David E. Davis Jr., auto writer and founder of Ann Arbor-based Automobile Magazine, dies at 80
(Updated at 10:28 a.m.)
Writer Eddie Alterman blogged about Davis on the Car and Driver website late Sunday:
"He was so in love with the craft and subject matter of car magazines that he came to inhabit an archetype. He was the dashing, witty, high-spirited, and deeply knowledgeable writer/editor who brought the automobile to life, whose personal flair transferred to whatever he was writing about."
Davis returned to Car and Driver as a columnist in 2009.
Davis was one of several auto industry leaders who called Ann Arbor his home and established this area as a hub of automotive journalism as David Kwan, who writes an occasional column for Business Review, detailed in 2008.
David Cole, chairman emeritus of the Ann Arbor-based Center for Automotive Research, told AnnArbor.com this morning that Davis "had a huge impact on the industry over the years."
"Just a great guy, true car nut, great writer, interesting personality," Cole said. "He had a depth of understanding around what he was writing about, but he always had a caustic humor that was part of him, whether he was writing for a publication or you were just talking to him, that was him. Certainly he will be missed."
Davis didn't shy away from speaking his mind.
"He was a provocateur, in some ways kind of like the Bob Lutz of auto journalism," Cole said.
Bill Milliken Jr., a local commercial real estate broker and auto collector, was a friend of Davis.
He'd visited Davis at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital on Saturday night, along with Davis' family and a former co-worker, and he left there fully expecting Davis to recover.
"He was sitting in his chair and telling us a Groucho Marx story," Milliken said. "There was laughter. That was, in our minds, the beginning of a slow road to recovery."
When he received the call on Sunday informing him that Davis had died, Milliken said, "I thought it was preposterous."
Davis had an office in Ypsilanti, near a warehouse where a group of collectors stores sports and collector cars.
"He was a family member to us there," Milliken said. "His office is a veritable museum of automotive history and memorabilia."
The impact of Davis on Ann Arbor was strong, Milliken said.
"From his seat in Ann Arbor, he inspired automotive journalism all over the country."
Ford Motor Co., in a statement, said the industry had "lost a giant."
“David E. Davis, Jr., was truly one-of-a-kind, and we are fortunate to have known him," Ford said. "His deep knowledge of the automobile business was matched only by his ability to tell engaging stories. All of us at Ford enjoyed each opportunity to work with David E., respected his opinions and appreciated his uncurbed enthusiasm for the business. While his writing will live on for generations to come, his wit, charm and passion will be greatly missed."
Davis spoke to University of Michigan students at the spring 2004 commencement. Here is an article about his speech.
AnnArbor.com reporter Nathan Bomey contributed to this story.