Cover image for Build the perfect beast : the quest to design the coolest car ever made
Build the perfect beast : the quest to design the coolest car ever made
Christensen, Mark.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press, 2001.
Physical Description:
x, 381 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color) ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
TL228 .C49 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Mark Christensen grew up with a simple dream-to build a 600 horsepower suicide machine able to accelerate from zero to sixty in less time than it takes to read this sentence. When a friend offers him $100,000 to realize that dream, Christensen enlists Nick Pugh, the best young auto designer in the country. An idealistic, charismatic, twenty-two year old star student from the celebrated Art Center for Design in Pasadena, Pugh shows Christensen his sketches of the Xeno I-drawings that are stunningly original and strangely familiar-"as if they were the best ideas I never had." Thus inspired, the author sets out to assemble a "best of the best" group of engineers, mechanics and fabricators.

But the dream becomes grander and the designs of the Xeno evolve spectacularly after the endlessly hard working utopian Pugh develops an ingenious method for automobiles to triple their driving range. And as new and wilder Xenos fly from Pugh's monster imagination, nothing seems impossible. That is until the author discovers that $100,000 may not even pay for the hubcaps that Pugh has envisioned.

Build the Perfect Beast is a window into 21st century technology and cutting edge design at its most relevant and bizarre-an epic odyssey about craft, cars, opportunity and ambition that sizzles like American Graffiti on acid. This is a classic tale of chasing down the American dream.

Author Notes

Mark Christensen is the author of several books, including The Sweeps: Behind the Scenes in Network TV and two novels, Mortal Belladaywic and Aloha . A former media columnist for Rolling Stone, his feature stories have appeared in American Film, Connoisseur, The Los Angeles Times Sunday Magazine, Playboy, and Wired . He lives in Long Beach, California.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Christensen has always been crazy about automobiles. From the age of eight he fantasized about building a "dream car." Several years ago, a friend offered $100,000 to help him realize that dream. Little did Christensen imagine he would end up pouring many times that amount into his project. To build the car, he enlisted Nick Pugh, who designs special effects for movies and theme park rides. He also designs concept cars for the auto industry. With Pugh on board, Christensen hired engineers, mechanics, and fabricators to get the car made. The result is the Xeno--now in its third version, a high-performance, 500-horsepower, ultra-low-emission roadster that will be powered by natural gas. The two-passenger vehicle will look like a "crystal knife" and has been "built to last a hundred years" --but will carry a $1 million price tag! Christensen, who is also the author of The Sweeps: Behind the Scenes in Network TV (1984), tells more than a story about building a car, for his saga shows vividly what it is like to pursue a dream. --David Rouse

Publisher's Weekly Review

A writer, a physician and a designer team up to create "the greatest car in the world" in this testosterone-fueled paean to individual genius and America's fascination with automobiles. Christensen receives an offer of $100,000 from his physician friend Gideon Bosker to help build his dream car, and Christensen convinces Nick Pugh, "America's best young car designer," to join the project. Pugh quickly emerges as the book's dominant character: intense and uncompromising, he is a bizarre hybrid of Picasso, Eminem and Ayn Rand's Howard Roark. It's largely Pugh's vision that keeps the quest alive through years of frustration, fund-raising and fantastical detours (including an ill-fated attempt to power the car using a secret hydrogen-compound formula). After nearly a decade, the trio finally succeeds in building a shocking, mobile work of art called the Xeno III. And what is done with this "steel hallucination," this "captured UFO," once it is finished? It's kept in a garage in southern California and is rarely driven. As frustrating as this anticlimax is, however, it's the least of the book's problems. More troublesome is Christensen's lack of focus and discrimination. Seemingly everything from his own life during this period went into the narrative, from his visit to a Lollapalooza concert to his difficulties publishing a novel. On the positive side, Christensen knows his probable audience well and maintains a suitably aggressive, masculine tone throughout. His description of vomiting after too much beer and pizza may win over some readers, but for most, such delights will not be enough. 16-page color photo insert not seen by PW. (Nov. 16) Forecast: St. Martin's will need more than gasoline to get this title moving; its only chance is niche marketing and publicity to old-school techies and race car buffs. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This book reads so much like fiction that readers may be tempted to search the Internet to find out if the people here really exist. It's hardly believable, for instance, that someone actually thought he was going to build a one-of-a-kind car powered by a derivative of water. And did Christensen (The Sweeps: Behind the Scenes in Network TV) really think his twentysomething designer, fresh out of design school, was a w?nderkind who could make his dream-car a reality? This is only part of the plot, and, unfortunately, not all the questions are answered here. The story of building the Xeno, a car to embody advanced technology and design, plays out over nearly a decade and includes several digressions into Christensen's own childhood. Some of the more detailed text about the car's design can be hard to follow, but there are enough twists and turns in the narrative to make this enjoyable reading. Toward the end, the reader learns that one of the many deals the author made to get the car built was that a book would be written about it. When neither car nor book was finished, the publisher sued the author. Christiansen eventually found someone else to publish the book, though in ultimately unfinished form. As such, the reader never finds out what happened with the car. A recent web search turned up this information about the Xeno: it is available for sale for one million dollars. Eric C. Shoaf, Brown Univ. Lib., Providence, RI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.