Treasures: SAAB Catalog Designed by Mr. Vinson

Click to view the entire catalog in the Hagley Digital Archives.

When the child grew up, he worked for awhile in a New York ad agency where, as assistant account executive for SAAB, he actually designed a piece of automotive sales literature. Must be pretty rare; I’ve never seen it in another collection or at a flea market (A Collector’s Life, page 69).

Mr. Vinson declares this piece of trade literature designed for SAAB to be one of his rarest items. It may not be the most valuable catalog, but Mr. Vinson had a special reason for keeping this particular trade catalog close to his heart: he designed it himself.

This trade catalog is small and printed in black and white, with simple illustrations. Written on the front, “SAAB from Sweden: The Economy Car,” provides a simple slogan for the newest automobile marquee to come to America. In 1958, Saab introduced the 93B model to America, advertising it as a safe, roomy, and technological advanced passenger car. The catalog also declares that SAAB stands for “Safe and sturdy, Aerodynamic construction, Acceleration plus, and Better mpg.”

Note accompanying the SAAB catalog designed by Mr. Vinson.

By the time Mr. Vinson designed this ‘rare’ item of automotive literature, he had already been collecting automobile catalogs and related ephemera for about 15 years. A simple handwritten note in Mr. Vinson’s hand, accompanies the catalog and confirms its provenance: “This folder was designed by Z. Taylor Vinson in the spring of 1958 when he was Asst. Account Executive for SAAB at the Gotham-[Veodini?] Advertising Agency in New York City.” (Note: If anyone has insight into the name of the mentioned advertising firm, please contact us or add a comment below. We are unable to decipher it fully.)

So while it is not the most breathtaking example of automotive literature in his collection, the catalog‘s value as a research document may be greater than even the exquisitely designed Delahaye or Maybach catalogs. Not only did Mr. Vinson collect and appreciate car catalogs, but he was once a designer of them as well.

Posts on some of Mr. Vinson’s other treasures can be found here.

Robin Valencia is the Graduate Assistant for the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection at Hagley Museum and Library.

Society of Automotive Historians Conference Recap

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the Society of Automotive Historians (SAH) Ninth Biennial Automotive History Conference, which was held in Philadelphia from April 12-14.

Display cases featuring Vinson Collection items during Saturday's tour of the Library.

I immensely enjoyed meeting so many car enthusiasts and hope that the talk that I gave on Saturday morning answered some of the questions people had about the Vinson Collection. I also hope everyone that made the trip to Hagley enjoyed their tour of the museum and library.

I’d like to issue a special welcome to any of our new readers that are just joining us after hearing about this blog during the conference. Thanks for visiting and be sure to utilize the email sign-up to have a notification sent to your email when our weekly articles are published.

Thanks again to SAH for their hospitality and I look forward to seeing many of your at future events! If any readers couldn’t make it to the conference and would be interested in a recording of the presentation, please send me an email at

If you couldn’t make it to SAH, but would still like to learn more about the Vinson Collection, I will be giving another talk on May 19th just down the road from Hagley at Winterthur Museum as part of their Historic Autos at Winterthur series on Saturdays in May.

Below is the complete lecture schedule for each of the Saturdays:

  • May 5 – An Autocar Restored: Teaming Science with Automotive Craftsmanship
  • May 12 – Within the Covers of Vogue: Automobile Advertising in the 1930s
  • May 19 – The Z. Taylor Vinson Collection: Documenting the History of the Automobile Industry from 1891 to 2010
  • May 26 – Coachbuilt: The Derham Body Company

Lectures take place at 1:00 PM each Saturday and are held in the Rotunda. The lectures are included with admission and free for members.

For more information about the event, visit Winterthur’s website. I hope to see many of you there! Feel free to leave comments below with any questions you might have and I will be sure to address them in my talk.

Emily Cottle is the Project Archivist/Cataloger for the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection at Hagley Museum and Library.

Studebaker Wheel is Now Available in the Digital Library

Click to view the entire issue in the Hagley Digital Archives.

This week I would like to highlight a newly available resource in the digital collection: Studebaker Wheel: a Monthly Magazine for the Motorist.

We recently digitized all the issues of this magazine in the collection. The collection, however, does not contain the complete run of this monthly magazine, and several issues have pages missing. (Note: Descriptive information accompanying the scans for each issue lists the missing pages.) The collection holds fifty-two issues, total, with most concentrated in the magazine’s early years, from 1926 through 1940. The latest issue appeared in 1955.

Issues cover a wide range of topics, including stories of endurance rides completed in Studebakers, lists of members of the 100,000-mile Studebaker club, news articles on general automotive topics, the latest features available in Studebaker cars, Studebaker maintenance tips, and a page titled “Laughing Gas,” featuring jokes and humorous stories. Many issues also include articles on sporting events, from a descriptive piece teaching readers about curling to articles on baseball and golf.

Click to view complete issues in the Hagley Digital Archives.

Simply search for “Studebaker Wheel” in the Digital Library to find all the available issues.

Our digitization volunteer, Alice Hanes, made this new resource possible through her diligent work. Over the last year, she has scanned nearly 600 items, and continues to add to this total each week. We are so lucky to have such a wonderful volunteer working on the Vinson project, so thank you, Alice, for all your hard work!

I also wanted to remind any of our readers that are attending the Society of Automotive Historians conference this week in Philadelphia that I will be there. I hope to have the chance to meet many of you during the conference and to see you at my talk on Saturday morning!

Emily Cottle is the Project Archivist/Cataloger for the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection at Hagley Museum and Library.

Woods Dual Power: The World’s First Hybrid

The Toyota Prius has become the defining hybrid vehicle of today’s automobile market. Entering the market in 2003, the Prius spurred a revolution in alternative fuel technology. Continuing in that trajectory, contemporary automobile manufacturers are now producing even more hybrid and all-electric models to the public.

Hybrid technology, however, is not just a product of the 21st century. Hybrid and electric models have existed as long as gasoline-powered engine models. When first manufactured, automobiles were available with various power source options including gas, electric, and in 1915, a hybrid of the two. The Woods Dual Power claims to be one of the world’s first hybrid petrol-electric automobiles.

Page from the Woods Dual Power Catalog. Click to view the complete item in the Hagley Digital Archives.

The Woods Dual Power was at the forefront of hybrid technology that utilized two power sources: gasoline and electricity. Patent number 1303870 was issued to Roland S. Fend for this technology in May 1919, nearly four years after the initial application in June 1915. The Dual Power used only electrical power up to 15 mph and then switched to using its gas-powered engine when driven up to a maximum speed of 35 mph.

For more information on early electric vehicles, see a work by Clinton E. Woods, titled The Electric Automobile: Its Construction, Care and Operation published in 1900. In it, he provides the rather short history on the electric automobile, its operation, and how it compares to similar gasoline models available at the time. This title is available for use at Hagley Library.

So why did hybrid technology fail at first? For the Woods Dual Power it was a matter of comparable performance and maintenance standards. With a maximum speed of only 35 mph, the Dual Power was slower than most contemporary gasoline-powered engine models. Additionally, the dual technology of both an electric and gas engine required more maintenance than other models. Woods did release an updated version of the Dual Power in 1917, but the company met failure by 1919.

Approximately 80 years later, Toyota was able to perfect electric-gasoline hybrid technology with the Prius. Other companies such as Chevrolet and Honda currently produce hybrid models. What is curious to note is that both electric and hybrid technologies have existed since the first invention of automobiles. Why did gasoline-only models take over? What are your opinions?

Note: The collection does contain Prius materials, but copyright law prevents their digitization at this time.

C.E. Woods, The Electric Automobile: Its Construction, Care and Operation. Chicago: Herbert S. Stone & Company, 1900.

Georgano, Nick, ed. The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of The Automobile (2 Volume Set) Volume 1: A-L; Volume 2: M-Z. Norwich, England: The Stationery Office, 2000.

Robin Valencia is the Graduate Assistant for the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection at Hagley Museum and Library.

Revisit our When Cars Fly! article from a few weeks ago, to see an update about the flying cars coming to this week’s 2012 New York Auto Show!

Revised April 17, 2012. Thanks to Jim Dalmas for your help in refining this post.