Car Crazy

The Battle for Supremacy between Ford and Olds and the Dawn of the Automobile Age


By G. Wayne Miller

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Before the “Big Three,” even before the Model T, the race for dominance in the American car market was fierce, fast, and sometimes farcical. Car Crazy takes readers back to the passionate and reckless years of the early automobile era, from 1893, when the first US-built auto was introduced, through 1908, when General Motors was founded and Ford’s Model T went on the market. The motorcar was new, paved roads few, and devotees of this exciting and unregulated technology battled with citizens who considered the car a dangerous scourge, wrought by the wealthy, that was shattering a more peaceful way of life.

Among the pioneering competitors were Ransom E. Olds, founder of Olds Motor Works and creator of a new company called REO; Olds’ cutthroat new CEO Frederic L. Smith; William C. “Billy” Durant of Buick Motor Company (and soon General Motors); and inventor Henry Ford. They shared a passion for innovation, both mechanical and entrepreneurial, but their maniacal pursuit of market share would also involve legal manipulation, vicious smear campaigns, and zany publicity stunts — including a wild transcontinental car race that transfixed the public. Their war on wheels ultimately culminated in a courtroom battle that would shape the American car industry forever.

Based on extensive original research, Car Crazy is a page-turning story of popular culture, business, and sport at the dawn of the twentieth century, filled with compelling, larger-than-life characters, each an American original.


  • “A chronicle of the frantic, ultracompetitive, and heroic early days of automobile manufacturing... Buoyant and charming…Capturing the energy and ambition of a time when optimism in the American spirit was unparalleled, Miller also shows that despite the car's profound effect on American culture, it was not the modern panacea some predicted. A must for car lovers and plenty of interesting material to keep other curious readers flipping pages.” —Kirkus Reviews

    “Does the best job of teaching you everything about the 1st decade of American car-making (1900 – 1910) that I think we are ever likely to get. If you want to learn how the Ford, Olds, Reo, Chevrolet, Buick and GM got started, this book is indispensable. It's really that good.” —Jesse Bowers, Just a Car Guy

    "Should fan your enthusiasm for automobile history." —

    "This is a story rich with corporate war, courtroom drama, world-record racing, and larger-than-life characters—in particular Henry Ford, who was not just a mechanical and business genius, but one of America's original speed demons.” —Jack Roush, founder and CEO of Roush Fenway Racing, the NASCAR team
  • “Wayne Miller's Men and Speed, about the historic NASCAR season when Dale Earnhardt died, is a sports classic. In Car Crazy, he takes us back to the birth of auto racing when Henry Ford, Barney Oldfield, and other greats risked life and limb—their own and spectators'—in pursuit of money and glory. Some things never change. A must-read for all sports fans.” —Bill Reynolds, #1 New York Times bestselling coauthor of Success Is a Choice with Rick Pitino, coauthor of Basketball Junkie with Chris Herren, and author of Fall River Dreams

    "With the combination of his historian's eye and a unique, cinematic-style approach to storytelling, Wayne Miller has written an exciting page-turner. With a rag-tag cast of underdogs, death-defying spectacles and thrilling courtroom drama, Car Crazy is a must-read book that explores the against-all-odds survival of the American automotive industry in its infancy." —Danny Strong, Emmy-winning screenwriter of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Parts 1 and 2, and Lee Daniels' The Butler
  • “The dawn of the auto age brought with it conflict, controversy, fear and excitement as ably illustrated in G. Wayne Miller's book… Simultaneously tracking several threads of the story of early automobiles, Miller reveals business and legal battles, engineering and mechanical innovations, endurance races over destructive terrain, and the social impact of the car… Several of the people who comprise these threads of Miller's history would make likely movie subjects… [a] lively book with implied lessons about our own time.” —Providence Journal

    "Absolutely extraordinary... Get this book! It is very, very readable. Fascinating." —LLewellyn King, host of PBS' White House Chronicle

    "Fascinating... It was a time of off-the-wall characters, eager-to-corner markets and run competitors off the road. We meet the ruthless Frederic Smith, the CEO of Olds Motor Works, and, of course, Ford." —Newport Mercury

    “Engrossing and well-written, Miller's study of the cultural impact of the automobile is also a testament to the elements of the vehicle that car enthusiasts find endearing. This work will attract fans of motor sports as well as entrepreneurs and anyone interested in the power of technology to enact social change.” —Library Journal

On Sale
Nov 3, 2015
Page Count
368 pages

G. Wayne Miller

About the Author

G. Wayne Miller is a Visiting Fellow at Salve Regina University’s Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy, in Newport, Rhode Island, where he is director of the center’s Story in the Public Square initiative ( He is a long-time staff writer for The Providence Journal, where he was member of a Pulitzer Prize-finalist team that covered a deadly nightclub fire.

Miller is the author of seven works of contemporary and historical narrative nonfiction, including Toy Wars, King of Hearts, and Men and Speed. He also wrote and co-produced three documentaries broadcast on PBS, including most recently The Providence Journal’s Coming Home, about veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, which was nominated for a New England Emmy and won the regional Edward R. Murrow Award. He is the recipient of the 2013 Roger Williams Independent Voice Award from the Rhode Island International Film Festival. He lives near Providence, RI.

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