Book publishers, headline writers and advertising copywriters certainly aren’t above hyperbole and enthusiastic exaggeration every now and then, but in the case of the “Standard Catalog of American Cars: 1805-1942,” somebody hit the nail on the head. On the cover of the third edition of that seminal work is a straightforward statement of fact: “The most extensive automotive research ever assembled, compiled by the hobby’s preeminent historians.”
Authors Beverly Rae Kimes and Henry Austin Clark, Jr. probably never heard anyone bother to argue with them on that point. Their 1,600-page masterpiece was then, and remains now, probably the most important and useful automotive resource every written. The massive assemblage of material in its pages is cited, borrowed, stolen from, quoted and consulted more than any other printed source.
Any collector, car buff or automotive historian that was serious about his hobby had to have a copy, and when the warehouse ran dry and the book went out of print a few years back, prices for used copies on the secondary book market soared to $400 or more, if you could find one at all.
Krause Publications (now a division of F+W Media), has fielded countless phone calls and written inquiries over the years from people looking to get their hands on a copy the “Standard Catalog of American Cars: 1805-1942” — or “SCAC” as it is known in the office — and the news for those callers was never good. Until now.
Due to the proverbial “popular demand,” and in this case that is the gospel truth, the book is back in circulation and a limited number of copies have been printed. And it won’t cost hobbyists three or four Ben Franklins to get one. Fresh copies are on sale now for $74.95.
Simply put, if you are looking for facts on any car built in the United States before World War II, you’ll find it in this book. More than 5,000 entries cover everything from the A Automobile and Abbot-Akin to the Zim, Zim-Kel, Zimmerman and Zip. Need to see a photo of an 1899 Kensington, or find out where the Showmee-Dachshund was built? This is the only book that will have them.
For some models, the entries are only a few lines long, listing where the company was located, what cars the company built and when it built them, and any other tidbits of information Clark and Kimes could mine. For other manufacturers, entries are much more extensive, covering many pages and including not only period photos, but also identification data, engine displacement figures, horsepower ratings, chassis specs, body types and production numbers, original factory prices and engine specifications, to name a few.
When the third edition of “SCAC 1805-1942” was compiled in 1996, Kimes was still unearthing additional material to include in the ever-expanding book. Increased to 1,616 pages, that edition featured 453 new marques over the second edition.
Ron Kowalke, now the auction/technical editor for Old Cars Weekly and editor of Old Cars Report Price Guide, was the editor for the third edition of the book, and he remains amazed to this day at the sheer volume of material the authors were able to compile. "Both Beverly and Henry poured so much of their lives and passion into making this book the must-have reference for every vintage car enthusiast,” he said.
“They left no stone unturned in digging up obscure manufacturers to include, and this relentless research continued as new editions were published.
“I cannot imagine the scope of the void that the old car hobby would have suffered if this book did not exist. It has been on the bookshelves of every major automotive historian who ever applied pen to paper, and it’s guaranteed the cover and pages of each are well-worn from constant use."
The book first came out about 25 years ago and Clark and Kimes were probably among the very few people in the hobby who were equipped to tackle such an undertaking. Clark was a lifelong collector of automotive literature and a preeminent authority on the history of the American automobile. His library of automotive books was said to be the most extensive private collection in the world. After his death, Kimes took over updating the book and added it to her lengthy list of automotive research and writing accomplishments. Kimes was a decorated author and historian who traveled countless miles researching her books, while also serving for many years as the editor for the Classic Car Club of America’s publications and serving in various capacities at Automobile Quarterly.
Kimes died in May of 2008, but her work, and that of Henry Austin Clark, Jr., will live on for generations in the old car hobby, thanks in large part to the “Standard Catalog of American Cars: 1805-1942.”
The book will not be available in bookstores or other outlets. It is available exclusively at www.shopoldcarsweekly.com, or by calling at 800-258-0929 for as long as the supply lasts.
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