HomeCar CultureCommentaryIn praise of one of the unsung heroes of our hobby

In praise of one of the unsung heroes of our hobby


Pebble's Sanda Button reads off John Clinard's accomplishments
Pebble’s Sanda Button reads off John Clinard’s accomplishments | David Gooley photos

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.

Ford officials and his wife join Clinard and a GT40 at Pebble Beach ceremony
Ford officials, his wife and a GT40 join Clinard at Pebble Beach ceremony

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.”

Quietly, behind the scenes, John Clinard has done just that. It’s very nice to see that he’s no longer an unsung hero.siglarry

Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

Recent Posts