I regret to announce that author-illustrator Tad Burness, who did so much to remind car fans of Crosley history and accomplishments over the decades though his Auto Album, has passed away in Pacific Grove, California.
As automotive authors go, he probably doesn't spring to the top of most people's minds, but he's certainly one of the most referenced, and it's a good bet that every old car fan has thumbed through his work at some point or another. Tad Burness, who inspired many a gearhead over the years with his spotters guide books and syndicated Auto Album feature, died last month at the age of 79.
Born Wallace B. Burness in 1933 in Berkeley, California, Tad Burness' first Auto Album feature appeared on June 12, 1966, and he continued to produce that illustrated daily automotive history up until his death. Since then, the Auto Albums have been collected in four volumes, to go along with his 25 other books, 22 of which focused on automobiles. Of those, the most popular by far were from his Spotter's Guide series, which were more of a collage or scrapbook featuring one model year per manufacturer per page with relevant information on the particular models scattered among the pictures. They always proved a good resource for identifying a car's year, make, and model, and Tad always made sure to include up-to-the-minute material in his spotter's guides rather than pick an arbitrary end date.
Tad Burness died of heart failure on November 19. I consider him a friend and we'd keep in touch through letters, which of course I'll always keep.
The CCOC will officially sponsor Tad's online memorial as a way of thanking him for almost a half-century of reminding the world that there once was an American car called a Crosley.
December 11, 2012 at 9:07 am
His Spotters Guide were my textbooks as I stated learning about cars as a child. I can't count the hours I spent poring over each page, memorizing details and differences from year to year. My copies, including one held together with tape, are prized possessions to this day. I appreciate your efforts, and thank you for the knowledge you shared.
December 11, 2012 at 9:19 am
Fred, I echo your sentiments as to Tad's Spotters Guides. I too nearly memorized each and every page as a kid, and still do to this day. Tad and I were pen-pals starting when I was 11 years old here in Omaha. We wrote eachother weekly, and always discussed the latest Auto Album featured in our local paper. I feel very blessed to have had his friendship at such an early age. Ive kept every letter, every interesting car advertisement he ever sent me. I have nearly all his books, some he was kind enough to autograph for me. There will always be a special place in my heart for Tad Burness. He shaped much of my world as a kid, and gave me some very special memories. Im now 52, and have never forgotten all the automotive lore Ive learned from him. Take care my friend. RIP
Will Fox Omaha NE.
December 11, 2012 at 12:09 pm
Will, That is a touching story and speaks volumes about Mr. Burnessâ character. Thanks for sharing that.
Mark B. Morrow says:
December 11, 2012 at 9:21 am
Fred, I could not have said it better.
Thanks Tad, for your contribution to my automotive knowledge.
December 11, 2012 at 9:12 am
These are the books I discovered growing up. They are indispensable.
Paul F says:
December 11, 2012 at 9:21 am
I echo Fred's sentiments wholeheartedly!! One of my most desired, and valued books was a small orange and yellow paperback book ordered from a Scholastic Books flyer when I was in grade school. That book, which I still have, introduced me to cars like the '48 Tucker, the chrome laden '58 Buick, the Moon, Underslung, Marmon, Studebaker Avanti, etc. etc. I also admired and tried to copy his drawing style. Thanks, Tad!
December 11, 2012 at 10:28 am
I've got the same book Paul. I'm going to have to dig it out this evening.
December 11, 2012 at 12:54 pm
I had exactly the same thought when I saw this headline. I too got my first Tad Burness book from Scholastic Books and remember seeing his columns somewhere years ago. Sad loss.
J.D. Hall says:
December 11, 2012 at 2:49 pm
Same here. One of my most treasured books from good ol' Scholastic Book Services which I read over and over and which I still have in front of me as I write this. It was a big part of launching my insatiable interest in all things vintage and mechanical back in grade school all for the princely sum I see here of 50 cents. Lots of memoriesâ¦thanks Mr. Burness and Godspeed.
December 11, 2012 at 4:11 pm
Paul, that was the first book of Tad's that I ever got. Mine is held together with tape as well. Tad autographed mine in October, 1971. I first wrote him as an 11 year old that August, just before starting 5th grade.
ICEMAN aka WPGJET says:
December 11, 2012 at 9:45 am
The first car book I ever bought was the American Car Spotters Guide 1940-1965 back in 1978 from an independent bookstore at Charleswood's Park West Mall, in Winnipeg.. The very first book in my car book collection. And to me, the most valuable.
December 11, 2012 at 11:28 am
I picked it up in 1978 in Kingston, Ontario at age 14. I'd never seen anything like it, and much of what I know today came from that first book in my collection.
Big Al says:
December 11, 2012 at 9:47 am
I still use Mr. Burness' Spotter's Guide from time to time. So quick and easy to use - a great resource for settling arguments between so-called "automotive experts".
Andrew Collier says:
December 11, 2012 at 10:39 am
In common with the other posters, your American Car Spotters Guide 1940-1965 left an indelible impression on this teenager's imagination. And yes, I still have my original copy, dog-eared and sellotaped. Thank you Mr Burness from an American car enthusiast in the UK. VERY much appreciated.
December 11, 2012 at 10:55 am
His books were on my Christmas wish list back in 1981. I was fortunate that year's Santa bought me 3 volumes: the 1940-1965, 1965-1980 and Imported Car Spotters Guide!
December 11, 2012 at 11:11 am
All I can do is echo others comments. What a wonderful resource and usually my first go-to reference, even today. Publishers later re-packaged his work in various compilations, so over time I have consolidated and have given away various duplicates to very grateful recipients. There is also an American Car Spotters Guide 1981-1990. Also there was an American Truck Spotters Guide 1925-1970, which was republished with additional bus and van information as Ultimate Truck and Van Spotters Guide 1925-1990.
Rest in peace, Mr. Burness. You've done a man's work.
December 11, 2012 at 3:00 pm
And, yes my introduction to Tad Burness was also from the Auto Album compilation sold by Scholastic Books. You can still buy Auto Album compilations, I believe.
December 11, 2012 at 12:21 pm
Oh My Gosh. At 53 years old, this is the first I have heard of Tad's series. Stopping at the used book store on the way home tonite. Thanks Hemmings and RIP Mr. Burness. I love forward to falling in love with your work.
December 11, 2012 at 2:57 pm
Good luck, olelongrooffan. They are a little out-of-print-ish these days. You may have to buy online. I got my last couple from online used book sellers.
John Moulton says:
December 11, 2012 at 2:40 pm
I've know Tad for several years, but only in the automotive world. He was much more than a car guy.
I went to his memorial service and the church was absolutely packed with friends. At the service I learned that he volunteered at Pacific Grove Convalescent and played piano for the residents for more than 25 years. He also was church pianist at the Peninsula Baptist Church in Pacific Grove for 15 years. And all of this without reading music. He knew every song you requested of him by heart.
I started The Little Car Show in Pacific Grove and Tad and his wife, Sandy, were kind enough to participate by signing his books that we, Marina Motorsports, bought to sell and raise money for the P.G. Library and Youth Center.
I'll never forget Tad, he was a very special man and will leave a huge empty space in many lives!
John Moulton says:
December 11, 2012 at 4:32 pm
Everyone's comments mirror what I've heard from Tad's admirers at our Pacific Grove car show. I'm going to forward this Hemmings link to Sandy.
Al Van De Mark says:
December 11, 2012 at 7:33 pm
I was surprised by Tad Burness' death. Before I retired, I was a New England Car Show DJ for over 25 years and have both volumes of his Tad Burgess Auto Album which each contained his drawings of over 100 cars from 1899 through 1960, 1 drawing per page. I used these for automotive trivia at many of the shows. He will certainly be missed by his fans like me.
Trevor Poulsen says:
December 11, 2012 at 7:52 pm
When I first heard of the Tad's "Spotters Guide", many, many years ago, I added it to my Library, & have added new ones as they became available.
As an admirer of American Cars living in Australia, Tad's Books helped me identify the various makes that are not seen locally.
While the first editions were Black & White, they helped me immensly with learning the Years, Makes & Models of American cars.
I continually refer to Tad's Books when I write stories for Car Magazines.
When his latest Spotters Bible was released in full colour, naturally, I added a copy to my Library, & have recommended it to friends.
It was encouraging to read that he not only appreciated cars, but also spent time cultivating his Spiritual Life.
He has gone to his reward in Heaven.
Thank you Tad.
December 11, 2012 at 8:03 pm
I am so saddened to hear of his passing. I have a Spotters Guide book for 1920 to 1980 that our youngest son gave to me for my birthday many years ago. It is in pristine condition even though it's been referred to probably hundreds of times. I wrote to him a few times, the first to tell him how great the book was. He always replied promptly which doesn't always happen. His artistry and detail were outstanding along with information. The Fresno Bee used to have an illustration by him every Sunday and with a small writeup about the vehicle, sure wish I had saved all of them. I'm amazed that he wasn't a lot more well known. RIP, Mr. Burness.
December 11, 2012 at 8:25 pm
Me too. I discovered Tad when I bought his Car Spotters Guide from Scholastic Book Services for .49 cents. I pored over it again and again. It was a great educaton. If only i applied that focus to my school work. I'm sorry I never met him especially because he was fairly local. From these recollections I see he was just as fine a person as I had thought he might be.
Thank you Tad, for being so generous.
Mike Cibulas says:
December 11, 2012 at 9:16 pm
If I recall correctly, I first came across Tad Burness at a very young age, as there were features in the Sunday paper that spotlighted a particular old car every week. I have two of Tad's books, my favorite being the in-color Car Spotters Bible from 1940-1980. I never get tired of looking through it.
In reading the comments from others here who, like me, discovered Mr. Burness' work at an early age, I sure hope he had some idea of just how many kids he inspired to become fascinated with the hobby which we so enjoy. It is apparent from these comments that, for so many of us, it would become a lifelong interest, due in large part to the passion that came through in his work. Thank you, sir, for being such a catalyst in my love for old cars.
December 12, 2012 at 3:54 am
So sad to hear about Mr. Burness. I too received the 1940-65 spotters guide as an 11th Birthday present. Mom took me to Berkshire Mall in Reading, PA to get it. Followed up at Christmas with a 1966-80 Spotters. Got all the rest over the next few years. Really like the Monstrous 1920-80 guide¦ big heavy book and Tad's opus in my opinion. Thanks Tad, for making my formative years fun while learning. I now have four oldies on my own and am involved in the hobby.
Bob West says:
December 12, 2012 at 8:12 am
RIP, Tom. How many of us grew up with his articles and later used his books as reference sources?
December 12, 2012 at 9:28 am
One last note. I sent Tad a press photo I acquired of the `56 DeSoto Adventurer hardtop, which he used in Auto Album, and was kind enough to thank me in the illustration, as he did with so many. I was given a small frame for it by my mother when it appeared in our paper. I still have it to this day, along with every letter he wrote me.