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Feature Stories


by Bob Hagin

April 11, 1997

The Vintage Auto Almanac is published on a somewhat sporadic basis every couple of years, but those of us who are regulars look forward to its irregular arrival with anticipation. Its format is like the original "Poor Richard's Almanac" or "The Whole Earth Catalog" of the '60s, in that it's filled with small snippets of information. It gives a plethora of automotive clubs to join, places to go and businesses from which to buy parts and service. It's eclectic because it doesn't concentrate on any particular automotive type or time frame, which makes it interesting to anyone except maybe those who view their vehicles as mobile household appliances. The current Almanac is the 12th edition, which makes it a true veteran in the auto publishing world. I just bought one at my local book store and began devouring it in the parking lot.

One of the interesting new factors I found in the ads that appear in the Almanac is the use of e.mail addresses. There aren't a lot of them, but enough to indicate that this relatively new form of two-way communication will soon permeate the world of old cars. I didn't find any web sites or home pages listed, but it's only a matter of time.

Also new are the 291 additional legislative "watchdog" organizations that were formed to make sure that "clunker bills" are fought in state capitols around the country. In the last Almanac there were only six. These organizations range from the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA), a very professional organization that has over 3100 corporate members, to Citizens Against Repressive Zoning, a 100-member private citizen group that is "...concerned with zoning zealots..." in its area. The universal theme of all of these groups is to retain the hobby aspect of the auto world and to keep from having our vintage machines legislatively designated as "clunkers" and scrapped.

The section put aside for shops and stores that cater to veteran car buffs easily fills half the book and informs readers where to buy pistons for Packards, wheels for Willys', gaskets for Grahams and headlamps for Hudsons. The list is almost endless. Under "Generalists" a couple of shops are shown that duplicate those old travel decals that we all used to buy and glue onto our back windows to show how well- traveled we were. It also lists dozens of repair shops that fix car clocks and the Zenith, Atwater, Motorola and Philco AM radios that graced the dashboards of our old-timers.

Until recently I hadn't been aware of how widespread the interest is in vintage auto toys and pedal cars like the ones my kids used to play with. Ours were handed down from sibling to sibling and finally totally destroyed, which is one reason why those that are left are so valuable to the dozens of shops that refurbish and sell them.

I've always been aware that the apparel stores listed in the Almanac could supply dusters, bonnets, gauntlets and goggles from the horseless carriage days, but now these stores are also selling "regular" clothes from the '30s, '40s and '50s that add authenticity when attending old car shows. My wife should have kept her poodle skirts and angora sweaters from her high school days.

If the reader is inclined to travel and wants to plan a trip around auto museums, there's literally dozens of them across the country. Even our prestigious Smithsonian in Washington has a large section devoted to the our transportation heritage but based on names alone, my favorite is the Owls Head Transportation Museum. It's located in Owls Head, ME and has nothing to do with transporting owl heads.

The 12th edition of the Vintage Auto Almanac lists hundreds of clubs devoted to the marques like Tatra, Stutz, Nash, Nyberg and DKW. The names in its list of registries go from Arnolt to Zimmerman with more than 50 others in between.

Insurers that specialize in covering old cars; clubs for military vehicle owners; fire engine organizations; vintage car and truck appraisers; metal foundries that restore or reproduce old-time radiator mascots; stores that sell rebuilt old service station gas pumps; they're all listed in the Almanac as well as others that are too numerous to mention. They all make for good reading after dinner.

If for no other reason, the Vintage Auto Almanac is worth perusing just for the small bits of ancient automotive clip art that is scattered throughout its pages. Clip art is the name given to those line drawings that are used even today to illustrate advertisements in newspapers. Someday some enterprising enthusiast will put together all the clips of old passenger cars, racers, service stations and cartoons of the '30s into a coffee-table book at which point I'll be first in line to buy one.

Hey, now there's a good business opportunity for one of the publishing companies listed in the Almanac.