A Unique Voice in Transportation Is Born

August 17, 1939

Beverly Rae Kimes, a writer who became known as the First Lady of Automotive History, was born in West Chicago, Illinois. Kimes developed a strong interest in writing early on in life, focusing at the time on the fine arts and the performing arts rather than automobiles. She earned two degrees in journalism, a bachelor’s from the University of Illinois at Champaign and a master’s from the University of Pennsylvania.

Kimes originally aspired to work as a theater writer, but a different career route took shape after she was hired for an administrative support position for the then-fledgling Automobile Quarterly in 1963. Kimes rapidly advanced from typing and stenography duties to writing and editing assignments for the Manhattan-based magazine. The first article she wrote for Automobile Quarterly concerned what is generally regarded as the world’s first mass-produced car. Kimes later recalled, “My first assignment was a history of the Curved Dash Oldsmobile and I was hooked.”

Kimes soon fully immersed herself in the rich and varied history of automobiles, writing with a great deal of knowledge and enthusiasm about those vehicles and the people who created them. She authored at least 15 books about automobiles. These books included “Pioneers, Engineers, and Scoundrels: The Dawn of the Automobile in America”; “Packard: A History of the Motor Car and the Company”; “The Cars That Henry Ford Built”; and “The Star and the Laurel: The Centennial History of Daimler, Mercedes, and Benz, 1886-1986.” Rimes’ book “The Standard Catalog of American Automobiles, 1805-1942” is widely considered to be one of the most comprehensive works on defunct car companies. Rimes also wrote hundreds of articles about automotive history.

In “The Standard Catalog of American Automobiles,” Rimes sought to explain her fascination with automobiles. “The history of the American automobile is a can of worms that would make any self-respecting bilateral invertebrate blanch,” she asserted. “In fact, it is the sublime disorderliness of the saga of the American car that is among its chief charms.”

Kimes was honored extensively for her works on automotive history. She received the Karl Benz Award from the Society of Automotive Historians on multiple occasions, for example, and was presented with the Thomas McKean Memorial Cup by the Antique Automobile Club of America. In 2005, Kimes was honored with a lifetime achievement award from the International Automotive Media Competition.

Kimes eventually became top editor at Automobile Quarterly, and then served as executive editor of Classic Car magazine. In addition, she was a fixture at numerous classic car meets as both a judge and announcer. Kimes died in 2008 at the age of 68. At the time of her death, an official announcement from the Antique Automobile Club of America hailed her as “one of the greatest automotive writers of our time.”

Kimes’ work as an automotive historian required her to spend a lot of time looking in the rear-view mirror. She used a 2002 interview for Gale’s Contemporary Authors series, however, to discuss what might lie ahead for her favorite mode of transportation. Kimes said, “I daresay the automobile will be with us until that distant day when we are molecularly beamed from place to place ‘Star Trek’ style.”

For more information on Beverly Rae Kimes, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beverly_Rae_Kimes

Her obituary in the 20 May 2008 New York Times is available at https://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/20/sports/othersports/20kimes.html.

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