Automotive Historians Name Aaron Severson's Ate Up With Motor Website Winner of E.P. Ingersoll Award

Ronnie Schreiber
by Ronnie Schreiber
automotive historians name aaron seversons ate up with motor website winner of e p

Criticism is what we do around here. We critique cars, car companies, politicians, consumers and, of course, other automotive writers and publications. Of course if you’re negative about everything, you’re a curmudgeon, not a critic. Criticism, if it is to have any value, must be fair, willing to praise as well as to demerit. TTAC has taken its share of shots against automotive websites, traditional buff books and the Detroit daily newspapers. So much so, in fact, that some of our readers have offered their own criticism that we unduly snipe at others. I don’t agree with that criticism, but it is easy and tempting to dwell on the negative and there are indeed many worthy publications and writers that deserve to be praised as much as the hacks deserve to be exposed. When I read that Aaron Severson’s masterful automotive history site, Ate Up With Motor, has won the E.P. Ingersoll Award, given by the Society of Automotive Historians, it was not really a surprise. Ate Up With Motor is the gold standard for online automotive history.

E.P. Ingersoll was the original American autojourno. He founded The Horseless Age, the first car magazine, in 1895. Back in the day it served as both an enthusiast’s publication and a trade journal for the automotive industry. By 1909 motorcars were competing with other motorcars, not horses, so the name was changed to The Automobile. It continues to be the oldest automotive publication still in operation, currently publishing under the Automotive Industries title.

The SAH gives out the E. P. Ingersoll Award “for the best presentation of automotive history in other than print media” and in the past the Ingersoll award has been given to films, television shows and other websites. The award committee’s criteria are based on historical accuracy and educational value of the nominees. Severson’s work easily surpasses those standards – I read a lot of automotive history and Aaron’s work is on a high academic level. Sources are cited in detail and there are sidebars on related topics as needed. He’s also pretty religious about making sure he has permission to use the photographs that illustrate his histories. I’m honored that he’s chosen some of my own photographs – as a matter of fact I respect his work so much that I’ve gone out of my way to shoot specific cars for AUWM’s use. Severson has graciously responded whenever I’ve asked for a source citation for a fact or a quote. Again, these are serious histories, for people with an attention span, they are decidedly not for the TL;DR crowd. Many website editors don’t want you to go much above 1,000 words on any topic because a lot of “readers” won’t read it all. In comparison, a typical model history at AUWM runs ~5,000 words.

Unlike some of those academic automotive historians, Aaron actually likes cars. Academic histories can be dry reads, focusing more on business than on cars and personalities. AUWM is targeted at the historian and auto enthusiast alike, putting cars and the auto industry in a broader societal context, while informing enthusiasts about the cars and marques they appreciate. Each article focuses on a specific car model, but in doing so the history of the marque making that car is also detailed. Unlike a lot of online automotive histories, you can rely on what he writes. One of the things that I’ve discovered when dabbling in automotive history myself is that you often see the same account repeated in a lot of secondary and tertiary sources that turns out to be based on a single publication. Sometimes that original publication is accurate, like Michael Lamm’s work, sometimes it’s an urban legend, sometimes it’s just one person’s account. If you want to get things correctly, you have to be willing to do more than just checking Wikipedia or doing a cursory internet search. Sometimes it means using these things called books and libraries, like the Detroit Public Library’s National Automotive History Collection. We’ve all had the experience of following a link, looking for information and ending up at a dodgy (as opposed to Dodgey) site. Ate Up With Motor uses no dodgy sources.

One of the SAH’s criteria is that the nominee should use the most recent information available. Aaron’s dedication to getting the historical record straight includes substantially revising stuff he’d previously published when further research merits a revision. When he makes a mistake, he corrects it. AUWM isn’t perfect. It’s a one man operation, and at the level of Severson’s work you can’t expect fresh content at the site every day. Still, it’s literally the first place that I look when I’m looking into the automotive past and it’s nice to see good work get due credit.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks – RJS

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  • ...m... ...m... on Oct 16, 2012

    ...an exceptionally well-earned honor in this instance: congratulations to aaron along with a heartfelt thank-you for bringing such a studious and insightful resource to the 'web... ..my only complaints are the weekends lost when i first stumbled upon ate up with motor several years ago and that it's not humanly possible to add content more frequently than he already does...

  • Probert Probert on Oct 16, 2012

    I concur with other commenters - It's a great website and I've always wondered how he finds the time to write the kind of detailed lucid articles that I read with great pleasure and a sense of discovery. On top of that he seems to always take the time to give a well considered reply to posts. I've happily donated to support the site and look forward to the next article. Congratulations.

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