10 Moments That Made American Business

How a debt-ridden banana republic became the greatest economic engine the world has ever known

It has been 400 years since European settlement began in what is now the United States. In that time a land occupied by a few million Neolithic hunter-gatherers has been transformed into the mightiest economy ever known, producing nearly one-third of the world’s goods and services. There are few economic sectors indeed, from agricultural exports to jet-aircraft production to entertainment, in which the United States does not lead.

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The Car Of The Year (and A Half)

The Ford Mustang changed the industry when its creator realized “people want economy so badly they don’t care what they pay for it”

 

The car was introduced on Friday, April 17, 1964, at the New York World’s Fair. But in another sense it had been born one Sunday in the late 1950s, when Robert McNamara, then president of the Ford Motor Company, sat in church and sketched out the specifications for a new car. The result was the Ford Falcon, the practical, reasonable compact car that sold 400,000 units when it was introduced for the 1960 model year.

The car was introduced on Friday, April 17, 1964, at the New York World’s Fair.Read more »

Prime Mover

The Model T Ford made the world we live in. On the 100th anniversary of the company Henry Ford founded, his biographer Douglas Brinkley tells how.

"I will build a motor car for the great multitude,” Henry Ford proclaimed to the public when he announced the machine that would change America and indeed the world. “It will be so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one—and enjoy with his family the blessing of hours of pleasure in God’s greatest open spaces.”

It was quite a sales pitch. At the time of the Model T’s introduction, on October 1, 1908, the Lord’s pastoral delights remained almost exclusively the domain those wealthy enough to get to them.Read more »

Death Of A Marque

OLDSMOBILE, GONE AFTER 107 YEARS

In December, General Motors announced that it would phase out its Oldsmobile line by 2004. Thus the oldest name in American automobiles will disappear, after 107 years. This is important, of course, only symbolically. The history of the American economy is littered with the once-great names of products and companies that have fallen victim to the creative destruction of capitalism. RCA, Pan American World Airways, Montgomery Ward, and TWA all have vanished in recent years.Read more »

Confessions Of A Sports Car Bolshevik

What it was like to be young and in the front lines
when Europe mounted an assault on Detroit
with small, snarling, irresistible machines that
changed the way we drove and thought

WHAT’S THE POINT OF BEING A BOY IF YOU DON’T GRASP THE FACT that cars are the package excitement comes in? I certainly did. By the age of eleven I was the kind of boy who knew every Dodge and Hudson and Packard of every model year by heart, tore the car ads from the magazines, rushed to the dealers’ showrooms every October for the epic unveiling of next year’s longer, lower, wider wonders. Small Ontario towns had no Bugatti dealers.Read more »

Designer Of The American Dream

Bill Mitchell’s imaginings brought you the cars of Detroit’s ultimate classic era

THEY SIT LIKE RUINED VILLAS IN THE distant reaches of mall parking lots, in inner-city neighborhoods and backcountry towns, dressed no longer in bright colors but in gray patches and orange primer, the last Chevelles and Biscaynes, GTOs and Sting Rays, the dying echoes of the stylistic opera of Bill Mitchell.Read more »

The Emperor’s Pierce-arrow

When American cars ruled the world

THE CURRENT VOGUE FOR PUSHING TO SELL AMERICAN AUTOMOBILES ABROAD can certainly be called overdue. No one has seriously tried such a thing in generations. To make inroads on the number of Volkswagens in Mexico or of Austin Minis in France or on the sea of Japanese automobiles in Japan might seem unprecedented. But actually it’s just an attempt to recapture former markets. Read more »

The Longest Race

At a time when driving from Manhattan to Yonkers was a supreme challenge, a half-dozen cars pointed their radiators west and set out from Times Square for Paris

AS OF FEBRUARY 1908, ONLY NINE people had ever driven across the United States and no car had ever driven across Alaska. No car had driven across Japan. As for Siberia, which had yet to see its first automobile, there was only one man who had ever driven across it alone in any kind of vehicle. It happened in 1791, according to the St. Petersburg newspaper Nichevo , and he had driven a herd of reindeer.Read more »

Engine Of Liberation

What you owe your car (ending the tyranny of the horse is only the beginning of it)

THE AUTOMOBILE IS NOT AN AMERICAN invention. But an industry capable of manufacturing automobiles in vast numbers at prices the common man can afford most certainly is. And it is this invention that changed the world. Read more »

High, Wide, And Handsome

The single best-selling American car isn’t a car at all. It’s a pickup truck. Here’s how it rose from farm hand to fashion accessory.

WHEN CLINT EASTWOOD ROLLS INTO MERYL Streep’s Iowa driveway in The Bridges of Madison County (1995), he is driving a clapped-out 1963 GMC pickup truck. You can safely bet that not one person who saw that movie laughed to see Mr. Eastwood in a pickup instead of a Corvette or a Mustang or some other vehicle that might once have seemed more fitting for a freelance photographer. Contrast this with Cary Grant’s brief stint as a pickup driver in North by Northwest (1959).Read more »