Wednesday, June 8, 2011

David E. Davis - American Automotive Journalism Icon Extraordinaire RIP

David E Davis, the Dean of modern American Car Magazines passed away after battling Pancreatic Cancer in March of this year. I was lucky enough to meet him in person back in 1980 when I attended a Car and Driver press party at the Chicago Auto Show. I was introduced to Mr. Davis by Jean Lindamood Jennings and Don Sherman. Other Car and Driver staffers in attendance (and in the photos) included Rich Ceppos and Mel Berger, the NY Advertising Manager. I introduced myself as I was working for Fiat Motors of North America in the Marketing Department and told him that I read his column every month and enjoyed his writing and the irreverent nature of the articles which were being published at the time at Car and Driver. David was gracious and politely listened to me and offered words of advice and encouragement which to this very day inspired me to write and to introduce a wry sense of humor and not to take oneself so seriously. To say that he lived a full life is an understatement. He was nice to everyone, no matter where you stood in the automotive caste system and he took so many aspiring writers and journalists under his wing and gave so many great automotive journalists their first breaks in the industry. His accomplishments have been listed and documented by editors at Car and Driver, and Automotive Magazine. He took the boring element out of testing cars and introduced Gonzo journalism well before it was coined and hyped by Hunter Thompson. Following the automobile industry and reading about the coolest sports cars in the sixties, seventies eighties and nineties was easy thanks to Mr Davis and the passion and wisdom he brought to the magazines he was managing from an editorial perspective. He and his writers wrote about the good, the bad and the ugly in the automotive industry and called out bad designs and poor performing automobiles before Consumer Reports ever got on the map with their test car results.

The photos taken below were taken in 1980 at the top of Sears Tower where Car and Driver held a lavish party for all of their auto industry clients. These photos were taken by my trusty Olympus XA 35mm film camera. Don Sherman is now a Senior Editor at Automobile Magazine and Jean Jennings is the Editor in Chief and runs the show at Automobile Magazine and was hand picked many years ago by David E. as his protege and was eventually groomed and trained to take over Automobile Magazine. Yes, like Forrest Gump, I was a participant in the Car and Driver story albeit it was a time when I was a young kid in awe of my magazine literary heroes, but I must say that I am glad that I was able to preserve the moment with photos and still remember the champagne event like it was yesterday.

As a nerdy kid growing up in the New York metro area, I looked forward to receiving every new issue of Car and Driver as it made me forget about the day to day suburban angst of growing up in bedroom community with no inkling of what the future would bring. I was able to escape and at least dream about driving some of the coolest sports cars in the world and to relive the adventures that that Mr Davis and his staff or writers wrote about in Car and Driver and Automobile Magazine.

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