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208 × 156 mm
272 pages
120 illustrations, 40 in colour
05 Oct 2015

Car Gregory Votolato

Love or despise them, cars are an important and ubiquitous part of nearly all of our lives. Our relationship with the car has always been intimately connected with design. In this book, Gregory Votolato shows us how and why the automobile has become – since its rise in the late nineteenth century – at once an object of unparalleled popular desire and a hugely problematic emblem of the modern world.

Over the past century the internal combustion engine, lightweight steam engine and electric motor proved their value to industry and commerce by powering tractors, pickup trucks and delivery vans, while supporting civic order and public service in police vehicles and ambulances. Yet it was the private passenger car that became the most glamorous product of the industrial age, serving psychological, social and economic functions well beyond its utility as a means of transportation. Car introduces the automotive design process, exploring engineering innovation and stagnation, mass-production and aesthetic obsolescence, branded styling and genuine artistry. Including insights from designers, manufacturers and drivers themselves and tracing the life cycle of the automobile from the drawing board to the scrapyard, this book offers fascinating insights into the ways our attachments to cars may develop in light of environmental pressures, emerging technologies and changing lifestyles.

‘It is very rare for a book to be published that could be described as “complete”, but American-born historian, lecturer and tutor Greg Votolato’s remarkably-briefly-named Car is just that. The author has managed to cover every aspect of the development of the automobile from Cugnot’s motorized gun carriage of 1769 to the Tesla Model S of today . . . if you are in the least bit interested in understanding how we have come to this situation where the car has become an example of twentieth-century art and an indicator or proxy for who we think we are, when in use, then this book has to be essential reading for every design student, practitioner or enthusiast with interest in the automobile.’ – Car Design News

‘Taking the whole life of the motor vehicle and chronicling its history in a single volume of 320 pages can be dangerous in that much essential information might be omitted. Thankfully, Gregory Votolato is a master automotive historian whose succinct writing without compromising an engaging style makes this a compelling recipe. The author’s knowledge of the global motor industry, its glories as well as its failures, is evident from the beginning of the book . . . [Votolato’s] deliberations are wide-ranging and there’s a sense of humour too. His credentials are excellent’ – Journal of the Society of Automotive Historians in Britain

‘. . . wide-ranging journey through the ways the car has wormed its way into our hearts and conquered the world. It offers a varied feast for car lovers, including some history (especially of production, design and marketing), a little landscape, some technology and mostly design.’ – Times Literary Supplement

‘Votolato deploys his formidable knowledge of the subject, coupled with a commendably critical sensibility, to generate an authoritative account of the car that would grace the shelves of expert and enthusiast alike, and which makes a measured and intelligent contribution to the growing but still underdeveloped discipline of automotive history.’ – Journal of Transport History

‘Gregory Votolato’s Car is a well-researched, comprehensive, and global examination of our vexed infatuation with the auto that deftly combines the history and future of automobilism. It is a must-read for car idolators and detractors alike.’
– David Gartman, Professor of Sociology, University of South Alabama, and author of Auto Opium: A Social History of American Automobile Design

Praise for Transport Design:

‘A serious but accessible look at how comfort, safety, technology, style, economics, customisation and entertainment have affected the way we get from a to b, and how vehicle design has influenced the interiors of our home and work spaces. A bit of a treat.’ – RIBA Journal

‘This is a generalist study of the best kind, full of illuminating detail and clearly organised by typologies of land, water and air, within which are subdivisions of different vehicle types. It is split in focus between the designer of the machine and the experience of the passenger, with a pleasingly fetishistic attention to detail that distinguishes transport enthusiasts.’ – Journal of Design History

‘Far from being a straight design history, this insightful and detailed look at transport design investigates, through our various vehicles, the experience of travelling . . . the meticulous nature of Votolato’s theming and readable narrative underpin the seriousness of his final contention . . . this fine book should be required reading for anyone hoping to design anything that will take us beyond the age of oil.’ – C20, The Magazine of the Twentieth Century Society

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Gregory Votolato is a Lecturer at the Victoria & Albert Museum and teaches on the Critical and Historical Studies Vehicle Design Programme at the Royal College of Art, London. He is the author of Transport Design: A Travel History (Reaktion, 2007) and Ship (Reaktion, 2011).