During the Spring ’98 SAH Board meeting in St. Louis, we went out to see the Hunter collection of classic cars. On the front seat of a ’38 Lincoln seven-passenger touring sedan lay a photocopy of what appeared to be a dealer book on the classic Lincolns of that period. I was fascinated by it, because the cars and their interiors were shown in photographs, whereas the sales literature contained only artistic renderings. Thus, it appeared significant to me.
I was told that the original belonged to Charlie Schalebaum, and had been sent out for approval several years ago; however, it was too expensive for them, and they photocopied it before returning it. I agreed about the expense.
Well, I had it in the back of my mind to ask Charlie about it the next time I saw him. Charlie is a dealer in fine automotive art – built up the Ray Holland collection now at Blackhawk – and literature is not his primary interest, though I had bought rare Leyat and Fageol catalogues from him. I hadn’t been at Fall ’98 Carlisle for an hour when I ran into him in the Z Building. Imagine my surprise when I found that he not only still had the piece but had brought it with him, the first time he had had it out in several years. The price was still the same, which meant it would be twice the price of the Ferrari 815 piece discussed below. One look at it and I was hooked: large page format (17 x 23), 19 pages of photos of cars and their interiors, one or two upholstery swatches per page plus a color chip, some with striping. And a 20th page of accessories. The prices of the cars had been penned in. “Bet you paid almost as much for this as one of the cars cost” dealer Stan Hurd astutely remarked to me. The item was bound in green leatherette with a bas relief of the Lincoln greyhound on a silver oval medallion inset into the cover. The weight of the item was 8-10 pounds and it came in its own black leather zippered carrying case. Bill White, the doyen of Lincoln literature dealers, later told me that this was only the third copy known to him. The National Auto History Collection has one and its late curator, Jim Bradley, once remarked that were the building to catch fire, this would be the item he would save first.
There is a remarkable story behind my copy. When John Schaler III of Indianapolis was about 7 or 8 in ’39, he and his father went to Detroit to pick up a new Lincoln-Zephyr for his mother. According to a letter Schaler wrote 50 years later to the then-owner of the piece, the factory men were so amazed at the boy’s knowledge of cars that they introduced him to Henry and Edsel Ford. In Henry’s office, young John spotted the Lincoln executive book on a table. He couldn’t get it out of his mind, and four years later, in ’43, wrote Henry Ford about it. Next thing he knew, the local Ford Mercury Lincoln dealer phoned him, and asked him to come over as he had something for him. Thus, the treasure I now own came into his possession. I don’t know of many nicer stories than this.
According to the late Tom Solley, who knew him, John Schaler III grew up to become the Rolls-Royce dealer in Indianapolis, then moved to Texas.
Also check out the Hagley Video Minute featuring another glimpse of this rare item!
Emily Cottle is Project Archivist/Cataloger for the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection at Hagley Museum and Library.