Don Capps has been a member of the SAH Board of Directors since 2014 and is now the immediate past president of the Society. He is a member of the Historian’s Council of the International Motor Racing Research Center at Watkins Glen, New York and is the co-chair of the Michael R. Argetsinger Symposium for International Motor Racing History. He co-chaired event planning for the 2018 and 2019 Historic Vehicle Association International Drive History Conferences in Allentown, Pennsylvania and recruited SAH presenters for the two confernences.
Don began following motor sports at an early age while attending races with his father at Lakewood Speedway in Atlanta. His racing interests and fascination broadened throughout his time growing up in Europe and after returning to the US. In addition to motor racing, military and civil aviation and military history have also been lifelong interests that formed early on. Don has owned a 1956 Porsche Speedster, an MG TF and an MGA Twin Cam, and has an affinity for Corvairs due to his father’s interest and restoration work.
Don has written book reviews for the SAH Journal. More of his book reviews and commentaries, including those that relate to his military and aviation history interests, as well as motor sports, can be found at: https://speedreaders.info/author/donald-capps/.
Don was drafted into the Army where he served in a Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol in Vietnam and then became one of the original members of the 75th Ranger Regiment. Military life and service suited him, thus he ended up spending 33 years in the Army, one of the few going from draftee to Colonel. His service included tours of duty in infantry, armor, medical, field artillery, and aviation units, as well as assignments at the Pentagon as a member of the Army Staff, the Joint Staff, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and assignments at other major Army headquarters including command of the Army’s Training and Training Technology Battle Laboratory.
Don holds graduate degrees from the University of South Carolina and George Mason University and has taught history at both the high school and college levels, the latter being The Citadel. He was a faculty member of the Defense Model & Simulation University and spent over three years in Southwest Asia with the Program Executive Office for Simulation Training and Instrumentation.
Don is currently engaged in research surrounding American national auto racing championships from the begining of the AAA to today’s IndyCar series.
Robert R. “Bob” Ebert traces his fascination with all-things automotive to the arrival of the January 1957 issue of Motor Trend magazine, although he does note that his mom always told anyone who would listen that his first word had been “car”!
As a youth, Bob describes his “interests were fickle: Chevrolet one day, Lincoln the next, De Soto the next, and Rolls-Royce the week after that.” Today we’d assess that not as fickleness but rather part of learning and discovery. But even as the learning was going on, Bob kept returning to one car that had particularly caught his fancy; the ’57 Packard whose maker by then was an amalgamation of Packard and Studebaker.
The very next year, still in high school, Bob had bought stock in the company, visited the factory and persuaded his dad to buy stock too. As a stockholder he received the annual reports and other literature which he dutifully and carefully saved. As a high school senior, he wrote a term paper as well as a book-length manuscript covering Packard’s history. His college master’s thesis was an economic analysis of Packard’s decline. And his lifelong fascination, curiosity about, and focus on understanding, studying and writing about Studebaker and Packard is as strong today as it was then.
Bob is a Professor Emeritus of Economics of the Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, Ohio where he taught from 1967 to 2010. He has authored several automotive histories that include two books and three articles on Studebaker and Studebaker-Packard. Bob has served the SAH continuously since 2000, first as a director, then as treasurer. Currently he helps to choose the Cugnot, Scharchburg, and Bingham annual awardees, and he is a member of the Nominating Committee, which annually selects and vets candidates for SAH Board and Officer positions. Bob’s community service includes 25-years as a member of the Board of the Fairview Hospital, which is part of the Cleveland Clinic network.
Bob and his wife Marcia are long-time collectors of antique mechanical musical instruments, enjoying the society and activities of that collector community. The instruments they collect – music boxes, organ grinder organs, and player pianos – play by the turn of a crank or the wind of a key.
Society of Automotive Historians honorary member Michael Lamm joined the SAH 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.
Just as Mike served SAH as a Board Member (1996-1999), its President (1975-76), he was also a member of the Publications Committee (1996-2009). So too in turn has SAH honored its member in various ways. Mike received the Friend of Automotive History award in 1990 and earned several Cugnot and Benz awards for articles and books with a double Cugnot in 1997 for A Century of Style, one as co-author and the other as publisher. And the Society has saluted his long membership and active participation over the decades by designating his membership Honorary.
Society of Automotive Historians honorary member Jay Leno may be best known as a comedian, but it is 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 he is a well-versed historian when it comes to the cultural, social, and technological history of the automobile.
Jay Leno’s influence through his website and his monthly articles in Popular Mechanics have generated 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. Jay Leno’s Garage is also found on YouTube. Consequently, material from this site can and is used in undergraduate classes that center on automotive history. After the taping of his shows, he meets with undergraduate students studying history and answers student questions in an informal setting.
All of his cars in his collection are drivable. He drove an old car to the studio at The Tonight Show every day and the sight of Jay driving one of his cars on the streets of Burbank elicited enthusiasm from onlookers.
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 in McPherson, Kansas which 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.
The SAH Friend of Automotive History Award is presented to an individual who has made a profound contribution to the advancement of automotive history. Unfortunately, Jay Leno was not able to receive his award at our 2014 Hershey Banquet, as he was entertaining the troops in the Middle East. For all of his contributions to popularizing the area of automotive history and the field of automotive restoration, Jay Leno is certainly deserving of the SAH Friend of Automotive History Award.
Society of Automotive Historians honorary member Karl Ludvigsen, when accepting the Friend of Automotive History Award, 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 my 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.
In 2008 Haynes published Ludvigsen’s 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.
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 resistant 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.