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The Business of Speed

, 368 pages

25 halftones

October 2008



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The Business of Speed

The Hot Rod Industry in America, 1915–1990

2009 Outstanding Academic Title, Choice

Since the mass production of Henry Ford’s Model T, car enthusiasts have been redesigning, rebuilding, and reengineering their vehicles for increased speed and technical efficiency. They purchase aftermarket parts, reconstruct engines, and enhance body designs, all in an effort to personalize and improve their vehicles. Why do these car enthusiasts modify their cars and where do they get their aftermarket parts? Here, David N. Lucsko provides the first scholarly history of America’s hot rod business.

Lucsko examines the evolution of performance tuning through the lens of the $34-billion speed equipment industry that supports it. As early as 1910, dozens of small shops across the United States designed, manufactured, and sold add-on parts to consumers eager to employ new technologies as they tinkered with their cars. Operating for much of the twentieth century in the shadow of the Big Three automobile manufacturers—General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler—these businesses grew at an impressive rate, supplying young and old hot rodders with thousands of performance-boosting gadgets.

Lucsko offers a rich and heretofore untold account of the culture and technology of the high-performance automotive aftermarket in the United States, offering a fresh perspective on the history of the automobile in America.

David N. Lucsko is managing editor of Technology and Culture and an instructor of technological history at the University of Detroit Mercy.

"It is very well written, thoroughly researched, and documents an important part of automotive history in the U.S. that hitherto has received scant treatment from academic historians... The author has a strong understanding of the hot rod industry, its various industrial leaders, and is very comfortable writing about the technologies themselves."

"Lucsko does an exceptional job of telling the story of the performance tuning industry’s evolution over seven decades. The book is thoroughly researched, including the players, the genesis of the automotive aftermarket industry, and how the business of speed evolved across America."

"A really informative read."

" The Business of Speed is the most extensive study of hot rodding yet published and will be the starting point for future scholars of this multi-billion dollar industry and its associated under-hood cultures."

"Lucsko brings a jeweler's eye to his examination of the history of the automobile aftermarket... In writing about ti, Lucsko is all business, his research is plentiful, and his expository prose is flawless... This is a very valuable contribution to automobile history and culture."

" The Business of Speed is clearly written, insightfully argued, and exceptionally successful in explaining the highly technical modifications to stock automobiles... In the hands of an inferior writer, these details could have made the book intellectually inaccessible."

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