Shop Press

Shop Press is the news and idea hub for everything related to working on cars and trucks, focusing on repair, technology, and wrenching lifestyle.

From the creative minds at:

FEATURE STORY

Hot Off the Press

Geography by way of fittings and couplers

As a little mechaniclet, I didn’t really give much thought to my air tool fittings or their air lines. Yes, the type of tool, the amount of air moving through the lines, and the distance from the compressor are all variables that determine how well a tool might work,...

How accurately can you torque a fastener? (VIDEO)

What do you get when you combine a bunch of cutthroat techs, a few fasteners and tools, and a device capable of measuring torque accurately? You get a competition. See who's got the best-calibrated arm in the Dorman Proving Grounds, and when you're done, set up...

Hidden external speakers are changing the soundscape of our streets

For more than a century now, people have been getting used to what it sounds like living around machines powered by explosions. The soundscapes of our roads, parking lots, communities and cities are filled with the familiar noises from engines and exhaust pipes. Of...

November Automotive Horoscopes

Aries: You’ve been stubborn lately, but that’s not always profitable, especially with diag work. You’ve been footloose and fancy-free, doing whatever you want. That has to stop due to financial constraints. Deal with your unresolved monetary issues; the shop’s success...

What type of part should you use to repair a car?

Today Greaser joins Nick as they discuss rebuilding, repairing, and replacing parts and which items they select for each job. Nick manages the Dorman Proving grounds and has owned his own performance shop. Andy is bringing a new perspective to the table today as a...

Is side work OK for service techs?

Do you do side work? If you do, is that OK? There are tons of reasons for and against doing work outside the shop. I think my views have changed a little as I’ve been in the game a little longer, but this aspect of the job is contentious. I’ve heard various rationale,...

Ranking the best fictional TV mechanics

TV and automobiles were both major forces in America in the mid- to late-20th century, so it’s perhaps no surprise that mechanics are regular characters throughout the history of television. But which ones are the best? Let’s find out with this completely unscientific...

Book Review: “Car: A Drama of the American Workplace”

by | Sep 29, 2022

We’ve all taken a step back from a vehicle, groaned, and asked why-oh-why did they do it like this. Car: A Drama of the American Workplace helps answer that question. Mary Walton, the author, was embedded within Ford with what appears to me to have been excellent access to the teams responsible for the creation of the 1996 Taurus. Walton, a former reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, has a reporter’s knack for concise writing and documented the process as she saw it.

Most people would read this book out of curiosity, but if you wrench for a living, this is a very neat peek behind the curtain. You’ll likely have some insight that non-industry folks will not. What most will interpret as minor occurrences in the book will have you shaking your head, since you know those decisions often have severe consequences for those of us downstream of them.

1996 Ford Taurus

The DN101 Taurus was the culmination of lots of hard work and many conflicting opinions. Ford photo.

The 1996 Taurus was to be the second generation of that nameplate and was a big bet for Ford; they had a lot riding on it, and competition in the form of the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry was stiff. Walton brings the entire process to life in Car. The life of an automobile from embryonic concept to sales floor seems pretty clinical, doesn’t it?

From what Mary Walton has written, though, it seems that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Walton shows the human side of producing a vehicle, chronicling all sorts of things like intercompany political traps, the constant pressure of budget constraints, and seemingly capricious commentary on the Taurus (codenamed DN101) from Jackie Stewart.

However, Walton’s superpower in making a dry subject a great read is her exposition of the personalities involved. Her skilled development of the characters in this story is what makes this a real page-turner. Walton’s prowess here shines to the point where I couldn’t help but think this book would make a fascinating movie with the correct cast.

The book doesn’t really focus too much on management or technicalities of the Taurus. (Though any automotive-centric passages were clearly vetted by experts. I don’t think a single thing jumped out to me as erroneous.) To wit: Reading about folks freezing their cookies off in cold-weather HVAC testing in Bemidji, Minnesota is much more gripping than the umpteenth screed about quality from some author who idolizes W. Edwards Deming.

Book jacket

Walton’s book is more about people than it is a car.

Instead, it’s a good chronicle of what it is to work in a huge corporation and how people interact with each other, be it positive or friction-filled, with all the pettiness, camaraderie, pomposity, achievement, triumph, and pointlessness that is part of working in a huge company. There are nebulous ideas like making the front end “look friendlier.” Some ideas appear to exude practicality when juxtaposed, like one employee’s insistence that a mid-size sedan that comfortably seated four should also have a trunk large enough to hold four golf bags.

I think the thing I liked best about this book was that I could hand it to a non-car friend and know they’d enjoy the read, too. Given the age of the DN101 Taurus, the book is obviously dated, but that doesn’t matter so much: people change more slowly than cars. It’s a good read, and if you’re anything like me, the next time a part or design is causing you to throw your hands up in exasperation, you’ll think of the DN101 team.

Related Articles

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline feedback
View all comments
0
Click to leave a comment!x
()
x

Get Articles In Your Inbox

Subscribe to receive a monthly email summary of our latest Shop Press stories.

Shop Press

Thanks! You're now subscribed.