Reflections with Gratitude
We all work too hard these days to truly appreciate the fun things we get on occasion. Looking back, I've had more than my share of rewards.
I wrote an editorial for this special issue a week ago, but Mike Antich informed me it paralleled the staff’s “history of the magazine” story, and Sherb Brown suggested I try to make it something “light” so the readers (you) would better appreciate the rest of the issue. So, here goes.
From the beginning (1961), it was long hours, confronting areas that were new to me, trying to sell to people I didn’t know, and long, long hours. A couple years later, I learned there were some good things that happened to an editor and/or publisher. For instance, Ford (and Iacocca) were announcing their new Mustang and taking two charter airliners to Monaco for the press debut. I was lucky to get an invite and the farm kid (me) discovered a beautiful part of Europe. We stayed at the Hotel Paris and had a reception with Prince Rainier and his wife (Grace Kelly of Hollywood fame). Both nice people.
Pure Oil took a bunch of us to their Island retreat north of International Falls, Minn., where the fishing was incredible every year. Nissan was introducing its new pickup, so they flew us to Mike’s Sky Ranch in the Mexico Baja via Jack’s Flying Service. When we lined up for the return flight with two of Jack’s airplanes, one came in with the wind rather than into it and nearly ran out of runway — so it turned abruptly and dug the wingtip into the sand just short of the fence. The other plane followed and forgot to drop the landing gear, so it was a near-disaster landing; but eventually we got out safely.
The greatest boondoggle was the Mobil Gas Economy run each year where the “working press” drank all evening, played cards into the wee hours, slept in, and then were flown to the next staging area across America to greet the weary drivers that evening. As a guest, you had to have stamina.
Car companies sponsor race drivers and golfers. I’ve run various tracks with Jackie Stewart, Mario Andretti, Bob Bondurant, and others. I’ve played golf with Arnie Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Byron Nelson, and more. As press, you also need a passport to follow new vehicle announcements. Mercedes to Germany, Iveco from France to Italy, Toyota to Japan, LeasePlan to Austria, and Volvo to Sweden. Three trips that stand out domestically were GM’s George Frink taking us to Big Sky in Montana where the bar or his suite was always open for “refreshments,” and he rode an actual bull steer for us. Another most memorable trip was a couple of days with Chrysler’s Ray Fisher driving the Rubicon Trail near Lake Tahoe. There were kidney-jolting, trail-dusty, jagged boulders to traverse and other challenges, but what an absolute experience. Then there was Rick Davis, Ford’s fleet director, who talked me into rehearsing for a dancing routine with him on stage at the Paris in Vegas to open yet another preview. About 600 fleet manager guests and Ford fleet people went wild.
I’ll never forget the Saab Preview in Barcelona. I don’t remember the car preview too well, but it all nearly changed my life. Being single at the time, I found the airport greeter to be most attractive and we hit it off driving to the hotel. Ginger was absolutely gorgeous, personable, and spoke English well. In the affairs of the heart, I’m vulnerable; we got well acquainted and I was smitten. We’re still good friends, but she married a guy from Chicago.
There were dozens, or perhaps hundreds, of meetings, shows, and special occasions. Almost always, there was good food and inevitably an open bar. It’s a true wonder my liver and heart have supported me all these years, but no one can take these many memories away from me.
My own manner of judging success is to reflect on how so many people somehow became my supporters and inseparable friends, and there are many. I’m not only referring to the industry people who influenced my life directly, but especially to those working closely with me.
I’ve been blessed with my son, Ty, who joined me nearly 35 years ago at the bottom of the ladder, earned his way up with AF, and took on responsibilities as we grew. He’s been running the shop for a number of years now, and is a remarkable leader, and my best friend who looks after me. Bob Brown Sr. managed our Detroit area and developed the rapport with our major accounts for more than 30 years. He was and is respected and loved by all who know him. His two sons, Sherb and Bob, have been heavily responsible for new ideas and creating a new level of excellence for us. Again, they are my closest friends.
The same goes for Mike Antich, the finest editor and friend anywhere for more than 25 years now. No one knows the market better, has more ideas for our readers, and still works shoulder-to-shoulder with me each day. I’m genuinely proud of these 50 years and all those I’m in contact with.