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Feature Story


by Bob Hagin

January 3, 1997

I know what you're reaction is going to be when you learn that the subject of this week's lesson is mail-order catalogs. The darn things proliferate like flies in a hog pen and already fill our mail boxes to overflowing. But they're part of contemporary American culture and cover subjects that range from fancy underwear to museum reproductions. Laid end to end, they'd reach from your mail box clear to the office of the Postmaster General in Washington.

But if you're a "car guy" (which is a unisexual connotation in this case), there are several catalogs you might actually enjoy and find useful, too. I've gone through our two-story pile of recent catalogs and selected a few that you might find educational:

AAA MEMBER'S MARKETPLACE - Besides providing you with insurance, making your travel plans and getting you going when your battery runs flat, the American Automobile Association will sell you all kinds of gadgets through its Members' Marketplace catalog. The gizmos range from the flashlight/car key holder that lights up the door lock, to a blow-up Safe-T-Man doll, a " simulated male.." to keep you company (and presumably safe) when you're driving alone at night. It also showcases things like a highway emergency kit (flares, jumper cables, etc.), a solar-operated trickle charger to keep the battery up in your semi-stationary RV or your car when you park it for a week at the airport, and a citizen's band radio that's tuned to the police and Highway Patrol Emergency Band. The contact number is 1-800-631-4222.

AUTOWEEK'S ULTIMATE CAR PLACES - So you're new in town and you don't know the location of the hot Friday night cruise spots to show off your '67 Camaro or '32 Deuce Coupe. Or maybe you feel the need to catch some oval-track racing action and don't know exactly what's running or where. AutoWeek magazine publishes an annual catalog of all the places (well, almost all) that an auto enthusiast can go to see museums, get a bite to eat, participate in swap meets and go to buy neat car stuff in all areas of the U.S. This one isn't free (it costs $3.95 plus postage) and the subscription sales manager tells me they have around 5000 left. I called 313-446-6040 and eventually got through to the sales office.

EASTWOOD COMPANY - Restoring that old Packard that your great-uncle Ned left you could be tough without the right tools and you won't find them at you local discount mass-merchandiser. The Eastwood catalog has small sheet-metal brakes, gas tank sealing kits, hand-operated door and trunk sheet metal "skinners" and 99 pages of other stuff - in full color, too. A set of Eastwood heavy-duty dollies under the wheels of the Packard make it easy to roll it around in your garage or driveway and I fell in love with the company's tiny one-pound mini-anvil. For a catalog call 1-800-345-1178.

GRAND PRIX TOURS - All travel companies aren't the same and Grand Prix tours is proof. Its catalog tells us that Monaco is an exciting place to be in the Spring and especially so during the Grand Prix for international Formula One cars. Being there for the season is possible as well as the Grand Prix races in Argentina, Canada and many other sites. You can be in Indianapolis in May for the 500, too, and at Daytona Beach for the NASCAR stock car races as well. The catalog from Grand Prix Tours is colorful, displays the opulent trapping of the international set and is the racing enthusiast's ultimate "wish book." Call 1-714-553-1500 to get your own catalog.

QUATREFOIL - Automobile Quarterly sells books, posters, car models, gifts and back issues of its carriage-trade publication through its Quatrefoil catalog. Such unusual auto artifacts as a reproduction of the poster publicizing Barney Oldfield's "Golden Submarine" race car of 1917, a neon Corvette wall clock, neckties that feature renderings of Porsches or Ferraris, 1:18 scale models of various American and foreign classics are all found within its pages. Needless to say, this publishing firm also offers auto books that range from "Muroc: When the Hot Rods Ran" to the latest Indy 500 Yearbook. The order desk number is 1-800-523-0236 and they'll turn you on to a catalog of your own.

MERCEDES-BENZ PERSONAL AND AUTOMOTIVE ACCESSORIES - Although I don't own a Mercedes any more (I had a disreputable '57 Model 180 sedan for a short time), I was nonetheless honored with a catalog of fancy stuff that carries the M-B star. Inside are such diverse items as a golf bag, sports clothing of all descriptions, wrist watches, a competition mountain bike, alloy wheel sets and assorted other merchandise. And they all bear the distinctive Mercedes-Benz logo. To order (and to get a catalog) call 1-800-FOR-MERCEDES.

Automotive catalogs are fun to get and browse through, even if we don't buy anything, but as I think about it, I just may go for one of those $6 marbleized Mercedes-Benz coffee cups myself. It would give my cluttered office some much-needed class.