The Society of Automotive Historians

Michael Lamm

Michael Lamm (0042H) became a member of the Society of Automotive Historians over 50 years ago. As he recently observed, “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.”

Mike went on to express that: “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 come to recognize the automobile and the auto industry as valuable expressions of modern history and human understanding. Automotive history, in my view, now enjoys the same cultural value as architectural history and the history of industrial design.

“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.

“Then late in 1965 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) 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 the Pontiac Solstice. We did one book for Ford about the 2002 Thunderbird.”

And, of course, there was that absolutely standout book co-written with retired GM Director of Design, the late Dave Holls. Its title: A Century of Automotive Style, 100 Years of American Car Design.

Mike served the SAH as President (1976-76), as a Director (1996-1999), and as a Member of the Publications Committee (1996-2009). Mike received the Friend of Automotive History award in 1990 and earned several Cugnot and Benz awards for books and articles with a double Cugnot in 1997 for A Century of Style, one as co-author and the other as publisher. The Society has saluted his long membership and active participation over the decades by designating his membership as Honorary. (11/19/21)