Beverly Rae Kimes 1941-2008

Beverly Rae Kimes 1941-2008

“Cor­rerai ancor piu veloce per le vie del cielo”

Orig­i­nal­ly writ­ten for The Packard Club and the Soci­ety of Auto­mo­tive His­to­ri­ans, May 2008; addi­tion­al mate­r­i­al has been added.


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Noth­ing any­one can say will ease the pain of a friend’s loss, but here is one inad­e­quate try: When The Packard Club’s Stu­art Blond cir­cu­lat­ed the sad news to Beverly’s Packard friends, it struck me that every­one who received the same mes­sage would in turn cir­cu­late it to a group of peo­ple, more or less orga­nized by make or era of car.

To each of us, each in our own way, she was an inspi­ra­tion. She helped remake what some called a “hob­by” into an insti­tu­tion. She had that rare abil­i­ty to fer­ret out (from what she called the “sub­lime dis­or­der­li­ness” of auto­mo­tive his­to­ry) the most obscure facts about peo­ple and cars famous and for­got­ten, and knit them togeth­er with style and humor. She raised our lit­tle pas­time from mechan­i­cal enter­tain­ment to a true place in his­to­ry.

Bev Kimes wrote the let­ter that changed my life, accept­ing my first pub­lished car arti­cle, for Auto­mo­bile Quar­ter­ly, which led my being her col­league there from 1970 to 1975. “I’m sim­ply over­whelmed,” she wrote. “I learned to dri­ve on my dad’s 1953 Kaiser. I thought at the time it was the most won­der­ful car in the world….”

I too was over­whelmed. AQ was in its hey­day, with edi­tor Don Vorderman’s aston­ish­ing imag­i­na­tion and feel for sto­ries, man­ag­ing edi­tor Bev­er­ly Kimes’s superb Eng­lish, art direc­tor Ken Drasser’s bril­liant feel for lay­out and type (long before the days of desk­top pub­lish­ing). We were plan­ning a new series of books, for scores of “mar­que his­to­ries” had yet to be writ­ten. And AQ had the most accom­plished team of writ­ers, artists and pho­tog­ra­phers ever assem­bled in the field.

You nev­er knew who might walk in the door, from Hol­ly­wood leg­ends like coach­builder Dutch Dar­rin, to America’s first Grand Prix cham­pi­on Phil Hill, to the immor­tal Ken Pur­dy, father of us all. Across Madi­son Avenue from our war­ren on East 49th Street was Le Chante­clair, our water­ing hole, presided over by suave and affa­ble René Drey­fus, Cham­pi­on of France, and of Bugat­ti. To an aspir­ing young writer, nuts about cars, this was an edu­ca­tion no tuition could buy.

We worked hard togeth­er for many years, and nev­er lost our mutu­al affec­tion, which frankly took some doing. The AQ mélange was eclec­tic; every­body had strong opin­ions about what con­sti­tut­ed cars, and “non-cars”—and bylines. Occa­sion­al­ly we were mis­led and put at odds tem­porar­i­ly by some­one for their own pur­pos­es, yet we inevitably com­mu­ni­cat­ed, and even­tu­al­ly deter­mined the cause of the prob­lem, which was not us.

Bev-Up was one of the finest styl­ists in jour­nal­ism. Bev-Down was heart­break­ing. Her phys­i­cal state was a con­stant wor­ry: I nev­er knew her to have a healthy year. There came a major upheaval in her per­son­al life, when we spent a long night talk­ing. “I nev­er fail at any­thing,” she kept say­ing, incon­solably. For­tu­nate­ly a few years lat­er she met Jim Cox and found hap­pi­ness. We always kept in touch; and when I came to Man­hat­tan a few years ago to expound about Win­ston Churchill, there among the audi­ence was my old friend to remind me of times past.

None who read it will ever for­get “Man on Fire!”: Bev­er­ly Kimes’s biog­ra­phy of Tazio Nuvolari (Auto­mo­bile Quar­ter­ly, Vol. XI, No. 1, 1973). It was one of those sig­nal expe­ri­ences when you remem­ber where you were. I read it in gal­leys on the “Broad­way Lim­it­ed” en route to Chica­go: start­ed in Newark and put it down some­where west of Har­ris­burg. She wound up with the leg­end on the great rac­ing driver’s tomb­stone in Man­tua, where dri­vers in the Mille Miglia would raise a hand in mute salute as they raced through “Nivola’s” home town: Cor­rerai ancor piu veloce per le vie del cielo. (You will trav­el faster still upon the high­ways of heav­en.) “Ah Tazio,” she end­ed: “God­speed.”

And that’s all that real­ly mat­ters in the end: thoughts of old and good times, which even­tu­al­ly blot out the last sad ones.

Ah Bev…Godspeed.

 

 

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