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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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March 2008 Issue
Collecting for Fun and Relaxation
By Brian Powell

Postcards, automotive art and book illustrations

As a graphic designer involved in the public relations and printing business, I have re-kindled my childhood interest in automotive literature and books. This love of auto promotion started when I was a boy growing up on a farm in Iowa. We made our vehicles last as long as possible, but when my family did trade cars I was always fascinated by the brochures and showroom sample books showing exterior and interior trim, as well as the engineering features. I built plastic model cars and ran slot cars like most boys in the 1960s and admired the promotional models at the dealers.

A variety of sales literature, anniversary booklets — the Mercedes-Benz literature — and some of the better books on various marques and auto manufacturing history.

My family mainly bought General Motors vehicles for passenger and farm truck needs. My first car was a 1962 (and I always said "1962 1/2") Chevy Corvair Monza Turbo Coupe. It was an early production model built in April, I believe, with the 180 h.p. turbocharger. "Popular Science" (or "Mechanics"?) ran a story by late 1962 that showed the 1963 Monza, along with the other "hot" compacts...Lark Daytona, Falcon Futura, Pontiac Tempest, Olds Cutlass, Chevy Nova, and Buick Skylark that had V-8s, turbos, sporty features, etc.

Sports car and racing related periodicals, books, programs, VHS tapes, novelties, etc.

My dad and his dad liked the 1959 Studebaker Larks when the compact era started and my folks bought a coral colored station wagon. In high school my friend's sister dated a local young guy who owned both a 1963 Avanti and a 1959 Hawk. That gold Avanti was the car I wanted to own when I got the money. Alas, I haven't had one yet but $300 bought that 7-year old Monza with 18,000 miles and it was red and fun to drive.

Kits, diecasts, dragster & Mustang I built, Grand Prix LP record, GTO 45 record, photo from 1967 drag race near Omaha.

The family would go to Omaha for our occasional doctor appointments and it was in the city that I picked up some nice literature from the Mercedes-Benz / Volvo / Saab / Avanti II dealership of Morton Motors. I cherish the Mercedes-Benz literature because they gave me a glossy 50-page booklet on the German company and its heritage. Also I was given model brochures on all but the Avanti II. All these I have carted around all these years and they are tucked away to pass on to my grandsons (who are into cars and monster trucks!).

Model photographs and specifications.

In the early 1980s I made it my relaxation hobby to collect plastic and die-cast replicas of production cars, especially sports cars and sports racing cars. In 1963 was introduced to F1 Grand Prix racing thanks to "Wide World of Sports", "Road & Track", "Car & Driver", and my favorite, "Sports Car Graphic" (no longer published). Along with the little cars, I again added to my collection of brochures, specialty items ("Sounds of the GTO" test track recording, 1962 Watkins Glen Grand Prix LP, etc.).

Model photographs and specifications.

I have attended nearly all of the Kansas City Auto Shows since 1983 and have always enjoyed the literature from there. There have been some favorite concept car postcards and posters that I am glad I have now. In high school I had considered going to college to study auto styling and so concept cars are fascinating to me. Having attended the 1984 Dallas Grand Prix, 1994 "Eyes on the Classics" Concours at Grosse Pointe, the Corvette factory, and corresponding with auto art galleries, there have been some really special items to include with the general material.

In the late 1980s my wife and I owned a 1974 1/2 MGB GT and a 1979 MGB Roadster. Getting involved in the Kansas City sports car club scene gave me an opportunity to purchase a bookstore closeout of many beautiful hardback books on sports cars, antique models, racing annuals, and technical books. These I especially take care of since they are all in new condition.

Other literature includes advertisements from my Mom's old "Life" magazine stack, Grandpa's "Popular Science", and newer glossy advertisements from "National Geographic" and other magazines to which we subscribed.

My wife and me in the restored Cartercar at the time of its unveiling in 1994.

In the late 1980s my hometown in Iowa was bequeathed several old autos, trucks, tractors, and farm implements from the estate of a local farmer, whom my Grandpa said told him, "I've gone to sales and auctions since I was a boy, and I never throw away anything". This gift produced a 1911 Cartercar. The Cartercar was built in Flint, Michigan. It had a unique driveline — the transmission was large pads that made contact, thus eliminating steel gears. Sloan bought the company when forming General Motors. The car has been restored by local interests and runs every year in the Septemberfest parade. It is now at the Kline Museum in Prescott, Iowa. When doing research on it for my town's museum I found out through the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Musesum that they only knew of 25 existing Cartercars. So, I have come into contact with some printed examples of that company. It helped as reference for the Kline Farm Museum's logo I designed.

My most prized item is a 1903 Haynes-Apperson sales brochure that is the size of a small notebook of about 20 pages. It shows the models, lists features and performance. Also, it makes note of the winning of races and endurance feats of their company's cars. My Grandpa handed it to me late in his life, at the time of the Cartercar restoration. I asked if I might have it and thankfully he said I could. He told me about his riding in that Cartercar in the mid-1920s. I have no idea where he got the Haynes-Apperson booklet, but it is in fine shape and is safely kept for posterity.

This is the Studebaker Lark mentioned in this article. It illustrates how our cars furnished us transportation on rural Iowa roads. I was about ten years old in this winter snapshot. After a severe blizzard the county snowplow went the 1/4 mile to our farm from the "main road". (Before it got plowed, I walked the tops of the snow drifts on that road to meet the schoolbus!) The shorter phone poles stuck out of the drifts by only 3-feet.

The last mention of anything with old autos is that a local hardware store here in Liberty back in the late 1980s was auctioned off. The owner had passed on, but back in the 1910s-20s era had been a Ford Model T dealer. What was auctioned off was a Model T partially assembled, shipped in a wooden crate to the hardware store. If I recall correctly, it was said that Henry Ford in the early days of Ford Motor Co. would sometimes deliver his cars this way to promote and assist his "dealers" on how to sell and assemble these cars. Unfortunately, I was on vacation and missed seeing this unique item at the auction. I also have no idea what literature may have been boxed up with it.

In conclusion, I still plan to seek out interesting literature, books, automobilia, and miniatures to help tell the history of the automobile to pass on to my grandchildren. So much of the change I have been able to witness in my lifetime and transportation is being revolutionized here presently with new power plants and fuels. But it is the beauty of those sculptured metal beasts that is my passion.

We would like to hear the story behind your literature
collection — and so would our readers!
The Automotive Chronicles, March 2008
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