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February 2013

Auto Maniacs — The History

By McLellan's Automotive History

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Collecting auto literature began with the printing of the first sales brochure over 100 years ago. Collecting old cars and literature used to promote the sale of the cars went unnoticed by most automotive enthusiasts until the 1930's when it became apparent that the earliest cars and their history were disappearing. When car enthusiasts saw their friends actively searching for old cars, parts, memorabilia and literature, sources appeared to reap the financial rewards of their mission.

In the U.S., clubs like the Antique Automobile Club of America were formed (1935) and swap meets, car shows and tours followed. Hobbyists with excess literature became part-time literature dealers at swap meets or by mail order.

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On September 11, 1948 a group of car enthusiasts met in Detroit at the Barium Hotel and "Auto Maniacs of America" was founded. These men were not literature collectors. In a press release regarding the meeting they stated that:

"The Auto Maniacs of America is basically an organization for educational and safety purposes and for the utilization of the leisure time of its membership, and to provide the national medium for the mutual cooperation, association and unity of individuals and groups of people who make a hobby out of the automobile."

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Harold L. Mayer, Executive Secretary, defined members of the "Auto Maniacs" as being of three types: 1) auto-hobbyists - "collectors of auto literature, antique cars, nameplates and other parts; 2) amateur engineers, inventors, designs and "hop-up" experts; and 3) talk-auto - "men who read and talk cars continually".

They were car hobbyists who collected literature as a means of learning about the cars. For many the literature become more important than the cars - and some spent all their time on the literature and never got around to buying the cars!

One such hobbyists was Rick Lenz, an avid literature collector whose history has been written previously for "The Automotive Chronicles" Lenz name was on the list for the first round of mailings to publicize the "Auto Maniacs" and, on Jan 2, 1949 Mayer wrote a two page letter which began, "Dear Mr. Lenz: Your name was found among a very special list of people known to be interested in automobiles as a hobby. As a genuine automobile hobbyist, you will be very much interested in this personal letter."

Mayer went on to say that, "After many months of research and planning, we have produced the kind of non-profit society for all auto fans that you, and hundreds of others, have long waited for. Not only has auto maniacs [sic] become a reality, but we have made an incredibly amazing start, with the kind of executive personnel that will do credit to the best auto hobby club in the world."

The club, Mayer said, was "as much interested in the man with a collection of piston rings, or the man who reads and talks cars, as we are in the owners of antique and special cars." For a $3.00 Charter Membership fee Lenz would receive a copy of the book "Hail to the Jeep" (valued at $2.00), a monthly newsletter and a Charter Membership card.

And the benefits did not end upon joining. Frequent offerings were made such as one in August of 1952 when Lenz received a letter advising him "... that a copy of the very fine Nash Family Album, a book of 140 pictures of cars built by Nash, and predecessor companies through the years, has been made available for you without charge ..." . "... you will see again this year that the many other privileges and values of Auto Maniacs make it the biggest value club in the world." And, if you enrolled five new members at $3.00 per member you would receive your choice of three authentic scale models of 1949 cars.

In the March 2013 issue of "Auto Maniacs" watch for "Auto Maniacs: The Preservation of Literature"


Auto Maniacs Newsletter, February 2013



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Auto Maniacs — 2013