At the beginning of the twentieth century, human beings finally acquired the godlike gift of freedom in the shape of the automobile. Everyone wants a car. And as soon as the money is there, everyone buys one. The car has utterly transformed our lives. Whether we shall survive it is another question.
In a series of explorations at once historical and actual, from the Paris of the first road-races to Ford’s Detroit, Hitler’s Berlin and the fragmented world of the Los Angeles freeways, from class war to the automobile suburb and the fantasy life of John DeLorean, Automobile follows the car’s momentous journey as it shapes the twentieth century, and sets the terms for the twenty-first.
It traces the pattern of automobile history in which the promise of dreams fulfilled is followed, time and again, by a wholly unexpected comeuppance, and ends with the question nobody dares ask: What will happen when the oil runs out? Oil production will peak very soon – some think as soon as 2006; at the most optimistic estimate in 2020. This is the moment known in the jargon as the Big Rollover. At that point, demand will outstrip supply and the age of cheap travel will end.
Delivered at full throttle … Brandon is expert at finding fascinating byways.’ The Independent
‘A white-knuckle journey … Auto Mobile is a revealing and frightening book.’ – Glasgow Sunday Herald
‘Deft and thorough … thoughful and thought-provoking .. The only thing wrong with Brandon’s book is that you can’t read it while driving.’ – Lynne Truss, Sunday Times
‘Ruth Brandon has written a superb popular history of the car, leavening hard data and statistics with anecdotage, mini-biographies and pithy musings on the state we’re in, automobile-wise.’ – Frank McLynn, Glasgow Herald