Introducing the Z. Taylor Vinson Manuscripts Series!

Greetings!  My name is Alison Kreitzer, and I am the Z. Taylor Vinson Graduate Assistant.  I am currently processing the Manuscripts Series of the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection, which will be available to researchers in 2014.  The Manuscripts Series document Mr. Vinson’s career as an attorney for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) from 1967-2003.  These materials provide insight into the development of Federal motor vehicle safety standards in the decades following the passage of the National Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966.  Throughout his career, Mr. Vinson was instrumental in implementing safety regulations for passenger and commercial vehicles that we continue to benefit from today.  The Manuscripts Series of his collection is a notable resource for researchers interested in automobile design, automotive safety, and the history of consumer advocacy in the United States.

Lamborghini badge on the cover of the company’s 1975 certification petition for the Lamborghini Countach LP400.

Lamborghini badge on the cover of the company’s 1975 certification petition for the Lamborghini Countach LP400.

As an attorney-advisor for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Mr. Vinson corresponded extensively with automobile manufacturers, congressmen, citizens, and fellow NHTSA staff members to interpret and enforce Federal regulations for automobile safety.  His correspondence files make up the bulk of the Manuscripts Series.  These files predominately focus on issues of manufacturer compliance with Federal policies regarding the production, importation, and sale of automobiles and automotive equipment within the United States.  Mr. Vinson and his fellow legal staff members worked extensively to provide manufacturers and citizens with interpretations of the various safety standards that regulated everything from windshield wipers to braking systems.  The NHTSA’s litigation team also drafted and reviewed proposed amendments to these regulations before they were passed into law.  Unpublished and published copies of these Federal Register dockets pertaining to specific safety standard rule-making decisions are included within these correspondence folders.

Photograph of the Lamborghini LP400 from Lamborghini’s 1975 certification petition.

Photograph of the Lamborghini LP400 from Lamborghini’s 1975 certification petition.

A second substantive section within the Manuscripts Series documents petitions made by both foreign and domestic automobile manufacturers for exemption of their vehicle models from specific aspects of the Federal motor vehicle safety regulations.  Manufacturers requested exemptions due to financial hardship, limited production runs, and made arguments that elements of their automobile designs were inconsequential to the overall safety of their vehicles.

This section of the Manuscripts Series is predominately arranged by automotive manufacturer and will be of particular interest to scholars and enthusiasts of renowned automotive manufacturers.  For example, Lamborghini petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 1975 for certification of their Countach LP 400, which influenced the shape and design of sports cars throughout the 1970s and 1980s.  The applications for exemption and certification includes over 90 pages of information, diagrams, and photographs documenting the various internal and external components of the Countach LP 400!

The Manuscripts Series also contains correspondence documenting Mr. Vinson’s involvement with the Society of Automotive Historians (SAH) in the 1990s.  He held various positions on the Society’s executive committee during this period.  The files in this section document Mr. Vinson’s involvement in several administrative tasks for the organization, including planning of yearly meetings, organizing membership materials, and overseeing SAH finances.

Mr. Vinson was very successful at combining his personal interests in collecting automobile ephemera with his professional career working to implement vehicle safety standards as an attorney for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  Not only did he leave Hagley a wonderful collection of automobile memorabilia, he also left behind a comprehensive record of his contributions to automobile safety.  The Manuscripts Series of the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection promises to be a fascinating resource for years to come.

Alison Kreitzer is the Graduate Assistant for the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection at Hagley Museum and Library.

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