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When there were far fewer people around, far fewer laws and regulations, when the legal speed limit was 75 mph, when gas was cheap, when driving was a pleasure, if you owned a hot machine you could point the grill down an empty road and go!

Overtures to Motion

In this collection of 46 essays, many of which were previously published in Old Cars Weekly and Goodguys Gazette, Drake examines a boy's desire to be mobile. He takes the two great themes of the 20th Century, motion and competition, motivation of the great builders of the Industrial Age, and brings it to a personal level. These essays, some memoir, some lyrical, start with the chemicals that imprinted brains -- gasoline, hydraulic brake fluid, exhaust -- and caused young men to wrap their lives around machines as surely as any drug. Next comes the Wheel: the baby carriage, the scooter, the sidewalk flyer. Before there was power there was gravity and the soap box racer, when every driver had to reinvent the Wheel. And of course, a moment that looms large for every rider: that first bicycle.

There are essays analyzing reading material: anthropomorphic fables, the Motor Boys books, the comic strips, True Magazine, wartime reading fare. Some define a time period: buying a squirrel knob, painting tires white, overhauling an engine in the driveway on a weekend in order to get to work on Monday, painting a car with a brush. Some are unsentimentally frank: a boy and his father getting a 1934 Terraplane home on a winter night, the father who refuses a gift, the boy riding home on a runningboard, the group of naked high school boys who discuss the merits of new cars after a shower in the locker room.

Some highlighted historical moments: a piece on a new 1941 DeSoto and a 1942 Mercury, the problem of rationing gasoline and rubber, the use of old cars as bomb shelters in case of an atomic bomb attack. Among the memoirs are essays about a family camping in 1937, traveling to North Dakota in a 1935 Packard and to California in a new 1941 Chevrolet; it is not possible to separate the machine from family history or even global events. An essay on the Fisher Body Craftsman Guild Competition, where boys were asked to build models for a scholarship, brought reality to dreams.


130 pages, 10 x 7 x 0.3 inches, perfect-bound (April, 2011)
Stone Press; ISBN: 0-936892-20-X; Signed copy...
$19.95 

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