In July 2013, a New York Times headline proclaimed “the end of car culture.” Though the summer driving season offered plenty of evidence to the contrary, recent data indicate that fewer Americans are driving fewer miles in fewer cars, and even forgoing the adolescent ritual of getting a driver’s license upon turning sixteen. Thus, the Times felt confident in declaring that the country’s century-old love affair with the automobile was finally, inevitably, running out of gas. But if the romance with the car is cooling down, studying its fraught legacy is still plenty hot, as a spate of recent publications makes clear. In fact, in the hundred years since the first Model Ts rolled...

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