Roadster: How, and Especially Why, a Mechanical Novice Built a Car from a Kit

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9780060191931: Roadster: How, and Especially Why, a Mechanical Novice Built a Car from a Kit

What does a man do on reaching midlife? Stereo-typically, he buys a red sports car. But that was too pat for Chris Goodrich; he decided to build one instead, hoping to understand a culture generally considered unsuitable for a prep-school, Ivy League graduate. A self-confessed "auto-idiot," he was soon in over his head--but that proved part of the fun, because this immersion in auto mechanics forced Goodrich to can-front new ideas, new people, and new perspectives. In fourteen months it took to build the roadster he learned to appreciate not only how cars work but also the role they have played in shaping American culture--in the evolution of mass production and the reduction of craftsmen to wage slaves, in making the nation almost totally dependent on a machine that seemed to promise freedom.

Ultimately, Roadster is a celebration of the automobile, for Goodrich builds a Caterharn Seven. A 1957 Lotus design, it's everything a sports car should be and more-noisy, drafty, uncomfortable, and absolutely thrilling. In completing the Seven, and finally driving it, Goodrich finds a completion of his own--a personal connection between theory and practice, the mental and the manual.

"As antidote to a virulent case of modern anomie, Chris Goodrich decided to build himself a car. The example he chose was a Lotus Seven--perhaps the most charming retro vehicle in history--and he succeeded not only in assembling a worthy roadster but in tossing off along the way a lighthearted look at the history of industrial ideas. I envied him the process of building it almost as much as the car--or the book--he ended up with."
--John Jerome, author of Truck: On Rebuilding a Worn-Out Pickup, and Other Post-Technological Adventures
When I told my friends I had decided, in my middle thirties, to build by hand a street-legal roadster, many suggested I was too young to be going through a midlife crisis. As time went on, I realized that the comment, intended humorously, held more than a grain of truth. It captured something I was loath to admit: that my working life was much less than I wanted it to be. I had held responsible positions, earned the respect of my peers, made a name for myself in (minor) professional circles ... and yet something was missing.

That something? Joy. Of discovery, of open doors, of seeing the world in new ways; of living in the moment; of following your bliss, as mythologist Joseph Campbell put it. Surely you could do the work you loved without succumbing to its incidental baggage? Pursue a career without kowtowing to careerism; grow professionally without being professionalized? I would come across, years later, the perfect diagnosis of my work malaise. "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities," the Zen master Shunryu Suzuki told his students, "but in the expert's there are few."
--From Roadster

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About the Author:

Chris Goodrich is also the author of Anarchy & Elegance: Confessions of a Journalist at Yale Law School. A journalist, he lives with his family in Connecticut.

Review:

"Although Roadster is billed in part as a fun trip down trial-and-error lane, it is really more of a serious exploration of such things as history, the automobile, sociology, Henry Ford, the labor movement, philosophy and the birth of the assemby line. Just as an auto mechanic might leave smudges on a clean sheet of writing paper, Mr. Goodrich's intellectual fingerprints are all over the vehicle he is attempting to master. His objective is not just to assemble but to understand. . . . [T]he writing . . . is always strong, crisp and clear." -- Hartford Courant

"Roadster is the best and most unusual book about a Lotus derivative that I have read in many years....a wonderful treatise that goes deep into Goodrich's thoughts on such subjects as how mass production has affected society and workers, the loss of craftmanship, the history of the automobile, and how one considers his worth as both a worker and a person." -- Kevin McGovern, Lotus Remarque

"As antidote to a virulent case of modern anomie, Chris Goodrich decided to build himself a car. The example he chose was a Lotus Sevenperhaps the most charming retro vehicle in historyand he succeeded not only in assembling a worthy roadster but in tossing off along the way a lighthearted look at the history of industrial ideas. I envied him the process of building it almost as much as the caror the bookhe ended up with." -- John Jerome, author of Truck: On Rebuilding a Worn-Out Pickup, and Other Post-Technological Adventures

"[A]musing and thought-provoking. . . . Like Robert M. Pirsig in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Goodrich uses mechanical details as springboards for thoughtful and carefully documented discussions of car culture, the effect of the car on American society and the conflict between mass production and craftmanship." -- Los Angeles Times

"[C]onsistently provocative and diverting. . . . stimulating." -- New York Times

"[Goodrich's] frequent detours into everything from automotive history to philosophy are refreshingly frank and iconoclastic." -- Kirkus Reviews

"[O]ffbeat, captivating...reminiscent of John McPhee's writing in its graceful precision and inquisitive openness to experience...ROADSTER is at once an insightful meditation on modern work and on the relationship between humans and machines, a twisting journal of self-discovery and a wry look at America's love-hate relationship with the automobile." -- Publishers Weekly

"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.

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