we first approached Taylor Vinson about writing the
story of his experiences in collecting automotive literature
he laughed and said, "Just replace Rick Lenz's
name with mine in the article you wrote about him and
you'll have my story."
We don't agree. No matter how many similarities there
are in collecting, each individual brings to the hobby
his or her unique personality and experience. We hope
you enjoy reading about Taylor as much as we enjoyed
"Like Rick, I started out going
to showrooms and picking up what literature I could.
My family was buying a new car one Spring when I was
a boy and I would go around with my father I
remember, particularly, the Ford and the Oldsmobile
showrooms and my Aunt was getting a new Chrysler...
and my grandparents were getting a new Cadillac. I went
around to other showrooms once I discovered these catalogs.
I had my parents drop me and wait at the curb while
I ran in with my little fat legs. This was Huntington,
West Virginia, and the dealers were very generous. I
guess they knew my parents they certainly didn't
know me but I got wonderful Packard and Cadillac catalogs.
Of course I promptly cut them up so
that I could race the little cars along the floor. Then
one day at my grandparents, I found in the trash a 1941
Chrysler Crown Imperial catalog, pulled it out of the
trash and started cutting out the cars from the rear.
But when I got to the covers, it was just so beautiful
that I stopped.
THE AUTOMOTIVE CHRONICLES (AC): Since we're in
the literature business we're always running into men
who started collected literature when they were boys.
But, in your experience, did very many of your friends
have an interest in automotive literature?
TAYLOR: None in Huntington.
I discovered one or two guys later when I started going
away to school who were collectors, but I was the only
one that I know of in my home town. One day I got something
in the mail and it was a battered 1939 Citroen catalog.
My mother and father had a good friend in Charleston,
West Virginia, who was a school teacher. She had spent
the summer of 1939 in France before the war and she
found this somewhere among her stuff and sent it to
me. And that is the very first piece of foreign automobile
literature that I ever got. My mother had a Larousse
and I tried translating it word-for-word and
I still have the thing in my Citroen collection. About
every two weeks I would ask my parents, one or the other,
to drive me down automobile row so I could pick up the
In those days, of course, there weren't
automotive magazines. All we had to depend upon, at
least for our knowledge of automobiles, was Floyd Clymer
and his "Motor Scrapbooks" and that was the
first time I ever began to be aware of the variety of
old cars. I think he's had seven or eight scrapbooks,
maybe nine, and I got them all, year-after-year. But
I was mainly interested in contemporary vehicles. And
there was a fellow up in Eugene, Oregon, named Franson
who put out something called "Franson's Motor News".
Somehow or other I had some duplicates. I sent Franson
the duplicates and he said he would give me two free
ads in the paper that he ran. And he did.
I began hearing from a fellow named
in The Netherlands and we had a trading relationship
for 40 years. Things began to be all in Dutch in 1988
and I just wasn't interested in that. I visited him
five times from 1953 to 1985. We started exchanging
new catalogs. One of the things that he sent me was
the 1948-49-50 Ferrari Yearbook. After Enzo Ferrari
died in 1988 this was a high value book and here
it was a freebie for me. He sent me a lot of the early
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I got two answers to this little ad.
The Dutch collector was one. The other was a German
family. They weren't really interested in automobiles,
but they wanted to practice English. And they became
very close friends of mine until they both died in the
early 1990s. When I was in the Army in Germany I was
there to see them and they visited me twice in the States
and I corresponded with them and it was just a wonderful
relationship thanks to "Franson's Motor
The friendship was basically non-automotive, although
they did send me the very interesting and rare 1938
Maybach SW38 portfolio with these beautiful watercolor
drawings. He told me that he had written, as he called
him "Old Maybach", for literature and "Old
Maybach" had written back and said that this had
come from his private collection. He wasn't going to
build cars anymore so someone might as well have it
who would appreciate it. So that is one, I think, of
the more interesting articles in my collection.
I finally met the Dutch collector.
I went to The Netherlands. I was a college student and
was on a tour with my roommates from college. He came
up and I spent a day with him in his home town and saw
his marvelous collection. A couple of months later,
after I got back to the States, he said, "Well,
you know I have two children, and I'm expecting a third,
and I think I want to sell my collection."
I said, "Well, what do you want
for it?", and it was a low number by today's prices.
One of the Hispano items alone is worth that today.
I was just a college student and I asked, "Would
you accept $25 a month?"
He said, "Sure."
I would send him $25 a month and I
got he numbered each parcel 110 parcels
of this fabulous literature beautiful Alvis,
beautiful Rolls, Delage, Delahaye, Hispano Suiza, Horsch,
Maybach and some of the lesser names as well. And that
was the start of my great interest in foreign stuff.
And so it has continued to build through
the years. There was a period when I was living out
west. When I finished law school I moved to the West
Coast and all my collection was at my parent's house.
So the Dutch collector would offer me old things and
I would buy them. I would get the new stuff and go home
once a year and file it. But in 1969 my parents said,
"We're selling the house, you've got to take this
over". So in 1969 I bought a town house in Washington
and was able at long last to have my collection and
me together. And that was when I really started out
going to Hershey. I would go up to Hershey one day and
allow myself $50 in the early '70s. Then one day a dealer
named Howard Applegate visited me. I had a lot of duplicates
in Dutch. He bought some, but he said, "You really
ought to think about flea marketing up at Hershey."
So I went up to Hershey and decided, "Yeah, I'll
try this." That was the first year that I set up
at Hershey and I've been doing it every year ever since.
1974 was the first year that I set up at Carlisle, per
se. I didn't go back in 1975, but I was there in 1976
and I've gone back every year. And, of course, there
were lots of wonderful people in those days who are
no longer alive, or who have retired from the business,
and you could buy these wonderful catalogs at ridiculous
prices [for today].
Incidentally, the first catalogs that
I bought, I think, came through an ad in "Franson's
Motor News" when I was just short of 15. I bought
$10 worth of stuff and there was a big package that
greeted me and included, I think, $1 for the most expensive
which was a 1938 Ford catalog. The other stuff was 50-
About the same time there was a fellow in Nevada named
Graham Hardy who had a mail auction called "Railroadiana".
He would send a catalog out. I remember I had cut up
the Packard 160/180 catalog for 1941. Well, I bought
one from him for $5!!
Then I became aware of a dealer named Harry Weisbrod
in Philadelphia. Until I was 16 and could get my driver's
license, about every two weeks I had to go through Philadelphia.
I took the "L" railroad out to his house.
He was a widower and had stacks and stacks of literature
in his basement. He said, "This is the most beautiful
catalog I've ever seen and for $5 it's yours".
It was a beautiful flocked 1932 Cadillac catalog
still in the box. I think it's worth $800-$900 today.
When I went to college in New Jersey I would go over
to see Harry occasionally. It was about an hour from
where I was and I would buy odds and ends from him.
I lost track of him, but I notice there's someone on
the West Coast named Morton Weisbrod and I assume that
it's his son who sells literature as well.
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In the early '60s, when I moved to
California, there was a man who had just died who was
one of the big sellers of literature in the late '50s,
early '60s, named Art Twohy. You may have heard of Art
Twohy. He was one of the founders, I think of the CCCA,
or something like that. Well, I would go out to see
his widow, Doris. And Doris was so afraid that somebody
was going to take advantage of her that she would never
make a deal when you would buy something but
she would always throw in something extra which
was good. It was almost better than getting a discount.
I was a young lawyer, just starting out, and I wasn't
making much money. But I would go over there once a
month or so and alot maybe $25 or $35 my collection's
back in West Virginia, "Am I doing the right thing?",
I wondered but things would be so pretty that
I couldn't resist it. One day she brought out this red
slipcovered 1940 Packard 160/180 catalog. I said, "Well,
Mrs. Twohy, this is awfully expensive, but I will gladly
give you the $25 you want for this." Another time
I went over and there was this magnificent biggest
catalog I think I had ever seen a 1931 Chrysler
Custom Imperial catalog. Again, I said, "Well,
Mrs. Twohy, I know you want $30 for this and
I've just got to have it ...so."
Then she told me that there was something out in the
garage. She said it was a classic Lincoln piece that
had been prepared specially for Franklin D. Roosevelt.
And she said, "It's $100." I said, "Mrs.
Twohy, I can't afford it I don't even want to
She went to a nursing home and I would send her Christmas
cards and her son, Rich, told me once that she had died.
She was a little bit wary at first, but once you earned
her confidence she warmed up. I would order things by
mail from her after I moved east. I remember one time
she threw in something which I thought was very interesting.
It was a Pierce-Arrow Open Car folder.
After I got my collection to Washington and started
going to Hershey and Carlisle and discovering people
collectors and dealers and now I'm part
of the whole scene, but the scene has developed over
the years. It started out with a very small base.
Of course in 1948 the car was only
about 50 years old so my collecting has been somewhat
over half the life of the automobile. I think today
... I started out collecting, or trying to collect,
everything ... and I think today that's just impossible
for somebody just starting out. They have to concentrate
on a particular era, a particular marque or a particular
kind of car.
AC: We want to hear about organizations that
you have been involved with.
TAYLOR: "Auto Maniacs" was the first
group I became aware of and I think maybe our source
for information in those days was "Popular Science"
and "Popular Mechanix" the little ads
in front. Because "Motor Trend" and "Road
& Track" didn't start until 1948 or 1949. I
remember going down to my newsstand in Huntington, West
Virginia, in the summer of 1950 and seeing, "What
... a magazine devoted to automobiles!" Well, that
was "Motor Trend" and that opened up a new
world. And later I became aware of "Road &
Track". And of course the early '50s was full of
new car magazines coming along "Sports Car Illustrated",
"Car" and things like that.
"Auto Maniacs" decided somewhere along the
way that it wasn't a dignified name so they changed
to "Auto Enthusiasts". And they were very
good about finding literature and making it available
and they did some crude reprints. It was interesting
to see what you wanted to look for in the real world.
[NOTE: "Auto Enthusiasts" clearly identified
the copies as reprints.]
I remember "Auto Enthusiasts" would offer
brochures for 50-cents. And they were offering the 1940
Buick Limited catalog the beautiful, big spiralbound
one for $1. So I bought four of them. I already
had one and I thought, "I'll just sell these and
make my money back. I was so happy when I sold the last
one for $20 a few years later.
Sometime before 1986 I was sitting
at home one Sunday afternoon. A friend of mine called
me. He had been down to a local antique show at the
armory and he says, "Taylor, I saw a piece down
there. The owner says it's a very rare piece."
I asked, "What is it?"
He said, "Well, it's some kind of Thunderbird piece."
I said, "John, the only rare piece that I've ever
heard of for Thunderbird was an initial catalog which
was destroyed which had the car with the sweepspear
on the side like the regular '55 Fords had."
"Well," he said, "I'll tell you where
the dealer's located."
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So I went down to the armory right
away and, sure enough, this was the rare catalog that
was supposed to have been destroyed. Well, he had two
of them, and some page proofs. And he said, "Take
them all and I'll give you the catalogs."
And I said, "Fine. It's a deal." Well, I sold
the page proofs and with the other catalog I called
Bob Tuthill right away, who was in the process of selling
me his duplicate 1934 Packard Custom Car catalog, which
I think is probably the most beautiful American catalog,
so we applied the other Thunderbird catalog as a trade
towards the Packard catalog.
Now, the second rarest thing Jim Bradley said
it was the one item if he had to save something from
the NAHC he would save. The SAH went to St. Louis for
one of its' annual board meetings. We went out to see
a private collection and here was a Lincoln "K"
from about 1937 or 1938 and in the front seat was a
photocopy of the most elaborate Lincoln brochure I have
ever seen. So I asked the owner of the car about it.
He says, "Oh yes, we had this on approval, but
it was just too expensive for us. So we just made a
photocopy and sent it back to Charlie Shalebaum. Well,
I knew Charlie because Charlie loves selling Lalique
hood ornaments, automotive art and rare catalogs. I
got a Fageol catalog and the layout of a French car
which was driven by a propeller I got from him. And
I said, "Well, I'm going to make a point to see
Charlie at Hershey." Well, I go to Carlisle and
the first person I see is Charlie and the first thing
I say is, "Charlie, do you still have that big
He says, "Yeah! And what's more, I brought it with
me today for the first time in years."
I looked at him I kind of knew what Charlie wanted
for it it was the most expensive thing I had
ever bought, but it was a deal. I said, "Charlie,
all I can give you today is $1,000. I'll bring the rest
He says, "No, take it with you." I thought
that was a wonderful trust.
Now, why is this Lincoln brochure is so rare? First
of all, let me describe it to you. It is enormous
about 2½' x 1½' and it has a green
leather, sort of alligator, cover with a silver Lincoln
dog in a Lincoln medallion oval set in. You open it
up and here are 20-21 pages of photos some are slightly
retouched of the entire 1939 Lincoln "K"
line. The artwork in the catalog is all actual artwork,
but these are actual photos. And here are upholstery
samples and color samples with stripes.
We're talking something even rarer
than a dealer album. Nobody knows how many copies. I
think it was probably done as maybe 5 or 6 copies for
big dealerships in New York, Chicago, San Francisco.
But this particular one had a story behind it documented
with letters. There was John Schuler from Indianapolis.
He was like 8-years-old in 1939. He and his father were
going up to the Lincoln factory to get a new Lincoln
Zephyr 2-Door for his mother. Up at the factory in Michigan
he was so knowledgeable about the cars that the men
who were with him were very impressed and they said,
"Well, we have to introduce you to Mr. Ford".
So they went in to see Henry Ford and little John, whom
I understand later became the Rolls-Royce dealer in
Indianapolis, saw this big Lincoln catalog on Henry
Ford's side table.
So during the war around 1943 four years
later, Schuler's never been able to forget this thing.
And he writes Henry Ford. He says, "Mr. Ford. I've
just never been able to forget that wonderful day that
I spent with you and that wonderful Lincoln book that
you had in your office."
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About a month later Schuler gets a
telephone call from the Postmaster saying, "Hey
kid, there's something down here for you." Schuler
goes down and here's this big leather case. You unzip
it and inside is the book. So Schuler BIKES home with
it. His letters were addressed to Ted Swain on the Main
Line in Pennsylvania setting forth the history and these
are still in the book itself. I got it from Charlie
Shalebaum, whom I don't think of as an owner but a dealer,
so I may be the third owner of the one piece that Jim
Bradley said would be the one piece that he would save.
I just treasure that.
You know, the older you get the more you learn about
automotive history. And I didn't realize that, before
World War II, Enzo Ferrari had started to make his own
car after leaving Alfa Romeo. I think he was involved
with some of the Alfa Romeo race cars in the late 1930's.
He left with a non-compete clause saying that he could
not use his name on a car for "X" number of
years. Well, in 1940 he had two cars called the "815"
that were being prepared for the Mille Miglia. They
were rather streamlined cars and the story goes that
he placed an order for 100 brochures. And the war came
and they didn't produce the cars, although there is
the history of the car, and there were two of them made.
But he ordered the brochures and never picked
So a fellow down in Atlanta who is
a Ferrari nut, Fred Repass, offered me one. Fred said,
at that time, that as far as he knew there were only
5 or 6 copies of these available. And I said, "Well,
it is expensive", but I bought it. Fred also sent
me a copy of the article which detailed the history
of this rare brochure. And I know that Tom Solley was
able to buy one and I saw one on sale at "Retromobile"
and I should have bought it because it was so cheap
like $600 and I could maybe have quad-
or quintupled my money with the right person, but I
went to "Retromobile" to buy for my own collection
and not to sell at some later date.
But that sort of brought back to me the one time that
I met Signor Ferrari in 1971. At that time I was a lawyer
over at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
and I was handling exotic cars and I had gotten to know
the people who were handling Maseratis and Ferraris
and Lamborghinis and DeTomasos DeTomaso visited
with me twice in my office so I was going to
Morracco and Italy and Switzerland and Germany for my
vacations. When I got to Bologne I had this interview.
I went out to the factory and they let me drive the
Dino and the Daytona and then I had this five
minute interview with "god". I had always
heard about the shrine to Dino, his late son, in his
office. Sure enough, I went in and I looked around and
here are a couple of candles by Dino's picture on the
back wall. Well, Signor Ferrari was sitting there in
his dark glasses he had driven a Fiat 130 Coupe
to work that day I noticed and, of course, everybody
was kind of cowtowing to him. It was about a five minute
interview. He autographed a copy of a book in
purple, of course and gave me some models and
a scarf and it was just wonderful.
When I got home I went right to my
Ferrari files. I had been writing the factory in the
late 40's and I noticed that these letters were signed
with purple ink! I had been getting letters from Ferrari
himself in the late '40's and early '50's. And after
he died in 1988 Walter Miller was offering these letters
for like $2,000 apiece. Well, when Ferrari died the
whole literature scene erupted for about a year or two.
This 1949/50 Yearbook that I got free the first
auction of that in Modena after Ferrari died $13,000
was what it went for. We think it was some Japanese
collector. Well, the market went down and the second
time it was ONLY $11,000.
But it was a never to be forgotten
meeting with Enzo Ferrari.
AC: You are active in the SAH. How did you get
TAYLOR: Yes, I'm the editor of the magazine,
the Automotive History Review.
Howard Applegate, the dealer who came to see me back
in the early 1970's had a big tent at Hershey and part
of it was devoted to the SAH. So one day he said to
me, "You ought to join the SAH." I said, "But
I'm not a historian." He said, "Oh, you may
be more than you think. Come on into our tent."
I said, "Okay". So we went to dinner. This
was 1976. Meanwhile, I was wondering how I was going
to fit in with this. But I was awed by the fact that
here is a real live guy who's written a book
it was Hugo Pfau you know the coach book [Custom
Body Era]. And here was old Hugo. I thought, "I'm
in the presence of an author." Of course now I
have about 100 books signed by authors, but then it
was a real treat.
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I sat down at the table and the guy
across the table from me I think his name was
Borrowman or Barrowman, or something like that
was into Crosleys. Well, I knew Crosleys because of
my automobile literature, you know. I really felt right
at home because I could talk to him about something.
And so I joined in the Spring of 1977. I was member
#407 and we're now at 2700, or so, and about ten years
later Howard and his wife came to me and said, "We
think you ought to run for the board." I said,
"Me?". They said, "Yes, you." So
I ran for the board and was elected. About three years
after that Jack Martin from Indianapolis came to me
and said, "We think you ought to run for President."
I said, "Me?" Well, I did and I was
defeated. A couple of years later Jack Martin asked
me to run as his Vice-President. I said, "Sure."
After that I became President from 1993-95 and, in that
time, since I wasn't tied down and could travel on vacations,
I traveled as far as from San Diego to Warsaw, Poland,
enlisting SAH members. In fact, I ran into a Warsaw
member today on the floor of the auto show.
I made a couple of visits to Prague and got to meet
the people who are collectors and writers in the Czech
auto field. The Czechs, before World War II, had 7 or
8 auto manufacturers and they really were like the number
four in Europe. They were ahead of Canada and had quite
an industry. In terms of rarefying my collection, since
I starting going to "Retromobile" in 1994,
I've been able to really sort of "beef up"
my collection of early French automobile literature
as far back and 1893 with Peugeot. I guess, in some
sense, it might be better than my American early stuff.
I have two Peugeot bicycle catalogs for 1893 and 1894
which have woodcuts in the back of Peugot cars. But
the oldest car catalog I have, per se, is a Panhard
catalog which has a date of July 1895.
AC: One thing we keep sensing is that you are
TAYLOR: I'm organized, I guess, in the sense
that I try to file everything alphabetically and chronologically,
but I've never started over and I have about four different
places where I go to A, B, etc. You fill file cabinets,
and rather than emptying them to make room for more
A's you start a new file cabinet with other A's. So
I am organized, but disorganized.
If you said, "Marmon", I might look in the
first M's and it wouldn't be there, the second M's and
it might not be there, but in the third "M"
I would find it.
AC: Most collectors keep meticulous records simply
because they don't want to duplicate something. They
say, "Ah, that's very nice but do I have
TAYLOR: That's another kind of organization and
that was Bob Tuthill's great contribution to the hobby
in the 1970s, putting out his guide to American car
literature [American Automobile Sales Literature Checklist,
1928-42]. Earlier automotive enthusiasts had done something
similar from 1934-61, but Tuthill's was arranged in
a much more organized fashion. Since then Tuthill has
done private lists that carried the American stuff back
before 1928 which was his starting point in the book.
So, for Cadillac, he may go back to 1903, the very beginning.
Makes that he doesn't particularly care for, like Studebaker,
don't go back beyond 1926. And, for certain marques,
he's carried it forward through 1966. Marques like Cadillac
and Lincoln he carried through to 1980, but Ford and
Chevrolet were just carried through to 1966. But that
has been a great help to collectors a bit tiresome
to lug these books around when you go to flea markets,
but still it saves you from buying the same thing twice,
although it's not foolproof, because there are some
marques that aren't in there and you buy something and
get home and find that you already have it. But it helps
cut down on duplication.
Also, since World War II, I have been
a collector of magazine ads. Of course I have a lot
of foreign ads and I have gone back as far as I can.
And newspaper ads. I don't think I've ever run across
anybody who has collected newspaper ads on automobile.
Some of them are very fragile now. In the old days the
introductory ads each year for cars were very, very
interesting because it was different than the print
you would see in the "Saturday Evening Post".
So that's been a great way to study the progression,
the changes and the appeal of advertising over the years.
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these brochures are not photogenic, they are a rare
Ford Motor Company's post-World War II efforts for
veterans of the war. In
Henry Ford's words, "No man who lost a limb
in World War II . . . is going
to have to pay anything extra to drive a Ford automobile".
AC: For the young collectors,
we've seen so many brochures that have writing on them
where collectors have written the date on them, written
where they obtained them, written a personal code number.
How do you feel about things like that?
TAYLOR: Well, of course, if it's written in pencil,
and lightly, it's a great guide to identifying the year
or the approximate year. Dealer stamps some people find
very interesting. I have mixed feelings about that.
As long as it doesn't blur the auto on the cover that
can be interesting. I think the most interesting dealer
stamp I have is a 1930's Rover catalog with a Katmandu,
Nepal stamp on it. The fellow's story is that he went
to that dealership and didn't get anything. Then, when
he got home, he found out that the catalogs were on
the second floor.
The Dutch collector got in the habit of putting what
he called an "archiefnummer" at the lower
left-hand of the back cover, so that, to my mind, detracts
from the value but when I see it I know where it came
from! I, myself, the only thing I ever put on it, in
the upper left-hand corner of the rear, I will pencil
in very lightly what I paid for it in case I find it
is a duplicate and I want to sell it. But it is the
very lightest pencil marking.