Sunday, April 3, 2011

David E's Office

There has been a little too much death in this blog recently. Sometimes, it just can't be helped.

David E. Davis passed away last week at age 80. For those of you who don't know him, David E. Davis was a writer first and foremost. Among other accomplishments, he was editor of Car and Driver magazine and the founder of Automobile magazine. More than that, he was mentor and supporter of the best of automotive writers and automotive writing. He always had a strong personal style and was, in the best sense of the word, a raconteur .

This last Saturday, a memorial was held for David E. at the Warehouse. Many members of his family were present, along with a couple hundred other admirers. The current editor of Car and Driver gave an excellent remembrance of David E. and read some of his words.

In conversation with Steve Schewe, he mentioned how influential David E. was to his viewpoint. In the late 60's, David E. wrote an article about the BMW 2002. He said that driving most cars was like wrestling, but in the BMW, he found a willing dance partner. Naturally, Steve bought a BMW.

As for myself, I had met Mr. Davis, but can't say that I knew him well. I did have the chance to hear him tell a few stories in his office. About 3 years ago, David E. rented the offices that were once the executive office for the factory that is now the Warehouse. He furnished it with photos and memorabilia from a life in the auto industry. In that original open house, his wife held court in the conference room with the food. Someone asked her why, now that David E. was retired, he needed separate offices? She said. "I married him for better or worse, but not for lunch." I guess any woman married for a long time to a wit like David E. had better have some intelligence and wit herself.

This Saturday, I wish I had brought a camera. As part of the memorial, they opened his offices. What an excellent way to get a glimpse into the man and his wit.

For example, on his desk is a beautiful little model of an early Ferrari F1 car and on top of it's case, a corn cob. There was a styling model of a Ford GT90 concept car and photos of a young woman (probably his daughter) in both the normal portrait smile and sticking out her tongue and making a face. I also like the Yugo change machine (you know, the metal thing you put on your belt to make change at the ballpark) and the speaker stand and speakers from a drive-in movie theater that was used to hang his collection of race and show credentials.

On my previous visit to his office, he told a story about some photos of a Mercedes pre-war Grand Prix car that were on his wall. This was Mercedes pride and joy and they had brought it out of the museum to show to Mr. Davis. The pictures show the factory driver coming around the banked turn of the test track and parked photos of the car. Naturally, David E. asked to drive the car. It was clear that his hosts didn't want to let him drive, but he was an important journalist, so they eventually caved and let him drive. As David E. describes it, 'the road was wet, the clutch was tricky, and the car difficult.' Apparently, he popped the clutch, spun out, and came to a stop, backwards, and 3" from a guard rail. As you can imagine, the car was quickly hustled back to the museum.

On this visit, my favorite piece was an old photo that had been framed and sent to David E. on the occasion of his 80th birthday by Dan Gurney. At first glance, the picture looks like some 60's Rock-n-Roll band with a bunch of long haired guys standing on a bandstand with guitars and drums. Then you look closer and see it is Bruce McLaren, Graham Hill, Dan Gurney, Jack Brabham, and Jim Clark looking like the original mop-tops.

Wish I could be sharing pictures of this, but those of us who don't carry cell phones are often without camera.

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