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The Business of Speed: The Hot Rod Industry in America, 1915–1990 (Johns Hopkins Studies in the History of Technology)
David N. Lucsko
Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008
368 pp., $56.00
Little Deuce Coupe
I know, indeed, the evil of that I purpose; but my inclination gets the better of my judgment." Euripides, as quoted in the opening of Gordon Jennings' technical article in the July 1959 issue of Road and Track magazine, entitled "Let's Not Hop It Up." Jennings cautioned against amateur modification of automobile engines. Fifty years later, we are blessed with The Business of Speed, by David Lucsko, a history of the automotive aftermarket performance industry. Lucsko's book, the latest installment in the John Hopkins University Press History of Technology series, provides us with a massively researched scholarly history of this industry, which now generates more than $30 billion in annual revenue.
Lucsko's 65 pages of endnotes alone offer a treasure trove of historical information, and are more than enough to draw in the most pragmatic student of hot rodding history. Abiding personal interest in the automotive world propelled Lucsko to his current roles as an instructor of technological history at the University of Detroit Mercy and managing editor of Technology and Culture, the quarterly journal of the international Society for the History of Technology. We learn early on that the author, at least for much of his life, has pursued his automotive passion while seemingly heeding the message presented by the Euripides-quoting assistant technical editor Jennings a half century ago. This has not, however, dulled Lucsko's fascination with the performance industry, its relationship to the mass-production automotive industry, some facets of the professional racing industry, and their roles in society.
We are given very specific examples of early aftermarket product developers, their products, and something of their approach to marketing and product development, but very little information on engineering and technical data. Numerous in-depth interviews with key 20th-century industry figures give insights into the part these men and their companies played in the history of ...