Drive On! A Social History of the Motor Car by LJK Setright

A sermon of love for the great liberating car
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The Independent Culture

My colleague LJK Setright, the distinguished motoring journalist, comes from that generation born into a world in which motoring was the pastime of the few.

They saw the car become the delight of the many, and they love it. His central theme is the Car as Liberator, freeing the common man from darkness, ignorance and impotency.

Well, maybe. We middle-aged comparative youngsters who grew up taking the car for granted can more easily see its drawbacks. The great liberator has, for instance, taken away the liberty of children, forbidden to play unsupervised for fear of traffic accidents and car-borne predatory paedophiles. But for Setright the car can do little wrong. Its role in climate change is dismissed as environmental faddists' myth.

He will make few converts, but it doesn't matter: Setright is preaching to the converted. And what a fine sermon it is.

Here is Setright on the legendary Citroen DS: "The DS should have inspired the world to embark on a new course of motor engineering ... All it did was to gratify the desires of 1.3 million people ... and to stand as a lasting reproach to the rest of the industry ... it was not the fault of Citroen; it was the fault of everybody else."

In the face of such love, so elegantly expressed, dissent looks like cavilling.

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