Commentary: Some of Us Have Hobbies, You Know?

Brochure Collection
All Photos by Randy Stern

We all have hobbies, right?

If you ask an emotional health professional, hobbies are usually suggested for those who are dealing with stress or worse. Something to keep the mind occupied away from the grind of work, struggles in relationships and so forth. Hobbies offer an escape away from these stressors and provide positive reinforcement towards the good things about the individual.

Hobbies manifest in many ways. Collecting is one where it stimulates the want of the chase for a particular item, while solidifying the connection between the collection and the individual's interest level.

Me? I have a hobby. I had it for quite a long time. It had many starts and stops, but at its peak, I had amassed quite a collection. That was…oh…the mid-1980s.

My hobby…er, my collectionit is automobile sales brochures.

I started young. From what I recollect, I had Banker's Boxes of them. How many did I have? I cannot recall. Were they cataloged? Not really. Were they protected? Not really. Did I have anything worth keeping? Of course! I recalled having the brochures of vehicles our family owned during my lifetime – the 1955 Oldsmobile deluxe full-line brochure with amazing artwork and flashy colors, for example.

What happened to the original collection? In the process of moving out of the old house in Reseda, I had to dispose of the entire collection. I figured there was no way to transport all of these Banker's Boxes up to the Bay Area to retain the collection's integrity. I figured I would end up having a portable life – which had been the case for about the next two decades.

Recently, I began to create a focused collection based on vehicles that I have owned. It was not much to collect, but getting around to doing so took some time. All seven were products of eBay – the original online auction site where you can put anything up for someone to buy. Luckily, there were plenty of these auctioneers who put their stuff online that would feed my want to complete the collection. In some cases, I actually had choices of which one to buy.

In that collection, I have the following: 1972 Oldsmobile Full Line Deluxe brochure (for the Ninety-Eight Luxury Sedan), 1974 Ford Mustang II, 1979 Mazda 626 (I got the better version of this one – a tough find, however), 1987 Nissan Trucks (I owned the standard version, short bed with an automatic – my first new vehicle purchase), 1991 Acura Integra (it is my prized one, not in great condition – maybe I'll replace it), 1985 Audi 5000 lineup (I had the S model) and 1986 Chevrolet Sprint (I had it a week or two – the Plus 5-door with a bad radiator – last car I ever owned for reasons I will not get into).

This time around, I took the care of getting plastic protection sleeves for each one. The Acura's brochure barely fit its cover due to its size and thickness. Others slipped right in. They sit in their own drawer by themselves – the way they should be.

Brochure Collection

Whenever I pick up ones these brochures, memories flood back. Between the 1972 Oldsmobile and the 1991 Integra, they represent the fondest of them all. If you are a regular reader of this site, there is no need to explain my reasoning for this.

Yet, the brochures themselves offer their own stories. Thumbing through the years of brochures show a tale of the aspirations of lives of the era. What situations and people would buy a new 1972 Oldsmobile, a 1979 626 or a 1987 Nissan pickup? How do you present the premium car experience while reading a 1985 Audi 5000 or 1991 Acura Integra brochure? How did Chevrolet present its Suzuki-made subcompact for 1986? Maybe a debate of what Ford was thinking on the 1974 Mustang II.

The then-new context helped to bridge the actual experience of each car. With the exception of the Integra, my ownership history had been checkered with more failures than triumphs. The Oldsmobile limped through my first semester at college after blowing out all of its tires, having a gas station service bay over-torque the lugs and of course the ultimate failure of the electrical system – one a college student without auto shop training could not afford to repair. Everything else were near basket cases ranging from minor inconveniences (The 626's spring-less trunk) to epic failures (The Sprint Plus’ radiator, the Audi’s power steering pump’s implosion and the Mustang II – period).

Regardless of the experience in the past, all of these vehicles are back home – only in lithographed splendor.

There is another collection I am putting together – one for Victory & Reseda’s Vehicle of The Year award winners. One should have an archive of winners to thumb through. The most recent winners I have on file, waiting to be protected and such. The problem is that it is tougher to get literature for the most recent models than ones in the past. Though I could find them easier on eBay than through brochure resellers, it is somewhat of a crapshoot to attain.

In fact, it has been. Though I was able to obtain some of the missing winners, the first two – the 2008 Nissan Altima and 2007 Hyundai Sonata – have been tough. I keep on trying, though…

Thinking about the collection today in contrast to the Banker's Boxes of my youth in Reseda, I am glad I am only investing in more concentrated collections that have resonance in my life and work.

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