RIP: Evelyn Ay Sempier (1933-2008)

I just learned from Chris Custin, the Historian for the Metropolitan Owners Club of North America, that Evelyn Ay Sempier, Miss America 1954, died last Saturday.

Courtesy of David Austin
Evelyn was special to Metropolitan fans, because Nash sponsored the Miss America contest when she was crowned. Nash called upon her to officially "unveil" the Metropolitan to the public at the Chicago Auto Show in early 1954. She also bought (with some of her Miss America prize money) one of the early Metropolitan convertibles for her brother.

Evelyn Ay Sempier when Torq-O
spoke with her: July 12th, 1997
Back in 1997, we started to interview all of the surviving participants in the design, building, and selling of the Metropolitan. Evelyn was our second interview.

We went to her home near Philadelphia and spent the afternoon of July 12th, 1997, talking to her about her association with the pageant and with Nash. We shot about four hours of footage with her.

My favorite anecdote that she shared with us was about a typical day in the life of Miss America: always smiling, sleeping on the plane, riding in Nash Ambassadors, breathless, hungry, expected to have opinions on world hunger, Communism, crop rotation, and juvenile delinquency.

She was a class act through and through. Generous with her time. Perfect and articulate with her answers. Patient with our process. A wonderful lady. Farewell.

Torq-O Podcast #9: AMC CEO Gerald Meyers

If you want to know what goes on in a car company, you go straight to the top.

Torq-O's newest podcast features a rare and exclusive interview with Gerald Meyers, the CEO at American Motors from 1977 to 1982.

Meyers talks about his early days at the company and some of its unforgettable cars. Don't miss Meyers' take on the Marlin, the Javelin, the AMX, and a little project called the AMX/3.

Meyers also shares his memories about the men behind the machines: George Romney, Roy Abernethy, and Dick Teague.

Go to our Podcast page, and get it straight from the CEO's mouth. Got an iPod? Fire up iTunes, and search for Torq-O. Then click the Torq-O logo, and download this podcast.

(This podcast is a perfect companion to our Bill McNealy interview. If you haven't listened to that conversation, go to our Podcast page and download both of them!)

RIP: John Conde (1918-2008)

I've been expecting this moment for years.

I recently learned that former AMC public relations executive and auto historian John Conde had died. He died on August 29th at age 90, but it took me awhile to discover it.

John reaches out and touches someone in this 1956 Nash publicity photo

The funeral directors generously provided an online guestbook. If you ever spent some time with John, please take a moment and share some memories. Here are mine:

John was a fascinating man with a deep and abiding love of auto history.

He had a front row seat to that history as a public relations exec who watched Nash merge with Hudson to form American Motors which later bought the Jeep brand.

We're lucky to have a lot of that history. After John retired from AMC in 1976, he wrote many articles for a variety of auto history magazines. (I hope someone collects his stories someday.)

In addition, he allowed me into his house in 2000 to interview him extensively about his Nash/AMC career. Someday, I hope I can find a way to share these six hours of interviews with car fans.

John talks to Torq-O about the Metropolitan in 1998

John almost singlehandedly preserved the history of American Motors even when the company itself didn't care about its past. He once told me that former AMC President Bill Luneberg called him "the company's greatest used car salesman" for his efforts to preserve materials about AMC's past.

In fact, he was allowed to take a lot of that material with him when he retired. The sale of publicity photos and rare product literature helped fund his retirement years.

John was a complex character. On the surface, he could sometimes be curt and irritable. However, he could also be generous and kind. If he sensed your motives were in the interest of helping someone or preserving auto history, he was always very selfless and giving.

John lived through some fascinating times in the auto industry, and we're lucky that he chronicled and catalogued them vividly and prodigiously.

Thanks, John. I'm going to miss you. You're one for the history books.

Torq-O Podcast #8: Random Rides

Torq-O often talks with authors and executives about your favorite orphan cars.

This time, we spoke with owners.

Join us for conversations with the people who own the titles at the Bob Poole Orphan Car Show at Carillon Park in Dayton, Ohio, on September 27, 2008.

You'll meet the drivers of some great cars: a 1968 AMC Javelin, a 1963 Studebaker Lark Wagonaire, a 1959 AMC Ambassador, a 1973 Plymouth Gold Duster, a 1954 Hudson Jet, a 1935 Hupmobile, and a 1965 AMC Marlin.

Go to our Podcast page for the audio-only and video-enhanced versions.