From the Bookshelf - Automobile Quarterly and its legacy

Automobile Quarterly is the innocuous title for a sadly now defunct publication that featured half a century’s fine writing on motoring and motor sport. Its subtitle lends its reputation more credence: the connoisseur’s publication of motoring – today, yesterday, and tomorrow. The Library is fortunate indeed to possess a rare, unbroken run of this fine American periodical and our holdings are in excellent condition.

The first issue hit the news-stands in 1962 and was dedicated to Phil Hill to ‘honor a fellow collector and connoisseur of antique, classic and vintage sports cars and a proven world champion driver’ [1961]. And the first article in that first issue is entitled “Hamlet in a helmet?”, penned by Denise McCluggage espousing Hill’s sobriquet as the ‘driving man’s thinker’. Another feature in that issue is fashion illustrator Leslie Saalburg’s marvellous pen and ink drawings of top marques including an Isotta Fraschini Roadster and a Lincoln Sport Phaeton. Looking to the future already, Brooks Stevens’ writing on ‘Tomorrow’s luxury land-cruiser’ stands out. Taken together the dozen or so articles of that first volume exemplify the philosophical brief of its founding editor, L. Scott Bailey, ‘to cover all matters under the motoring sun’.

For many of its later years, the publishing editor was Gerry Durnell. I had cause to correspond briefly with him in 2007, a very courteous and obliging man. Reflecting AQ’s wide curriculum of subject-matter, Gerry led a multi-dimensional life himself going from flying 180 reconnaissance missions during the Vietnam War, to representing Missouri in the House of Representatives, to being creative director of Abby Press, then on to the pizza business & building the world’s most expensive food trade show – wonderful! The driving force behind Automobile Quarterly’s later years, his sad death in 2011, aged 69, inevitably signalled AQ’s own death knell, the final issue coming out in early 2012 under the editorship of his wife, Kaye Bowles-Durnell.

Some well-laid-out indices have been published over the years to accompany the journal itself – highly desirable when you have such a collection of eclectic articles with no common theme yet bound in one volume. Or it’s just a joy to leaf through those 200+ volumes with scant idea indeed of what’s over the next page.

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L. Scott Bailey (founding editor and publisher). Automobile Quarterly: the connoisseur’s publication of motoring – today, yesterday, and tomorrow, 1962-2012. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Institute for Historic Research; Kutzdown, Pa.: Kutzdown Publishing; New Albany, Ind.: Automobile Heritage and Publishing & Communications. [Imprint varies]

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