Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Drive! Henry Ford, George Selden, and the Race to Invent the Auto Age, by Lawrence Goldstone. Ballantine, 2016

Contrary to popular belief, Henry Ford invented neither the automobile nor the assembly line manufacturing process. The truth is, no one person invented either one of those things. What one person did invent, however, was the idea of a gasoline internal combustion engine. George Selden came up with that, and filed to patent it in 1879 (it wasn’t granted until 1895). Then he never developed the idea further, other than to collect patent royalties from those who actually built and sold gasoline engines.

By the time Henry Ford became interested in automobiles, they were being built and raced in Europe. The development of the car was a group effort, with people all over contributing bits that added up to something that ran under its own volition, and, if one was lucky, also stopped when you wanted it to. Ford was a visionary who could see what an inexpensively made automobile could be, and who had the ability to find and hire people with the skills to make his vision come to reality- even when he didn’t like the people. Ford chose to ignore the Selden patent and fight it out in court, while a large number of independent car builders joined together to form General Motors, paying the royalties and pooling their resources. They figured Ford would go under. We all know how that one worked out!

I chose this book because both my father and my father-in-law were both auto mechanics. My father was born in 1905 in Detroit, and so saw the car industry in its infancy and watched it grow. I wanted to see what he saw. It is an interesting book even though I don’t really understand the technical details. The book doesn’t go deep, but it gives a good overview. It could have used more photographs of those great old cars. The automobile changed the world- roads needed to be built that cars could handle, fueling stations needed to exist, mechanics to handle breakdowns, road laws needed to be made, people could spread out- and this book shows some of the problems encountered along the way. 

The above is an affiliate link. If you click through and buy something- anything- Amazon will give me a few cents. 

I received this book free from Net Galley in return for an unbiased review. 

Neither of these things influenced my review.  

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