Eye Candy: Automobilia is a celebration of us and our stuff

Tony Singer greets customers at Automobilia show and sale | Larry Crane photos
Tony Singer greets customers at Automobilia show and sale | Larry Crane photos

The Monterey Embassy Suites Laguna Grande ballroom snugly contained the 2016 edition of the annual assembly of folks who collect and share automotive artifacts and literature. It was awash in enthusiastic buyers and sellers — “old guys with old stuff.” Okay, “traders with treasures.” If you are a fan of the history of the automobile and, by extension, the hobby of its passion, it is not to be missed.

Automobilia founder Tony Singer describes his journey to entrepreneur this way: “I was an active collector of car posters as the idea took hold in the early ‘70s. My hobby became a business as friends discovered my enthusiasm for collecting and willingness to share. During the 1980s birth of the everyone-needs-a-computer age, a techy girlfriend said, ‘what you need is a website,’ and I was suddenly in business.”

Automobilia has continued to grow and thrive and remains both a marketplace and a first contact with old friends as Monterey Car Week gets underway. There is little an aficionado of the subject could desire that cannot be fulfilled in Singer’s celebration of us and our stuff.

From restoration hard-part details through every imaginable marque and size of miniature, to literature that includes original parts and service documents and volumes of old and new research material still being produced on paper between cardboard protecting covers. While the total volume of new books finding bookshelves may be slightly down, the total number of subject titles continues to rise, even in the face of universal Googling and, perhaps, because of the grotesque failures of Wikipedia research.

While Singer’s vast array of original and historic posters remains the centerpiece of the exhibit space, Robert Carter must be applauded for his “all new” interpretations of “classic” poster art. His paintings are enormous, accurate in both subject detail and art deco style.

He began his artistic adventure-package design in London. After relocating to San Francisco with his trusted BSA 441 Victor, he made off on a northbound adventure only to have his trusted mount fail him in Chico. Noticing the “barn posters” in the rural area, he promoted his talents to begin a series of genuine poster art to cover vast barn sides.

At a particular moment he stood back and thought, “This would look good with a Ferrari in it.” And thus began his popular series of classic marque advertising posters — that never were before Carter created them.

Horton’s Books was established in 1997 by father and son team Mike and Ben Horton to supply the automotive culture with the published icons of the automotive century. It quickly became the aficionado’s source for library development.
After a decade of their own business development, Mike retired and left his now highly motivated son and his wife, Jennifer, the responsibility of supplying the international clientele that had adopted them, and growing the intellectual-enthusiast family.

At Automobilia, Horton’s had a just-taller-than-eye-level long wall of “out-of-print” (no longer “used books”) volumes that required a considerable amount of time to peruse — and a truck to remove the must-haves from its shelves. The tables at the front were covered with new releases.

Since Tony Singer’s first experiment with “books and posters and stuff” during the Monterey Automotive Bacchanal, it has grown into both a gathering point and a place to exchange resources and stories.

Photos by Larry Crane

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