Modern motoring and the enclosed body
in The experience of suburban modernity
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One of the key changes in inter-war motoring was the introduction of the closed car. This development was very popular with suburban customers who preferred to be protected from the rain and the cold. One consequence of this change was that the closed car isolated the driver and passenger from the landscape they passed through. In an open car, the kinaesthetic and embodied experience of driving was very direct. The driver was very aware of the noises and smells of the surrounding area. In a closed car these feelings were highly attenuated, producing a replica of a suburban inter-war domestic interior; dark, warm, and quiet. The outside world was now seen through a narrow windscreen in a filmic way, it appeared that the driver was stationary and the road moved towards him or her. Thus driving became akin to watching a movie. In combination with the ‘Golden Mile’ of the Great West Road this way of seeing the road, particularly at night when the buildings were illuminated, produced, for some, a technological sublimity. Others found the suburban road tawdry and drab.

The experience of suburban modernity

How private transport changed interwar London

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