A joyous ride down the rocky road of modern car design, with a pack of inspired lunatics fronted by Christensen (The Sweeps, not reviewed), on a journey to “build the greatest car in the world.”
By the greatest car, what Christensen is really talking about is speed: “I want to keep my dream car’s mission simple: A) Start; B) Hit the horizon.” The designer, Nick Pugh, a prodigy in the car-of-the-future department, speaks convincingly of automotive art (“I want my car to make sense the way a cloud makes sense or a tree, design with nonlinear symmetry. . . . Like a babe who has soft curves but talon nails, who could maybe kill you”), but when Christensen chats up the idea of beauty, he sounds like a junior-high kid trying to convince his mother to subscribe to Playboy for the great fiction it prints. For Christensen splices into this classily hip story of building the Xeno III (the greatest car ever made) his history as a fool for fast cars—a disease he has harbored since he was eight and one that has run through his life like a mighty, naughty river, shaping him, getting him into endless trouble. When a friend ponies up $100,000 for him to build the car, Christensen admits: “I feel what Leopold must have felt when he met Loeb,” and it just gets worse. In tandem the stories proceed: Christensen the young boy frustrated because he never has car enough; Christensen the middle-aged guy frustrated because he never has money enough ($100,000 won’t even buy the front bumpers on the car his team envisions). While the Xeno III does get built, in a stop-and-go process akin to learning the clutch, the real beauty of this story is the extended portrait Christensen paints of the family he grew up with and the family he now inhabits as a husband and father.
A gorgeous love song to swift cars—parents will want to keep it away from their teenaged sons.