David E. Davis, Jr. was the editor/publisher of Car and Driver Magazine and, thanks to his then recent marriage to my aunt Jeannie, my new uncle when I first met him in 1976. They had come over for a family 4th of July celebration and I was about four shades of green after a night of revelry with friends. David took one look at me and knew exactly what I needed; a large bowl of Carroll Shelby's chili with extra onions which he happened to have on hand for the party. Over the years, he taught me a lot more than how to cure a hangover.
I was lucky enough to serve as the gopher/road warrior/token nepote for Car and Driver during my four undergraduate years in Ann Arbor. In between making sure the cars were clean for photo shoots and breaking in his snake boots, I got to do some very cool things.
David commissioned my first professional piece of writing, a book review in the pages of Car and Driver for The Complete Car Car Manual. He also sent me to pick up a Harley from the factory in Milwaukee which served as the subject of my first vehicle review.
Always one to offer sage advice, after I rearranged the fascia of a Nissan 200SX on the side of a building in a snowstorm while driving for an Aaron Kiley photo shoot he asked, "What did you learn about friction?"
His next piece of advice came a few month's prior to my graduation. Working at Car and Driver was not an option for me because the new owners, CBS, had a rule against nepotism and as long as David was there, I couldn't be. During a night of pizza and beer at Dominick's, David, the man who as Creative Director championed the campaign, "Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie and Chevrolet" suggested, "Have you ever thought about advertising? You might be good at it."
Damned if he wasn't right.
After I got myself fired from J. Walter Thompson three years later, a job for which he'd recommended me, I called to apologize and he said "Don't worry about it. I made a career out of being fired when I was your age. You'll find something better."
He was right again. I had a job at his alma mater, Campbell-Ewald two days later.
Over the next 30 years, Lisa, my kids and I were blessed to have spent time hunting, fishing, driving, dining and drinking with him and his family. It has been an honor to be a part of his remarkable life and I will miss him dearly.
I know he is where the roads are free from left lane bandits and Nixon's 55 mph speed limit, where the dogs always find birds, where the whisky is neat and where friends gather around a table of incredible food each night to share unforgettable stories.
Freedom and Whisky