The car as a vehicle for recreational purposes

Almost from the beginning, Americans recognized the enormous potential of the car as a vehicle for recreational purposes. Easily the best introduction to this topic is Americans on the Road: From Autocamp to Motel, 19101945 by Warren J. Belasco. The author does an excellent job of linking the emergence of the motel business with such social issues as class conflict, the growth of the consumer ethic, and the weakening of family ties. A broader perspective is offered by John A. Jakle in his The Tourist: Travel in Twentieth-Century North America, which contains four chapters devoted exclusively to the automobile. Also useful in this regard is John Baeder Gas, Food, and Lodging, which uses postcards as illustrations to portray the changing face of roadside culture (including both people and places) that travelers encountered between 1918 and 1939. In a humorous vein, Jack Barth et al. have written Roadside America, which describes some of the more bizarre tourist attractions that have appeared alongside our nation's highways. (See the chapter on architecture above for additional references in this regard.

Americans interested in motorized travel soon realized the advantages that might accrue from being able to bring something akin to their house along with them. Such thinking led to the commercial development of the car trailer, the mobile home, and the van. Two good introductions to the multiple aspects of this phenomenon are provided by Margaret J. Drury Mobile Homes: The Unrecognized Revolution in American Housing and Michael A. Rockland's Homes on Wheels. Airstream, by Robert Landau and James Phillippi , is an uncritical description of the history and way of life associated with one of the most famous of these vehicles.

The car culture also has spawned a host of leisure-time hobbies that require little or no travel for participation. While probably the best known one is the restoration of antique cars, there are others such as the collection of automotive toys, mascots, ornaments, license plates, and even automotive art. A fine overview of the field can be found in Automobile Quarterly's Complete Handbook of Automobile Hobbies, edited by Beverly Rae Kimes. Also good are Jack Martells Antique Automobile Collectibles and, with a more international flavor, Michael Worthington-Williams Automobilia: A Guided Tour for Collectors.

In regard to automotive toys, the most recent, and probably definitive, work is Lillian Gottschalk American Toy Cars and Trucks, 1894-1942. In addition to physically describing 475 different items--almost all Americanmade, Gottschalk does an excellent job of linking their histories to those of the real cars they represent. The text also is accompanied by superior photographic work. Another good work, covering a later period in which Japanese and German toy makers excelled to an extent unequalled since, is Dale Kelley Collecting the Tin Toy Car, 1950-1970. Also worth examining is The World of Model Cars, edited by Vic Smeed, which discusses not only collecting and building such vehicles, but also the racing of radio-controlled models. The latter is covered in more detail in Robert Schleicher Model Car Racing.

Not everyone into collecting model cars purchases the work of others. There is another group of hobbyists who enjoy making their own. Some insight into this form of leisure can be gained by perusing The Complete Book of Model Car Building by Dennis Doty, Scratchbuilding Model Cars by Saul Santos, and The Complete Car Modeller by Gerald A. Wingrove.

In addition to full-size and model cars, many Americans have chosen to collect ornamental parts of automobiles. Representative of the literature in this regard are William C. Williams Motoring Mascots of the World, a study of hood ornaments; Keith Marvin License Plates of the World; Scott Anderson's Check the Oil: Gas Station Collectibles with Prices; and Jim Evans Collectors Guide to Automotive Literature, the latter defined as sales brochures, stock certificates, and other ephemera.

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