“The car has become an article of dress without which we feel uncertain, unclad, and incomplete in the urban compound”*…
Langdon Clay spent two years in the 1970s roaming the streets of the Big Apple at night, photographing parked and abandoned cars. See more of the results at “Eerie portraits of cars in 1970s New York.”
* Marshall McLuhan
As we slip behind the wheel, we might recall that it was on this date in 1921 that Thomas Midgley Jr., then a young engineer at General Motors, discovered that, when added to gasoline, a compound called tetraethyl lead (TEL) eliminated the unpleasant noises (known as “knock” or “pinging”) that internal-combustion engines made when they ran. Midgley could scarcely have imagined the consequences of his discovery: for more than five decades, oil companies saturated the gasoline they sold with lead– a deadly poison.
(Resonantly, 13 years later Midgley led the team that developed chlorofluorocarbons [CFCs]– specifically, Freon– for use in refrigeration [and ultimately, air conditioning and aerosols]. Like the lead additive, CFCs were celebrated in their time… but later banned for their contributions to climate change.)