AACA’s MoToR Collection
Written by Chris Ritter
In this issue we thought it would be fun to highlight a recent Research Request that we recently handled. This one shows how a simple request can lead to a lot of fun!
I am researching my 1926 Stutz AA Coupe and I’ve been told that the January, 1926 issue of “Motor” magazine has an article about the ’26 Stutz and also specifications. Do you have this issue?
Why yes, our library has that issue of MoToR (the capitalized “T” is not an error) and we can easily get you copies of the article and the specifications table. We can also tell you about similar articles in Auto Topics, Cycle & Automobile Trade Journal and Motor Age; all you had to do was ask!
The 1926 Stutz AA Coupe was a sweet ride, and for $2,995 it should have been, especially when you consider that the price of a Model T Ford for the same year was $260. But, of course, the Stutz was no Model T. Among other things, the Stutz featured a 95-horsepower, 8-cylinder engine on a 131” wheelbase, 4-wheel brakes, a chain to drive the generator and fan shafts, and worm drive that allowed for a lowered body. To top it off, the Stutz was fast and could easily reach speeds of 75 mph – practically the speed of light in 1926.
The real opportunity with this research request is the chance to show off one of our favorite periodicals in our collection, MoToR magazine. Originally introduced to the wealthy, motoring elite in 1905, the publication focused on racing, transcontinental motoring, accessories, and the motoring life in general. MoToR also did a fantastic job providing performance reports, reviews and opinions.
In August, 1924, MoToR shifted its focus away from the motoring elite and started targeting mechanics, dealers and salesmen. While articles had always been technical they would now increase in technicality and new issues were discussed including add-on sales (accessories, service, etc.), labor issues, service center layout and the new and used car markets in general. This audience shift can be attributed to the fact that by 1924 cars weren’t just for the elite anymore so more money could be made by targeting the industry workers.
One of the best features of MoToR magazine were their “Annual Show Numbers”. In these volumes that reported on the major New York and Chicago Auto Shows, MoToR would provide a statistics table that was second to none. In the tables we can find major specifications including price, bore & stroke, gear ratios, clutch manufacturer, frame dimensions and the list goes on. The immensely useful Handbook of Automobile Specifications: 1915-1942 by Lester/Steele is based largely on these tables. For a stats guru, these annual issues are indispensable.
While the specification charts are great, our favorite part of MoToR is the cover artwork found on nearly every pre-World War II issue. This cover art has some premium illustrations capturing the elegance, grace and mystique of the pre-war automobile era.
Here are some of our absolute favorites:
The June 1908 and February 1909 adopted an Egyptian theme. The color on the February 1909 issue is so vibrant and the author makes playful use of the MoToR logo.
In 1910 automobiles were still relatively new. Even newer than the automobile was the aeroplane and the July 1910 issue shows off both of these inventions. Meanwhile, in the water a speedboat does its best to stay relevant.
February, 1912 displayed a glamorous scene as a chauffeur delivers a well-to-do couple to the theatre.
While MoToR was not a political publication the artist of the March 1916 and January 1919 couldn’t help referencing the war in Europe.
Women were featured in a majority of MoToR covers and the September 1921 issue shows a sporty young lady in front of her car with golf clubs at the ready.
I already mentioned a shift in the publication’s target audience toward the end of 1924 and this is when we start to see more characters emerge. Playful mechanics, stern bosses and unsuspecting customers grace the covers of the latter 1920s, creating some of the more humorous scenes of all.
On the February, 1927 cover we see a mechanic is not happy with a caricature drawn by the dealer’s son.
Later, in August, 1927 we see the young man have fun with a salesman.
In spite of some horrific market conditions during the Great Depression, the tone of 1930s cover art remained upbeat with extensive use of characters including bumbling mechanics, picky dowagers and curious children.
While the regular issues stuck with the character theme the Annual Numbers continued to display the graceful, art deco illustrations as the 1920s.
The cover art on MoToR issues of the 1940s would be largely patriotic, displaying American muscle, flexibility and pride.
Not long after World War II, MoToR cover art would become pretty bland and uninspired. The publication still exists today but those early issues are a tremendous resource for researchers, historians and Car Geeks everywhere.
Don’t forget that each AACA member gets 1 ½ hours of free research every year. Send your request our way!!!