By on February 6, 2012

While nosing around in yesterday’s ’64 Valiant wagon Junkyard Find, I spotted this little brown book on the floor beneath the rifled-by-tow-truck-driver glovebox. It looked ancient, far older than even the 48-year-old car in which I found it… but it turns out that you can still buy the Ward’s “Ever-Ready” Motor Record Book.
Actually, we may be dealing with a stash of NOS copies at The5and10.com, but it appears that this car-recordkeeping aid was printed in relatively unchanged form— including the Model A-esque talking car and disturbing cop/book mashup cartoon characters— until at least the early 21st century (the one I found in the Valiant had a 1959 copyright date). Your tire was no bargain! Your battery is dry!
The idea was that you’d have one of these books for each year of your car’s life, and you can take notes for every day; this made more sense when spark plugs and tires didn’t last for years. As you can see, the owner of the Valiant made exactly one notation, in 1990. You don’t need to maintain an A-body, anyway.
It’s probably better to stick with 1930 artwork than to update the cartoon every 25 years or so; were the Ward’s Motor Record Book to have an ’87 Tempo begging the cop/book to enforce order, it would seem depressingly dated rather than entertainingly timeless.

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19 Comments on “You Tell ‘em— I Can’t: 82 Years of Ward’s “Ever-Ready” Motor Record Book...”


  • avatar
    gslippy

    This is evidence that simply having a record book is no guarantee that you’ll use it.

    Personally, I record every repair and maintenance item on all my cars, and include tips and tricks I learn along the way (for next time, such as wrench sizes, wheel torque, the problem I solved, etc). When I get rid of the car, I briefly review the expenses put into it to get a sense of what its total cost of ownership really was.

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    There’s an app for that.

    • 0 avatar
      tced2

      I use an (iPod) app called Road Trip – for the past couple of years. I was able import data for the entire ownership of my car (over 6 years). It can tell you many things, but my average mileage over those 6+ years is 27.69 mpg, costs 11 cents a mile, averaging 470.8 miles per tank. (2005 Acura TSX)
      Yes, I am bit obsessive about keeping records.

      • 0 avatar
        Rick T.

        I’ll ask you the same questions that I (in a former life as a business analyst) asked my clients who wanted reports designed with particular data in them: “Yes, I understand it’s nice to know, but what will you DO with the information when you get it? Is it worth the cost of getting it?”

        PS – No snark intended!

      • 0 avatar
        tced2

        I watch the mileage – if it drops then there may be an engine maintenance problem. Entering the odometer, gallons and cost at each fill gives me a number of pieces of information – none of which are “work” for me, the app calculates them (and graphs them) with no extra effort on my part. It takes a long term observation to see a trend – calculation of one tank fill-up makes any changes hard to spot.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        I watch the mileage too – for the same reason, though the drop in mileage more often meant I hadn’t checked the tire pressure. I’ve been doing it since I got my current car, and it saved me on car insurance when I provided copies to prove my low annual mileage qualified for a discount. Having a six mile round trip distance to work helped.

  • avatar
    Advance_92

    When I bought my car in 2004 I recorded the miles driven since the last fill up (always filling the tank when I got gas) on the receipt and put it in a binder in the glove box planning to enter it into a spreadsheet showing miles, amount of gas, location of the gas station and the price at the time.

    Two years later when I tried to enter this data the earliest receipts had faded so badly all I would see were the miles I had written down. Modern ink is rubbish!

    Since I just got an android phone this year I guess I could try looking for an app that would accomplish what I wanted to do back then. But the first eight years of ownership are sadly lost.

    • 0 avatar
      tced2

      That “ink” was probably not ink. Many receipts are printed on thermal paper. Heat applied to a small area on the paper creates characters. This paper is notorious for degrading (rapidly) especially in the environment of a glove box.
      I had a receipt (for an expensive electronics purchase) that turned into a nearly blank sheet of paper – it caused a warranty claim problem. I routinely scan these receipts into jpeg’s or pdf’s so they can be re-printed.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I have never seen one of these – I just mark in the back of the owner’s manual – or at least keep receipts of maintenance.

    I have a 1947 Chevy truck shop manual and a pre-Model A A.L. Dyke car handbook from about 1925 or so, mostly intact. Interesting reading when we were kids.

  • avatar
    Japanese Buick

    My father used to obsessively keep these fillup and MPG records. I tried for a while but now I’m down to just resetting the trip computer after each fillup, doing the MPG math on the last tank, and then forgetting about it. From all those tanks I know approximately what the MPG usually is for each of my cars, I notice if it’s way out of whack otherwise not worth the trouble to keep track.

    I did learn from this that my Lexus trip computer lies about MPG, it’s consistently about 2 mpg too high.

  • avatar
    jeffzekas

    With our classic cars, I keep a record of repairs (made it easier for an insurance claim, when one of the cars was totaled) and parts replaced… same for our newer cars, in case I ever sell one (we usually just keep our cars until they die, but you never know)… oil changes are just a sticker every 6,000 miles, and gas records are never kept… main conclusion: buying and owning a used car is 1/3 to 1/2 the cost of owning a new car… which is why our “newest” car is a 2000 model year!

  • avatar

    As several have said, “there’s an app for that”. And good thing, at least in my case, most of my prior record keeping didn’t get past good intentions, saving the occasional receipt in the glovebox, and calc’ing the MPG from one fillup to the next. Once I could afford regular fillups, of course. I’m using an iPhone app, “Car Care”, which works pretty well. Customize services, reminder alerts, add/delete vehicles, and so on. It is nice knowing the basis of thoughts like, “didn’t I *just* replace these tires? WTF?” and have them grounded in fact…or not.

  • avatar
    nikita

    I have kept a little spiral notebook in every car I’ve ever owned (since 1969). It seems like a lot of trouble, but pays of handsomely at resale time. Private party buyers tend to haggle less once they see it. It could also help with a major warranty claim, as I do all my own oil changes, etc.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Meh, if they updated the cartoon art it’d have some emotionless anime-ish character pointing at a Taurus, with Egoboost!

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    I confess. I’ve used this book (well not that exact book). Further, I’ll confess that I’ve used one in the last 30 years.

    I did field sales for five years, had to record all my activity on a daily basis for tax purposes. I used the Ward’s book. Hasn’t changed. At the time there was not an app for that. Shot, a portable computer was over 40 pounds at the time.

  • avatar

    I keep meticulous records for my vehicles in a three ring binder. I do most of my own labour and buy parts from various sources so it is a handy way to keep track for future reference. My Ducati book is full of receipts and notes, as well as maintenance guides and tuning tips I’ve collected over years of internet trawling. I even keep a spare base gasket in there, from when I had to order a custom set (to set the squish) and they accidentally sent me three.

    All this to say a puny little booklet with small line spacing would not be able to keep up with my vehicular OCD.

  • avatar
    obbop

    Kept track of maintenance and repairs.

    Not ONE buyer showed much if any interest in the written records and accompanying receipts.

    Was the exterior/interior pretty? Shiny?

    Sold.

    Humans are, on the whole, in general, ignorant herd creatures requiring a constitutional republic since they are incapable of self-rule.

    Individual exceptions exist.

  • avatar
    Omnifan

    I keep a small spiral notebook with maintenance and oil change data in the glovebox of each car. Comes in handy when I’m trying to remember the last time I did wiper blades, LR tire, etc. Don’t both with MPG stuff cause it really doesn’t matter.

    The buyer of my 98 Bonneville was impressed with the historical data. All of the other buyers of my old cars could care less.

    I keep all receipts for parts in a folder inside the house. The thermal receipts most prevalent these days do not withstand summer heat.


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