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The Automotive Chronicles

Monthly newsletter published by McLellan's Automotive History. Dedicated to literature collectors, restorers, museums, publishers, manufacturers and investors who collect and preserve automotive literature
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February 2010 Issue
Out-of-print-book: A Century of Automotive Style
A Century of Automotive Style

You buy a car only when you like the way it looks. That means very simply that styling sells — a fact of life in the marketplace that automakers learned almost as quickly as they discovered ways to make cars reliable and friendly.

And yet no book has ever discussed the history of automotive styling — as an artform and commercial stimulant — in anything approaching a serious, thoughtful way. This volume tries to fill that void.

Lamm and Holls take you back 100 years and explain how the look of motorcars evolved from ships, carriages and bicycles to being inspired by airplanes and rocketships. They discover how Americans became more style conscious earlier than anyone ever suspected. They talk about the industry not just in terms of hardware and processes and aesthetics — all of which they do discuss — but also as a close-knit society of artisans, artists and promoters whose skills went far beyond the shaping of motorized objects. These men and women became the trendsetters of American industry; the strong personalities who helped put America on wheels.

This book can serve as a reference work for anyone with informed curiousity about auto design; it can provide enjoyment to those who simply love cars and the way cars look; it can be viewed as a social register that explains the people who made the industry what it is today; and it's also a guide to the nut-and-bolt basics of car design for those who've yearned to become a part of the business and who've wondered what goes on behind locked studio doors.

Introduction to the book
By authors: Michael Lamm & Dave Holls

There is now no question, 100 years after the beginning, that the art and science of automotive styling — what today we call automobile design — has had a tremendous impact on this nation's economy. To understand the dollar importance of styling — ignoring aesthetics for the moment — think first about all the money that's been pumped through the American economy during the past century just by the sale of new automobiles. It's staggering. The total runs well beyond the limits of ordinary imagination; far beyond what now constitutes the $3.5 trillion national deficit.

Consider further, over the span of those same 100 years, how many times the individual sale of each automobile must have been prompted by the way it looked: its first impression in the showroom, its lasting image, how the new owner saw himself or herself driving and owning that particular make and model. Survey after survey has shown that styling outranks all other considerations as the prime motivator of most new-car purchase decisions.

Styling began to take on fiscal importance as early as 1901 long before the motorcar had an established shape or enough mechanical reliability to be trusted as a fairly friendly contraption. Even at that primitive stage of the motorcar's development, the wealthy turn-of-the-century car buyer thought carefully about how his newest toy might look in the family driveway, how it complemented his personality, how it fit his status in the community and business, and whether it matched his other possessions and preoccupations.

Styling, that one simple and complex factor — the overall shape, ornamentation and resulting aura of any automobile — has moved so much money through the national economy that the wonder isn't its longterm financial effect but rather the question: Why has so vital and pervasive a topic as automobile design never been examined as the history of a commercial or industrial artform? Isn't it every bit as much a national treasure as those commercial arts that have been so thoroughly scrutinized: architecture, furniture and interior design, clothing fashion, textiles, jewelry, ceramics, etc.

Too little has been written about the value of automotive styling, either from an economic or a marketing or an aesthetic or an evolutionary viewpoint. That oversight in itself comes as a something of a shock. It's an oversight we hope to remedy in some small measure with this book.

A Century of Automotive Style (DVD)A Century of Automotive Style (DVD)
Now available on DVD! This new disk contains the original book in its entirety: 308 pages, more than 900 photos, complete text, captions, sidebars and index. Nothing’s left out. The disc is fully searchable and very easy to use. And the DVD remains the 'book' of choice for everyone interested or involved in car design. Authored by Michael Lamm and Dave Holls, it’s a 100-year history that explains why cars looked — and look — the way they do, who designed what, and why. The original hardcover book was voted 'must have' by major enthusiast magazines in the U.S. and Europe. The book also won the Society of Automotive Historians’ prestigious Cugnot Award. The book is now out of print, but you can enjoy the DVD as one of the world’s best automotive reads and then keep it in your library for handy longterm reference.

Retail price of the Century of Automotive Style DVD is $24.95 (Free shipping). To order, send a check or money order to:

Lamm-Morada Inc.
9428 Hickory Av.
Stockton CA 95212
(209) 931-1056

Calif. residents please add $2.24 sales tax.

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The Automotive Chronicles, February 2010
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