G. Marshall Naul (1919-2015)

Our First President, G. Marshall Naul, passed away on Sunday January 4th, 2015, just twelve days short of his 96th birthday. Marshall left an incredible legacy for the SAH. 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 and founded the Society of Automotive Historians in 1969. His creation will continue to enhance the lives of SAH members through knowledge gained and camaraderie shared with fellow enthusiasts. 

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 CarsSpecial 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