The Way To The Big Sea Water

A century ago the Soo canal was an insignificant ditch in a remote northern wilderness. Today it serves as the busiest industrial highway on earth.

The country club at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, looks across the great bend of the St. Mary’s River to Sugar Island, where a few Chippewas still live in the maple forest; beyond are the great spruce woods of Canada and the long dark skyline of the Laurentians. Inside the club house you can see a century-old canoe, a canot du nord built for the wilderness, sturdy and graceful, strong enough to carry tons of peltry yet light enough to portage.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 »

Detroit Iron

A tribute to the brash confections our car makers offered the world during a decade when not one American in a thousand had even heard the name Toyota

America swaggered off the World War II battlefields like a heavyweight champion who had just scored a first-round knockout. Our losses were tragic—292,000 dead—but they were a relative bloody nose compared with the slashings and renderings of millions upon millions of other people caught up in the carnage. Moreover, our civilian population had been spared the terror bombings, occupations, and huge displacements so commonplace elsewhere.Read more »

Citizen Ford

He invented modern mass production. He gave the world the first people’s car, and his countrymen loved him for it. But at the moment of his greatest triumph, he turned on the empire he had built—and on the son who would inherit it.

Part One The Creator Read more »

The Greatest American Cars

A leading authority picks the top ten. Some of the names still have the power to stir the blood. And some will surprise you.

Few enterprises for any alleged expert in a given field can be more hazardous than the compilation of a “best” or “worst” list. The undertaking of such an effort immediately invites second-guessing by everyone else with similar credentials and offers the risk that any number of them may give valid, even insurmountable, proof that their selections are superior.Read more »

Working For The Union

At a time of crisis for American labor, an organizer looks back on the turbulent fifty-year career that brought him from the shop floor to the presidency of the United Automobile Workers.

Douglas A. Fraser is unusual among American union leaders of this generation. He started out as a worker, not as a professional union man, during that fervid time of union organization, the Great Depression, and witnessed the founding of his own union. When Fraser retired from the presidency of the United Automobile Workers in 1983, it marked the end of an epoch in the UAW and in American trade unionism. Almost alone among modern union leaders, Fraser knew firsthand what working was like before the union and what it was like after. Read more »

“shut The Goddam Plant!”

The great sit-down strike that transformed American industry

At General Motors’ Flint, Michigan, Fisher Body Number One, the largest auto-body factory in the world, it was early evening of a chill winter day. Suddenly a bright red light began flashing in the window of the United Automobile Workers union hall across the street from the plant’s main gate. It was the signal for an emergency union meeting. Read more »

The Great Detroit Clock

There seems to be a paucity of ingenious Bicentennial projects, especially compared to the ones that flourished during the 1816 Centennial. Consider, for instance, Felix Meier, a Detroit clockmaker who, imbued with the spirit of the time, produced this masterpiece. He spent ten years constructing his clock, which stood eighteen feet high and weighed two tons. It indicated the time in thirteen cities, as well as the day, month, season, the signs of the zodiac, and the revolutions of the planets around the sun.Read more »

The Great African Safari Bust

OR HOW THE BOY SCOUTS CAME TO AMERICA

Africa was part of my childhood. The attic in our Detroit home smelled like a zoo. There were lion, leopard, zebra, antelope, and colobus monkey skins that my sister and I and our friends used to take out of their trunks and forget to put back. There was also an elephant’s foot made into a wastebasket, ten or twelve elephant tusks and several small curved tusks of wart hogs, drums made out of antelope hide, and musical instruments with strings like the vines on which Tarzan swung from tree to tree. Read more »

The General Of General Motors

"Billy" Durant typified the courage of American business. He was charismatic, arbitrary and impenetrable.

On March 18, 1947, at 2:15 A.M. , William Crapo Durant, founder of General Motors and Chevrolet and the “leading bull” in the great stock-market boom and crash of the late 1920’s, died at his New York City apartment with his wife and nurse in attendance. His last fortune had evaporated in the Depression of the 1930’s, and he had been an invalid for several years. People were already beginning to confuse him with Will Durant, the popular historian of philosophy. Within a few weeks Henry Ford, whose automotive career strikingly paralleled Durant’s, was to die too—rich and famous but also ridiculed and despised. “Billy “Durant, on the other hand, left a public image that was clouded but untarnished. A eulogy in the Detroit Free Press said : “There was nothing of the ruthless pirate in Durant for all of his financial manipulations. Despite his fortunes and his power he was always a simple, human person, with a consciousness of the problems of the little fellow. … W. C. Durant typified the courage of American business, of free enterprise and initiative. If all of his principles are no longer acceptable, there are elements in his character that America badly needs today.”
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