August 1986

David E. Davis, Jr.

In memory of our founder, David E. Davis, Jr., Automobile Magazine editors are choosing our ten favorite American Driver columns and will be posting one each day over the next two weeks.

Automobile Magazine has been in its new Liberty Street offices for about a month now, and life has improved dramatically for all hands. I like the sound of “Liberty Street.” It’s at once old-fashioned, Midwestern, and patrotic. We’re on the second floor of a building that used to house a famous undergraduate saloon called the Pretzel Bell, the venue of choice for countless generations of University of Michigan students bent on celebrating their twenty-first birthdays with a first legal bender. One hates to think of all the Betty Coeds who threw up within a hundred feet of this desk.

Happily, all trace of bygone technicolor yawns and liquid laughs has been erased by the extensive modification to the premises occasioned by the arrival of a traveling circus like ours, with all its desks, typewriters, CRTs, drawing boards, books, bookcases, and other essential goods and chattels. It was particularly nice to start fresh, with all new stuff. Except for my own office--furnished with the same desk I’ve used for years--everybody got elegant new furniture, and a dozen teams of local artisans have been through here in the past six months, building, decorating, and transforming. We now have a truly terrific place in which to work, here, upstairs and where the old Pretzel Bell used to be.

It is especially interesting to watch various people’s walls get covered with stuff. Oh, sure, there are a few among us who, monklike, sit surrounded by bare walls, but the sort of person who devotes his or her life to this sort of occupation is generally the sort of person who combines the pack rat’s lust to accumulate stuff with the nouveau riche’s need to show it off. I am the worst. I have devoted several hours, some of them in the middle of the night, to hanging stuff on my walls. Now I sit surrounded by odds and bits and symbols of a life probably misspent but enjoyed to a fare-thee-well.

I sit facing west as I write this, and if I swivel my chair counterclockwise, a lot of life rotates past.

Item: A bill of sale (number 122, dated June 5, 1946) from Art Quantrell Motors in Wyandotte, Michigan, for a brand-new two-tone-green Olds 76 four-door sedan that my father bought for $1665.28. This was our first new car, and the first car I ever drove without an accompanying parent. Said document indicates that my father traded a 1940 Olds 66 two-door upon which fifteen payments were outstanding--the car with which I learned to drive during the war years. He paid $7.05 for the optional solenoid starter and $9.33 for the optional Fram oil filter. Two-tone paint was an extra $11.55. The first time he let me drive the car, I scratched the right front fender on my way over to Mary Lou Brown’s house.

1 of 3
Good, I stil have access to this via "Thus Spake David E" or I would have lost it forever, having discarded the issue it was originally a part of. A pack rat of the Davis scale I am obviously not. For my money, this was David E at his best. Reading it again was a joy.

New Car Research

Find vehicle reviews, photos & pricing

our instagram

get Automobile Magazine

Subscribe to the magazine and save up to 84% off the newsstand price


new cars

Read Related Articles