New Book Reveals L.A.’s Incredible Impact on the Early Auto Industry
Driving Force: Automobiles and the New American City, 1900–1930 is the First Major History of Car Dealers at Work
LOS ANGELES —Have you ever wondered how and why Los Angeles became so obsessed with cars? While historians and sociologists have provided numerous explanations, little or no credit has been given to the dealers, who ventured into unknown territory to sell a product regarded by nearly all banks and most businesses as a fad at best.
Released on May 9, 2023, Driving Force: Automobiles and the New American City, 1900–1930 (Angel City Press) reveals how the city’s passion for automobiles was ignited by an unlikely mix of entrepreneurs and risk-takers. The early days of the city’s auto business owed its inception to the bicycle shop owners who began repairing and selling cars, carriage retailers, and automobile aficionados who learned how to broaden the market for automobiles and convince the public that the car was no longer a luxury, but a necessity.
In this first major history of dealers at work—and one of the first books to chronicle the early history of cars in Los Angeles—authors Darryl Holter and Stephen Gee share the untold story of pioneering auto dealers who seized the chance to join a start-up industry that reinvented an American city. Some became wealthy and powerful, others failed. But the lure of the automobile never wavered. At the dawn of the twentieth century, as Los Angeles transformed from a rugged outpost to a booming metropolis, so too did the fledgling automobile simultaneously come of age.
Los Angeles dealers helped change the way cars were sold. They championed selling cars on credit while accepting “used cars” that buyers “traded in” so they could buy a new one. They introduced the West Coast to the concept of dealerships with service bays for on-site car repairs; persuaded manufacturers to design cars to their specifications; and created custom vehicles and innovations that were copied around the country.
With more than 150 spectacular vintage images—many never before published—Driving Force brings to life the people who made the automobile an icon of the modern American city. In its pages, readers will discover how the story of the automobile is interwoven with Southern California’s unique topography and sun-drenched climate; a new era of women’s rights and a growing female influence on automobile design; the creation of the Los Angeles Auto Show and the remarkable 1929 fire that threatened to destroy it; and how car dealers launched beloved L.A. radio and television stations, including KNX, KFI, and KCBS-KCAL.
As car collector extraordinaire Jay Leno explains in the book’s foreword, “In Driving Force, Darryl Holter shows that auto retailers connected manufacturers to buyers, changing America and shaping the history, economy, and culture of Los Angeles.”
Events surrounding the launch of Driving Force will be announced soon.
Driving Force: Automobiles and the New American City 1900–1930
By Darryl Holter with Stephen Gee Foreword by Jay Leno
Released and edited by Angel City Press ISBN 978-1-62640-123-5
224 pages, 150+ historical images 9” x 9” / Hardcover