Brad Feld

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Book Review: Hard Driving

Oct 11, 2005
Category Books

Hard Driving is the story of John DeLorean and DeLorean Motor Company (DMC) through the eyes of William Haddad.  While it’s a 20 year old book that I found at the Strand Book Store, it was better than most murder / intrigue / terrorist / thriller books of today.  And – best of all – it’s non-fiction.

As a teenager, my dad had a good friend – Dr. Casey (a pediatrician by day) – who had a hobby of fixing up smashed up sports cars.  He went through phases – for a long time he was into Corvettes (we had two of his – a 1975 and a 1978 that I got to drive in high school), then TR-7s, then Porsches.  At one point he got into DeLoreans – I still remember the first time I saw one.  Teenage boys were always hanging around the Casey’s house – I could never figure out if it was the cars or his three very attractive teenage daughters.  Nonetheless, there was plenty of car repair action to be had – day and night. 

The stainless steel DeLorean always stuck in my mind.  When DeLorean was busted for dealing coke (proportedly to try to save DMC) and then acquitted because he was entrapped, all I could think was that I’d never end up with a DeLorean.

Of course, the end game of DeLorean’s failure never really scratched the surface of the story.  Haddad – who was friends with DeLorean going back to DeLorean’s GM days, and then went to work for DMC as VP Communications and Planning, tells an incredible entrepreneurial tale set in a very different time then today (the late 1970’s and early 1980’s).  The pacing and interaction is radically different then we deal with in business today, but the underlying issues, problems, interactions, and opportunities feel very similar.

Fundamentally, DeLorean comes across as a completely self-centered, manipulative, semi-delusional person that is gifted with immense charisma, vision, and desire yet struggles with right and wrong.  The line between success and failure for him is narrow and he almost pulls it off, but doesn’t quite get there, at which point everything implodes.   

There are many lessons in this book, both about entrepreneurship and ethics.  Haddad is an excellent writer and does a great job of injecting his own emotions at the appropriate points while hanging back and telling the story at others.  Refreshingly, he lets DeLorean’s actions tell the story rather than feel the need to moralize. 

This was a powerful and enjoyable book.