Do You Know this Man?
You probably don’t recognize him, but I spent many Sundays with this guy as a kid, and he taught me just about everything I know about identifying old cars. I learned about the obscure manufacturers like King Midget, Playboy and Davis, and how to spot the subtle differences in a certain model from year to year, including engine and interior upgrades. The man was Tad Burness, and his book “American Car Spotters Guide 1940 -1965” was my Sunday (afternoon) Bible. This major 9 year old nerd would grab the Classifieds from the Sunday paper every week, flip to the Classic Car section, and scan it line by line, circling anything that sounded interesting. Random listings like a 1960 Chrysler 300, 1949 Frazier Vagabond, or a 1952 Mercury Monterey… You name it. Then I would methodically look up each car in the Spotter’s Guide to see if it was cool, the number produced, and how much horsepower it had. As a ‘Burness Bonus’, the Classifieds also ran Tad’s “Auto Album” on Sundays too. It was usually a short back story on a weird car, with photo clip art and his signature hand-written notes added. It’s hard to measure how much classic automobile knowledge I learned from this man, but it indirectly led me down the car-crazy path I’m still on to this day. Sadly, on November 19th of last year, Tad died of heart failure in his Northern California home without much fanfare. My only regret is that I never bothered to look him up, or send a letter of appreciation for everything he unknowingly taught me so many years ago. Thank you and God Speed, Tad.