This is not my story. I read a lot of it in Peter Drucker’s book, Adventures of a Bystander. It’s the story of Nicholas Dreystadt, and I consider Dreystadt’s life interesting and inspiring enough to pass along. But I’ll do it in my own words, because I think Mr. Drucker might be upset if I plagiarized him directly.
I should explain that Peter Drucker, who passed away in 2005, studied and wrote about business management. Business Week called him “the founding father” of that discipline. Before Drucker formalized management, business managers didn’t think much about the subject. And in the course of his 95-year life, Drucker advised international leaders, including three of our presidents. He studied the workings of major industry leaders, taught at Bennington College, Sarah Lawrence, Claremont, and NYU. He wrote 81 books and received 10 honorary degrees from universities around the world.
What caught my eye in Adventures of a Bystander was the chapter in which he talked about General Motors. Mr. Drucker wanted to study GM to discover how it was organized and how it ran itself. In doing so, he contrasted the management styles of two divisional “presidents,” what we now call general managers: Marvin Coyle of Chevrolet and Nicholas Dreystadt of Cadillac. Both names were familiar to me, but I hadn’t known much about either man.
According to Drucker, Marvin Coyle ran Chevrolet with a heavy hand. His people were generally afraid of him, and he was very much the off-putting autocrat. Dreystadt represented the opposite: easygoing, friendly, good-natured, casual, with a good sense of humor. Coyle, though, had built Chevrolet into GM’s powerhouse—the corporation’s main source of income—and despite being dictatorial, Marvin Coyle earned the respect of his peers.
These days, it is a common practice for automotive companies to sell the same car under many names. Take, for example, Volkswagen Golf. If you want a more premium version, you can buy Audi A3, and if you don’t have enough money to afford a Golf, the Skoda Octavia is the way to go.
From the outside, these cars are completely different but from the technical point of view, the three cars are almost identical. Globalization, as they call it, leads to the situation when bigger and more successful car companies get over the small ones, which in turn has its effect on production. Smaller companies get access to new technology, and the bigger ones increase their profits and market share.
However, it was completely different 85 years ago. To use someone’s successful products, you’d have to purchase their technology. And so it was for the USSR in 1929 when the Soviet government decided that it was time for the country to start mass production of its own cars. The government signed a contract with Ford Motor Company, and a factory was built near modern Nizhny Novgorod, called Gorky back then. The plant was named GAZ, short for Gorkovsky Avtomobilny Zavod (Russian for ‘plant’ or ‘factory’).
The car you see here is GAZ Model A, the first Soviet mass-produced passenger car. And yes, it does look like a clone of 1930-31 Ford Model A Standard Phaeton…because it is one.
This impressive Gulf Oil Company service station located in an unknown area of Philadelphia, PA, was designed in the manner of the then-popular Streamline Moderne architecture. This form of building construction was fashionable from the mid-1930s to the ’50s, both here in the US and around the world. The “Good Gulf Nonox” neon sign out…