• Fins

  • Harley Earl, the Rise of General Motors, and the Glory Days of Detroit
  • By: William Knoedelseder
  • Narrated by: Peter Berkrot
  • Length: 9 hrs and 3 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (91 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The New York Times best-selling author of Bitter Brew chronicles the birth and rise to greatness of the American auto industry through the remarkable life of Harley Earl, an eccentric six-foot-five, stuttering visionary who dropped out of college and went on to invent the profession of automobile styling, thereby revolutionized the way cars were made, marketed, and even imagined.

Harleys Earl’s story qualifies as a bona fide American family saga. It began in the Michigan pine forest in the years after the Civil War, traveled across the Great Plains on the wooden wheels of a covered wagon, and eventually settled in a dirt road village named Hollywood, California, where young Harley took the skills he learned working in his father’s carriage shop and applied them to designing sleek, racy-looking automobile bodies for the fast crowd in the burgeoning silent movie business.

As the 1920s roared with the sound of mass manufacturing, Harley returned to Michigan, where, at GM’s invitation, he introduced art into the rigid mechanics of auto-making. Over the next 30 years, he functioned as a kind of combination Steve Jobs and Tom Ford of his time, redefining the form and function of the country’s premier product. His impact was profound. When he retired as GM’s VP of Styling in 1958, Detroit reigned as the manufacturing capitol of the world and General Motors ranked as the most successful company in the history of business.

Knoedelseder tells the story in ways both large and small, weaving the history of the company with the history of Detroit and the Earl family as Fins examines the effect of the automobile on America’s economy, culture, and national psyche.

©2018 William Knoedelseder (P)2018 HarperCollins Publishers

What listeners say about Fins

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Definitely a must-read for any serious car guy anybody working in the industry.

As a serious car guy and automotive engineer I have read a huge portion of the books written about the industry, including many old ones, and can honestly say this is one of the best ever written. The author did some serious research and must be commended for it. The performance, narration, etc are also excellent. Highly recommended.

1 person found this helpful

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Great report of amazing history but could do without the WOKE lean..

Phenomenal story, and great to hear about familiar places in Detroit I see and pass weekly. The back story and early life was excellent. However, much like most of the stories that come out of Hollywood (that’s mentioned in this book so much) these days, it’s way to heavy on the Lefty Liberal woke BS. and way too anti-Ford (and I don’t even like Ford cars) The authors injected to much of his own politics and beliefs into a damn good story that didn’t need it.

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The life of a legend

I am a car fan, but not of American cars. This book gave me a better insight and understanding of the design of the American cars that were around, growing up in the ‘50s and 60s’. It’s a book well researched and read. I just loved going on Google and looking up the cars mentioned so I could visualize the cars described. If you like cars, this is for you.

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Could be great

I really would like to give 5 stars to this very good book. The story is great and the author has good writing and make you go through the time with great fluidity. However, two things bored me (1) it’s a book about auto and design without a single photo. I had to keep Google open most of the time to picture the models and styles mentioned in the book. (2) and this was the most annoying part: the author has a political agenda that he pushes almost the entire book, insisting in judge the 30s, 40s behavior through the lens of 2020.
Anyhow, it is a very good book, that tells a great and important story of our age.

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Excellent

Very good book, a little bit too much bashing on Henry Ford, and his company, but overall a very good book.

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The Glory Days of Car Design and How it Came About

Not just about Harley but many other gifted designers and their contribution to car styling

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excellent listen. I highly recommend this book

Even of you are not an automotive fan this book is excellent. It follows the storied life of a automotive design pioneer with some great sidebars along the way

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Vivid and Entertaining

Author William Knoedelseder has a great eye for a good story, and this wonderfully entertaining, vivid, analytical, and at times cinematic book tells story after story about Harley Earl, his cars, and his era. Peter Berkrot does a fantastic job narrating this book in a compelling and witty way. Several times I laughed out loud while listening. Highly recommended for anyone who likes cars or even just good history.