This is an ongoing project to record the fascinating profiles of people who have made a significant contribution to SAH whether as President, Directors or Members. Additional contributions will be most welcome. Please address them to the Web Editor – see Contact.
Richard B. Brigham (1907-1995)
Richard Bevier Brigham was the sparkplug that ignited a flame which transformed a group interested in automotive history into a solid, strong, and significant group, the Society of Automotive Historians. This profile is a combination of extracts from the SAH Journal #157 written by Keith Marvin, Taylor Vinson and his wife Grace R. Bringham
Dick Brigham was born on May 10th, 1907 in Toledo, Ohio, and resided there until 1962 when he moved to Marietta, Georgia, where he passed away July 6th, 1995. Dick had a lifelong interest in automobiles and started to drive at age thirteen. His first car was a problem-prone Inter-State which he replaced with a satisfactory Willys-Knight tourer. From the early fifties, he belonged to numerous antique auto clubs and had owned several antique vehicles. His interest in the history of automobiles was sparked by the purchase of a Clymer book when he was on a business trip to New York City. That was the beginning of a comprehensive library which grew over the years. His knowledge base was complemented with extensive correspondence with authors and enthusiasts.
Although he was a machine designer, the interest in old cars led to a change to a career in publishing with, at first, a simple advertising paper, Motormart, then to the history of some of the vehicles in the magazine The Road to Yesterday.
His long life was one of great variety, emphasizing a love for and understanding of motor vehicles. He was a master in ferreting out the facts and stories of them, specializing in those which, without his curiosity and research, would probably have had no memorial and perished as though they had never been. Thanks to this one man, a large number of cars and trucks which otherwise might have remained forgotten and unknown live today, their histories chronicled. Moreover, he set an example for many of us to follow accordingly.
Some are born to be leaders or, on a lesser scale perhaps, founders – operators who are gifted in creating groups which continue successfully once they have been formed. Dick was the founder in this case, following that action by being active in the Society until his death, counseling, advising and printing the Society’s publications. Fortunately for the early financial fortunes of the Society, Dick was a printer.
There did exist a formidable cadre of automotive historians, both here and abroad, many of whom were in contact with one another, but there was no central clearing house, so to speak. Many of them had been writing books and magazine articles for many years or serving as editors and publishers. This void would end in 1969 when, as the result of some correspondence, Dick Brigham and G. Marshall Naul proposed the formation of a group devoted to the history of motor vehicles. On October 11th, 1969, a group gathered at Hershey, Pennsylvania, and the Society of Automotive Historians was created. Today, the group comprises several hundred members from around the world.
Dick is listed as member #1HF, meaning that he was a Founder and subsequently in 1985 was presented with Honorary Membership, “The Friend of Automotive History Award,” the highest accolade accorded by the Society. He was the Society’s first vice president, and responsible for the Cugnot machine as our symbol.
He was the editor of the first 29 issues of the Newsletter (now SAH Journal) from September 1969 to mid-1973 and againcame back to edit 30 more Journals from January 1984 to December 1988. That means he was responsible for 59 out of the 157 issues until his passing. The Journal editor is considered as the most important person in SAH because he or she is the direct link to the members; the editor personifies the Society. If the editor drops the ball, members won’t renew. So Dick’s early Newsletters gathered the growing membership and set the tone and tenor which we have tried to follow ever since: informal, inquisitive, and informative.
He was also editor of the first ten issues of Automotive History Review, returning to put out an additional seven – from Winter 1973 to Winter 1980 and Fall 1984 to Summer 1988. That’s 17 out of 28 Reviews to that point. Thus Dick was responsible for putting out about forty per cent of the combined total of both SAH publications issued during his lifetime. In fact, he was editor of both the Journal and the Review from 1984 to 1988. If that’s not love and dedication, then what is? He was not only our founder, but our sustainer over our first 20 years.
As a writer, editor, publisher and a researcher into automotive history, he was, indeed, a ‘famous man’ and few would question that. He was active in SAH affairs and travelled to its activities, dinners and other meetings until ill health forced him to cut back. It didn’t diminish his interest, and he kept in touch with his fellow members and many friends by phone or mail. In these contacts, he was assisted over the many years by his wife, Founding and Honorary Member Grace, who was an automotive authority in her own right, an author and a helpmate to her husband.
In 1990, the Society honored both Dick and Grace by establishing the Brigham Award, which is presented annually for the best overall treatment of automotive history by a periodical publication over all issues of the previous year. Dick left a memorial – the Society of Automotive Historians – and his name will live because of it. His inspiration affected all of us who knew him and he should be credited with that, the chronicles which, without him, may have never been written; and as for those generations of automotive historians yet unborn, the name of Richard B. Brigham will be regarded with gratitude for his work in the field he loved.
Henry Austin Clark, Jr. (1917-1991)
Henry Austin Clark, Jr., was Vice-President of SAH during the 1988 and 1989 term that Beverly Rae Kimes served as President. These two officers of SAH combined to author the Standard Catalog of American Cars 1905-1942. This profile, written by Jim Donnelly in June, 2011, was a Feature Article and shared with SAH courtesy of Hemmings Classic Car, a publication of Hemmings Motor News.
Other people collected cars, but only a few of them did so with equal ambition and an eye toward significance matching that of Henry Austin Clark Jr. The legacy of Clark, who died 20 years ago, is vaster and more varied than most collectors can dream. He bequeathed upon the world of cars an unbelievably huge and priceless trove from the automobile’s earliest years, hailing from everywhere in the world. Those who saw it regularly are still staggered by its scope.
Just maybe, Clark’s early obsession with recorded music was a hint of what he might do once he turned to documenting cars. He was born in 1917, a child of impressive wealth, growing up in the Flushing neighborhood of Queens, in New York City. His father was treasurer of the Cuban American Sugar Company, which processed vast amounts of cane sugar under the brand name of Jack Frost–a huge neon sign adorned one of the company’s refineries on the city’s East River.
The younger Clark first proved to be something of a Marconi imitator, a true prodigy in the growing technology of radio. Clark’s longtime friend and library curator, Walt Gosden, recalled that early in his life, Clark made some friends among liquor deliverymen, so to speak, who used his radios to monitor marine patrols along the creeks and marshes of Flushing Meadow. Clark would have still been a precocious kid then.
In 1951, Clark moved his family to a manor community, Meadow Springs, in the exclusive town of Glen Cove. The younger Clark went to Harvard, studied law, and graduated as a classmate of John F. Kennedy.
According to Gosden, Clark used to say that his last true paycheck came from the federal government in 1945, once his war service was completed. He inherited a huge block of Jack Frost stock and received big checks simply for showing up at board of directors meetings. Clark very much preferred his other pastime during his college years: indulging his heart-pounding love of swing and jazz, becoming a dealer for RCA’s Bluebird Records and prowling the Manhattan jazz clubs at night, selling vinyl from the trunks of various cars, including his 1939 Buick, for artists ranging from Earl “Fatha” Hines to Rudy Vallee. Clark probably bought his first older vehicle, a Model T Ford, at age 11, and soon went on to acquire a two-cylinder Autocar truck.
Clark’s favorite make was Simplex. Most people don’t realize that Clark also bought the company, acquiring the right to resume production of these distinguished cars, which tells us a lot about his tastes. He served as vice president of the Bridgehampton race circuit on eastern Long Island, and after getting his collection up to around 50 cars, established a place to hold some of them, the Long Island Automotive Museum in Southampton. At any given time, some 40 to 70 cars were displayed there, led by the actual Thomas Flyer that had won the 1908 New York-to-Paris race, which Clark had rescued from a junkyard.
He was also one of the first collectors attracted to trucks. Walter recalls Clark buying a 1912 solid-tire Alco in the Bronx and trying to drive it to Southampton, making it a fair distance across Long Island before it threw a connecting rod.
The museum remained open from 1948 to 1980; the old-money types in town wouldn’t let Clark put up signs advertising the collection, which was gradually sold off at auction. His more significant legacy was the gigantic library he amassed, which, following Clark’s death in 1991, was acquired by The Henry Ford. According to Gosden, his librarian, “He had a fairly extensive mansion and the entire basement, floor to ceiling, was unbound periodicals: French, American, British, Motor, Autocar, Horseless Age, you name it. Then he put a building on the back of the mansion that was approximately 25 feet by 40, for the bound periodicals, sales catalogs, things like that. Then he had the indexes for everything.
“He was really good friends with Charles Addams, the cartoonist (the TV sitcom, The Addams Family, was based on his drawings), who was a real car guy, too,” Walt told us. “When Austin had a wake after he closed the museum, Charles showed up wearing a black armband. I thought that was really classy.”
This article originally appeared in the June, 2011 issue of Hemmings Classic Car.
John A. Conde (1918-2008)
Under the title John Conde; Man of Letters, Patrick Foster wrote a Personality Profile in Collectible Automobile® Volume 25, Number 1, of August 2008. John Conde passed away August 29th, shortly after the article was published. John Biel, Editor-in-Chief, has granted permission for this profile of our past SAH President from 1984 to 1985.
The Best way to describe John Conde is “multifaceted.” He’s been one of the old-car hobby’s most influential personalities because he’s been involved in the automotive history for more than 60 years. Conde retired from American Motors Corporation in 1976 as its assistant director of public relations, following a 30-year career during which he helped write many of the press materials used by Nash-Kelvinator and American Motors. In 1977, he became curator of the transportation collection at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. He retired from that position in 1981 to devote his time to writing and lecturing on automobile history.
Among his many accomplishments, Conde was also a founding member of the Society of Automotive Historians in 1969 and served two terms as its President. A long-time member of the Board of Trustees of the National Automotive History Collection (NAHC) of the Detroit Public Library, he was one of the volunteers who labored to sort and identify the huge collection of photos and negatives donated to the HAHC by the Packard Motor Car Company in 1955. He also served on the board of the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum.
Then, too, he helped foster the hobby of collecting automotive literature and is a noted authority of auto literature values. He’s also been a collector, and the size and scope of his personal literature collection was legendary. Many people who have met John Conde may not have realized it. For years, he was a regular fixture at the Hershey, Pennsylvania, swap meet each fall. He and a fellow enthusiast would set up in a big tent from which they sold their wares. Inside were rows of tables holding box after box of automotive literature, an amazing assembly covering virtually all makes. Those in the know always went directly to Conde’s tent in order to get first pick of the really rare stuff.
But John Conde was more than just one of the world’s leading literature dealers. His “real” job was pretty interesting too. His public relations career, which began just after the end of World War II, brought him in contact with Charlie Nash, Henry Ford, George Mason, George Romney, Roy D. Chapin, Jr., and a host of other automotive celebrities.
But there’s still more. Conde is also an author. During the Fifties, he created the Nash family Album, a pictorial history of the automobiles of Nash and its predecessors. Those books were followed by the Rambler Family Album and the American Motors Family Album. John wrote other books of automotive history and numerous magazine articles, including several for Collectible Automobile® between 1984 and 1996.
Beverly Rae Kimes (1939-2008)
Kit Foster wrote the following tribute to Beverly Rae Kimes in the SAH Journal of July-August 2008, issue 235
Beverley Rae Kimes, former Society President, Friend of Automotive History and world class historian and writer, passed away May 12, 2008 after a lingering illness. For decades the First Lady of Automotive History, she was the author of more than 20 books and hundreds of articles on motoring topics, and the recipient of countless awards and honors.
Born in West Chicago, Illinois on August 17, 1939, she was the daughter of Raymond and Grace Perrin Kimes. Her father was a railroad man, her mother a comptometer operator for Sears, Roebuck in Chicago until leaving to become a fulltime homemaker after her marriage. Bev grew up in Wheaton, Illinois, not far from the Chicago & North Western tracks where all the trains whistled as they passed to salute “Rae Kimes’s daughter.” She was graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana, with degrees in History and Journalism.
In 1963, she received a Masters of Arts degree in Journalism from Pennsylvania State University, then went to New York City hoping to write for theater publications. Instead, she found a job with a fledging automobile magazine, Scott Bailey’s Automobile Quarterly. Hired as a secretary, she soon found her name on the masthead as Editorial Assistant, shortly Assistant Editor. Within two years she had risen to Associate Editor and was subsequently Managing Editor. She was promoted to Editor in 1975, a post she held until leaving to go free lance in 1981.
After leaving AQ she became Executive Editor at the Classic Car Club of America, producing their magazine The Classic Car and newsletter Classic car Bulletin until her final illness. The Classic Car received SAH’s Richard and Grace Brigham Award in 1995. She authored two books for CCCA, The Classic Car, published in 1990 and The Classic Era, which received the Nicholas-Joseph Cugnot Award as the best book of 2001 in the field of automotive history.
Over the years she received six Cugnot awards, more than any other author. The first was for Packard: A History of the Motor Car and the Company (1978), an anthology of the Packard history published by Automobile Quarterly Books in 1978, and her last was Pioneers, Engineers and Scoundrels: The Dawn of the Automobile in America (2005), published by SAE International. In between were My Two Lives: Racing Driver to Restaurateur (1983), jointly written with René Dreyfus and published by Aztec Corporation; The Star and the Laurel (1986), a centennial history of Mercedes-Benz; and her magnum opus, the Standard Catalog of American Cars 1905-1942, published by Krause in three editions from 1985 to 1996. While recognized as the standard reference for prewar cars built in the United States, the Standard Catalog is much more, including narrative entries for all marques, no matter how obscure, even those ventures that never produced a car. If anyone thought about building an automobile, Beverly described it in the Catalog.
A full Kimes biography is difficult to compile because she had a profound influence on far more volumes than ever carried her name on their spines. Similarly, the complete list of her articles, which must number in the hundreds, is inestimable, partly because, for publisher’s policy or personal effacement, she sometimes wrote under noms de plume. Automobile Quarterly would not permit its staffers more than one byline per issue, and thus was born “Cullen Thomas,” a composite family of names. To lessen her footprint in The Classic Car she published articles by “Ralph Cox,” the name of the 1930 Auburn in which she and her husband Jim Cox, toured extensively. Her articles on Ken Purdy, Henry Austin Clark, Jr., and Walter Dorwin Teague, Jr.’s design of the Marmon HCM V-12, all earned her Carl Benz Awards from SAH.
Beyond that were the articles she ghost-wrote or re-wrote for others. Skilled at repairing fractured prose without corrupting the author’s voice, she occasionally met her match. One particularly difficult contributor, she told me, led her through re-write after re-write before pulling the article back. “It just doesn’t sound like me,” he complained, and as Bev related, “it didn’t. That was the point of re-writing it, after all. But that did not stop him from having the revision published in another magazine.”
Bev was late in coming to SAH, partly because AQ policy that kept staffers at arms-length from all automotive organizations. Enrolled as member 808 in November 1980, she was soon appointed to chair the Publications Committee, of which she’s been a member, except for brief sabbaticals, ever since. She organized events such as our first automotive silent auction, and for many years produced the biennial membership directories, including the mammoth task of indexing members’ interests. She was elected a Friend of Automotive History, our highest award, in 1986. Her selection might have come sooner, but from the outset she had insisted on being part of the Committee. Losing an election for President by one vote because she had modestly cast hers for her opponent, she was persuaded to stand again and was successful, heading the Society from 1987 to 1989.
Her accolades stretch far beyond SAH. Her work also earned several Moto Awards from the International Automotive Media Awards and the Thomas McKean Memorial Cup from the Antique Automobile Club of America. Beverly received a Distinguished Service Citation from the Automotive Hall of Fame in 1993, and was recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award by IAMA on 2005. For 17 years she served as the voice of the Concours d’Elegance of the Eastern United States in Pennsylvania, and was also an Honorary Judge at Pebble Beach.
In addition to SAH and CCCA, Beverly was a member of AACA and the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Club. She and Jim had upwards of 50,000 miles of touring in “Ralph” the Auburn. Ralph was recently donated to the ACD Museum in Auburn, Indiana.
Bev’s interests included much more than journalism and automobiles. She loved New York City, and served as president of the block association in her Upper East Side neighbourhood. She was also an officer in the University of Illinois Alumni Club of Greater New York.
Mentor to many and an inspiration to all, she never let her advancing illness get in the way of deadlines. With Jim assisting as archivist, research assistant and co-author, she completed one last book, Walter L. Marr: Buick’s Amazing Engineer. Published by Racemaker Press, it appeared just before her death. Few would quarrel with her calling her the First Lady of Automotive History. Some of us might presumptuously nominate ourselves for the equivalent masculine title, but in comparison we are but drones.
Beverly is survived by her husband of 24 years, Jim Cox and a sister, Sharon Sauer of Star Lake, Wisconsin.
Michael Lamm kindly provided this profile at the request of the SAH web editor. When asked what cars he had special memories about, the list was whittled down to his 1964 E-Type Jaguar, but if allowed only two cars in heaven, his hot rod and 1932 Cadillac V-16 would be on the list.
I’m honored to be honored. Thanks, SAH, for being so good to me.
As in golf, there’s an advantage to scoring low. In my case, the low number is 42. I became a member of the Society of Automotive Historians in late 1969 or early 1970. It’s been a long ride, and that’s one of the advantages of advancing age: We duffers gain more time to do what we love.
In my experience, the great accomplishment of the SAH has been to legitimize automotive history—to make it a serious cultural and academic presence. People—and I’m talking now about everyone from scholars to tinkerers—have finally come to recognize the automobile and the auto industry as valuable expressions of modern history and human understanding.
And I think the SAH can be quite proud of itself for having played a significant role in creating that realization.
My own part in advancing automotive history has been exceedingly modest, and I’m not saying that to simply be self-deprecating. It’s true.
I had the very good fortune to work for a number of car magazines, starting in 1959, at age 23. That year, by a series of flukes, I became editor of a small magazine in New York called Foreign Car Guide. FCG was my foot in the door. My bride, JoAnne, and I soon moved to California, where I became managing editor of Motor Life magazine and, from 1962 through 1965, managing editor of Motor Trend.
I’ve never been a city person, so late in 1965 JoAnne and our three boys moved to Stockton, an agricultural town in the central valley of northern California. I began freelancing and, over time, wrote something like a thousand articles about cars. What I enjoyed most were the research and writing of historical pieces, and in those days magazines still paid for such articles.
In 1970, I co-founded (along with Hemmings Motor News) a new magazine, Special-Interest Autos, that did its darndest to present the non-elitist facets of automotive history. In SIA, we ran histories of mainstream cars and car companies, but we also tried to uncover the unique, the fascinating, the bizarre, the one-man-engineered oddities and designs that most readers had never seen nor heard of. And we also tried to stress the human, historical side of cars as well as talking about the cars’ hardware and performance capabilities.
In 1978, I began publishing books, and I also began writing a syndicated newspaper column (“Teens on Wheels” for AP Newsfeatures). I continued to contribute to a variety of publications, including Automobile Quarterly, Collectible Automobile, Popular Mechanics, Esquire, Invention & Technology, Moneysworth, Odyssey, Farm Quarterly, plus just about all the newsstand car magazines: Road & Track, Motor Trend, Car and Driver, Automobile, AutoWeek, Hot Rod, Car Craft, Sports Car International, Corvette and dozens more, both here and overseas.
When you write, you sell a service, but when you publish books, you sell products, and frankly it’s easier to sell products than services, so I soon found myself writing and publishing about one book a year. These had to do mostly with the development of General Motors cars: Camaros, Firebirds, Corvettes, Fieros and, most recently, the Pontiac Solstice (2006). My little basement publishing empire also dabbled in cookbooks (a total disaster), and we did bring out one book for Ford about the 2002 Thunderbird.
I consider myself extremely fortunate in my career, because it spanned pretty much the golden age of American automobile magazines. At their happiest, car magazines ran historical articles, and that, for me, represented the gold of that golden era.
As I say, the SAH legitimized automotive history and helped make household names of industry giants like Henry Ford, Alfred P. Sloan Jr., Walter P. Chrysler, Henry J. Kaiser, Ransom E. Olds and E.L. Cord. Automotive history, in my view, now enjoys the same cultural value as architectural history and the history of industrial design. It’s nice to see, in my lifetime, an interest that I had as a teenager grow into a serious study and a recognized contributor to the economy and well-being of not only our nation but the international community.
Michael Lamm honors and awards
1974—Cugnot Award, article, “Body by Briggs,” published in Special-Interest Autos magazine.
1975-76—President of the Society of Automotive Historians.
1990—Friend of Automotive History Award.
1992—Cugnot Award of Distinction, book, “Chevrolet 1955: Creating the Original.”
1996—Elected to SAH board of directors, Oct. 1996 to Sept. 1999.
1996—Served on SAH publications committee Oct. 1996 through Sept. 2009.
1997—Cugnot Award of Distinction, book, “A Century of Automotive Style;” actually two awards, one as co-author and one as publisher.
2000—Carl Benz Award, article, “An American Original: The Sports Cars of Frank Kurtis,” published in Collectible Automobile magazine.
2001—Carl Benz Award, article, “Unrealized Dreams: GM’s 1955 LaSalle II Motorama Cars,” published in Collectible Automobile.
2001—Cugnot Award of Distinction, contributor, “The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile.”
2004—Carl Benz Award, article, “Mysterious Ways: The Long, Strange Trip of the 1954 Oldsmobile F-88,” published in Collectible Automobile.
2004—Carl Benz Award, article, “GM’s LeSabre: Harley Earl’s Think Tank,” published in Collectible Automobile.
The SAH Friend of Automotive History Award is our most prestigious award presented to an individual who has made a profound contribution in the advancement of automotive history.
Jay Leno may be best known as a comedian, but it is most appropriate to also consider him an automotive historian in the best sense of the term. When it comes to his car collection, he is a serious guy. He is a major collector—he owns about 200 vehicles which he houses in a beautiful facility in Los Angeles. Magnificent auto art adorns the walls of his “Big Dog Garage.” His interests are wide-ranging. He owns early steam cars, electric cars, classic cars, and muscle cars, and unusual vehicles like a solar-powered hybrid. Explaining his fondness for steam cars (he owns at least five steam cars), Leno calls himself a “fan of lost technology.” He likes to understand the stories behind his cars—why did a seemingly good idea never catch on or why did a certain well-designed car fail in the market. An avid reader and observer, in talking with Jay, one quickly discovers that Jay is a well-versed historian when it comes to the cultural, social, and technological history of the automobile.
More importantly and a major reason for nominating Jay, Leno’s influence in terms of his website and his monthly articles in Popular Mechanics have done much to generate considerable enthusiasm for the pursuit of automotive history worldwide. His website, www.JayLenosGarage.com, includes photos of his car collection, facilities at his Big Dog Garage, his restoration projects, and a great deal of useful information. Consequently, material from this site can and is used in undergraduate classes that center on automotive history. After the taping of his show, he also met with undergraduate students studying history and answered student questions in an informal setting.
Further, all of his cars in his collection are drivable. Until recently, he drove an old car to the studio at The Tonight Show every day. Just the sight of Jay driving one of his cars on the streets of Burbank illicit enthusiasm from those lucky enough to witness such a sight! TV audiences will soon be entertained by Jay Leno’s Garage currently found on YouTube.
Jay Leno has used his celebrity status to support and promote automotive history and restoration. He has provided financial aid and publicity, though his Tonight Show platform, for the automotive restoration program at McPherson College. McPherson College in McPherson, Kansas is the only college in America to offer a four-year degree in automotive restoration. At McPherson Leno established the Frederick J. Duesenberg Scholarship for automotive technology students. He also established a scholarship program with Popular Mechanics and donates the pay for his monthly Popular Mechanics column to the college.
Unfortunately Jay Leno was not able to receive his award at our annual Hershey dinner as he was entertaining the troops in the Middle East. A presentation will be made at his Big Dog Garage in the near future.
In sum, and for all of his contributions to popularizing the area of automotive history and to the field of automotive restoration, we cannot think of any one more deserving of the Friend of Automotive History Award than Mr. Jay Leno.
When accepting the Friend of Automotive History Award, Karl prepared the following: “Although I began my career as a writer about current events in the car world, I was always interested in what had gone before. I stood, as they say, on the shoulders of the men – and they were chiefly men – who had taken the trouble to research that history. Two who stand out are Griff Borgeson and Laurence Pomeroy. Since then I’ve seldom discarded anything I found to do with cars, which is why I had to move house to the country!”
Combining a proclivity for math and science with his artistic talent, Ludvigsen set his sites on studying mechanical engineering at MIT. Exeter “over-prepared me for MIT,” he admits. “I coasted through my first year but it was a mixed blessing.” After two years Ludvigsen left to pursue industrial design studies at Pratt Institute in New York City. He started his automobile industry career in 1956 as a stylist for General Motors, working on an early prototype of a front-wheel-drive car. He later held public relations, governmental affairs and other executive positions at General Motors, Fiat and Ford.
In addition to his motor industry activities, Karl Ludvigsen has been active for over 50 years as an author and historian. As an author, co-author or editor he has some four dozen books to his credit. Needless to say, they are all about cars and the motor industry, Karl’s life-long passion.
Since 1997 Ludvigsen has been drawing on the photographic resources of the Ludvigsen Library to write and illustrate books on the great racing drivers. His first title in this series was Stirling Moss – Racing with the Maestro. He followed this with Jackie Stewart – Triple-Crowned King of Speed and Juan Manuel Fangio – Motor Racing’s Grand Master. Fourth in this series for Haynes Publishing was Dan Gurney – The Ultimate Racer and fifth was Alberto Ascari – Ferrari’s First Double Champion. Next came Bruce McLaren – Life and Legend of Excellence and Emerson Fittipaldi — Heart of a Racer.
Also in the field of motor sports Karl Ludvigsen has written about road racing in America, the cars of the Can-Am series, the AAR Eagle racing cars, the GT40 Fords and Prime Movers, the story of Britain’s Ilmor Engineering. His introduction to At Speed, a book of Jesse Alexander’s racing photography, won the Ken W. Purdy Award for Excellence in Automotive Journalism.
Other motors-sports titles include Classic Grand Prix Cars, a history of the front-engined G.P. racer, and Classic Racing Engines, Karl’s personal selection of 50 notable power units. Ludvigsen has written the story of BRM’s ill-fated Formula 1 V16 and the saga of the great 200 horsepower Benz racers, two of which were nicknamed “Blitzen Benz”.
Four of Karl Ludvigsen’s books concern the Chevrolet Corvette, one of them an industry best-seller. He has written three times about Mercedes-Benz, twice about its racing cars. His books on the latter subject have won the Montagu Trophy (once) and the Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot Award (twice), both recognising outstanding automotive historical writing.
In 2001 Karl again received the Cugnot award from the Society of Automotive Historians for his book about the early years of the Volkswagen and its controversial factory, Battle for the Beetle, a Robert Bentley publication. In 2002 the Society gave him its highest accolade, Friend of Automotive History.
Karl Ludvigsen is also the author of the definitive histories of Porsche and Opel. His Porsche history, Excellence was Expected, is considered by many to be a model of the researching and writing of the history of an auto company. He has updated it in three volumes for Bentley Publishers for the new Millennium. A further update for 2008 is in preparation.
At the request of Ernst Piëch, a grandson of Ferdinand Porsche, Ludvigsen has researched the early life and work of that great engineer. The result, a book titled Porsche — Genesis of Genius, is published by Bentley in 2008. It has won both the Montagu Trophy and the Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot Award. An accompanying book, titled Sublime Creations, describes cars in Mr. Piëch’s personal collection.
In 1997 Ludvigsen researched and wrote the catalogue for a special exhibition of Ferrari technological innovations on the occasion of the company’s 50th anniversary and contributed a major section to the company’s official 50-year history. For Ferrari’s 60th anniversary he was commissioned by them to research and write a major over-arching history of Ferrari’s technical innovations.
Ludvigsen’s understanding of the Ferrari world combined with his Library’s holding of the Rodolfo Mailander photo archive to produce Ferrari by Mailander in 2005, a Dalton Watson publication. Its launch was accompanied by major exhibitions in Turin and Pebble Beach of selected photos from the book.
The year 2008 sees the publication by Haynes of a history of the battles between Ferrari and Maserati from the 1940s to the 1960s, titled Red-Hot Rivals. Ludvigsen is also the author of a series of monographs on great Maserati cars.
In co-operation with publisher Iconografix, Ludvigsen has established the Ludvigsen Library Series of 128-page books drawing on the holdings of the Ludvigsen Library. The series now numbers 19 titles, including books on Indy racing cars of 1911 to 1939, the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, the Indy Novis, Chevrolet’s Corvair and Corvette, Jaguar XK120, XK140 and XK150, the Mercedes-Benz 300SL of 1952 and 1954-1964, the 300SLR of 1955, two books on Porsche Spyders, the Porsche 917, the Ferrari factory and American sports-racers: the Cunninghams, Chaparrals and Can-Am racing cars. More titles are in preparation.
Karl’s Ludvigsen Library is also active in the provision of photographs and research material for authors, publishers of books and periodicals, and collectors and enthusiasts. It holds extensive original negatives and transparencies from the 1950s forward with special strengths in motor sports, American cars and sports cars. As well it holds original photos and glass negatives from the dawn of the automotive era.
On motor-industry topics Karl Ludvigsen has written books about high-performance engines, the Wankel rotary engine and the histories of American auto makers. His latest book on power units is The V12 Engine, published by Haynes in 2005. He was editor of The Future of the Automobile, the report of the 1981-1984 study of the world auto industry by M.I.T. This was named one of the best business books of the year by Business Week.
In 1996 publishers in Britain and the United States launched Karl Ludvigsen’s book on motor industry management, Creating the Customer-Driven Car Company. It draws on his industry experience and in-depth research to advise industry personnel on customer-pleasing best practice.
From 1989 to 1998 Karl Ludvigsen edited and contributed to numerous studies published by Euromotor Reports Limited, a leading researcher of special reports and studies about the European motor industry and market. Resident in England since 1980, Mr Ludvigsen is respected as a close and knowledgeable observer of, and participant in, the world motor industry.
Leading periodicals also publish Karl Ludvigsen’s writings. He is a former technical editor of Sports Cars Illustrated (1956-57), editor of Car and Driver (1960-1962) and east coast editor of Motor Trend (1970s). His articles about cars, companies and motoring personalities are published in America by Automobile Quarterly, among others, while in Europe he writes frequently for The Automobile. He is a regular writer and columnist for Hemmings Sports & Exotic Cars, 911 & Porsche World and Just-Auto.com.
Karl’s automotive tastes are fascinating. Like any self respecting enthusiast of his era, he started with an MG TC, followed by a Triumph TR2. But when shipped to Germany on Military Service he bought a new three-speed Renault Dauphine, due to the high fuel costs. The plan was to buy an Alfa Romeo to take home, but his moonlight writing while in the services enabled him to buy a used Mercedes-Benz Gullwing 300SL. He even convinced the Gullwing’s owner to take the Dauphine in trade for his wife. Once home, New York City placed limitations on the 300SL so to complement the Gullwing, a Citroën 2CV provided transportation from 0 to 50 mph, with the Gullwing filling the 50 mph to 150 mph slot. When rust prompted the sale of the Mercedes-Benz, the rust resitant wooden structure justified the purchase of a Morgan while employed by GM. After being rear-ended by a truck, the Morgan bowed to a Chevrolet Nova SS. Currently the Ludvigsen stable includes a Riley and a Cord.
G Marshall Naul
Our First President, G. Marshall Naul, passed away on Sunday January 4th, 2015, just twelve days short of his 96th birthday. Marshall has left an incredible legacy in the form of our precious Society. He was passionate about automotive history and all those who share such a calling will be forever grateful that Marshall gathered some of his likeminded friends creating the Society of Automotive Historians. What greater honor can be bestowed on someone than to acknowledge that his creation will continually enhance the enthusiasm of SAH members both with the knowledge gained but also the camaraderie enjoyed by fellow fanatics?
Bob Ewing wrote the following Profile in the SAH Journal Issue 242 which has been mildly modified for the Honor Roll
Every organization that has survived over time, whether it is a nation, corporation or educational institution, can point to a “founding father.” Our own nation can point to an array of founding fathers that inspired others, wrote fundamental documents, recruited, led and directed others toward a successful beginning. So too, as we look back over the history of the Society of Automotive Historians we find a founding father, who was honored with the prestigious “Friend of Automotive History” award for 2009.
There might not be a Society of Automotive Historians if G. Marshall Naul had not suggested that a loose network of friends become something more formal and stepped forward to become the first president when, in 1969, those friends gathered at Hershey to form an organization. With that, Marshall began actively building a membership roster, developing bylaws and arranging meetings. In the first newsletter, dated September 1969, Marshall wrote that 45 out of 75 people whom he had contacted had expressed a “positive interest in the preservation of automotive history,” that the annual dues would be $7.50 and that the Hershey Meet might be the time and place to “get together and discuss the future of the Society.”
After his term as president Marshall edited the Newsletter, predecessor to the SAH Journal for 21 issues and started the popular “Q & A” column in Old Cars. As an engineer by both training and profession, he cataloged the production of “proprietary” engines, such as Lycoming and Continental, which were used by various auto manufacturers. His findings appeared in such publications as Old Cars, Special Interest Autos and Automotive History Review. He also authored two specification books The Specification Book for U.S. Cars 1920-1929 and The Specification Book for U.S. Cars 1930-1969. After many years his work on these subjects continues to be used as a resource by automotive history researchers.
It was thus appropriate that forty years after the Society’s formation, SAH honored their founding father, G. Marshall Naul, with the 2009 Friend of Automotive History Award.
Melissa Clarke, daughter of Marshall, indicated that her Father celebrated his 95th birthday in January 2014 but unfortunately a stroke three years earlier has impacted his sharp memory. She reminisced how they lived in the middle of nowhere dependent on three strange cars, a Hillman convertible, a Renault and a Peugeot. Unfortunately Marshall’s fascination for automobiles did not extend to understanding the mechanics of such an odd fleet, which made their selection and maintenance that much more puzzling and challenging. The closest the family got to a normal car was an early Valiant station wagon with the button shifters, but soon returned to something unusual such as a Corvair. What may appear strange to a daughter only helps to solidify Marshall as a hard core auto enthusiast from our perspective.
-Louis F. Fourie
Z. Taylor Vinson (1933-2009)
Robert McLellan, of McLellan’s Auto History, retailers of automotive literature, kindly agreed to share with SAH this interview by Robert and his wife Sharon with Taylor Vinson published in The Automotive Chronicles, April 2004 issue.
When we first approached Taylor Vinson about writing the story of his experiences in collecting automotive literature he laughed and said, “Just replace Rick Lenz’s name with mine in the article you wrote about him and you’ll have my story.”
We don’t agree. No matter how many similarities there are in collecting, each individual brings to the hobby his or her unique personality and experience. We hope you enjoy reading about Taylor as much as we enjoyed interviewing him.
TAYLOR: “Like Rick, I started out going to showrooms and picking up what literature I could. My family was buying a new car one Spring when I was a boy and I would go around with my father — I remember, particularly, the Ford and the Oldsmobile showrooms — and my Aunt was getting a new Chrysler… and my grandparents were getting a new Cadillac. I went around to other showrooms once I discovered these catalogs. I had my parents drop me and wait at the curb while I ran in with my little fat legs. This was Huntington, West Virginia, and the dealers were very generous. I guess they knew my parents — they certainly didn’t know me but I got wonderful Packard and Cadillac catalogs.
Of course I promptly cut them up so that I could race the little cars along the floor. Then one day at my grandparents, I found in the trash a 1941 Chrysler Crown Imperial catalog, pulled it out of the trash and started cutting out the cars from the rear. But when I got to the covers, it was just so beautiful that I stopped.
SHARON: Since we’re in the literature business we’re always running into men who started collected literature when they were boys. But, in your experience, did very many of your friends have an interest in automotive literature?
TAYLOR: None in Huntington. I discovered one or two guys later when I started going away to school who were collectors, but I was the only one that I know of in my home town. One day I got something in the mail and it was a battered 1939 Citroen catalog. My mother and father had a good friend in Charleston, West Virginia, who was a school teacher. She had spent the summer of 1939 in France before the war and she found this somewhere among her stuff and sent it to me. And that is the very first piece of foreign automobile literature that I ever got. My mother had a Larousse and I tried translating it word-for-word — and I still have the thing in my Citroen collection. About every two weeks I would ask my parents, one or the other, to drive me down automobile row so I could pick up the latest literature.
In those days, of course, there weren’t automotive magazines. All we had to depend upon, at least for our knowledge of automobiles, was Floyd Clymer and his “Motor Scrapbooks” and that was the first time I ever began to be aware of the variety of old cars. I think he’s had seven or eight scrapbooks, maybe nine, and I got them all, year-after-year. But I was mainly interested in contemporary vehicles. And there was a fellow up in Eugene, Oregon, named Franson who put out something called “Franson’s Motor News”. Somehow or other I had some duplicates. I sent Franson the duplicates and he said he would give me two free ads in the paper that he ran. And he did.
I began hearing from a fellow named in The Netherlands and we had a trading relationship for 40 years. Things began to be all in Dutch in 1988 and I just wasn’t interested in that. I visited him five times from 1953 to 1985. We started exchanging new catalogs. One of the things that he sent me was the 1948-49-50 Ferrari Yearbook. After Enzo Ferrari died in 1988 this was a high value book — and here it was a freebie for me. He sent me a lot of the early Ferrari stuff.
I got two answers to this little ad. The Dutch collector was one. The other was a German family. They weren’t really interested in automobiles, but they wanted to practice English. And they became very close friends of mine until they both died in the early 1990s. When I was in the Army in Germany I was there to see them and they visited me twice in the States and I corresponded with them and it was just a wonderful relationship — thanks to “Franson’s Motor News”.
The friendship was basically non-automotive, although they did send me the very interesting and rare 1938 Maybach SW38 portfolio with these beautiful watercolor drawings. He told me that he had written, as he called him “Old Maybach”, for literature and “Old Maybach” had written back and said that this had come from his private collection. He wasn’t going to build cars anymore so someone might as well have it who would appreciate it. So that is one, I think, of the more interesting articles in my collection.
I finally met the Dutch collector. I went to The Netherlands. I was a college student and was on a tour with my roommates from college. He came up and I spent a day with him in his home town and saw his marvelous collection. A couple of months later, after I got back to the States, he said, “Well, you know I have two children, and I’m expecting a third, and I think I want to sell my collection.”
I said, “Well, what do you want for it?”, and it was a low number by today’s prices. One of the Hispano items alone is worth that today. I was just a college student and I asked, “Would you accept $25 a month?”
He said, “Sure.”
I would send him $25 a month and I got — he numbered each parcel — 110 parcels of this fabulous literature beautiful Alvis, — beautiful Rolls, Delage, Delahaye, Hispano Suiza, Horsch, Maybach and some of the lesser names as well. And that was the start of my great interest in foreign stuff.
And so it has continued to build through the years. There was a period when I was living out west. When I finished law school I moved to the West Coast and all my collection was at my parent’s house. So the Dutch collector would offer me old things and I would buy them. I would get the new stuff and go home once a year and file it. But in 1969 my parents said, “We’re selling the house, you’ve got to take this over”. So in 1969 I bought a town house in Washington and was able at long last to have my collection and me together. And that was when I really started out going to Hershey. I would go up to Hershey one day and allow myself $50 in the early ’70s. Then one day a dealer named Howard Applegate visited me. I had a lot of duplicates in Dutch. He bought some, but he said, “You really ought to think about flea marketing up at Hershey.”
So I went up to Hershey and decided, “Yeah, I’ll try this.” That was the first year that I set up at Hershey and I’ve been doing it every year ever since. 1974 was the first year that I set up at Carlisle, per se. I didn’t go back in 1975, but I was there in 1976 and I’ve gone back every year. And, of course, there were lots of wonderful people in those days who are no longer alive, or who have retired from the business, and you could buy these wonderful catalogs at ridiculous prices [for today].
Incidentally, the first catalogs that I bought, I think, came through an ad in “Franson’s Motor News” when I was just short of 15. I bought $10 worth of stuff and there was a big package that greeted me and included, I think, $1 for the most expensive which was a 1938 Ford catalog. The other stuff was 50- and 75-cents.
About the same time there was a fellow in Nevada named Graham Hardy who had a mail auction called “Railroadiana”. He would send a catalog out. I remember I had cut up the Packard 160/180 catalog for 1941. Well, I bought one from him for $5!!
Then I became aware of a dealer named Harry Weisbrod in Philadelphia. Until I was 16 and could get my driver’s license, about every two weeks I had to go through Philadelphia. I took the “L” railroad out to his house. He was a widower and had stacks and stacks of literature in his basement. He said, “This is the most beautiful catalog I’ve ever seen and for $5 it’s yours”. It was a beautiful flocked 1932 Cadillac catalog — still in the box. I think it’s worth $800-$900 today. When I went to college in New Jersey I would go over to see Harry occasionally. It was about an hour from where I was and I would buy odds and ends from him. I lost track of him, but I notice there’s someone on the West Coast named Morton Weisbrod and I assume that it’s his son who sells literature as well.
In the early ’60s, when I moved to California, there was a man who had just died who was one of the big sellers of literature in the late ’50s, early ’60s, named Art Twohy. You may have heard of Art Twohy. He was one of the founders, I think of the CCCA, or something like that. Well, I would go out to see his widow, Doris. And Doris was so afraid that somebody was going to take advantage of her that she would never make a deal when you would buy something — but she would always throw in something extra — which was good. It was almost better than getting a discount. I was a young lawyer, just starting out, and I wasn’t making much money. But I would go over there once a month or so and alot maybe $25 or $35 — my collection’s back in West Virginia, “Am I doing the right thing?”, I wondered — but things would be so pretty that I couldn’t resist it. One day she brought out this red slipcovered 1940 Packard 160/180 catalog. I said, “Well, Mrs. Twohy, this is awfully expensive, but I will gladly give you the $25 you want for this.” Another time I went over and there was this magnificent — biggest catalog I think I had ever seen — a 1931 Chrysler Custom Imperial catalog. Again, I said, “Well, Mrs. Twohy, I know you want $30 for this — and I’ve just got to have it …so.”
Then she told me that there was something out in the garage. She said it was a classic Lincoln piece that had been prepared specially for Franklin D. Roosevelt. And she said, “It’s $100.” I said, “Mrs. Twohy, I can’t afford it — I don’t even want to see it!”
She went to a nursing home and I would send her Christmas cards and her son, Rich, told me once that she had died. She was a little bit wary at first, but once you earned her confidence she warmed up. I would order things by mail from her after I moved east. I remember one time she threw in something which I thought was very interesting. It was a Pierce-Arrow Open Car folder.
After I got my collection to Washington and started going to Hershey and Carlisle and discovering people — collectors and dealers — and now I’m part of the whole scene, but the scene has developed over the years. It started out with a very small base.
Of course in 1948 the car was only about 50 years old so my collecting has been somewhat over half the life of the automobile. I think today … I started out collecting, or trying to collect, everything … and I think today that’s just impossible for somebody just starting out. They have to concentrate on a particular era, a particular marque or a particular kind of car.
SHARON: I want to hear about organizations that you have been involved with.
TAYLOR: “Auto Maniacs” was the first group I became aware of and I think maybe our source for information in those days was “Popular Science” and “Popular Mechanix” — the little ads in front, because “Motor Trend” and “Road & Track” didn’t start until 1948 or 1949. I remember going down to my newsstand in Huntington, West Virginia, in the summer of 1950 and seeing, “What … a magazine devoted to automobiles!” Well, that was “Motor Trend” and that opened up a new world. And later I became aware of “Road & Track”. And of course the early ’50s was full of new car magazines coming along “Sports Car Illustrated”, “Car” and things like that.
“Auto Maniacs” decided somewhere along the way that it wasn’t a dignified name so they changed to “Auto Enthusiasts”. And they were very good about finding literature and making it available and they did some crude reprints. It was interesting to see what you wanted to look for in the real world. [NOTE: “Auto Enthusiasts” clearly identified the copies as reprints.]
I remember “Auto Enthusiasts” would offer brochures for 50-cents. And they were offering the 1940 Buick Limited catalog — the beautiful, big spiral bound one — for $1. So I bought four of them. I already had one and I thought, “I’ll just sell these and make my money back. I was so happy when I sold the last one for $20 a few years later.
Sometime before 1986 I was sitting at home one Sunday afternoon. A friend of mine called me. He had been down to a local antique show at the armory and he says, “Taylor, I saw a piece down there. The owner says it’s a very rare piece.”
I asked, “What is it?”
He said, “Well, it’s some kind of Thunderbird piece.”
I said, “John, the only rare piece that I’ve ever heard of for Thunderbird was an initial catalog which was destroyed which had the car with the sweepspear on the side like the regular ’55 Fords had.”
“Well,” he said, “I’ll tell you where the dealer’s located.”
So I went down to the armory right away and, sure enough, this was the rare catalog that was supposed to have been destroyed. Well, he had two of them, and some page proofs. And he said, “Take them all and I’ll give you the catalogs.”
And I said, “Fine. It’s a deal.” Well, I sold the page proofs and with the other catalog I called Bob Tuthill right away, who was in the process of selling me his duplicate 1934 Packard Custom Car catalog, which I think is probably the most beautiful American catalog, so we applied the other Thunderbird catalog as a trade towards the Packard catalog.
Now, the second rarest thing — Jim Bradley said it was the one item if he had to save something from the NAHC he would save. The SAH went to St. Louis for one of its’ annual board meetings. We went out to see a private collection and here was a Lincoln “K” from about 1937 or 1938 and in the front seat was a photocopy of the most elaborate Lincoln brochure I have ever seen. So I asked the owner of the car about it. He says, “Oh yes, we had this on approval, but it was just too expensive for us. So we just made a photocopy and sent it back to Charlie Shalebaum. Well, I knew Charlie because Charlie loves selling Lalique hood ornaments, automotive art and rare catalogs. I got a Fageol catalog and the layout of a French car which was driven by a propeller I got from him. And I said, “Well, I’m going to make a point to see Charlie at Hershey.” Well, I go to Carlisle and the first person I see is Charlie and the first thing I say is, “Charlie, do you still have that big Lincoln piece?”
He says, “Yeah! And what’s more, I brought it with me today for the first time in years.”
I looked at him — I kind of knew what Charlie wanted for it — it was the most expensive thing I had ever bought, but it was a deal. I said, “Charlie, all I can give you today is $1,000. I’ll bring the rest next week.”
He says, “No, take it with you.” I thought that was a wonderful trust.
Now, why is this Lincoln brochure is so rare? First of all, let me describe it to you. It is enormous — about 2½’ x 1½’ — and it has a green leather, sort of alligator, cover with a silver Lincoln dog in a Lincoln medallion oval set in. You open it up and here are 20-21 pages of photos some are slightly retouched — of the entire 1939 Lincoln “K” line. The artwork in the catalog is all actual artwork, but these are actual photos. And here are upholstery samples and color samples with stripes.
We’re talking something even rarer than a dealer album. Nobody knows how many copies. I think it was probably done as maybe 5 or 6 copies for big dealerships in New York, Chicago, San Francisco. But this particular one had a story behind it documented with letters. There was John Schuler from Indianapolis. He was like 8-years-old in 1939. He and his father were going up to the Lincoln factory to get a new Lincoln Zephyr 2-Door for his mother. Up at the factory in Michigan he was so knowledgeable about the cars that the men who were with him were very impressed and they said, “Well, we have to introduce you to Mr. Ford”. So they went in to see Henry Ford and little John, whom I understand later became the Rolls-Royce dealer in Indianapolis, saw this big Lincoln catalog on Henry Ford’s side table.
So during the war — around 1943 — four years later, Schuler’s never been able to forget this thing. And he writes Henry Ford. He says, “Mr. Ford. I’ve just never been able to forget that wonderful day that I spent with you and that wonderful Lincoln book that you had in your office.”
About a month later Schuler gets a telephone call from the Postmaster saying, “Hey kid, there’s something down here for you.” Schuler goes down and here’s this big leather case. You unzip it and inside is the book. So Schuler BIKES home with it. His letters were addressed to Ted Swain on the Main Line in Pennsylvania setting forth the history and these are still in the book itself. I got it from Charlie Shalebaum, whom I don’t think of as an owner but a dealer, so I may be the third owner of the one piece that Jim Bradley said would be the one piece that he would save. I just treasure that.
You know, the older you get the more you learn about automotive history. And I didn’t realize that, before World War II, Enzo Ferrari had started to make his own car after leaving Alfa Romeo. I think he was involved with some of the Alfa Romeo race cars in the late 1930’s. He left with a non-compete clause saying that he could not use his name on a car for “X” number of years. Well, in 1940 he had two cars called the “815” that were being prepared for the Mille Miglia. They were rather streamlined cars and the story goes that he placed an order for 100 brochures. And the war came and they didn’t produce the cars, although there is the history of the car, and there were two of them made. But he ordered the brochures — and never picked them up.
So a fellow down in Atlanta who is a Ferrari nut, Fred Repass, offered me one. Fred said, at that time, that as far as he knew there were only 5 or 6 copies of these available. And I said, “Well, it is expensive”, but I bought it. Fred also sent me a copy of the article which detailed the history of this rare brochure. And I know that Tom Solley was able to buy one and I saw one on sale at “Retromobile” and I should have bought it because it was so cheap — like $600 — and I could maybe have quad- or quintupled my money with the right person, but I went to “Retromobile” to buy for my own collection and not to sell at some later date.
But that sort of brought back to me the one time that I met Signor Ferrari in 1971. At that time I was a lawyer over at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and I was handling exotic cars and I had gotten to know the people who were handling Maseratis and Ferraris and Lamborghinis and DeTomasos — DeTomaso visited with me twice in my office — so I was going to Morracco and Italy and Switzerland and Germany for my vacations. When I got to Bologne I had this interview. I went out to the factory and they let me drive the Dino and the Daytona — and then I had this five minute interview with “god”. I had always heard about the shrine to Dino, his late son, in his office. Sure enough, I went in and I looked around and here are a couple of candles by Dino’s picture on the back wall. Well, Signor Ferrari was sitting there in his dark glasses — he had driven a Fiat 130 Coupe to work that day I noticed — and, of course, everybody was kind of cowtowing to him. It was about a five minute interview. He autographed a copy of a book — in purple, of course — and gave me some models and a scarf and it was just wonderful.
When I got home I went right to my Ferrari files. I had been writing the factory in the late 40’s and I noticed that these letters were signed with purple ink! I had been getting letters from Ferrari himself in the late ’40’s and early ’50’s. And after he died in 1988 Walter Miller was offering these letters for like $2,000 apiece. Well, when Ferrari died the whole literature scene erupted for about a year or two. This 1949/50 Yearbook that I got free — the first auction of that in Modena after Ferrari died $13,000 was what it went for. We think it was some Japanese collector. Well, the market went down and the second time it was ONLY $11,000.
But it was a never to be forgotten meeting with Enzo Ferrari.
SHARON: You are active in the SAH. How did you get involved?
TAYLOR: Yes, I’m the editor of the magazine, the Automotive History Review.
Howard Applegate, the dealer who came to see me back in the early 1970’s had a big tent at Hershey and part of it was devoted to the SAH. So one day he said to me, “You ought to join the SAH.” I said, “But I’m not a historian.” He said, “Oh, you may be more than you think. Come on into our tent.” I said, “Okay”. So we went to dinner. This was 1976. Meanwhile, I was wondering how I was going to fit in with this. But I was awed by the fact that here is a real live guy who’s written a book — it was Hugo Pfau — you know the coach book [Custom Body Era]. And here was old Hugo. I thought, “I’m in the presence of an author.” Of course now I have about 100 books signed by authors, but then it was a real treat.
I sat down at the table and the guy across the table from me — I think his name was Borrowman or Barrowman, or something like that — was into Crosleys. Well, I knew Crosleys because of my automobile literature, you know. I really felt right at home because I could talk to him about something. And so I joined in the Spring of 1977. I was member #407 and we’re now at 2700, or so, and about ten years later Howard and his wife came to me and said, “We think you ought to run for the board.” I said, “Me?”. They said, “Yes, you.” So I ran for the board and was elected. About three years after that Jack Martin from Indianapolis came to me and said, “We think you ought to run for President.” I said, “Me?” Well, I did — and I was defeated. A couple of years later Jack Martin asked me to run as his Vice-President. I said, “Sure.” After that I became President from 1993-95 and, in that time, since I wasn’t tied down and could travel on vacations, I traveled as far as from San Diego to Warsaw, Poland, enlisting SAH members. In fact, I ran into a Warsaw member today on the floor of the auto show.
I made a couple of visits to Prague and got to meet the people who are collectors and writers in the Czech auto field. The Czechs, before World War II, had 7 or 8 auto manufacturers and they really were like the number four in Europe. They were ahead of Canada and had quite an industry. In terms of rarefying my collection, since I starting going to “Retromobile” in 1994, I’ve been able to really sort of “beef up” my collection of early French automobile literature as far back and 1893 with Peugeot. I guess, in some sense, it might be better than my American early stuff. I have two Peugeot bicycle catalogs for 1893 and 1894 which have woodcuts in the back of Peugot cars. But the oldest car catalog I have, per se, is a Panhard catalog which has a date of July 1895.
One thing I keep sensing is that you are extremely organized.
TAYLOR: I’m organized, I guess, in the sense that I try to file everything alphabetically and chronologically, but I’ve never started over and I have about four different places where I go to A, B, etc. You fill file cabinets, and rather than emptying them to make room for more A’s you start a new file cabinet with other A’s. So I am organized, but disorganized.
If you said, “Marmon”, I might look in the first M’s and it wouldn’t be there, the second M’s and it might not be there, but in the third “M” I would find it.
ROB: Most collectors keep meticulous records simply because they don’t want to duplicate something. They say, “Ah, that’s very nice — but do I have that?”
TAYLOR: That’s another kind of organization and that was Bob Tuthill’s great contribution to the hobby in the 1970s, putting out his guide to American car literature [American Automobile Sales Literature Checklist, 1928-42]. Earlier automotive enthusiasts had done something similar from 1934-61, but Tuthill’s was arranged in a much more organized fashion. Since then Tuthill has done private lists that carried the American stuff back before 1928 which was his starting point in the book. So, for Cadillac, he may go back to 1903, the very beginning. Makes that he doesn’t particularly care for, like Studebaker, don’t go back beyond 1926. And, for certain marques, he’s carried it forward through 1966. Marques like Cadillac and Lincoln he carried through to 1980, but Ford and Chevrolet were just carried through to 1966. But that has been a great help to collectors — a bit tiresome to lug these books around when you go to flea markets, but still it saves you from buying the same thing twice, although it’s not foolproof, because there are some marques that aren’t in there and you buy something and get home and find that you already have it. But it helps cut down on duplication.
Also, since World War II, I have been a collector of magazine ads. Of course I have a lot of foreign ads and I have gone back as far as I can. And newspaper ads. I don’t think I’ve ever run across anybody who has collected newspaper ads on automobile. Some of them are very fragile now. In the old days the introductory ads each year for cars were very, very interesting because it was different than the print you would see in the “Saturday Evening Post”. So that’s been a great way to study the progression, the changes and the appeal of advertising over the years.
For the young collectors, we’ve seen so many brochures that have writing on them where collectors have written the date on them, written where they obtained them, written a personal code number. How do you feel about things like that?
Well, of course, if it’s written in pencil, and lightly, it’s a great guide to identifying the year or the approximate year. Dealer stamps some people find very interesting. I have mixed feelings about that. As long as it doesn’t blur the auto on the cover that can be interesting. I think the most interesting dealer stamp I have is a 1930’s Rover catalog with a Katmandu, Nepal stamp on it. The fellow’s story is that he went to that dealership and didn’t get anything. Then, when he got home, he found out that the catalogs were on the second floor.
The Dutch collector got in the habit of putting what he called an “archiefnummer” at the lower left-hand of the back cover, so that, to my mind, detracts from the value but when I see it I know where it came from! I, myself, the only thing I ever put on it, in the upper left-hand corner of the rear, I will pencil in very lightly what I paid for it in case I find it is a duplicate and I want to sell it. But it is the very lightest pencil marking.