Once upon a time there were press kits.
And the chief joy of the press kits was 8" x 10"
"Glossy" meaning shiny-surfaced for better
Press kits on a new Detroit car, say a Pontiac Firebird,
would be full of material, fairly bulging with 8"
x 10 " glossy prints. This was over 30 or so years,
from the Fifties to the Eighties. I call those the "glory
years" of the glossy print in press kits.
Then color slides began to creep in,
only a few at first.
And the number of black and white glossies
correspondingly began to diminish, the auto maker PR
folks figuring "Hey, everybody can run color now,
why are we bothering with black and white."
And now, horror of horrors, the black and white glossies
have disappeared from automaker press kits.
Why? Because it cost an automaker far
less to reproduce a digital CD ROM with hundreds of
pictures, all on one disc. It takes up little room,
so the whole package can be lighter and save them mailing
And of course they don't even need to send out CD ROMS.
It is the digital age, and now all the automakers have
websites, and if you are a bona fide reporter, you can
register for the websites and download from their websites
what you need.
Duck soup right? I , as a reporter, should be happy
as a pig in mud.
But I'm not.
Tell ya why.
Because a nice glossy black & white
print is a thing of beauty. In contrast to those youngsters
raised when all movies are color, a good black &
white film or picture has a lot of emotion to it, a
full range of shades within the black and white. Sometimes
color just makes the subject look cheap and gaudy.
Us oldsters (I admit to being over 50) still appreciate
a good film noir movie shot in black and white like
Kiss Me Deadly. Sure, you could reshoot it in color,
but why bother--it was plenty scary in black and white.
In addition, I find glossy black & white prints
durable. I have had some in my collection for over 40
years, kept them through dozens of moves from house
to apt to house, ad infinitum, and sometimes I admit
I didn't always store them well. Aside from a few that
stuck together when stored in the summer heat of Riverside,CA
(117 in the shade!) they have held up well, considering
they were never made to be used and abused so cavalierly.
I wish I could say that about CD-roms but they are new
on the scene. Who is to say that if you drop one on
the floor and scratch it, how it affects the pictures?
And what about if they get water on them? Or maybe they
deteriorate when stored. I don't trust them.
I have to accept them, though, it is
the way of the world. It's like in-car entertainment
systems. Eight track stereo is out as cassettes come
in. Cassettes are out, replaced by CDs, And on and on.
Technology marches on relentlessly.
And there's another beef I have with
CD-roms. What if you are at a swap meet and one vendor,
let's call him "Vendor A," has a stack of
glossy prints-you can leaf through them and pick what
you want. You can not only see what you are getting
but hold it in your hand. But if vendor B has only CD
roms, and you don't have your laptop with you, you can't
check the quality of the images or even if there are
any images on the disc. Right away you are at a disadvantage,
out there in the mud at Hershey, because you didn't
schlep your electronics along.
Oh, there's some nice things about CD-roms, I guess.
Like the fact that some come in unusual containers,
simulated brushed aluminum for example in the Rolls
Royce press kit. By not having to have the container
be shaped large enough to hold 8" x 10s",
they can make more unusual containers.
But as an auto historian for over 40
years, I decry the total abandonment of the glossy print.
One saving grace-if you have lots of them, they will
go up in value, and become, I think, as valuable as
some movie "still" shots are (of important
So call me a Luddite-an anti-technology person. So be
it. I like glossies, and if I'm the last person in the
auto historian business that still wants to collect
them, I'll take the rap.
You can digital, smigital all you want but even though
at a recent car show (a gathering of Mini owners) I
was ridiculed as the geezer still shooting with a film
camera, I was happy to go home with either transparencies
or black and white film.
Wallace Wyss is the author of the book SHELBY:
The Man . The Cars . The Legend, which has 16 pages
of glorious black and white pictures.
have noticed that we are privileged to have a
well known author, Wallace A. Wyss, join with
us as a frequent contributor. Two of his books
are available through McLellan's Automotive History.
Click on the links below for additional information
on ordering the following:
THE MAN AND HIS MACHINES
GT 40 & THE NEW FORD GT