Automobile Quarterly name, archives offered for sale

Automobile Quarterly sales includes the rights to publish under magazine's famous title | Larry Edsall photos
Automobile Quarterly sale includes the rights to publish under magazine’s famous title | Larry Edsall photos

If you can find someone willing to part with it, a complete set of Automobile Quarterly, the hard-cover “magazine” published from 1962 (starting with Volume 1, No. 1) into 2012 (ending with Volume 52, No. 1), will cost you around $4,000.

So just imagine what the price might be to buy the magazine itself, including the rights to its name and heritage as well as its reference library, editorial archives and the inventory of its publications, all of which are being offered for sale.

Archives include photos such as these from Nassau Speed Weeks in the 1960s
Archives include photos such as these from Nassau Speed Weeks in the 1960s

The magazine was launched by L. Scott Bailey, who had been editor of the Antique Automobile Club of America’s Antique Automobiles magazine, and by that magazine’s printer, Jacob Esser of Kutztown (Pennsylvania) Publishing Company. Their mission was to produce a publication “to truly reflect the grandeur, the majesty, the adventure that is the automobile.”

The plan was to produce a quarterly magazine, but a magazine that would be very different from the automotive “buff books” available on newsstands.

For one thing, AQ as it was commonly known would not accept advertising, and thus would be beholding to no one but its subscribers. Each would be printed on 112 pages of paper slightly larger than 8X10-inch stock. However, to better showcase photography and automotive artwork, it would be printed with a horizontal, landscape-style format.

Though a quarterly, there would be a fifth issue each year, a stand-alone book focused on a single automotive marque or other topic.

And to be “automotive literature” and “the final authority on the history of the automobile,” stories AQ would be scholarly, published with footnotes and references, documented facts instead of seat-of-the-pants subjective opinion, and written by experts such as automotive historian Beverly Rae Kimes, Griff Borgeson, Ken Purdy, Ralph Stein, Peter Helck, Karl Ludvigsen and others.

The magazine also would be bound within a hard cover like a published book. As Bailey once explained it, AQ would be “hardbound and durable enough to last a lifetime.”

And it did, outlasting Bailey, its editor and publisher from its founding until his retirement nearly a quarter-century later in 1986, and its final editor and publisher, Gerry Durnell, who bought the publication in 2000, because as his widow, Kaye, explained it, “so he’d have a job.”

AQ ended publication in 2012
AQ ended publication in 2012

Gerry Durnell was born in California but grew up on a farm in Missouri. He put himself through college, Southwest Missouri University — earning a seemingly unique double major in fine art and pre-med — by working as a rock ’n’ roll disc jockey and as an announcer for the Ozark Jubilee, the first network television show (ABC) to feature country-music performers.

During the Vietnam war, Durnell flew more than 180 reconnaissance and surveillance missions for the U.S. Army. Afterward, he returned home and served three terms in the Missouri House of Representatives.

After his political career, he moved to southern Indiana to be creative director at Abbey Press, only to discover that position would evaporate after 18 months. But he liked the area and opened an ice cream shop across the street from an amusement park in Santa Claus, Indiana, only to realize he also needed a winter-time business as well, so he added a pizza parlor and soon was publishing a magazine called Pizza Today and organizing an annual trade show for pizza parlor owners and their suppliers, a show that grew to become one of the biggest food-focused trade shows in the world.

A car enthusiast with an appreciation for all things mechanical, Durnell had tried to buy Automobile Quarterly, and finally did so in 2000.

Atop one file cabinet: Corvette color samples, GM prototype photos, 1917 Ford parts and accessories catalog and brochure from opening of GM engineering campus
Atop one file cabinet: Second-generation Corvette color samples, GM prototype photos, 1917 Ford parts and accessories catalog and brochure from opening of GM engineering campus

Bailey and Kutztown Publishing sold their magazine in 1986 to CBS Publications, but it wasn’t very long afterward that new leadership at the television network decided to focus on broadcasting and sold its portfolio of print products to Diamandis Communications, the publishing empire led by Peter Diamandis.

Late in 1987, the U.S. stock market tanked and Diamandis had a loan to repay so he sold most of his magazines with AQ going back to Kutztown Publishing, which realized that the magazine had been a marvelous way to showcase the company’s quality as a publisher.

When Bailey, AQ co-founder and long-time editor, died in 2012, The New York Times noted that the magazine was “a cross between The New Yorker and the Encyclopaedia Britannica in the world of automania.”

“In the 24 years he ran Automobile Quarterly before retiring in 1986,” the obituary continued, “Mr. Bailey published an unbroken chain of gold-embossed quarterly reports that constituted a virtual archive of the known universe of the car: long biographical essays about racecar drivers, designers and forgotten inventors of breakthrough automotive technologies; historical dissertations on classics…”

His successors continued that tradition. However, even at its peak, and with its award-winning stories and photography, Automotive Quarterly did not exceed 30,000 subscribers. Times changed but AQ did not. Like Bailey and the editors and publishers who succeeded him, Durnell remained faithful to the original business plan. But as the subscriber base fell to a 10th of its peak and with no advertising revenue and a recession economy, income fell far short of production and printing costs.

After her husband’s death, Kaye Durnell made a major investment in AQ but could not justify another after publication of what would become the last issue. Now, she is selling what remains, including, should someone want to resurrect a publication with an impeccable reputation and strong heritage, the rights to the Automobile Quarterly name.

Also included are:

Large-format original artwork
Large-format original artwork
  • An automotive reference library that fills two rooms — one with books and another with collections of automotive magazines from around the world and dating to the dawn of the motor age.
  • Boxes of coffee-table books produced and published by AQ on a variety of automotive topics.
  • The Automobile Quarterly archives, a trove of historical photography, artwork, documentation and other material, including the photographic plates used to print every page of every issue of the magazine.

16 thoughts on “Automobile Quarterly name, archives offered for sale”

  1. Just a question…how would you contact mrs Durnell to see what amount she thinks is valued the collection/ name?
    Thanks in advance,
    ATR

  2. …hopefully, someone will foresee this as a unique opportunity, being not only a gem artwise or a historical monument. How many people would crave to own a genuine reproduction, or an equal standard, quality merchandise…there is so many muséums and collectors worldwide that I look forward to the new emergence of this fine publication…many thank’s M. Edsall…!!!

  3. Back in the day,it was always a delight to get a phone call or a visit from Scott. I’m sure other PR shops thought of themselves as his favorite haunt when he was in Detroit. But I liked to think he favored Chevy. We all shuddered at the sale of AQ the first time, and then the second, and then again, the third. To be honest, we gave it maybe a year on Gerry Durnell’s watch. On that we were very wrong. I got to know Gerry well. I was awed at his affection for all things AQ, from calendars to coffee table books. He knew what he was getting into. For the better part of a decade, he joyously carried the company, even as car books were failing all around. His death came way too soon, not long after the 100th anniversary Chevrolet vault book was out and just before the last AQ mag (Vol, 51, No. 1) went to print. To the very end, AQ delivered a quality read. Here’s hoping the trappings of its spendid run find a home that will do justice to its heritage.

  4. I I enjoyed AQ very much and could not wait for the next issue. I have a complete collection being a subscriber almost from the beginning but at the end of it’s life I renew my subscription for two years and received nothing. I believe they owe me 150 dollars and feel I should be compensated. That is why AQ is no longer in business they not treat there subscribers fairly

  5. I would like to know what is in inventory and what might be available if the books were sold. I would love to buy that slipcased book on E L Cord!
    I too, would enjoy seeing this venerable publication continue. I treasure my 75 volumes that have chapters on cars I like and that I found over many years at flea markets and used book stores. But I question how many people today are really interested in automobile heritage or cars in general. It seems there is a growing number of people who think Uber is all they need to know about cars.

  6. Loved AQ and sad that it is gone. Gerry and Kay were friends and I really miss Gerry’s enthusiasm and his kind personalilty. Would love to see someone revive AQ as it is seriously missed. I treasure my complete set along with other wonderful publications that AQ produced.

  7. I echo everyone’s disappointment. My late brother, Warren, was a subscriber from the very beginning when part of the subscription was having your name embossed on the cover. When he died another brother, Wendell, continued the subscription under Warren’s name, so we have the full collection, all with his name embossed – a priceless collection now.

  8. My late father has a huge AQ collection, dating back to Vol 1 issue 1. We have wanted to sell it but couldn’t find the right audience

  9. Am interested in a complete AQ set, Volume 1 # 1 to Volume 52 # 1. Will pay a reasonable price.

  10. I was sad to hear AQ was to be discontinued shorty after I renewed for 10 issues. They did replace 2 books the mailman delivered Frisbee style from 20 ft away to avoid walking up 6 steps crashing into my brick porch pillar – actually put dents almost 1″ deep in the hard covers and pages. I still have an issue that was assembled upside down to its cover and an issue where the glue-er got a little over zealous sealing the center pages – but they replaced them both. When I would call they apparently had caller ID as they always answered using my first name. AQ was my splurge for ME.

  11. I recently picked up a collection complete upto Vol 44, these are missing though: 45-1, 46-4, 47-2&3, 48-2&3, 49-1&3, 50-1,2&4, 51-1,2,3&4, 52-1. Does anyone have copies they may like to part with ?.

  12. Hi Folks, Betty made a comment on Oct 16, 2016 that she is looking to purchase a collection. Can you pass along my contract information to Betty? Thank-you!

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