My favorite car at the recently concluded SF International Car Show was a 2014 Jaguar F-Type. My favorite, uh, motorcycle is pictured here as well. It’s a BMW, if anyone cares.
My editor at Adams Media for The Everything Father to Be Book told me yesterday that the first two editions of the book have surpassed 175,000 in sales. An updated new third edition, which I just finished working on, will be released in March 2014. Pretty cool, eh?
What’s especially cool for me to think about is that since the first edition was published in 2004, conceivably more than 175,000 new fathers have gotten advice and help from the book. That means that I have potentially played a (very, very, very) small role in the lives of 175,000 newborn babies and their families. Amazing! And even more men and babies and families will see this new edition.
A bunch of articles have appeared about Mr. Q since his death Friday. In Auto Week, Sports Car Digest, and so many more. Below is the official release sent out by his family. I was quite touched and honored by the fact that they mentioned my book in it.
AUTOMOTIVE LEGEND, PIONEER AND ENTREPRENEUR KJELL QVALE PASSES ON AT 94
SAN FRANCISCO (November 4, 2013) — Kjell “Mr. Q” Qvale, a legendary powerhouse in the international motor industry, died this weekend in San Francisco at the age of 94. Qvale
was the quintessential car guy and a pioneer for more than 67 years in the introduction of European sports cars for the Western United States.
His passion for foreign vehicles inspired him to import MG, Volkswagen, Porsche, Audi, Maserati, along with virtually every other notable British manufacturer. He also ventured into manufacturing, producing his namesake sports car, the Qvale Mangusta. He built race cars for the Indianapolis 500 and established San Francisco’s International Auto Show. Qvale was also one of the founders of the venerable Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in Monterey, Calif., in 1950, and credited with the vision that contributed to the creation of the tricky “Corkscrew” turn at the Laguna Seca Raceway.
He was born in Trondheim, Norway in 1919 to a sea captain and his wife who immigrated to Seattle in 1929. From a young age, Kjell lived and breathed speed. He became a star athlete in track and field, and at age 20 unofficially tied the world record in the 100-yard dash. He attended the University of Washington, and during his service in World War II, became a U.S. Navy pilot. It was after the war that Qvale’s attention was captured by automobiles.
Fascinated with cars, his first foray into the automotive field was a Willy’s Jeep franchise he purchased in Alameda, California in 1947. Later, during a meeting with the James motorcycle importer in New Orleans, Qvale got a glimpse of one of the first postwar MG-TC Roadsters. The next year, Qvale became the MG distributor for the West Coast, calling his San Francisco based company, British Motor Car Distributors, Ltd. In 1953 Qvale, along with partner Reynold C. Johnson, gave his first order to Volkswagen Germany for 12 VW Beetles to sell in Northern California. Along with his brother Knute, Kjell started Riviera Motors as the sole Volkswagen importer for the Pacific Northwest in 1954, which eventually grew to over 2,500 Volkswagen, Porsche and Audi vehicle sales per month. There was a time Mr. Q was the distributor for more than 100 dealerships, selling 10 different brands of German and British cars.
Qvale’s interest in manufacturing produced a series of BMC-powered MG race cars, including the “MG Liquid Suspension Special” that ran in the Indianapolis 500 in 1963-1965, with famed fabricator and designer Joe Huffaker. Qvale/Huffaker produced over 40 Genie and Formula Junior race cars together and many years later campaigned a factory SCCA Trans-Am winning Mangusta.
In 1970, Mr. Q bought the Jensen factory in West Bromwich, England, and with Donald Healey, built the fast and sleek Jensen Healey. The Jensen factory produced more than 12,000 Jensen Interceptors and Jensen Healey sports cars from 1970-76. The roadster also became one of the few cars in Sports Car Club of America history to capture five SCCA national “D” production championships.
“My father’s passing leaves us with big shoes to fill,” said Bruce Qvale. “His determination to succeed and passion for the car business has inspired me ever since I was a young boy and our whole family has shared a love of the business as a result of his enthusiasm. We will do our best to carry on the legacy Dad created.” Continue reading
I learned today that Kjell Qvale, the subject of Lunches With Mr. Q, has died. He was 94. Our deepest condolences to his family. More to follow.
Following its silver medal for distinguished biography from the International Automotive Media Awards, Lunches With Mr. Q has won another prestigious award: the James Valentine Memorial Award for Excellence in Automotive History, presented by the southern California chapter of the Society of Automotive Historians.
This is the second time I’ve won the Valentine Award—the first being for Wheels of Change a few years ago. I’m going down next week to accept the 2012 award at a ceremony to be held at the Toyota USA Automobile Museum in Torrance. Should be a grand time.
My only regret is that I can’t cruise down to the awards ceremony in an old school MG with the esteemed Mr. Q, Kjell Qvale, seen above in a publicity photo last year. Being 94 years old, these days he has to hang a little closer to his home with the view overlooking San Francisco Bay. I plan to talk about Mr. Q and the book at the ceremony, something I have done many times for auto clubs and other groups. If your club or group is interested in hearing a marvelous story about a fascinating human being, please contact me via the form on this page.
New piece by yours truly in Sports Collectors Digest—a collection of funny and entertaining quotes by ballplayers and others about baseball cards and signing autographs. I happened upon these while doing research for an upcoming new book of mine. Enjoy them right now by clicking right here!
Check out the newest issue of SCD for my latest article on Operation Bullpen: “Beware If You See These Companies on eBay.” It’s a revealing piece about companies that were busted by the FBI for fraud in the Operation Bullpen investigation but whose bogus memorabilia and COAs are still apparently allowed by the online auction site.The article just appeared in the print version of the magazine, with the online version set to appear later this week. Aha! It’s out now. Click here to read it.
It was my honor and privilege to write a tribute to Martin Swig in this year’s route book for the California Mille 2013, the annual California automobile touring event inspired by the historic Mille Miglia road race of Italy. Martin was the founder of the California Mille, an automobile connoisseur of the highest rank, a successful San Francisco automobile dealer for many years, a husband and father and brother, a bon vivant, and I was proud to call him my friend.
The Mille took place in April and consisted of 70 vintage cars, dating from 1927 to 1962, driving over some 1,000 miles of northern California roads over five days. People come from around the world to participate in it. The race was Martin’s idea, only one of many inspirations that he experienced in a full and remarkable life. The piece is entitled “Celebrating the Gifts of Martin Swig,” and this is how it begins:
In late June 2012 my cell phone beeped and it was Martin Swig. He wanted to talk about the cover design for my book, Lunches With Mr. Q, which was scheduled for publication later in the year. Lunches With Mr. Q is about Kjell Qvale, the “Mr. Q” of the title, who is a 93-year-old San Francisco automotive pioneer and legend. Martin had been involved in every aspect of it, from reading the manuscript and suggesting changes to advising me on people I needed to talk to. It was Martin who introduced me to Mr. Q in the first place; there would not have been a book without him.
A few days later I received an email from Ron Wren, Martin’s longtime buddy who had lunch with him practically every week. His good friend—our good friend—was dead.
As I write this, in March 2013, a month before the running of the first California Mille without Martin, its founder, I’m still in a kind of shock. Still in disbelief that Martin is gone and frankly, a little ticked off too. He and I had only known each other only a relatively short time, but in that time we had become friends, chatting many times about books, automobiles, politics, and much else. We were plotting to do more projects together. He said there was another great automobile man in Southern California he wished to introduce me to, and that possibly there was a book in him too. I had an idea for a new car book series that needed his input. As we rang off from that cell phone conversation we agreed to meet soon for lunch.
Now none of that could happen, because suddenly the man was gone…
To read more, here is a pdf of the full article that was published in the route book: Celebrating the Gifts of Martin Swig
It may come as no surprise to learn that a guy such as myself who likes cars and writes about cars also subscribes to magazines about cars. Although I do not own a Ford Mustang (a failing of mine, it is true), I thoroughly recommend a magazine dedicated to the car, Mustang Monthly.
Its motto is “All Mustangs All The Time.” Owned by Source Interlink Media, a big media conglomerate, Mustang Monthly nonetheless has a charming, small-timey feel and attitude as if its editor, Donald Farr, had laid it out late at night on the kitchen table of his home. This is not to say the magazine isn’t professional; it is. There are lots of cool pictures of Mustangs (what else?), informative technical articles, and travel and other features.
From reading “Hoofbeats,” Farr’s monthly column, and other staples such as “Pony Express” (letters to the editor) and “PonyTales” (news and updates), I am left with the impression that Mustang owners are a relaxed, convivial breed of people who cherish their automobiles. Reading the magazine makes me want to go out and get a Mustang just so I can hang with them.