Car culture

Biography of one 1957 Chevy

57chevybook.jpgThere used to be a car club on Van Nuys Boulevard cruise nights that consisted solely of 1957 Chevrolets. For all I know, there are '57 Chevy clubs in LA now. It was one of those cars that the aficionados loved for some reason. Now there's a book out tracing the ownership travels and travails of a single '57 Chevy on the East Coast. Former newspaper reporter Earl Swift and his book, "Auto Biography: A Classic Car, An Outlaw Motorhead, and 57 Years of the American Dream," were featured today on "Marketplace," with an interview by Lizzie O'Leary.

Here's what publisher HarperCollins' flackage says about 'Auto Biography.'

Earl Swift's wise, funny, and captivating Auto Biography follows an outlaw auto dealer as he struggles to save a rusted '57 Chevy—a car that has already passed through twelve pairs of hands before his—while financial ruin, government bureaucrats and the FBI close in on him.


Slumped among hundreds of other decrepit hulks on a treeless, windswept moor in eastern North Carolina, the Chevy evokes none of the Jet Age mystique that made it the most beloved car to ever roll off an assembly line. It's open to the rain. Birds nest in its seats. Officials of the surrounding county consider it junk.

To Tommy Arney, it's anything but: It's a fossil of the twentieth-century American experience, of a place and a people utterly devoted to the automobile and changed by it in myriad ways. It's a piece of history—especially so because its flaking skin conceals a rare asset: a complete provenance, stretching back more than fifty years….


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