By on March 27, 2011

David E. Davis, Jr. died today during an unspecified “cancer surgery”. Readers wishing to read a historically accurate, solemn, heartfelt tribute to the man from one of his most devoted acolytes should turn to Eddie Alterman’s blog entry at Car and Driver.

The rest of you can come sit here by me.

Like it or not, American automotive journalism in the post-Vietnam-War era was entirely and singlehandedly defined by David E. Davis, Jr. The majority of the tropes we all take for granted today were either invented by or nutured by Davis. He was many things, but he was first and foremost a salesman. He sold products for the Big Three, and then he sold his own products, but most of all he sold the image of himself. Alterman writes:

He was a champion of the automotive good life, and he lived it right to the very end. I hope he forgives me for using his sign-off, but: Freedom and Whiskey!

Mr. Alterman neglects to mention that this good life was usually paid for and provided by the automotive industry. As the years went on, the idea of the bon vivant auto writer, as characterized by Davis, thoroughly polluted every corner of journalism, with the possible exception of the guys at Consumer Reports. Davis often railed against the effete, West Coast, Jag-and-MG crowd, but he (and Brock Yates) ended up incorporating that schtick into theirs — Yates as a kind of third-rate shadow of top-drawer New York literary society, Davis as a country gentleman of the sort only actually encountered in the imagination. Thirty years later, we are only now outgrowing the idea of an “automotive journalist” as a cigar-and-whiskey type delivering declarative statements from the comfortable driver’s seat of a loaner Bentley or Ferrari.

And could Davis ever declare. In a single, brilliant bit of advertising — excuse me, magazine article — Davis catapulted the BMW 2002 into the public eye. His continual advocacy of the brand was partially responsible for the marque’s rise in the United States. Years later, he became a cheerleader for Honda, as well. By the time Davis left C/D, the magazine was effectively a full-length ad for Honda and BMW. His next effort, Automobile Magazine, continued that tradition, with a motto — “No Boring Cars!” — which served as an excuse, er, reason to demand an ever-greater variety of exotic machinery from the world’s press fleets and cross-continental promotional junkets. Hell, Automobile didn’t even bother to publish performance numbers. Why waste a day somewhere with a stopwatch, doing atmospheric correction like some kind of Bedard-esque nerd, when you could be tossing the keys to the valet and settling down for a long lunch at Detroit’s “London Chop House”?

As a child and pre-teen, I was a C/D subscriber and big David E. fan. I quite admired the man, and like Eddie Alterman I fancied that I might one day write extremely self-important and self-congratulatory articles only tangentially related to automobiles while enjoying a lifestyle normally associated with truly wealthy people. Little did I know I would only make it halfway — but I digress.

DED’s spell on me was broken the day he took delivery of a used Ferrari. I can’t express what a shock that was at the time. For years, Davis and his editors had trashed those lovely Pininfarina coupes, loudly proclaiming how the Corvette and the Esprit Turbo kicked their poser asses all the place. At the time, my neighbor had a 328 GTB and I remember telling my father, rather maliciously, what a piece of shit the car was, based solely on my extensive time reading C/D. But the minute Davis himself had the money, he didn’t buy a Corvette, or a Nissan 300ZX, or any of the other junk pimped out in the pages of his rag. He went and bought a used Ferrari. Because he wanted to be a Ferrari owner. Because, in the long run, he wasn’t really concerned about performance, or value for money, or any of that stuff. He wanted to be a Ferrari owner, even if it meant being a used Ferrari owner. I still have the issue of Automobile where Davis crowed over his purchase. He was finally in a club which he’d observed from the outside for his entire adult life, but I felt like I’d been lied to.

Naturally, that was simple teenaged naivete on my part. A few years ago, I sat down over the course of a few days at my library’s old microfiche reader and read fifteen years of C/D all at once. In that context, it was easy to see the magazine’s drift from simple gearhead silliness (think Grassroots Motorsports, had that mag existed in 1972) to a bizarre kind of elitist journal, written by and for people who considered themselves to be a breed apart from the everyday motorist. Davis masterminded the transformation. He gave us all those wonderful images. The Saab 99 Turbo driver, putting on his leather gloves before making a night run down a deserted freeway? The American man in a German car, flashing traffic out of the way as if Interstate 75 were an Autobahn? The hard-edged fellow wearing sunglasses in a Pontiac 6000STE, clipping a precise apex on the off-ramp with the stereo turned defiantly off? All courtesy of the man with the mustache. Davis made being a car guy cool in an era where the automotive choices were mostly second-rate, the speed limit was a ridiculous fifty-five miles per hour, and shiny nylon jackets with “Porsche 924″ block-print logos down the sleeves were worn in public.

I would like to think that automotive journalism has almost hit escape velocity from the Davis gravitational pull, the same way he blasted out of the grimy-fingernails-and-clipboard aesthetic that defined his predecessors. Automotive enthusiasm doesn’t have shit to do with expensive meals, five-star hotels, or any kind of “good life”. It’s found wherever you, the enthusiast, are. Doesn’t matter if that’s underneath a five-hundred-dollar heap at a LeMons race, in the garage with your cherished Miata, or in the rows of perfectly prepared vintage Ferraris at Amelia Island. It’s free of any associations with “class”, particularly imagined ones. It’s electric, biofuel, Carter-AFB-gasoline-swilling. It’s East Coast, West Coast, and nowhere in particular. It’s about the love of cars, not the love of lifestyle. When you find it, I’d like to think you will find a young David E. Davis looking back at you, sharing that same spark, following a similar journey regardless of the destination.

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113 Comments on “RIP David E. Davis, Jr...”


  • avatar

    I was about to go to bed, but when I saw this headline, I poured myself another Bushmills.
    DED’s column did seem conspicuously absent from the last C&D I read at the barber’s (due to TTAC, I’ve let my car mag subscriptions dwindle to two…Grassroots Motorsports and Automobile, go figure).
    Maybe DED played both sides of the fence between automotive journalism and schilling for car companies…but there’s no denying he was a helluva story teller, and for that I raise my glass in his memory.
    GodSPEED, David E!!!

  • avatar

    As a publisher and editor David E. Davis cultivated a number of fine writers, and the man himself was not a bad wordsmith. For God’s sake, the man introduced P. J. O’Rourke and Leonard Setright to American auto enthusiasts. That alone would be enough to put him in the automotive editors’ hall of fame. A while back I was given a collection of his essays as a gift and I found the immodestly titled book to be a thoroughly enjoyable read.
    Thus Spake David E.: The Collected Wit and Wisdom of the Most Influential Automotive Journalist of Our Time

  • avatar

    FWIW, I always found the “glimpse into how the other half lives” aspect of Davis’ and Brock Yates’ writing to be the least attractive part of their writing. Tell me how cool the cars are but spare me details about the Washtenaw County estate and the matching Purdey shotguns.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      It was especially irritating when Brock Yates turned full-bore demagogue and starting ranting about elites versus Walmart-shopping (his wording, not mine) “real” Americans…
       
      …which is just fine when that’s the life you lead and who you are.  It’s a little suspect when you’re worth an order of magnitude more—and live like it—than the people you’re assuming social kinship with.
       
      It’s the same problem (well, that and the rabid anti-intellectualism that, ironically, are coming from some otherwise smart people) I have with Peter Delorenzo: an idea that “real, salt-of-the-earth” people are here on the “good” side moral compass, and the intelligensia are over there.  The demagogue is always on the side of rubes because, frankly, the intelligensia can smell the bullsh_t.

    • 0 avatar

      Psar,
      There are ample reasons to be skeptical of elites and intelligentsias, some of whom have given the world some of its worst ideas. Fewer places are more provincial, more insulated from the real world than the academy. Wm. F. Buckley hit on a very real truth when he famously wished not to be governed by elites. And he was a man who was elite by just about any measure of the word.
       
      I’d rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University.
       
      Another very smart man, R’ Meir Kahane, said that revolutions don’t come from the numb and the dumb but rather the educated elites (cf. Ho Chi Minh, V.I. Lenin and all the doctors of death, the jihadis with MD degrees). Pardon me if I’m skeptical of those who say “listen to me, I’m smarter than you”.

      The problem isn’t that your anointed intelligentsia can smell the bullsh_t of populist demagogues. Any sane person with critical thinking abilities can spot a demagogue. The problem is that your own anointed ones think that their own bullsh_t smells like perfume.

      Pardon me if I’m not impressed with the intelligentsia. I don’t like folks who brag about their intelligence, and having known some true geniuses, I know that I’m not one, but I’m just as smart, most likely smarter, than most of the folks you consider to be part of the intelligentsia. They don’t impress me. Many of them are conformists of the highest rank, not capable, or perhaps more accurately, not willing to make an unorthodox thought, or at least not out loud.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Pardon me if I’m not impressed with the intelligentsia. I don’t like folks who brag about their intelligence, and having known some true geniuses, I know that I’m not one, but I’m just as smart, most likely smarter, than most of the folks you consider to be part of the intelligentsia.

      Geeze, Ronnie, I threw you a bone with this one.

      You should understand that anti-intellectualism is a very, very dangerous thing.  It’s one thing to not agree with someone who is smart and erudite because you’re on different platforms, and it’s quite another thing to consider intelligence and erudition to be detrimental characteristics, which is a fundamental part of demagoguery.

      You’re an intelligent and learned person yourself (and self-effacing and modest, too, I might add) and you should recognize that it’s people like you whom populists are very quick to discredit, if not completely stomp on, because you’re not as easily manipulated.

      They don’t impress me. Many of them are conformists of the highest rank, not capable, or perhaps more accurately, not willing to make an unorthodox thought, or at least not out loud.
       
      You are failing to distinguish between “liberal academia” and people who are intelligent. I’m a little disappointed: In a sense, you’ve bought the demagogues’ schtick: that “smart” and “well-spoken” is a detriment, and that folksy wisdom from the “College of It Stands To Reason” is a substitute for experience and knowledge.
       
      Think very carefully about what that attitude means, and how easily it could be turned against people and causes whom you happen to agree with and like, and how when we discredit learning, intellect and open though we open the door to a populace that’s very, very easily manipulated.
       
      That’s what Yates was pushing towards the end of his tenure at C&D.  It’s a terrible, backward, mean-spirited attitude on it’s own, but it’s doubly hypocritical to hear someone who is quite well-off, ostensibly educated and can write and speak trying to pass himself off as some kind of Average Joe people’s champion.
       
       

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    Like Jack, I was a huge fan as a teenager, I think we are about the same age.  But I gave up on Car and Driver specifically because of how much I disliked how snooty the mag had become.  I read Automobile once and realized it was the epitome of snooty rich guy writing.  You summed it up perfectly.

    • 0 avatar
      JustPassinThru

      I think it was that as we grew, David E…shrank.  He was in his element in the late 1970s; freshly liberated from his GM-crony job, not yet realizing that the hand fed him still.  He was a shill; but it was a shill’s JOB and he did it well and with clever writing.
       
      I suspect Jack is bitter that his hero of youth had feet of clay and bills to pay.  Such is life…today, thanks to the Internet, folks can write as a hobby, free of commercial concerns.  It wasn’t always that way.
       
      I remain an admirer of how Davis wrote and ran C/D when he first returned to it.  It later became dull and stereotypical; that’s a sign of someone growing stale at his job.
       
      Rest in peace, David.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    There has got to be a better time to write about how you grew disillusioned with someone than hours after their death. Gross.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      If an honest opinion about someone rendered at the time of that person’s demise upsets you, I wouldn’t recommend reading the AutoWeek eulogy, which reminds everyone that Davis fantasized about the violent death of a female writer:
       
      ‘As recently as 2009, Davis, in an interview with Autoline: Detroit, said he sometimes dreams “of a FedEx flight on its way to Memphis flying over Parma where she lives and a grand piano falling out of the airplane and whistling down through the air, this enormous object, and lands on her and makes the damnedest chord anybody has ever heard; this sound of music that has never been heard by the human ear. And the next morning all they can find are some shards of wood and a grease spot and no other trace of Mrs. Jennings.”’

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      I have read the Steven Cole Smith eulogy. The difference in tone is less than subtle, but you knew that when you culled that anecdote of context in order to cast more aspersions upon the newly deceased. Your defense only makes your judgement look worse. I’ve been reading Davis’ work on and off for over thirty years. Like you, I’ve had my realizations about the fallibility of a writer that I took perhaps too seriously as an impressionable youth, but I’m not going to take advantage of his demise to have a large audience for my old gripes.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      “I have read the Steven Cole Smith eulogy. The difference in tone is less than subtle, but you knew that when you culled that anecdote of context in order to cast more aspersions upon the newly deceased.”
      That’s fair of you to say; the context of that story was definitely along the lines of “hey, LOLZ at that stupid bitch, she definitely deserved to get a piano on her head and all of us guys knew it! Ha! Even the bitch herself had to admit how awesome DED was! I hope she gets a piano dropped on her head today!”
      The day I wish for some woman to be killed by aerial debris here at TTAC, some of you guys are going to break your fingers trying to adequately express your indignation. But when Davis did it… LOLZ!

    • 0 avatar

      CJ,
      At the funeral service for my father, alav hashalom, one of the speakers was my parents’ congregational rabbi when I was growing up. Our families are close, we drove carpool together, so Rabbi Arm was speaking as a friend more than as a pulpit rabbi. He called my dad a “stubborn achshan”. Everybody laughed. It was the truth.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Ronnie,

      I fail to see how your story has anything to do with Jack’s article or defense of said article. This isn’t a funeral, it is more like a death notice. I certainly learned of D.E.D. Jr.’s death here, hours after he died. Jack isn’t a family friend of Davis’, nor is the audience here Davis’ family, or at least I certainly hope not. I don’t know what achshan means, and google provides no help. If it means that your father was a phony, a sell out, a shill, and a hypocrite, then I guess your rabbi has something in common with Baruth. It isn’t what I’d want to hear about someone I cared about in their eulogy.

    • 0 avatar

      My point was that there’s nothing wrong with telling the truth about the deceased if it’s done in a loving way.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a good “I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him” moment.
       
      We have a tendency to not be critical out of respect, which is fair and polite but, in the end, intellectually dishonest and irrelevant in this particular context as Jack isn’t giving a eulogy in front of grieving relatives at a private funeral where you’ve immediate others to consider the feelings of. You get the good with the bad, as is the case here.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      It isn’t intellectually dishonest if you’re a good person and petty old gripes aren’t the first thing to pop into your mind when someone dies.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I met the man at the 2002 Saab Owner’s Convention, where he delivered the keynote speech. I’m a huge fan, and will miss his writing greatly, but I am an East Coast snob, so what do I know?

  • avatar
    bluetick

    About twenty years ago, I went to see P.J. O’Rourke speak one evening in a smallish auditorium at a local university where I was in graduate school.  I entered the building through a door near stage left.  In the vestibule stood O’Rourke, waiting to make his appearance on stage.  He greeted me and we exchanged a few remarks includig that I became a fan while reading his work in C&D when I was a kid.  I also asked him if DED was really as snooty as he seemed.  He laughed and answered in the affirmative, but asked me not tell DED he said so.
    RIP DED, Jr.

  • avatar
    photog02

    He brought both good and bad to the automotive world. I am not sure if we are better off for it or not, but he did introduce me to automotive journalism. His later writings trended towards the pompous (almost exclusively so- getting to the point of appearing to be a Mad Libs with the blanks filled in with early LeMans drivers and exotic locations) but, by Gods, the man was a force to be reckoned with in the field.
    Peace to his friends and family.

  • avatar
    Rukh

    In poor taste.

  • avatar

    Thanks, Jack for a straight-up piece on DED. Like you, I thought he was nearly an automotive god when I read C&D as a teenager, although I found the GTO v GTO piece unbelievable even at 16.
    As I got older, I began to suspect he was entirely full of himself and frankly disliked Automobile from its inception. I had the chance to meet him at the Monterey Historics about 10 years ago and he was everything you have written.
    We’ll miss you, DED, but not for the reasons you might have imagined.

  • avatar
    rocketrodeo

    a bizarre kind of elitist journal, written by and for people who considered themselves to be a breed apart from the everyday motorist

    Indeed, the sincerest form of flattery.

  • avatar
    Ronman

    The DED syndrome i see repeated in the comments hits a lot of Auto Journalists once they hit the jackpot. but those were the old days, the economy and lack of Jackpots in the modern day auto world will keep a lot of auto scribes within the limits of the auto enthusiasm’s financial reach…
     
    However i do not mind reading a piece that sheds light on the one’s thought of a dead man. not everybody is loved, and it keeps the world in good balance…
     
    i just hate it that when someone dies everybody forgets what a prick they might have been… if prick-ness is part of his legacy then let it be….

  • avatar
    Stingray

    When I read Automobile for the first time, I forgot about buying again C&D and R&T. I never had a subscription of any of them. I however, buy religiously the relevant anniversary editions.
     
    I was not disappointed as teenager from any magazine, but grew tired of reading time after time about crap plastic interiors and stuff, the same winners in comparisions, etc… Then when I started working in the industry, I started to see where the real rubbish was, and it wasn’t always in D3 cars, it is distributed evenly. After all, cars are designed, manufactured, sold, serviced and driven by humans.
     
    Many times I read DED was the father of modern automotive journalism. The positive side of his legacy is the one that must be taken. The negative one, is history in the making, car blogs are here to shape the future of that industry.
     
    And I hope in some months to be able to have my subscription of GRM. I read it 4 years ago in a store and it was awesome. I don’t know why you guys don’t cover the 20XX Challenge.

  • avatar
    william442

    I hope my recent criticism of the man had nothing to do with this.
    In 1968 I also lost faith in his opinions. As Mr. Baruth implies, Davis was certainly in the silk purse business.
    I will miss him still.

  • avatar
    obbop

    “I disliked how snooty the mag had become.”
    One of the vehicle-as-an-abode and dumpster-fare-for-lunch-bunch agrees with thine pronouncement.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    If David E. Davis’s mission was to make automobile magazines interesting to read, then he succeeded. Magazines are entertainment. Or they’re supposed to be. If you bought into the fantasy he sold, then obviously, he did his work well. We should all thank him for that, and be done with it. If you are bitter about every falsehood foisted on the American public by advertising agencies, then you should move to a mud hut.
    I think Mr. Baruth is being too generous in his opinion that Mr. Davis’s write-ups about the 2002 built the brand. If you were old enough to know what crap was out there at the time, and actually driven it, and actually seen the rust bubbles grow at exponential rates within a year’s time, you’d know that yes, the BMW 2002 really was that great compared to the rest of the stuff available at that time. If Mr. Baruth is so cheesed off by DED’s acquisition of a Ferrari, perhaps you should also recall the raccoon being trapped in said Ferrari overnight. Bad karma?
    It’s unfortunate what’s happened to Automobile magazine in the meantime. Other than Jamie Kitman columns, it’s become unreadable. The content of the recent issue, a 25th anniversary pat-on-the-back, can be used to extract confessions of unsolved crimes by unscrupulous law enforcement officers. It’s that bad.

    • 0 avatar
      mzs

      It’s funny to me that the 2002 comment is what riled me up the most about this post! What I hear happened is that US army folks from the midwest to the rockies went over to Germany. They fell in love with 1500/1600 but then they got back and could not buy them here. So they bought/raced datsuns or volvos instead. By the time the 2002 came out you could get bmw in many more places in US. That critcal mass of locations to buy and how they were just so unique is really what did it.

    • 0 avatar
      Advance_92

      And I grew up thinking Max Hoffman’s de-contenting and slashing the prices of BMWs he imported was the key to their initial success.  After he stopped being the importer prices shot up to become the BMW we all know and love/hate.

  • avatar
    Junebug

    There’s a few people whose passing would bring a smile to my face in that they “needed killin” as we say down South. Still, daddy always said never to speak ill of the dead. My friends will note I didn’t say anything when that murdering drunk Ted Kennedy bought the farm. I think a few comments I’ve read smack of jealousy and nothing else.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Did you notice that Jimmy Carter went after Teddy after Kennedy took the dirt nap? It would be a challenge to accuse Ted Kennedy of any wrong doing that he wasn’t guilty of, but Carter flaunted his cowardice by waiting for Teddy to die before accusing him of sabotaging Carter’s presidential administration.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m no fan of Ted Kennedy’s but Jimmy Carter is the definition of an oxygen waster.

      • 0 avatar
        tonycd

        If we’re going to go this far afield from the topic at hand, then I’ll go there too:

        I happen to be an admirer of Mr. Carter.

        Investigate the role of one William Casey in sabotaging the United States, via its president’s foreign policy, for partisan purposes during the Iran hostage crisis. See what’s happened to the living standards of working Americans since his successor systematically undid his plans for American energy independence at the behest of oil company billionaires. Compare his administration’s emphasis on human rights as the cornerstone of a moral foreign policy with the crimes committed in the past decade by our government, which have taken us from the world’s most admired nation to quite possibly the most despised. Try to justify the benefit to democracy that came from his successor’s representatives infiltrating and spying on his pre-debate rehearsals. Compare the inspirational example he has set since leaving office with the festivals of greed conducted by other ex-presidents.

        I am well aware that my admiration for this man puts me in a much-ridiculed minority at the moment. But I only wish I had spent my life using oxygen to such good effect as Mr. Carter has.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Aha! I knew it! Car and Driver really was/is a communist publication!

    I suppose all columnists have to eat, but when one allows one’s self to allow the higher bidders to woo one with material rewards, and to become trapped by one’s own desire, I’m sure subjectivity becomes subjective!

    I really tried to like C&D through the years, R&T – not relevant to my interests, but I don’t delve in fantasy about cars I could never afford. I’ve been interested in detailed reviews of cars people actually own and drive, no matter how “boring” they are perceived. My level of enthusiasm on cars is when I buy a car, I regard it as somewhat of a blank canvas – what will I/what can I do with this vehicle to make it uniquely my own? Nowadays, that’s pretty much in the looks department. I can generally determine what content is “subversive” and either overlook that part, or ignore it all together. C&D has been hard to take, although I began to accept the self-righteous writings of Brock Yates and all the others through the years and began to regard their opinions as cheap comedy, for I could do nothing else than laugh, after which I would go out and hop in my humble Chevy or Chrysler and merrily motor away, knowing that I and my family were O.K. and the sun would come up the following morning.

    Now, iconoclastic writing is different. Not only as the word specifically refers to religion, but as I apply it to industry here on TTAC. For that, J.B. does it very well and I have tremendous respect for that. The column above is not mean-spirited at all, in my opinion, as it doesn’t trash the individual, but I can relate to youthful naivety and how one’s view of things and dearly held beliefs can be challenged when the rug of maturity is yanked out from under you! It does hurt, too. The two bad words used, though – that hurt!!! <snicker>

  • avatar
    M 1

    It is neither electric nor biofuel-swilling.

  • avatar

    I will say one thing about DED, meeting him at the NYIAS back in 2005 was a good wake up call: I met one of my heros and he was a total letdown. Maybe I should stop there…
     
    That experience motivated me to find TTAC, write for it with zero compensation for a long time, and do my best to be witty but (somewhat) grounded by helping people with their real automotive concerns.
     
    So I would like to thank DED for that.

    • 0 avatar

      Like Sajeev, I’m hesitant to share my brief experience with Mr Davis, other than to say it motivated me. I was not raised on his work (we were an Auto Motor und Sport household) so I couldn’t have been disappointed… but the arc of his career can not help but inform the younger, web-based generations of aspiring car writers. To those who question the taste of Jack’s tribute, I say this: both the best and the worst of DED’s work, particularly the progress from the one to the other, will continue to influence his fans and his detractors for years to come. And what more could any of us ask for than that?

    • 0 avatar

      When I lived in the Ypsilanti/Ann Arbor area (on the unfashionable Ypsilanti side) during the early days of my professional career, I frequented a sushi restaurant on Monday nights with enough regularity that they held “my” seat at the sushi bar for me even when the place was packed.
      On several of those occasions, seated just around the corner from me, was DED, Jr, his wife JLK Davis, and Mr. & Mrs. Bob Lutz, then of Chrysler. And the talk was of all manner of things — mostly cars, though. Somehow Lutz drew me into one of the conversations and in the ensuing weeks, I was part of their “crowd” on those Monday nights.
      I’d run into DED in other places — SAE dinner meetings, in the grocery store, and he always greeted me with familiarity and respect, despite the large age and experience gap. This weirded out people who knew him only by reputation.
      Pompous or not (and yes, he was at times), David E. did much to influence a number of us. I’m one of those who grew up reading C/D during his second tenure there, and I looked to that magazine for hard data (Bedard/Sherman/Csere) and irreverence (the infamous Baja trip), just as I read R&T for Peter Egan, Phil Hill, John Lamm, and Dennis Simanaitis. I gave up on MT when Ron Grable left — after that, it read like it was written for 4th graders. I had subscription to Automobile for the longest time, but the lack of technical data or actual testing always grated.
      But it goes back to that 2nd tenure at C/D. Quite possibly some of the most entertaining automotive writing of all time came from that era. Setright. O’Rourke. Bedard. Larry Griffin. Sherman. DED himself. That set the tone for me — and I dare say many others including my friend Jack Baruth.
      I raised a glass to DED last night. Don’t know what he thought of Lagavulin, but I felt it fitting ’cause it’s *my* favorite.

    • 0 avatar

      The one time I met DED, he was gracious, if a bit bored. But then we were at a Toyota press conference.

    • 0 avatar
      rocketrodeo

      @Jim:  I lived in Clubview, between Hewitt and the Washtenaw CC, for several years.  We bought there after we learned that Ypsilanti is indeed a Greek word for “can’t afford Ann Arbor.” I’ve lived in much worse. And the sushi at Ichi-ban is about the best in the area now, and often available at half price.

  • avatar
    daviel

    I was a subscriber years ago to C&D – loved it. Never once gave a thought about DED’s real role or image.  He had me fooled I guess.  The writer I really liked at C&D was Jean Shepard. Jack has the angle here.  RIP!

    • 0 avatar
      bomberpete

      I grew up listening to Shepherd on the radio and loved his books and columns, along with A Christmas Story. The real man behind his image was hardly pleasant, considered quite a misanthrope and quite disliked by many. But the work endures. I’m not sure what our assessment of Davis’ work will be over time – it’s just something to bear in mind.
      Jack Baruth always tells the truth and I found his comments fair. My condolences to DED’s family.

  • avatar
    joeveto3

    A very sad day.

    My life and my passion was greatly influenced by DED’s contribution to the industry.  I can’t imagine what automotive journalism would have been without DED.

    Godspeed.

  • avatar
    JKC

    Davis was certainly one of a kind, and back in Car and Driver‘s heyday, the magazine was well-written and entertaining, something that can’t be said of the former Big Four these days. Whatever faults Davis had, he turned out an entertaining magazine in his prime. None of his print successors have managed to do that.
    For me, the pinnacle of Davis-era automotive writing was in 1983, when he and P.J. O’Rourke led 6 state-of-the-art sport sedans into Baja Mexico and returned with only five. It was a politically incorrect, immature drunken romp bookended by O’Rourke’s mania and Davis’s snootiness and damn if it wasn’t a blast to read.

    • 0 avatar
      Japanese Buick

      Nailed it.
       
      When I was younger that stuff impressed me.  Ever since DED came back to Altermann’s C&D, I’ve found him to be completely unreadable.  I remember in his original tenure at C&D they published a letter taking him to task for writing about “the cars of the rich and famous that I have driven, and their shotguns.”   Give him credit, he let that letter run.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Of course, one changes as one gets older. You have to consider that, and boy, am I feelin’ it too!

  • avatar
    daviel

    I looked at the photo again before moving on – DED didn’t look at all healthy. I guess he did not take very good care of himself.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      You’re right, but I see this all the time. Too many guys (and gals) do not take care of themselves when they occupy a certain position, and enjoy a life catered to, somewhat privileged and having been wined and dined on a regular basis that can’t seem to push away and control themselves. I don’t know about you, but when I go on the rare business trip, you eat higher on the hog, but a life of over-rich food and too much drink, and if you add smoking – well, you become a time bomb. Me? I long for a bologna sandwich after a week’s vacation! I’m not saying DED was that person, but I suspect he enjoyed himself just the same.

  • avatar
    darian

    “Davis made being a car guy cool in an era where… shiny nylon jackets with “Porsche 924″ block-print logos down the sleeves were worn in public.”
    No one told me this era was over.

  • avatar
    BuzzDog

    It’s the opinion of many – including myself – that DED was an effete, elitist snob.
     
    But I like to think that, through his reviews of upscale iron, he exposed many of us to things such as manual transmission linkages that shift properly, and pedals that allow the driver to perform a heel-and-toe without being a contortionist.
     
    Sure, those things may have made it into more mainstream automobiles without his once considerable influence, but I wonder if it would have happened as quickly.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    Automoble mag turned me around.  Seemed that finally someone was speaking to ME.  I read it religiously, except for a bit where i was pissed at o’rouke for some reason.  They actually sent me as leter asking me why i had cancelled my subscription!  Well after that I reupped.  I got until DED left.

    I even met the old man a few times, once at the Greenwich concours, once at the new hope, pa. show – I found him to be accesable, charming and chatty.  He took my compliments about him in stride – no false modesty at all – I was suitable impressed.  He was a true paradym changer – and I for one am in his debt. 

    I was dismayed when he announced that he had cancer – in the usual matter of fact way he had – i thought he would beat it for sure.  I was confident he would simply scare it away, but no.  My world is smaller today. I hope he died peacefully and totally sedated. 

    Requiem in pace.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    I, for one, enjoyed Jack’s straight ahead look at the complexities of DED. Anyone can write an “only the good stuff” puff piece, but this is deeper and more interesting.
     
    Oddly enough, Jack is in some ways channeling the spirit of DED by writing exactly what he wrote! Could a writer on a popular automotive blog have written what Jack has written here had there never been a David E. Davis, Jr.?
     
     

    • 0 avatar

      There wouldn’t be automotive blogs, at least not with the irreverence we’ve come to expect, if there hadn’t been a DED. When readers of this site want to complement a writer they say a piece reminds them of the golden era at Car & Driver. That always tickles me when someone says it. I learned how to write about cars from Davis and the writers he hired and edited.

  • avatar
    Japanese Buick

    Jack, in your first months here I hadn’t been too impressed with your writing,  but either you are growing on me or you’re improving.
     
    Whatever, as someone who grew up on C&D from the 1980′s onward and read lots of DED and found him fascinating at first and then evolving to unreadable later, this may be the best piece of writing you have contributed to TTAC so far.    You gave the man his due but also recongized his flaws. I think he would have appreciated your article, he may have had a carefully cultivated snooty public image but I can’t help but think the crotchety old bastard would have privately snorted in contempt at the suck-up eulogies written by others.
     
    You hit just the right tone with this.  Well done.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Confession.  Car and Driver subscriber on and off (more on than off) for the past 15 years.  I could never stand Brock Yates or DED.  When Yates retired I actually wrote in to say “good riddance.”  But I’ll admit that John Phillips and PJ O’Rourke do make me laugh out loud.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Phillips is very good, isn’t he?
       
      I’ll even admit to finding O’Rourke funny and well-written, even if I disagree with everything he says.

    • 0 avatar
      thornmark

      Phillips was the worst, a reason I canceled C&D.  Yates and Davis were icons, when gone, few will miss Phillips and his unwashed comments.
      I’ m sure PJ has no use for Phillips.

  • avatar

    I’ll always love C/D of that era for doing things like comparing headlights (we had DOT junk when the rest of the world used the H codes), and a series of articles where, for example:
    1) how radar traps worked.  All over the web now, but back in the pre net days, a good writeup of how the enforcers worked was golden.
    2) Getting the test drivers drunk, and doing various tests.
    3) Getting the test drivers STONED, and doing the same thing.  I’m sure in today’s “no sense of humor” era, that this would result in charges from some grandstanding District Attorney.
    For the second two, the articles were factual, well written and entertaining.  I used to wait for the next issue to hit my mailbox with anticipation.
    I once met DED at a Scotch Tasting Event in NYC.  He was cordial but not overly friendly, but he’d probably met one too many crazed gearheads.  He did have a long conversation with my friend, about cooking and brewing, which taught me a valuable lesson.  When you meet someone famous for something talk about anything but that thing.
    He went from car salesman to editor of a major magazine….I’d say he did well and will be missed.

    • 0 avatar
      rudiger

      I thought he just wrote Corvette ad copy in the early sixties for GM.

      Regardless, whether you were a fan or not, there’s not much denying that DED had a profound effect on auto journalism style. In its heyday (with DED at the helm), Car and Driver was gonzo automotive writing at its best.

  • avatar
    alan996

    I’ll try not to be snarky..don’t know Davis, never met him an haven’t read him in years.
    Don’t speak ill of the dead.
    Davis came from nothing, made his own image, made  a bundle, employed more than a few people, lived his later life the way he wanted, gave many people pleasure, made more than his three score and ten,
    The publications he worked for and owned have a lot to do with your having a full rice bowl doing something you like.

  • avatar

    I’m glad you used the term “post Vietnam era” to define the era DED’s influence, because Tom McCahill was the true pioneer automotive journalist in the US, and was also very much a bon vivant, who loved his expensive shotguns, hunting, fine cars, big paychecks, etc…
    He also knew that his influence on the marketplace was crucial, and had a significant effect on Detroit in improving braking, etc. And he was not above being on Chryler’s payroll while doing it.
    DED, like all auto writers of his time, owe Uncle Tom much for his pioneering ways in cultivating and selling an image successfully. McCahill was so popular (and profitable) that his death was hushed up and his reviews continued, ghost written by his son. Now that wouldn’t happen today.
     

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      In unrelated news, Editor Ed and I are proud to announce that Paul has come back to TTAC and he is now going to be writing in a fashion suspciously similar to that of his kid. Don’t send him any email; he won’t respond. And don’t go looking for him at the farmer’s market, he moved to Canada and left no forwarding address. Nope, just accept the situation and don’t think too much about it.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      The Kims in the DPRK and the House of Saud would do well to study this succession model…

  • avatar
    Dr Lemming

    Yeah, the timing of this critique is little cheeky, but this is also what I appreciate about TTAC.  The critique is pretty on spot.  Automotive “journalism” barely exists in the United States because of people like Davis.
     
    Long live Dan Neil.

  • avatar
    superbadd75

    Poor taste or not, Mr. Baruth spits out the truth and doesn’t sugar coat it. Honestly, I don’t quite understand what’s so bad about it, and why everyone feels that it’s necessary to kiss someone’s ass right after they die. Hell, the guy’s dead now, he doesn’t know what’s being said about him. Once again we read truth about the auto industry and the “journalists” that follow it, and I’m appreciative.

  • avatar
    geeber

    I believe it was Voltaire who said that to the living we owe respect, but to the dead we owe the truth. Mr. Davis’ career was long, complicated and controversial, which can be expected with someone of his impact and longevity.

    And I note that Mr. Baruth forget to mention the one Davis-engineered stunt that really put Car and Driver on the map – the comparison of the first Pontiac GTO to the Ferrari that bore the same name. Perhaps because, in this case, the car was a domestic one, even though the GTO relied on hype far more than the BMW 2002 to gain traction in the market (properly equipped Mopars could take it on easily). More people remember him for that stunt than for his praise of the BMW 2002.

  • avatar
    nova73

    At C&D, Davis pioneered an editorial policy of “wall to wall cars.”  This involved lots of road tests, including many “short takes” that offered the enthusiast perspective of the kind of plebian cars most of us have to drive.  This more than anything attracted me to his magazine.  Davis’s C&D had plenty of critical things to say about the junk that automakers were peddling in the ’70s and 80s.  In my opinion, part of his legacy is the improvement in the average car’s quality and driving dynamics.  Did C&D sometimes praise models that proved to be unworthy?  Sure, but I think they were damning cars with faint praise or at least trying to not to totally trash a dull but serviceable car.  Before the web, and proliferation of TTAC and other enthusiast sites, C&D was THE trusted source for automotive journalism. RIP DEDJr.

  • avatar
    Vance Torino

    Love ya, Jack!
    But, have you maybe considered that people LIKE their auto writers to be “bon vivants”… As you pointed out, auto enthusiasm IS a lifestyle – that can be combined with other lifestyles.
    Some like their autos with a splash of sherry and smoking jackets…
    I particularly like bon vivant auto writers who tart up their reviews with graphic accounts of sexual and extra-legal exploits!
    All public personalities need what the wrestling world calls a “gimmick…”
     

  • avatar

    I only became familiar with DED’s writing in the ’90s, at Automobile. There was one review of a lexus is 250 that I thought was absolutely terrific, and otherwise, a lot of drivel. He was so BORING with his hobnobbing, and minivan voyages to the Maine coast, and suchlike tiresomeness. I kept wondering why they kept him on.
    Regarding Brock Yates, I loved his writing when he published for years in the Washington Post Magazine. But he, too, slid swiftly downhill some time after that.

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    I’m a pig.

    I have spent years collecting a mountain of car magazines, hiding them under my bed, sharing them with my buddies, and spending nights fantasizing over the curves, interiors, speed, power, thrills and carnal pleasures they present without going beyond the sexy photo shoots, the short lists provided for each model about their age, measurements, diets, maintenance needs and performances, or my own masculine needs.

    I confess that I never read Mr. Davis’s words within those same stained magazines I fingered so lovingly and so often. I immediately went to the dirty bits and photos and skipped him.

    So, now he is gone! Wow. I guess he was special to the entire genre, and fool that I am, the moment I saw his mug alongside an article of his, I would just pass it by as quickly as if it was an ad for fog lights. My dad always told me to stop ogling the fold outs and read the articles!

    I probably read an article he did occasionally. Really. I just can’t remember actually caring about what a guy who looked like that could say when I could spend time fantasizing over cars like that.

    I’m a pig. I’ll admit it.
    Did you hear that sometimes Hefner writes something in Playboy? I gotta start reading that magazine sometime too – but not right now…

  • avatar
    brandeselitch

    Jack,
    This is an absolutely brilliant article.  You did your homework, and you were truly telling “the truth about cars,” two things that 98% of your fellow writers don’t have either the time (going through all those old articles) or energy to do.  And it turns out that your instincts were right on the money!  Bravo.

  • avatar
    Indy500

    Jack,  what is the difference between your rambling about guitars and sex, and DED’s discussions of his various passions.  Both, in my opinion, make for interesting reading.  I haven’t read Automobile in many a year, but I do remember enjoying his writing, more apt, his storytelling.  I still remember enjoying the work to build a replica of Juan Manuel Fangio’s old Argentinean stock car.
    I don’t think there is an issue with remembering the dead accurately.  However, is there really a need to show disdain for someone who is no longer with us as news of his death spreads? I think it simply lacks class.  I find Sanjeev’s comments more appropriate.

  • avatar
    hurls

    Just saw the fact that he’d died on the NYT and immediately jumped here thinking “I bet Jack is the one who wrote something”.
    Can’t disagree with what you wrote: I too grew up reading C&D (along w/ R&T, which I still subscribe to for some reason…) and then his early days at Automobile. Grew to like a different kind of autojournalism, but still remember those snarky, middle-finger raised days of C&D with fondness.
    And, as others have said, he brought a lot of other (IMO) great auto writers to us here in the US, particularly Setright (my all-time favorite)

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    The following was supposed to be a rebuttal to the complaints of CjinSD (but I must have clicked the wrong button):

    A person, esp a public person, should be no greater, or less, in death than in life.  And no better (or worse). As individuals, we would all be well to remember this.  There is no benefit in whitewashing or maintaining a respectful distance or silence for some arbitrary period.  Most people are multi-dimensional, public personalities and opinion-makers even more-so, so a cross section of rememberances is reasonably necessary to collate those multiple dimensions and to provide the context and contrast, essential to have a representative insight into the existance, works and words of a decedent and effects resulting therefrom.

    Jack, good obit. I had a parallel path and resultant series of realizations and conclusions as you did v-a-vis DED’s work products.  Although I did very much enjoy all that well-written propaganda (also made numerous trips over to Hogback Rd. to see what kinds of cars they had in the lot).

    My condolences to the family and friends of DED and I wish him a good ride going forward.

  • avatar

    I always thought it was interesting that Davis moved Car and Driver’s editorial offices from NYC to Ann Arbor. NYC is not exactly the most car friendly city in the world. Only a fraction of Manhattan residents even have a driver’s license. But they didn’t move to Detroit or its suburbs. Ann Arbor is about 45 minutes west of Detroit, with its own local culture dominated by the University of Michigan. In some regards, there is the same anti-car attitude in Ann Arbor that there is Manhattan.
     
    I wonder how much the move had to do with the fact that because the EPA’s main testing lab is in Ann Arbor,  starting with Porsche many car companies set up calibration labs there.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      I always suspected it was both MARCO (didn’t that facility become the Lotus lab?) and EPA that caused so many OEM’s to enter the region and to pull the mag there too.

    • 0 avatar
      rocketrodeo

      Three reasons:  1) Davis is from the Ypsi/A2 area; 2) reasonable access to the D3, and 3) the only roads worth driving in Michigan are in a triangle between Ann Arbor, Lansing, and Jackson.
      Ann Arbor stands alone in its conceit that it’s not part of metro Detroit.

  • avatar
    MikeAR

    Anyone who appreciates good bird dogs is fine in my book, Davis did, and he lived his life well and enjoyed himself, I will miss his writing and he will leave the world poorer for being gone. I wish I would have had the chane to meet him and talk dogs and shotguns. It was good to see him back at C&D for a short and Automobile went down fast when he left, but his work was distinctive and well written and he leaves automotive journalism poorer without him.

  • avatar
    ivorwilde

    In one of my past lives as an automotive reporter based in Detroit for a major wire service, I recall inadvertently stepping in front of DED Jr. and his wife on a typically haphazard airport queue as we all were trying to leave Paris following the auto show… and experiencing his full wrath. As a PR director for DaimlerChrysler several years later, all was quickly forgiven and forgotten when I brought Dieter Zetsche to his lair in Ann Arbor for an intimate and lengthy lunch especially prepared by Jeannie. Yes, DED Jr. was bombastic and always commanded the center of attention, but inside was a good soul. May he rest in peace.

  • avatar
    V572625694

    Anybody else think John R Bond of R&T had an important role in defining auto buff books?

  • avatar
    bodegabob

    Love him. Hate him. He was a man.
     
    I think of DED as an inspiration behind the J. Peterman character on Seinfeld. They both published catalogs and had stories to tell. And they were unabashedly in love with themselves. Of course to me all buffbooks are catalogs. The “journalists” are copywriters. The least they owe the reader is to be entertaining, and DED definitely could be that.
     
    I think even back in the 80′s I realized that my enjoyment of reading CD came from vicarious enjoyment of that invented, privileged world through the eyes of writers like Yates and DED. Had they met the self-important journalist’s ideal of being hard-nosed and objective — without the lifestyle trimmings — it wouldn’t have been captivating. So he did his job. He put asses in the seats and made money for the publishers, helped launched a few careers, and kept a lot of gearheads around the world entertained.
     
    The “criticism” (if that’s what it is) regarding BMW’s and Honda’s benefit at his hands as irrelevant considering what BMW and Honda were competing against at the time. Try driving a ’77 Accord and a ’77 Vega (if you can find one) back-to-back. How about a ’75 2002 versus a ’75 “Mustang”? If he was a shill he ended up on the right side of history.
     
    So RIP, DED. Your style will be missed, and for generations there will still be those whose greatest achievement will be to almost approximate it.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr Lemming

      I’d agree that Jack overplayed his argument regarding BMW and Honda.  Consumer Reports had a bigger role than Car & Driver in the Accord’s remarkably fast rise.  As for BMW, Road & Track’s coverage was in the same league as C/D’s.  The biggest driver of BMW’s popularity was the buff magazines’ championing of sport sedans in general.  BMW happened to be in the right place at the right time.
       
      Davis’s greatest advantage as a publisher was his downfall as a serious journalist — he was an ad man at heart.  He understood that the prime purpose of a buff magazine was to generate consumer interest in the auto industry’s latest creations.
       
      Sure, Davis had his biases, and he appeared to enjoy taking potshots.  But the risks he took appear to have been carefully calculated.  For example, he seemed to realize that to build street cred with readers you need to occasionally trash somebody — and be colorful about it.  Just make sure that it doesn’t hurt the bottom line.

      The great media critic A.J. Liebling once described Time magazine as proficient at having sex with both political parties simultaneously.  The same could be said of Davis, except he would gleefully hop in bed with dozens of automakers.  Yet he could do so in ways that were more artful, entertaining and even (safely) subversive than the likes of Motor Trend.  When St. Peter assesses C/D’s infamous “Ms. Cancellation” issue I hope he gives Davis a sly wink.

  • avatar
    BlackPope808

    It is really sad when someone can’t say something nice even when the subject has passes on.  I am sure that this comment will only be seen for a short while before it gets taken down, and it should really as it is not supportive of Mr. Baruth’s unusual obit, and the website in general.  However I find it interesting that derisive statements are being made about Mr. Davis (who i did find irritating at times) from a journalist who waxed about what appeared to be a privileged, white, middle class upbringing and of course spewing about teenage angst and a disconnect with the father of the house.  Why don’t readers ask why “The Truth About Cars” has become less of a scoop on the inner machinations of the car industry, and more of a whining blog, that talks about everything else but that?  Pretty tired of hearing how China rules heavy industry (we already know that), how Toyota doesn’t really care about its customers, but more interested in making money and producing more cars (what company doesn’t think that way would be of more interest actually), how GM pretty much owes its existence to the very people they are selling their cars to (which is akin to you building and paying for a house then paying a tenant to stay in it)…and in the end is it really “the truth about cars”? After all there are all of these banner ads from car companies…like Consumer Reports you can keep saying you don’t take anything from the automotive industry, but in the end you’re gonna have to.  What am I trying to say?  Do you really have to shit on someone after they are dead when you aren’t making much of a contribution yourself?

  • avatar
    thornmark

    I do remember Davis got his daughter  …..
    a Yugo!
     
    How ’bout “Winding Road”?
    http://www.windingroad.com/articles/news/video-david-e-davis-jr-introduces-winding-road/
    http://www.windingroad.com/articles/news/automotive-world-remebers-david-e-davis-jr/
    http://www.windingroad.com/articles/news/david-e-davis-jr-automotive-journalism-pioneer-dead-at-80/

    btw, that Phillips guy really stinks. I’ll bet Davis would not have disagreed.

  • avatar
    panzerfaust

    Jack, I appreciate your comments about DED, though I never met the man personally your comments are pretty much my assessment from afar. It always annoys me when people speak of someone who died in such glowing and reverential terms that one wonders if they actually met the deceased (or were paid by the same to write their obit). I used to read C&D because the writing was so much better than M/T and others of the type. But more and more the self serving tone was inescapable, and the smell of elite journalist writing to impress his fellow travelers was more than I could stand.  Unfortunately I now recieve C&D in the mail because someone in my family thought I’d like it. 

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    “Davis was openly fantasizing about the violent death, not just of a fellow journalist, but of a female journalist…Perhaps I’m too much of a feminist, but I read a pretty hard-edged streak of misogyny into the whole thing.”

    Your idea of being a feminist means treating women as a protected class. Ironic. When I first heard the story about the piano I concluded that he felt betrayed by a longtime friend and coworker. I didn’t see gender as playing any role at all, but then I’m not your brand of feminist. My personal feelings about both Davis and Lindamood were about the same. I was a longtime reader of both who eventually lost interest. When I’ve looked at recent issues of Automobile, I’ve gotten the impression that Mean Jean has taken to surrounding herself with some of the least interesting people to ever work for a car magazine. They seem like they should be contributing to Jalopnik. I dropped my first subscription back when they did a comparison test of luxury cars and Davis allotted himself twice the number of points that any other editor had to award to the various cars. He handed out more points than constituted the winning car’s total score, as it would happen. I want to be entertained, not have my intelligence insulted, so that was it for not reading about boring cars.

  • avatar

    Jack,
    FWIW I didn’t see any misogyny in DED’s remarks re” Jennings, just the kind of frustration one sometimes has with coworkers. I saw the remark in the context of the sometimes contentious, sometimes affectionate relationship between Jennings and Davis.

  • avatar
    mpresley

    Generally, C/D has good copy, and good writers.  That being said, I never understood the appeal of Davis.  On the other hand, almost anything in C/D is, since we are being so brutally honest, better than the typically juvenile, narcissistic, ersatz Hunter Thompson style that usually flows from the pen of Baruth.

  • avatar
    Jack Baruth

    Ronnie and CJ,
     
    I understand your points of view, but I don’t think it’s ever appropriate to make a joke out of violence towards women or children. Furthermore, DED wasn’t known for being particularly threatening to male colleagues… it wasn’t like he told Leon Mandel he would put him in an early grave and then turned around to make this joke.
    There are enough women among my acquaintances who have been the victims of brutal, horrific violence from men, said men receiving no penalty whatsoever from society, that I suppose I’m a little sensitive on the topic.

  • avatar
    rocketrodeo

    I think that before Davis came along, automotive journalism was just that: journalists attempting, with mixed success, to objectively report on automobiles and the automotive industry.

    I don’t understand the animus this blog holds for the buff books (especially for upholding mythical objectivity standards that never existed) as anything other than envy for the access, the lifestyle, and the toys. It’s hardly a secret that the automotive print media has always been part of the industry, and only rarely a watchdog over it. That’s a job for real journalists.

    Davis changed the paradigm, and that shift is the same reason for Top Gear’s success.  Post-Davis, automotive journalism isn’t necessarily journalism — and, at its best, isn’t even about automobiles.

  • avatar
    scs

    —-Since you popped in, though: How did you manage to reprint that statement in any context other than shock and repugnance? Davis was openly fantasizing about the violent death, not just of a fellow journalist, but of a female journalist. Did that make it more okay, or less? Are we still such a boys’ club that we laugh at “bitches” who try to write about cars and joke about their being reduced to a “spot of grease”? While you were recounting the anecdote, what were your thoughts? Perhaps I’m too much of a feminist, but I read a pretty hard-edged streak of misogyny into the whole thing.
    Also, what did you think of the talent level in the Mustang Challenge?—-

    —Well, I guess I ran that in the obit with the same inclination TTAC patron saint and noted hypnotist Robert Farago did when he wrote about it in September of 2009 — because I thought it was pretty instructive not only about DED, and Jean, but about their stunningly rocky relationship. I guess I’m kind of confused as to how you perceive the fantasy of a FedEx flight en route to Memphis somehow dropping a grand piano squarely on Jean being remotely akin to a serious and legitimate death wish – especially since I’ve consulted the appropriate sectionals and can’t really find a reasonable route that would take a FedEx flight over her country estate. Also, I thought it was funny. As for “bitches” writing about cars, Jean is one of the maybe five auto writers I read regardless of topic.   

    And I’m fairly certain while no one would have nominated DED as Feminist of the Year, I can guarantee that he was not at all sexist when it came to intimidation and holding grudges. And vice-versa — I’ll tell you in person sometime how Gordon Baxter once described DED — both being DOA, it would be inappropriate to note that here.

    The Mustang Challenge was kind of a neat idea, but when Ford decided Dan Davis made too much money and fired him, and Larry Miller died, its two most ardent supporters were gone. The talent level, as near as I could tell, was spotty, like most spec series, but I had little time to find out: The other competitors had two days of practice and one race before I drove 600 miles to get there Sunday morning for my race — my only practice was in the rain, and I was one of two cars on slicks, so I learned nothing more than how to stay out of the way of the guys on rains. Also, Jack Roush, Jr. had driven the car the previous three days, and when I asked him for advice, he had none. He was kind of a prick, I thought, and nothing has happened since to change my mind. In the race itself, I got nailed in the back and took out three sections of guardrail, at the only track affiliated with Grand-Am where they actually charge you per section of Armco. (At least they parked the guy who hit me.) It was the first time I ever hurt anybody else’s race car (except for lunching a transmission in an NHRA pro stock, and flattening a tire on Paul Gentilozzi’s Trans Am car), and never again will I parachute in and try to compete on a track I don’t much like anyway with guys who have already been there for three days. Also, when it comes to road courses, I’m like what Jim France told me a couple of months ago about his skill level: A 10-lap race on a 10-turn track is basically a hundred-turn race. He and I do better on ovals, which is what I usually race.
                  
    Anyway, congrats on not shooting anyone lately, and on finding a home for your Neon. I seldom drive anything new that is more fun for the money than my old ACR and R/T were.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Steven,

      I appreciate your forthright reply and will read you with interest in the future.

      Not shooting people is something you have to take one day at a time. The problem is that it uses up all your willpower, so there’s none left for “P90X”.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Gordon Baxter was a great writer. He wrote an essay titled; ‘I’ll Never Get Rid of Old Herpes’ that was one of the best pieces of automotive journalism ever. He didn’t identify the car, but it had to be about a Saab or a Peugeot.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      CJ, if you read the whole book “The Best Of Bax”, which I happen to have and would be delighted to lend you, it becomes apparent that Herpes is a Peugeot 504.

  • avatar
    scs

    Thanks, Jack. I was a cop in Dallas for quite a while, and never shot anybody. Technically. And have only been shot at twice: There is an ex-press car Camaro out there somewhere with a Bondo-ed over bullet hole in the rear deck.  

  • avatar
    Zackman

    The main thing I think about when mulling over DED, and other old and departed writers and columnists is their style. The best ones used prose in such a way that they really involved you in the story, article or account at the time and was discussed and described in such a fashion that kept you riveted to the page (I’m talking PRINT) and, like an old favorite movie, you didn’t want to see end. Being a railroad enthusiast as well, I subscribed to TRAINS magazine for many years and enjoyed the writing of a certain Mr. David P. Morgan who used such prose to great effect. That’s what seems to be missing from writers now – I can’t explain why, except that so much journalism is conveyed by television now. Whether you think highly of or despise a writer, it’s how they write that has an effect on you for good or bad. I said above that I regarded C&D as a subversive publication – but doggone it, I still read it, Brock Yates and all, for how they said what they had to say. Somewhere in the recesses of my mind, more often than not, they had a point. Jack, after reading the article for the third time, this undoubtedly is the finest piece I feel you have written since I discovered TTAC sometime last summer! That is the point of this comment.

  • avatar
    z9

    In addition to everything else that was cool about C&D in the golden age, I just want to add two things:
    1) The practice of making fun of letters to the editor. I don’t know if this was perpetrated by DED personally but it was darn hilarious and within the automotive press, unique to C&D at the time. More than anything else in the magazine, these rejoinders created a level of irreverence and intimacy with the readership that epitomizes the spirit TTAC continues to this day.
    2) The fabulous layouts and photography. I harken back to the cover of, I think, June 1976, with a silver Lancia Scorpion, taken in the rain from crazy angles. These photos were so stunningly beautiful that I kept that issue of the magazine in a box and many years later ended up making one of the worst decisions of my life — actually buying a POS example of one of these cars with the fantasy of restoring it to the condition of the C&D photo shoot. For the endless heartache he caused me, I drink a toast to the memory of David E. Davis, Jr.

  • avatar
    daviel

    Check out the 3-29-2011 NYT for a good essay about DED.

  • avatar
    Dr.Nick

    How come you guys don’t mention that he hated Jennings for taking Automobile magazine and his editor job away from him?  The fairly recent Autoline Detroit interview he gave made that quite clear.  He seems to have never gotten over it; it must be rough to be run out of something you started.

  • avatar

    Having known David  for 28 years, I would say that Jack Baruth’s dislike what DED did to combine automobiles and lifestyle indicates both that he didn’t know David, nor does he have a clue what drove him. David didn’t pretend to live a lavish, Edwardian lifestyle. David lived a lavish Edwardian Lifestyle. It was simply his contention that there were others out there, car lovers, that also lived this way. And, DED was speaking to them.

    DED Jr was a salesman. YES! He actually started his sales career with Max Hoffman, the original importer of VW, Porsche and BMW in the United States right after WWII when Germany was still hated by most Americans. He went on to a mega-buck salary at Campbell-Ewald Advertising — GM’s Ad Agency for decades, where he sold GTOs and Corvettes to the masses, working with other flamboyant salespeople like John Delorian and Zora Arkus Duntov. He was a salesman, to the core.

    When he arrived at Car & Driver, car magazines were silly publications that either appealed to kids with dirty fingernails or pay for play mouthpieces for car company ad agencies. It took him a while, but he did change all of that. Was he still a salesman? You bet. But he made C & D a fun, smart read that also had loads of integrity. He held his staff to super high journalistic standards and really kept advertising from affecting the editorial side of the book. He took C & D from a low market position to the number one automotive magazine in the world. And, it wasn’t just good timing, it was DED Jr.’s shear will, determination and quest for excellence that engineered all of that.

    David didn’t pretend to be rich. He was rich. David didn’t pretend to love whiskey and fine (but silly) clothes. He did love that. It wasn’t a show. The guys that hated that lifestyle were never David’s audience. And, that was just fine with him. But, David never looked down his nose at them, the way they look down on him with disdain.

    Most important David loved cars and driving and travel to interesting places. And to him a car didn’t have to be expensive, but it did have to have character. Just like DED Jr himself, a distinguishing character was all important. That’s what “No boring cars!” meant, nothing else.

    Lets face it, there are a lot of folks that out of jealousy or fear or upbringing absolutely hate expensive cars. Just like they hate Ivy League Universities, BMW drivers and wealthy people in general. So, to these guys DED was the embodiment of all of those things they hated.

    David E. Davis, Jr. was a lot of things, but he was never a poser. He was the real deal.

    • 0 avatar

      I found Jack’s piece here after a Google search for articles about DED’s passing, which I’ve been taking kinda hard. While there is undoubtedly some truth in Jack’s comments, I found their overall effect depressing and probably more ill-tempred than he intended. 
      I’ve read DED since the mid-’60s and long ago realized that he was part of the familiar and comfortable landscape of my life. I never took his work seriously enough to be stung by DED’s “real” life as Jack apparently was; I understood that some of it was a tad pretentious but I enjoyed it the same way one would enjoy a larger-than-life but good-hearted uncle who could strut and crow at family gatherings but never lose the twinkle in his eye, even when he cuffed you on the back of the head for being a dolt. Plus which, the man could WRITE. He took pride in his craft, and it showed.
      I’m glad for his sake that DED didn’t have to endure the compounded decay of old age and cancer. His written craft inspired, amused and entertained me for almost half a century, and I’m only sorry I never had the chance to meet him and tell him how much I enjoyed riding shotgun over the decades. May God bless you and hold you in His grace, David, and thank you from one of the thousands of friends you never met.
       

  • avatar
    skip1515

    Below this is what I posted at the NYTimes obit  (http://wheels.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/03/29/david-e-daviss-mission-to-banish-the-boring-from-auto-writing/ ), but to which I will add the following:
    1. When I mentioned the writers DED, Jr. dropped, or appeared to, and never spoke of again, I forgot Leon Mandel, and for that I apologize.
    2. I’m too lazy to check when Davis left Automobile versus when they began covering trucks, but the motto “No Boring Cars” had clearly been abandoned; how the hell is a truck an interesting car? It is, by definition, exactly the opposite, and should have been treated as such. Trucks belong in truck magazines, and if Automobile had left them there I wouldn’t have been upset in the least, Land/Range Rover adventures or not.
    3. I started reading C&D in the late 60s, and as many have written it was the attitude as well as the content that drew me in. When their writing style became a caricature of itself, already a long time ago, it was easy to leave the puerile writing and mag behind.
    4. I understood Automobile’s willingness to dispense with their own testing measurements; they’re foreign to our street experience with cars, and subject to tremendous variations due to procedure and setting. Never bothered me.
    5. When LJK Setright died, and there wasn’t a friggin’ sentence about it in Automobile, I wrote in and took them to task. Shame on them.
    6. When Automobile published an advertising supplement paid for by Chrysler, about various on-the-road adventures in Chryslers, it was apparent that journalistic distance had been thrown out the window. That was a long time ago already. I still subscribe to Automobile to read Kitman and Cumberford. Kacher I get through CAR, and for that I have DED to thank.
    7. Make no mistake about it, DED’s love of fine things led him to mimic the publishing quality of CAR as best he could, and American car enthusiasts are better off for it.
    My post at NYTimes (corrected for typos):
    I’ve read David E. Davis, Jr., since somewhere around 1967, and like many others it was through him and his efforts that I was introduced to a whole host of things and topics, both automotive and not. As a reader, and only as a reader, it became clear at some point that he was a single-minded person who brooked no one else’s vision of, well, pretty much anything. Writers who’d been part of his stable disappeared, never to be mentioned again (Weith, Yates [for years, anyway], Jarman, and most notably, Setright), and his opinion of cars was equally individual. How he dumped on one year’s VW GTI by saying he’d rather take a long trip in the magazine’s current long term Lincoln – a comparison that made absolutely no sense – was unfathomable, entirely unfair to the VW, and entirely DED, Jr. Yet I read everything he wrote, and am the richer for it.
    This is not the first time that on the passing of a driving aesthetic force it’s said that their personal standards drove everyone around them to both greatness *and* madness, but it seems perfectly true about Davis.I doubt, however, that it was his mission to banish the boring from auto writing. Boring, as I understood it from his work, was perfectly fine for others as far as he was concerned. He just refused to have anything to do with it himself.

  • avatar
    jwschlueter

    Mr. Baruth comes across as a jealous little boy. Maybe, after he accomplishes something in his life he can review what he has written here and have a better perspective on David E. Davis, Jr.


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