Thursday, September 17, 2009

Review of Thus Spake David E

Hi folks,

One of the great things about doing automobile history is that it is never boring. And I never cease to learn more about the topic. During the past week I was in California visiting my daughter and son-in-law, and had the opportunity to stop by the bookshop at one of my favorite public libraries, this one located in Poway, California. Every time I stop there, I find books for sale at very low prices that I have not seen anywhere else in my bookstore meanderings. This time I found a collection of writings by longtime magazine editor David E. Davis, formerly of Car and Driver and later the founder of Automobile. It seems now Davis, in advanced age but possessing the energy of a much younger man, has gone on to publish Winding Road, an electronic magazine that again reflects his creativity and enthusiasm for all things automotive. I am a world apart from him in terms of demeanor and background, but we seemingly share our love for this inanimate object -- the car. And especially sports cars.

This book is one important source that can be used to study the history of the automobile industry, roughly beginning in the 1950s but especially strong in analysis of the 1970s, 80s, and with a touch from the 90s. Davis is a free market, get the government out-of-my-face kind of guy. He writes well, can be very funny at times, and provides insights on many of the key figures involved in the auto business from both sides of the Atlantic. His writing can be brutally honest, as for example when he talks about the character of importer Max Hoffmann. His discussions of the cars he drove make me envious. But what stands out is his sheer love of life -- a no-holds-bar taking on of living and loving, both of cars and women. From the adversity of a disfiguring accident early in his adult life he seeming gained the strength and resolve not only to go on, but to live life to the utmost. Perhaps a bit self centered -- I was surprised he did not include photos of either of his wives in the book -- nevertheless the book celebrates doing things with confidence. Repetitive at times -- and understandably so, since this is a compilation of editor's remarks -- I found this book to be a gem stashed on the back shelf of the Poway library. While the book has been out for a decade, it seems that only now am I catching up.

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