One of the things about unsung heroes is that they are accustomed to working quietly, diligent and even dogged, and well behind the scenes, where they might go almost unnoticed. But while they personally might be unheralded, the things they do are not.
Fortunately, from time to time, someone does notice such heroes and offers them praise that they find almost embarrassing.
Last summer, one such unsung hero was pulled out of the shadows and honored at as hallowed a piece of ground as the hobby has to offer — the concours d’elegance at Pebble Beach.
“There are a lot of stars in the automotive world, people who shine brightly, who are always out front,” said concours chairman Sandra Button. “But today we are honoring a quiet man… a guy who makes other people shine, and he’s done that for over 40 years.”
She then turned and shook hands with John Clinard.
I’ve known John Clinard for more than three decades. He has anchored (and survived) Ford’s West Coast public relations office throughout those years, serving among other things as a source of accurate historical information when auto writers call with questions. Among other things, he makes us appear much smarter and more knowledgeable than we really are.
Oh, and regardless of your feelings for John’s employer, you need to know — because John would never tell you — that once upon a time he and Ford designer Freeman Thomas created an informal gathering they called Cars & Coffee in a parking lot south of Los Angeles.
From a modest start by a couple of modest men, Cars & Coffee has spread, not only across the country but around the world, bringing car guys and gals and their collector vehicles together, in some places on a weekly basis, in some once a month.
Although the idea has spread far and wide, AutoWeek magazine noted a couple of years ago that the only person being paid was the maintenance guy who cleaned up the parking lot after all the cars had left for the day, probably picking up whatever Clinard may have missed on his own cleanup tour of the grounds. While some are glad-handing, John Clinard is hands on.
Not only was Clinard honored at Pebble Beach, but with the concours’ own prestigious Lorin Tryon Trophy, and award named for the events former and long-time co-chairman and usually given to a major car collector or someone of the stature of Stirling Moss, who received the trophy in 2011. The Tryon is designed to honor someone who “has contributed significantly to the Pebble Beach concours d’Elegance and to the collector car world.”