Car Crazy, by G Wayne Miller... book review

#hashtags: #Ford #Olds #Reo #Chevrolet #Buick

This isn't a book with photos... there might be 8 in the whole book, but it doesn't need them, it's a history, a documentary almost, and does the best job of teaching you everything about the 1st decade of American car making (1900-1910) that I think we are ever likely to get.If you were to want to learn how the Ford, Olds, Reo, Chevrolet, Buick, and GM got started, this book is indispensable. It's really that good.How these prominent car companies were started, what they had to overcome to succeed, how they had to fight the Selden patent, and why they went bankrupt, or were bought and merged.But more than that, it's an eye opener on how the roads weren't ready for cars, or driving enthusiasts, now were the only things on the primitive two rut dirt roads of that time, horses! Ever think how the horse drawn wagons handled suddenly sharing the road with fast, noisy, and smelly early cars?Also, how cross country endurance racing was started, and this very closely goes through the race between the curved dash Olds - Old Steady, and Old Scout... plus a bit about the Reo Mountaineer that soon followed.Then it also looks at the Glidden tours, the Vanderbilt Cup, and some other races, and the men that became famous int he early racing madness, Barney Oldfield, Cooper, Keeler, and Huss.I've covered a lot about these things in the last year or two, and have barely touched the amount of information that the Author of Car Crazy covered. It's stunning how much research he did, and how much he has to teach people like me, that figure we have a good handle on the basics.By the numbers, (as John coined the phrase):11 chapters that take 290 pages,one epilogue of 8 pages,and acknowlegements 4 pagesthen notes 26 pages,then bibliography and indexChapter one excerpt is available to read having told you how damn good I think this book is, I'll now jump into some of the cool things I learned in it that I want to share with you:The test driver for Olds, on the 1901 curved dash Olds was Roy Chapin, later in life would be the founder of the very successful Hudson Car Co, and then the US Secretary of Commercein 1904 when R E Olds was losing the fight to control Oldsmobile, Billy Durant, future founder of GM was still making horse carriages, and didn't care to attend the New York Auto Show, now as formidable as the Paris Auto ShowHenry Ford actually was a speed demon until the company need for his leadership was made very clear to him, after several other drivers died in racing, but when he was young and foolish, he set the land speed record of 100mph on frozen Lake St Clair in order to get publicity for the soon to occur Madison Square Garden New York Auto Show, Jan 1904. He had the famous 999, and another twin car, the Arrow. I've never heard of the Arrow before. But the New York Times was firmly against cars at the time, especially racing cars (another thing I learned) and routinely ran opinions in the editorial, and had this to say about "young speed maniac" Ford trying to break the speed record: the true harm of record setting runs "is that it will lead a number of idiots to try similar exploits on public roads"The Times was so adamantly opposed, at this time, that it asserted the owners of cars should be prosecuted, and the possession of cars should be illegal. Yeah, most cars in 1903-04 were in New York City, and were killing pedestrians. It contended that cars were so deadly due to their speed, that if the owner could show restraint, surely a servant would take the car and go dashing madly on streets, "curiously, those want to go fastest whose time is worth least"New York City was ground zero for car need... the horses polluted, they took up space, and feed, and they were twice the length of a car when harnessed to a carriage or wagon.... all negative when compared to the car, which could carry twice the load, at twice the speed, in half the length, with 5 times better braking. Loud whips and horse clopping shoes were also strong arguments to remove horses from NYC, and replace them with rubber tires. Quiet, odorless, and not creating piles of horse manure, and puddles of piss. NYC had 130,000 horses, Chicago had 74,000, and Philly 51,000. Summer heat and the stench alone was aggravating city people, and often, the street cleaners couldn't keep up, and when horses died, the owners frequently left them on the roads bloating and rotting. The flies the excrement created.. must have been abominable in that era before modern sanitation and medical knowledge of disease carried by flies. Horses were viewed as a public health hazard.Barney Oldfield challenged Henry Ford to a race at Ormand, for $5,000. Oldfield knew he cold win a speed contest and thought he'd break Henry's 100mph, by at least 30mph. Ford didn't want to lose the good publicity he'd gained with the 100mph record, safely gained, in a risk that the worst could happen.The French auto industries attitude rubbed early American car owners wrong, and they wanted to get rid of French vehicular words like Automobile, Chauffeur, and GarageThe first drivers had a lot of problems with farmers, and their dogs. The ammonia squirt gun was effective, and in previous use with postal delivery, but the best tool was found to be a sling shot to deter dogs from harassing drivers and cars.the 1st cross country drive was in a Winton (San Fran to NY, 63 days, 1903), second in a Packard (same run, starting 6 weeks later, 62 day),and then the idea got around to Olds when a 1904 did the same in 71 days, 6 weeks after the Packard), but not before a Franklin left San Fran 5 weeks later (32 days), and then Oldsmobile went all out with the race between Old Steady and Old Scout20 miles east of Manhattan was a place primarily Quaker farming, until the car drivers discovered it was great for racing, instead of polo and fox hunting.. and the Vanderbilts, Whitneys and Goulds were now suddenly in love with racing their cars tot he country clubs instead of horse carriage ridesthe 1st survey of American roads was in 1904, about 2 million miles of roads existed, but only 154k were upgraded to stone, gravel, or other improvements for smoothness. Old Indian trails were still being used.President Jefferson had signed a bill in 1806 to get the "National" road built, from the Potomac, to Virginia. In 1820, it was added to, and authorization was given to pay for the road to stretch to St Louis, by 1838, it still wasn't completed. Nothing was on the roads but horse drawn carriages and wagons, and no one thought it was important enough to complete. Bicycles came along in the late 1870sIn the 1880s, roads for bikes were getting important, and in 1891 and 92 there was becoming a lot of concerned people who wanted the roads improved for everyone, not just bikers, but farmers too. Smooth roads cause less trouble for horses legs, riders butts, and wagon drivers jangled teeth.In 1892, Isaac Potter, Civil War vet and civil engineer, writing for the League of American Wheelmen, stated the obvious, the conditions of roads were the character of the nation. "The road is that physical sign or symbol by which you will best understand any age or people If they have no roads they are savages for the road is the creation of man and the type of civilized society " Road Contruction and Maintenance: Prize Essays  The first vocal advocates of good roads inspired a great experiment, the demonstration paved road. Pave a piece of road, and then people will obviously fall in love with it, and demand more from the govt, the 1st one was started at the entrance to an agricultural school in New Brunswick New Jersey, and cost the govt $321.The trains connecting the country from East to West took advantage of the discoveries of coal in Wyoming by trappers, and Congress GAVE the mineral rights to the train companies along with land grants. If not for coal, Wyoming would not have been settled at all, it wasn't good farming country.During the cross country race with the curved dash olds, "sand tires" were brought along, and were 10 inches wide, instead of the normal 2, constructed of boards, buckles, canvas, hair, and straps. in 1905 races of celebrity drivers, turned public opinion against racing, and in an attempt to divert the bad publicity from affecting ordinary cars, and sales, when they were just starting to gain ground with quality, production numbers, and it was staring to look like cars might gain wide public appeal, the Buffalo New York State Automobile Association president, Bill Hotchkiss, tried to get a state supreme court injunction to stop track races from occurring. If racing killed drivers, public prejudice would grow, and more restrictive laws hobbling the automobile manufacturers would get passed. A 1/3rd of newspaper space was just about car accidents and other bad press for cars, in Nov 1905.The two most vocal papers in 1905 were on opposite sides of the car issue... the Automobile, and the New York Times. Yup... right until the owner of the times bought a car. Then, complete turnabout on all editorial content. Of course, the vehicle was chauffeur driven, and immediately was busted for speeding, contrary to all previous NYT blathering about how bad motorists were, how terrible their speeding about, and suddenly with the purchase of a car, hypocrisy was smacking the NYT across the face. The Automobile used this against the times, and a war between the two ensuedR E Olds was ousted by some schmuck named Smith, who killed all forward progress in the Oldsmobile company, stubbornly driven to make very expensive cars, completely 180 from the proven profitable business model of all auto companies in history... inexpensive cars keep companies very profitable, and the curved dash Olds was at the time, the best selling car, and strongest company. Smith tried something called the Palace Touring and Gentlemans Roadster. They were 4 times the cost of the runabout curved dash.Ford knew the wisdom of selling cheap cars, small, light, and easy to repair cars... tires of 1905 weren't very developed. They were barely a step up from rock hard vulcanized tar. They didn't last long, and they were even faster to get damaged by heavy vehicles, than light ones. If you wanted to make your tires last, you got a light small car. Plus Ford argued logically, that few people could afford a mechanic to ride along, or a chauffeur, so why spend 3 or 4 times what a simple car cost, when nothing got you where you were going any better, no matter what the cost. Keep in mind, most vehicles didn't have tops, side windows, heaters, fans, etc etc. You were going to get wet, hot, or freeze no matter what you were driving, so why waste money? And the more expensive the car, the more expensive the repairs, that is still a fact.Car insurance... started out from a marine insurance company, Boston Ins Co, founded 1873. They charged 3% of the value of the car to insure it, annually. I wonder, how much more, or less, do we pay now for the same insured risks? Fire, theft, pilferage, lightning.Olds engineer Ernest Keeling was the driver during the 1905 car show demonstration tests, and one of these was the vibration test... a pail of water was carried in the car for 200 yards at speed, from a standing start.Mark Twain seems to have invented the idea of license plates, he advised after a family member ws near killed by a speeding motorist, that numbers be required on the back of cars 2, 3, and 4 feet high to disgrace the offending driversThe Selden Patent people (ALAM) created fake court cases, and had actors be defendants, to win court cases, and set legal precedent, by having the planted stooges admit to having wrongfully sued Selden Patent reps, and them admit to wrongdoing. So, this ongoing fraud made a bunch of successful court wins for the ALAM and they then tried to use these legal cases to sway judges in harder, real, court battles.The first Vanderbilt Cup race is incredibly transcribed starting on page 259... it's simply a joy to read as if you were there in every car, and learn what happened to each. They weren't ready to race, I can tell you. I covered this a bit Durant, once the savior of Buick, and millionaire by the age of 42 because of horsecart company ownership and expert salesmanship, had once had Louis Chevrolet race his Buicks, went to co-found the Chevrolet company. Then lost control, then bought up enough shares in GM to control it again, then lost his entire fortune in the stock market crash in 1929, and 11 years later was the manager of a bowling alley at age 78Barney Oldfield lost all his money int he 1929 crash, and became the Plymouth highway safety advisor. He wanted to try for the 300mph speed record, but wasn't near able to get the funding and sponsorship after the stock market crash, in the midst of the great depression, and in 1935 Campbell nailed 301 in the Bluebird on Bonneville110 years after the 1905 Olds, Chevrolet sells a motor 100 times as powerful. The Z06 is a 650 hp engineHenry Ford left several car companies behind, with his name on them. The Henry Ford Company, which later became Cadillac, Ford and Malcomson, and Ford Manufacturing Company. The current company is the Ford Motor Company