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Another !@#$% Book Question …


J3Studio
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… are there any general (not marque or corporation specific) and reasonably complete histories of the automobile industry?

 

For what I'm working on, I'm really interested in 1945 forward, but I'd be fine with an overall history. Or, is this just too big a topic?

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From an economic standpoint, or from an innovation standpoint, or cultural impact?  Your statement is broad.  The History channel did a great muti-part series on the history of the automobile.  They had several inaccuracies but overall it was good.

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6 minutes ago, TerryB said:

From an economic standpoint, or from an innovation standpoint, or cultural impact?  Your statement is broad.

 

Yep, I know—probably why I'm having trouble finding a book!

 

:)

 

I think I'm on the economic and innovation side. There seem to be a reasonable amount of books with cultural analysis.

 

To get more detailed: I'd love to find a book that could walk me through the big themes from each model year—the economic, design, and engineering climate. Right now, I'm assembling from many sources, which makes me think I'm missing something …

Edited by J3Studio (see edit history)
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Way too broad for any one book. The Automobile Quarterly single marque Book series is a good start. Each volume gives a reasonably comprehensive look at the overall history of the subject make.  There are several makes covered, Buick, Cadillac, and others. I have a number of them and have found them all to be high overall quality.

  Many others of merit as well. Automotive books are nearly a hobby in themselves.

 

Greg in Canada

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14 minutes ago, 1912Staver said:

Way too broad for any one book. The Automobile Quarterly single marque Book series is a good start. Each volume gives a reasonably comprehensive look at the overall history of the subject make.  There are several makes covered, Buick, Cadillac, and others. I have a number of them and have found them all to be high overall quality.

  Many others of merit as well. Automotive books are nearly a hobby in themselves.

 

I agree … but it strikes me as strange that there isn't at least one survey. Perhaps we're so aligned to our preferred marque or marques.

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20 minutes ago, Steve Moskowitz said:

Wow, ambitious project but there are a lot of books but no specific book comes to mind.  Lutz's book, Iacocca's, etc.  You are located less than two hours from here...you should come and spend a day in our library and research the thousands of books we have.

 

That would be ambitious, but that's not what I'm doing. I'm just sourcing small parts into a far more specific book for context.

 

It strikes me that you would have to be a brutally good writer to successfully integrate all the themes for an overall history.

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Anything on the automotive industry as a whole is probably going to be a industry related trade journal that looks at a snapshot of the overall industry at a given point in time. Trends , innovations, industry related job appointments, overall economic indicators. Things that are useful to Auto industry  management and engineering professionals. Rarely seen by the general public, and rarely saved over time. They are interesting when I stumble across them and as long as a near give away price I sometimes buy them.  But they are so focused on a specific business quarter or few months span that they are of little use from a historical context.

 

Greg

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1 minute ago, 1912Staver said:

Anything on the automotive industry as a whole is probably going to be a industry related trade journal that looks at a snapshot of the overall industry at a given point in time. Trends , innovations, industry related job appointments, overall economic indicators. Things that are useful to Auto industry  management and engineering professionals. Rarely seen by the general public, and rarely saved over time. They are interesting when I stumble across them and as long as a near give away price I sometimes buy them.  But they are so focused on a specific business quarter or few months span that they are of little use from a historical context.

 

I think you have something there. A few years ago, my wife and I drove all of Route 66 for the third time. We stayed in the fabulous Blue Swallow motel in Tucumcari, NM. I'll let an excerpt from Slightly Slower 66 take over:

 

    "It had been a long day and it was starting to get late. Ivelis announced that she was going to go to sleep. I told her that was absolutely fine, but honesty required me to admit to her that I was going to read the entire length of the Automotive News from the week of September 22nd, 1958 that had been placed on my nightstand. Ivelis giggled and turned off her light.


    I actually did read the entire paper from front to back before turning off my light and going to sleep. After the two of us had passed the DeSoto sign in Carthage on the previous day, one of the articles in this particular Automotive News detailed how hopeful DeSoto dealers were for the new 1959 model year—DeSoto would barely make into the 1960s, folding suddenly in late 1961. In 1959, the most expensive car available for sale in the United States was a Ferrari 250 GT—at about $14,000 (a nice 1959 250 GT is worth approximately $750,000 in late 2015)."

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Automobile Trade Journal was a good eye on the marketplace in the early days.  Annual Stock reports by the auto companies would be good reading too. Motor magazine with its auto show feature.  It’s not all going to be in one convenient book.

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You do not state what sort of book you are working on or what information you require. But no history is worth much unless it is based on original research. You need to get hold of contemporary documents, statistics on sales, production, features etc. The AACA library is an excellent place to start.

 

I can tell you that cars changed more in the decade from 1945 to 1955 than any time since. At the start of the decade the typical car was nearly 6 feet high, had a flathead six cylinder engine of about 100HP, six volt electrics, and a heater radio and cigar lighter if it was fully loaded. A decade later cars were a good foot lower, longer, wider, had 300HP V8 engines, auto trans, air conditioning, power steering, power brakes, and dozens of features no one offered 10 years earlier. There wasn't all that much difference between a 1955 car and a 1985 car and many 1955 cars would be perfectly practical to use today, if you gave them disc brakes and radial tires.

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Nice thing about the TV series was it concentrated on the people. I spent 50 years on the bleeding edge of technology (played first computer game in 1957) and it was always follow the people and find the innovation. Nothing happens in a vaccuum.

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15 hours ago, Rusty_OToole said:

You do not state what sort of book you are working on or what information you require. But no history is worth much unless it is based on original research. You need to get hold of contemporary documents, statistics on sales, production, features etc. The AACA library is an excellent place to start.

 

I can tell you that cars changed more in the decade from 1945 to 1955 than any time since. At the start of the decade the typical car was nearly 6 feet high, had a flathead six cylinder engine of about 100HP, six volt electrics, and a heater radio and cigar lighter if it was fully loaded. A decade later cars were a good foot lower, longer, wider, had 300HP V8 engines, auto trans, air conditioning, power steering, power brakes, and dozens of features no one offered 10 years earlier. There wasn't all that much difference between a 1955 car and a 1985 car and many 1955 cars would be perfectly practical to use today, if you gave them disc brakes and radial tires.

 

I would say in my perspective post war cars were fairly much the same technology until 1980.  Basic carb & distributor with the base engine staying much the same except away from flat head engines.

 

1980 was the beginning of the computer era for engine controls.  GM put computer controls on engine management starting in about 1980 1/2 and was fully computer engine management in 1981 to the best of my memory.

 

Since then there has been explosive growth in computer controls management of vehicle systems.   Other manufacturers were on similar timelines at the same time.

Edited by Larry Schramm (see edit history)
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Before you turn the lights off you might want to look at ebay item 142262813883.  It's apparently a report on  THE MOTOR CAR INDUSTRY IN GERMANY DURING THE PERIOD 1939-1945 By Maurice Olley 

AND 
A SPECIAL CONTRIBUTION ON GERMAN RACING CARS 1934-1939 By Cameron C. Earl
ByMaurice Olley and Cameron C. Earl
Looks like it would make some interesting reading, although it somewhat pre-dates what you are looking for.
Terry
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7 minutes ago, Larry Schramm said:

 

I would say in my perspective post war cars were fairly much the same technology until 1980.  Basic carb & distributor with the base engine staying much the same except away from flat head engines.

 

1980 was the beginning of the computer era for engine controls.  GM put computer controls on engine management starting in about 1980 1/2 and was fully computer engine management in 1981 to the best of my memory.

 

Since then there has been explosive growth in computer controls management of vehicle systems.   Other manufacturers were on similar timelines at the same time.

Interesting note on the computerization of cars Larry.  I was digging into that not long ago and learned the first electronic control units (ECUs) showed up in mass-production GM and Ford vehicles in the 1970s to handle basic functions such as ignition timing and transmission shifting in response to tighter fuel economy and emission regulations. By the 1980s, more sophisticated computerized engine-management systems enabled the use of reliable electronic fuel-injection systems. while GM developed new computerized systems for the 1981 model year and Ford installed its first EEC (Electronic Engine Control) system on the 1978 Lincoln Versailles.  But, it was Chrysler that beat them both by introducing its Electronic Lean-Burn System on select 1976 models.  Even prior to that, Bosch perfected their Jetronic electronic fuel injection system, which used data from a pressure sensor as well as engine speed to control the fuel injection rate. Jetronic was indeed a computer-based system, and it worked. Bosch licensed it to several automakers; the first to put it into production was Volkswagen, in the 1968 Type III Fastback and Squareback. VW ran ads saying goodbye to the carburetor and touting the Type III as the first car with its own computer. 

 

I much prefer my Model T however.

Terry

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16 hours ago, Rusty_OToole said:

But no history is worth much unless it is based on original research.

I have not seen a recent automotive book that went back to basic research.  I have about 1500 automotive books and in the last thirty years each new book just compounds the errors that were previous books.  I am not talking about typographical errors but mistakes in real facts and figures.

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Though not a book but a group of articles, I'd recommend the website Curbside Classic as it deals with post WWII cars of all makes.  There are a number of good analyzes of industry trends and influences as they relate to specific makes and models.    You might narrow the subject to one or two aspects, if for no other reason than to finish with something worth reading rather than a general unsatisfactory overview.

 

Steve

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18 hours ago, J3Studio said:

 

Yep, I know—probably why I'm having trouble finding a book!

 

:)

 

I think I'm on the economic and innovation side. There seem to be a reasonable amount of books with cultural analysis.

 

To get more detailed: I'd love to find a book that could walk me through the big themes from each model year—the economic, design, and engineering climate. Right now, I'm assembling from many sources, which makes me think I'm missing something …

 

Seems like an extremely large set of books when (if ;) ) you finish.

 

Being trained as an engineer, I was never overly interested in the economics. As a general rule, engineers wish to make the very best quality produce, hang the cost. The accountants wish to make the very cheapest product, hang the quality. Management has to be the go-between.

 

Other than a focus on carburetor history, I also focus on Oakland and Pontiac history, and have a huge library of original Oakland/Pontiac literature (roughly 11000 original pieces). You can study sales brochures, service manuals, parts manuals, etc.; but the real scoop on innovations for Pontiac can be found in the Engineering Data booklets. These were a typewritten booklet prepared by the Engineering Department each year, and submitted to the CEO, the Board of Directors, etc. According to a departed friend who was once Chief Engineer, 6 copies were prepared each year. When Pontiac was still alive, even the Pontiac Engineering Department, due to space purges, did not have a complete set. These surface very rarely, and when they do, they bring a BUNCH of money. From memory, in some 55 years of collecting, I have acquired 5. 

 

If you really are interested in doing a comprehensive study, this is the type of literature that is invaluable.

 

My guess for an overall industry resource would be reading the S.A.E. papers.

 

Jon.

Edited by carbking (see edit history)
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24 minutes ago, Tinindian said:

I have not seen a recent automotive book that went back to basic research.  I have about 1500 automotive books and in the last thirty years each new book just compounds the errors that were previous books.  I am not talking about typographical errors but mistakes in real facts and figures.

 

Exactly! And the internet just compounds the errors more quickly!

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I have the entire 205 issues of Automobile Quarterly (published 1962-2012, collectively likely the best researched and photographed general source you will find), including their 500 page publication "The American Car since 1775" published in 1971. I also have over 200 other hard-covered books on marques and automotive history in general. Taken together, they still likely miss some important aspects of the business or obscure information. Since the earliest meaningful automotive history as we know it began in Germany with Daimler & Benz circa 1885 (there were some other less well known early experimenters as well), any and most good histories will generally need to start around there.

 

Ralph Stein has written several fine books on the subject, such as "The Treasury of the Automobile" published in 1961, "The Great Cars" published 1967, and "The American Automobile". All are wonderful reads.

 

Others with good coverage include "The Age of the Automobile" by George Bishop 1977, "The History of the Motor Car" by Peter Roberts 1984, "History of the Motor Car" by Marco Matteuchi 1970, "A History of the World's Classic Cars" by Hough-Frostick, 1963, "Power Behind the Wheel" by Walter Boyne 1988, and a narrower but good read, "Runabouts and Roadsters" by Bob Stubenrauch 1973. 

 

Histories of the Automobile are getting more and more difficult to write/publish as one now has to cover about 150 years, a broad range of technological development, many different country's offerings, business, racing, specific marques, pioneers and hucksters, revolutionary advances and failures (deserved and undeserved) and on many such topics, debate still rages. Good Luck with your research.   

 

 

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1 hour ago, Terry Bond said:

Before you turn the lights off you might want to look at ebay item 142262813883.  It's apparently a report on  THE MOTOR CAR INDUSTRY IN GERMANY DURING THE PERIOD 1939-1945 By Maurice Olley 

AND 
A SPECIAL CONTRIBUTION ON GERMAN RACING CARS 1934-1939 By Cameron C. Earl
ByMaurice Olley and Cameron C. Earl
Looks like it would make some interesting reading, although it somewhat pre-dates what you are looking for.
Terry

If this is the same Maurice Olley who developed independent front suspension for GM in the thirties, and before that worked for Rolls Royce, I would say he is a genuine source.

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17 hours ago, Rusty_OToole said:

You do not state what sort of book you are working on or what information you require. But no history is worth much unless it is based on original research. You need to get hold of contemporary documents, statistics on sales, production, features etc. The AACA library is an excellent place to start.

 

I agree on the original research, and I'm doing a good amount of that. What I was looking for here is some background material.

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18 hours ago, Tinindian said:

I have not seen a recent automotive book that went back to basic research.  I have about 1500 automotive books and in the last thirty years each new book just compounds the errors that were previous books.  I am not talking about typographical errors but mistakes in real facts and figures.

 

This is the problem. There is a lot of 'mythology' that began as advertising slogans or public relations BS that became common knowledge and now 'everybody' knows it is true. General Motors seems to have been the main source of phony 'facts'.

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Background material of what? I have been an auto enthusiast all my life and have read hundreds of books and thousands of magazines concerning the car world. I would be happy to sit down with you and tell you all I know, if you have 50 years or so.

OK how about this. There was some discussion on this thread about the development of electronic fuel injection and engine controls. They traced EFI back to Bosch who introduced it on VW's Type 3 in 1968. But they fail to mention that it was a straight copy of the Bendix system developed in the US, and offered on Chrysler and American Motors cars in 1958. I have original magazine articles from 1958, and worked on many VWS and the systems are the same. The only difference is the advance in the state of the art of electronics which eventually made the system reliable.

 

Or how about the Buick Y Job of 1938? If you read anything about it you will find it was the first experimental show car, a GM innovation. What BS. The very name gives it away. For years designers had been coming out with new experimental cars named "X This" or "X That" for experimental, this was getting old hat so the Buick stylist started calling their new car the Y job around the shop, as the next step after X. Every year there were dozens of special show models developed by various companies, going back to the beginning of the car industry.

 

I could go on but why bother. If you have any specific questions this is the place to get the answers but open ended questions don't get much response.

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19 hours ago, J3Studio said:

To get more detailed: I'd love to find a book that could walk me through the big themes from each model year—the economic, design, and engineering climate

Popular Mechanics used to have a column called Detroit Listening Post in the fifties. It contains exactly the information you require - the latest scuttlebutt on developments in the auto industry and the thinking and planning of those in charge and what they are planning for the next year or 2.

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5 minutes ago, Rusty_OToole said:

Popular Mechanics used to have a column called Detroit Listening Post in the fifties. It contains exactly the information you require - the latest scuttlebutt on developments in the auto industry and the thinking and planning of those in charge and what they are planning for the next year or 2.

 

Yep. I've already used several of those columns (and other Popular Mechanics material well into the 1980s). Google has most if not all of them:

https://books.google.com/books?id=d-MDAAAAMBAJ&source=gbs_all_issues_r&cad=1&atm_aiy=1950#all_issues_anchor

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