Automobile Quarterly Volume 7, Number 1 edited by
published 1968 by Automobile Quarterly
112 pages, hardcover
Library of Congress number: 62-4005
Acquired from the estate of a friend and fellow ‘car guy’. Currently out of print.
We take a bit of a detour here as we review an edition of Automobile Quarterly. Technically, AQ was a periodical, like a magazine, and for various reasons I want to stick to books as opposed to magazines. But AQ wasn’t really a magazine… it was more like a book that came out 4 times a year.
Automobile Quarterly began in 1962, the editions were hardbound, and further it contained no advertising. It’s subtitle was “The Connoisseur’s Magazine of Motoring Today, Yesterday, and Tomorrow”, and articles covered not just the cars, but the people involved with cars and other subjects related to motoring. The articles weren’t limited to a few pages, and there could be multiple articles relating to one theme.
And so it is with Volume 7 Number 1, the Summer 1968 edition, which really packed some huge names into its pages. Start with 20 pages about legendary champion driver Rudi Caracciola, excerpted from Mercedes racing team manager Alfred Neubauer‘s book Speed Was My Life. Follow that with a number of pages of paintings that recalled moments from Caracciola’s racing career, and then a memoir from Rudi’s wife Alice. Then, Phil Hill (yes, that Phil Hill) gave his impression of the Mercedes SSK, the car Rudi drove in the European Hill Climb Championships. These are not simply articles reciting the acheivements and records of Caratsch (as Caracciola was called). Neubauer and Alice Caracciola remember the man, his life, the determination and skill and pain and suffering of a racing driver. In the days long before the internet, you would have gone well beyond numbers and records and come to know a great deal about one of the pre-war greats in auto racing.
To be truthful, both Neubauer and Alice paint a scene of European racing as a whole back in the pre-war days. Their remembrances are filled with stories not just about Rudi, but of excitement and honour, dangers and tragedies that was early racing. Both are deeply personal in their memories, but reading the stories one gets a sense of the closeness of the community, the highs and lows of racing in those days.
Changing gears, AQ features a story penned by Dutch. As in, Howard ‘Dutch’ Darrin, famed automotive engineer and designer of custom-bodied cars, known for Packard-Darrins, the Packard Clipper, and the Kaiser Darrin. Darrin regales with stories of how he entered and then left the corporate automotive world, and got into the custom-body business, all the while enjoying quite the life between Paris and America. There are renderings of some of Dutch’s great designs, and a great photo-feature of a Darrin Packard Super 8 Victoria, certainly a rare vehicle to see.
The issue wraps up focused on Buick. One of the mainstay marques of American production, the story tracks the early beginnings of David Dunbar Buick‘s efforts, turns on the arrival of William Crapo Durant and his success building GM on the foundation of Buick, through to the late 1960s. There’s a significant amount of information about the company and it’s place within General Motors. The focus tends to be mostly on the people managing Buick, and the various financial and structural aspects of the company, especially in the early years. There’s a more cursory description of the cars themselves, the models, pricing and innovations from year to year. All in all though one gets a good insight into the creation of one of the lasting marques of the automotive world. This is followed by a few pages featuring the Buick ‘Bug’, a car that established the marque’s racing credibility.
Finally, there’s a wrap up of motorsport activities from the early part of 1968, tracking race results in the major bodies, from Formula 1 to USAC. Included in this particular edition is the record of 3 fatal incidents – World Champion Jim Clark at Hockenheim, Mike Spence at Indianapolis, and Lodovico Scarfiotti at Rossfeldstrasse.
I appreciated the depth of coverage found in AQ. Fully half the book is dedicated to Caracciola, his career and his cars. Yes, the Neubauer excerpt is lengthy, but the variety of perspective then offered by the painted images or early racing, Mrs. Caracciola’s memoir, and exploration of a car Rudi drove makes for a much more interesting portrait. The same may be said for the pages dedicated to Darrin and Buick – interesting and extensive information presented in an enjoyable manner.
Sadly, AQ last published in 2012, and it seems it won’t be coming back. Cliche as it may sound, the proliferation and easy accessibility of content on the internet, coupled with the high and hard costs of publishing a high-quality hardbound printed book pretty much ensure there’d be little chance such a periodical could find an audience that would sustain it. However, it is possible to find used copies, many likely in very good condition. If Volume 7 Number 1 is an indication, any edition of AQ will be an enjoyable trip back in automotive history.
Pros: fairly in-depth look at some of the ‘big’ name in auto history; very good imagery, going beyond simple photos
Cons: at worst, the photos of the Mercedes SSK and Packard are ‘dated’ by comparison to what you might see in current magazines
Where to find it: Available on Amazon, eBay, used bookstores.