Porsche’ came close, especially when justifying auto-related expenditure to your wife: “heh look, compared to this guy I’m a spendthrift…”

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    Ditto for John Z DeLorean’s “On a Clear day you can see General Motors”.

    Indeed, this was written well before his DeLorean Motors debacle, while he was still a cocky, playboy wunderkind. But it outlines GM’s aloof corporate culture from an unique perspective.

    • 0 avatar

      One other person mentioned it, and it is the best account by a former auto executive. Of course, there aren’t any others I can think of that truly try to provide an inside look.

    • 0 avatar
      Geekcarlover

      Read it years ago for a business class. Very eye opening. The two things that stood out, were the theory of a cars development and reality (Corvair). And how minor changes can have huge consequences. Like standardizing gauge/dash packages. It saved thousands of man hours and millions of dollars.

  • avatar
    Glenn Mercer

    A little different, for a Japanese view of product development: “The Prius That Shook the World,” by Hideshi Itazaki. Not easy to find in print, but sniff around the internet, as a PDF version of the English translation is available.

    • 0 avatar

      This one is news to me–thanks for the tip!

      • 0 avatar
        Glenn Mercer

        You’re welcome, and thanks for the tip re Car Launch, can’t believe I missed that! The Prius book is authorized by Toyota itself so a promotional piece at heart I guess(no juicy anecdotes about the boss ripping up the design roughs at midnight before hitting a strip club, etc.) but it told me a lot I did not know. My main takeaway is that if other development books drive home the point that getting a car from sketch to market is a series of 5,000 small painful decisions, then getting a car AND a new powertrain from sketch to market is a series of 8,000 small painful decisions. As noted by DK in the original post, these books make you sympathize or at least empathize with the OEM personnel more. They may screw up, but it is not for a lack of trying not to. No one on the Aztek team, for example, woke up one morning and thought “I wonder how we can best design a car so that it will become a laughingstock?” (Ok, after having read Vuic’s book, MAYBE someone at Yugo felt that way… (grin))

      • 0 avatar

        I was inside Mid-Lux and the Design Centre while the Aztek was being developed. The key team members were all good people whose hands were essentially tied. They’re all doing well inside GM today. Mark Reuss led the program, Tom Peters was the chief designer, Don Butler was the brand manager.

  • avatar
    johnny ringo

    If you can find a copy, read “The Decline and Fall of Detroit”
    by Brock Yates. It was written in the early 80′s, but Yates offers a lot of insight into how the domestic automakers got into their plight.

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    Didn’t Yates write an article or two here on TTAC?

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    I was reading “The Toyota Way” and then found a paper comparing TOC with TPS. Since then I take the “Lean Religion” with a grain of salt. I can supply you the paper via email.

    Then I found this //books.google.com.au/books?hl=en&lr=&id=J3vMT3TU_zMC&oi=fnd&pg=PR7&dq=automotive+industry+defect+evaluation&ots=z5IXfglQJI&sig=Y6LhmOKnrAoei3P29E2GbTZgJsg#v=onepage&q=automotive%20industry%20defect%20evaluation&f=false

    I’d really would like to read the ones written by Henry Ford and Taichi Ohno.

    Regarding this “I don’t think I can ever review a car, or write an obnoxious “Brand X Needs To Build Vehicle Y RIGHT NOW” article after reading the unbridled tsuris that results from deciding where to place a rearview mirror.” Thanks!

  • avatar
    Geekcarlover

    I’m weary of a lot of “insider” books. I’m still waiting for someone to write YEAH, WE BLEW IT. A lot of the books written by former execs seem to be from the Ignored Messiah point of view. “If they had only listened to me.” I’m not sure if it’s ego and self aggrandizement or if they are trying to put a better spin on their resume.

  • avatar

    A Century of Automotive Style by Michale Lamm with Dave Holls is the best book on American automotive design that there is.

    Howard Bak’s Henry and Edsel, the Making of the Ford Empire. Very good look at the early days of FoMoCo. A lot of those stories about Henry, it turns out, were true.

    Charles Hyde has written academic histories of Dodge, Chrysler and Nash/Hudson/AMC. He’s not a car enthusiast so they tend to be a bit dry on the car guy stuff, but they’re great business histories.

    Chrysler Concept Cars 1940-1970 by Fetherston and Thacker. The Chrysler concepts weren’t as high profile as the GM Motorama cars but Virgil Exner’s designs still echo in Auburn Hills.

    David Temple’s book on the GM Motorama cars, is a good reference and has more photos of the Motorama than you’ll find but I don’t think it’s written particularly well.

    Also, The Extraordinary Life of Josef Ganz, which I reviewed for TTAC. In addition to documenting Ganz’s role in popularizing the concept of a “volkswagen” Paul Schilperoord’s book give a great deal of the backstory of European automobile engineering and design in the 1930s.

    One book I haven’t read yet but hope to sometime soon is The Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild: An Illustrated History by John Jacobus.

  • avatar
    supremebrougham

    Wow, lots of potentially good reads if my computer ever quits!

    I’m going to throw into this list “The Critical Path”, by Brock Yates. It followed the development of the 1996 Chrysler minivans. I thought it was rather interesting…

  • avatar
    Wheeljack

    “Let’s Call it Fiesta” is a great read.

    ** Edit: I also liked “Taken For A Ride” about the Daimler “merger” with Chrysler

  • avatar
    A09

    I just ordered my copy of “Car” based on everyone’s recommendations here. I recommend “Inside the Mind of Toyota” by Satoshi Hino. This book discusses the management principles of Toyota’s product development. I spent two years at Toyota as an engineering co-op during my undergrad days, and this book is the best account of their management philosophy.

  • avatar
    MusicMachine

    “The Legend of Henry Ford” by Keith Sward. Every page (481) is enjoyable.

  • avatar
    MusicMachine

    Mr. Kreindler, brilliant topic. Some library in the world really should compile the list of books pertaining to the auto industry. Perhaps yours is the start!

  • avatar
    Johnster

    “The Great Cars,” by Ralph Stein

    “The Dream Machine: The Golden Age of American Automobiles, 1946-1965,” A Norback book, by Jerry Flint

    “Unsafe at Any Speed” by Ralph Nader

    “Recall” by Thomas Walker (a.k.a. Thomas Page)

  • avatar
    mkirk

    Best Damn Garage in Town: The World According to Smokey. Not the easiest read and pretty long, but certainly a departure from all of the analytical books above.

  • avatar
    CA Guy

    Wheels for the World: Henry Ford, His Company and a Century of Progress, 1903-2003 by Douglas Brinkley – good read by an academic historian who can write for the general public.

  • avatar
    DownEaster

    “Taken for a Ride” by Bill Vlasic and Bradly A. Stertz copyright 2000 talks about Daimler’s takeover of Chrysler in 1998. It would be interesting to see what Chrysler would be like now if it had remained independent and not decimated by Daimler. Lee Iacocca’s books are all good. His first one Iacocca, Talking Straight which talks about buying AMC and is 2008 book Where Have All the Leaders Gone? Also I would recommend American Motors: The Last Independent, Consumer Guide had a book of American Cars from the 1930s to the 1980s that told about all the different automakers and their cars. Also my favorite for facts and figures are the Standard Catalog of American Cars series. Also I like to read the Consumer Guide yearly book over cars for a certain year. They are a time capsule of road tests and features of cars of that year.

  • avatar
    Glenn Mercer

    Well this doesn’t count as a BOOK obviously, but after seeing a few mentions of the Vuic book on Bricklin… maybe you can skip the book and just go see the musical! Does this qualify as the only car-related musical ever? Or just the only current one?

    http://www.bricklinmusical.ca/

  • avatar
    Gannet

    Something a little different, but it would be of interest to the staff, as well as the readers: “Muscle Car Confidential (Confessions of a Muscle Car Test Driver)”, Joe Oldham.

    This tells the story of Joe’s tenure as pretty much *the* main East Coast road tester during the height of the musclecar era. It’s not just about the cars, but also about the crazy not-politically-correct East Coast magazines, and how one very lucky young man got started in the biz.

  • avatar
    danwat1234

    Book; “Drive it forever”, great book! A lot of it is common sense but there are some intriguing parts to the book. I plan on driving my 1999 Civic forever and so I got the book.

    http://www.amazon.com/Drive-It-Forever-Secrets-Automobile/dp/0965757706


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