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The Automotive Chronicles

Monthly newsletter published by McLellan's Automotive History. Dedicated to literature collectors, restorers, museums, publishers, manufacturers and investors who collect and preserve automotive literature
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August 2006 Issue
A Collector's Story - Fifty Years and Counting
By Ian Hunt
Ian Hunt

In common with many other English postwar children my parents didn't own a car until late in the 1950s, but in the early 50s my Dad sparked my enthusiasm for cars by buying me Dinky Toys as presents for Christmas and birthdays. He would provide me with a colorful catalog to make my choice of gift from and I eagerly awaited each new edition — the glossy art paper and aroma of printing ink adding to the pleasure — to find out what would be new for the coming year. My collection of miniature cars grew steadily during my childhood.

It was 1957, I was ten years old and in Middle school when my English teacher gave us a project which would not only help us understand the art of letter writing, geography, and economics, but with luck it would also bring me and my fellow students a reward. The target of our letters would be car companies both in the UK and overseas and the object was to request literature about their latest models.

My letter would be to the Public relations Office of Ford USA in Dearborn. My other class mates would be writing to Cadillac, Chrysler etc. requesting literature which would help us with our school project.

Ford 1957

Ford 1958

Car company addresses were contained in 'The Observers Book of Automobiles' which was updated annually and to provide a rich seam for this budding 'prospector'.

Our letters to the USA and other English speaking countries did, to our delight and gratitude, bring forth large yellow envelopes with neat split clips and unfamiliar colorful postage stamps which further stimulated our curiosity and desire for more of this educational stuff!

Our teacher also encouraged writing to 'pen pals' and correspondence to Canada, France and Australia which generated brochures such a Acadian, Beaumont, Citroen and Holden in exchange for Austin, Morris and Ford etc. I established a good rapport with fellow collectors world-wide and regular parcels of mixed makes would be sent 'to and fro' by 'printed paper' sea mail. When I think how many Ferrari and Lamborghini 'duplicates' were traded for a 'lucky dip' of Japanese, East European, South African and American catalogs I shudder.

1939 Morris Ten Saloon

Inhabiting a small country town we were unlikely ever to see a Ford Fairlane, Galaxy Country Squire, Thunderbird or Cadillac Sedan de Ville so the excitement of opening these catalogs and marvelling at the big fins, port holes folding roofs and two tone paint jobs was like looking widescreen at the flight deck of Starship Enterprise for later generations of kids. These dramatic shapes and features contrasted considerably with our domestic automobiles and even more so with my Dad's ancient 1939 Morris Ten.

Needless to say, 'the die was cast' for me, and numerous letters were fired off to all parts of the globe to await the magical results. Often I would say that foreign language was no obstacle and the fact that many manufacturers hadn't even started exporting to Britain didn't matter to me either. The pile of glossy paper grew ever larger, I kept a record of makes, how many countries and how many brochures I had acquired. My 'Observers book of automobiles' was added to year on year until it ceased publication in the early nineties and forms a complete set of reference books from 1955.

As soon as I was old enough I learned to drive, the Dinky Toys - to my eternal regret, were sold off - and brochure collecting continued with the added bonus of being able to visit motor shows and car showrooms. A regular 'diet' of magazines such as "Autocar", "Motor", "Car", "Motor Trend", "Car and Driver", "Road & Track" kept me up to speed with what was new around the globe.

When I left the parental home in the early 70s, several boxes of catalogs went with me. By that time my long time American correspondents with whom I had exchanged many parcels were now bowing out. Brochures acquired a monetary value. Hershey and other swapmeets became big business making catalogs 'commercial'. The days of innocent swapping for fun and to fill gaps in the collection were over even though 'eBay' was still to be invented.

In some respects it is good to know that my Ford GT40 brochure which was obtained in 1967 from Ford UK is now worth over £1,000, McLaren F1 hardback and softback, Ferrari 250 Berlinetta Lusso, LM and many pre-Fiat Ferrari brochures as star items have a value of several hundred pounds each so are an 'investment' of sorts.

Over time my collection has gradually evolved from 'a bit of everything' to a more focused 'luxury, exotic and interesting theme', with an occasional thinning out sell off to make room for new items.

Fifty years on and I still get a kick from following the industry, visiting car factories - Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, Pagani, Rolls Royce, Bentley, Mercedes, motor shows - London, Geneva, Paris, Frankfurt, Melbourne, special events like Goodwood festivals, Pebble Beach, Concours Italiano, Laguna Seca etc.

The best feeling of all though is being given a beautiful piece of printed literature - complete with that combination of glossy art paper and smell of printing ink - to add to my knowledge of the automobile and my library.

A thank you to my Dad, English teacher, my tolerant wife who shares the family home with my massive brochure, book, and 1/43 car collection, and true enthusiasts Rob and Sharon for supporting a lifelong and rewarding hobby.

The Automotive Chronicles, August 2006
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