Farewell to a friend, Clive Cussler

He was an author, an adventurer and ambassador for the car collecting hobby. He also was my friend

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Clive Cussler (left) and Andy Reid and their Clive Cussler Seahunters Edition Doxa Sub 300T dive watches | Andy Reid archives photo

I first met Clive Cussler in 1999 at a book signing. We ended up hanging out after the signing, discussing cars and the car hobby. I mentioned that I had always wanted to try SCUBA diving. He said that I needed to get certified as a diver and that he was sure I would love it.

Over the next few years we ran into each other at various car events and had some great conversations about cars. I learned quite a lot and considered him one of my mentors, especially in the Pre-War part of the hobby. During this time he kept asking if I had gotten my SCUBA certification and I always said I would get around to it. He told me to let him know when I finally did it.

Finally, in 2005, on a trip to Hawaii, I got my certification as an Open Water Diver. I called him to let him know. He said he needed proof, so I sent him a picture of my card. 

A few weeks later I received a box in the mail. It contained what has become one of my most prized possessions, a Clive Cussler Seahunters Edition Doxa Sub 300T dive watch, the same watch he and his character Dirk Pitt wear in the Cussler books.

I thought I had the bends. Not knowing what else to do, I called my friend Clive.

Clive Cussler, who died this week at age 88, was one of my favorite people in the car hobby, a true ambassador for the hobby. He not only collected and showed some wonderful cars, both at his museums and at concours events, but he introduced millions of people around the world to the classic car hobby in his scores of great books. It was while reading these books in the late 1980s and early ‘90s that I learned about cars such as Cords, Stutz Bearcats, Talbot-Lago and many others.

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It is sad to see true ambassadors, people like Clive who give back more than they ever got from the hobby, leave us.  Over the years quite a few friends asked me to introduce them to him and he was always gracious and kind, usually sharing a story with them. From a journalist’s perspective, he was always a great interview and an endless source of arcane classic car knowledge.

The most ridiculous call I ever made to Clive was in the fall of 2009. I was on a diving trip on the big island of Hawaii getting my Adventure Diver certification, which included a night dive. I found myself 50 feet under water with zero air left and had to surface immediately. I got on the boat and was dizzy and nauseous. I thought I had the bends. 

Not knowing what else to do, I called my friend Clive from the boat, not realizing that it was 2 a.m. his time. For some reason he answered the phone. I told him, “I’ve got the bends!” 

He calmed me down and asked a number of questions, after which he let me know that I did not have the bends and had just narced myself. I said thank you. His only comment was “please try not to call this late if you can help it.” That was what Clive was like.

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Clive gave us so much, 86 books — more than 100 million copies sold — and many featuring cars from his collection. He was a hunter of shipwrecks, founder of the National Underwater and Marine Agency, which has discovered more than 60 shipwreck sites including that of the Civil War submarine, CSS Hunley. He also was a hunter of classic cars, cars he shared at concours and in his museums, The Cussler Museum in Arvada, Colorado, and the new Janet Cussler Museum in Arizona.

Clive passed away Monday, February 24 at home.  I will miss him. The hobby seems a bit smaller with him no longer in it. Happily, his museums will continue to share is passion for classic cars with us for years to come.

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Andy Reid's first car, purchased at age 15, was a 1968 Fiat 124 coupe. His second, obtained by spending his college savings fund, was a 1966 Ferrari 330 GT 2+2. Since then, he has owned more than 150 cars—none of them normal or reasonable—as well as numerous classic motorcycles and scooters. A veteran of film, television, advertising and helping to launch a few Internet-based companies, Reid was a columnist for Classic Motorsports magazine for 12 years and has written for several other publications. He is considered an expert in European sports and luxury cars and is a respected concours judge. He lives in Canton, Connecticut.

16 COMMENTS

  1. I got to slightly(if that could possibly be) know Clive. A God child of mine was the crane operator tha raised the Hundley from it’s watery grave after Clive located it.

  2. Thanks for the great story about Clive Cussler. I am a big fan of his ever since reading about his discovery of the Hunley. I am also a diver and I always loved the possibility of discovery. And then I learned about his car collection – wow this guy was my hero. Ken

  3. Oh- I am so sad. I loved his adventure novels, loved his true life marine adventures, and the cars. Oh, weeping Jesus, those cars. The coffee table book of his faves, used in the Pitt stories, lives on my coffee table; never needs dusting. My favorites are the vivid green on egads! green vintage Caddy, and that Avion which appeared in the movie “Sahara”.
    The man brought so much pleasure to so many, he will be greatly missed. Another icon gone. Sigh.
    Godspeed, Clive.

  4. I was at a car auction in Scottsdale a number of years ago and the auctioneer pointed out Mr. Cusller sitting in the front row. All I knew about him was that an elderly lady living on houseboat in our marina was a great fan. Thinking that celebrities probably get tired of strangers coming up and trying to engage them in conversation I wrote a short note explaining about my friend and mentioning that she would be thrilled to get a chance to talk with him since she too had been an adventurous type when she was younger (built a sailboat and sailed it to the south pacific). I included her phone number. I approached him, handed him the note and moved away. Based on what Mr. Reid had to say about him you can probably guess the end of this story. About month later she answered the phone and on the other end was Clive Cussler! Not only was he caring enough to call but she said they chatted for half an hour! What a guy, the world could use more people like him.

  5. Well said Andy,
    For the millions of us who never met Clive but felt as if he were part of our family through his books, we will miss him. He leaves a huge void in our lives and imaginations.

  6. Truly an amazing author- great detail and story telling ability. NUMA, Dirk Pitt those amazing cars, adventures and strong intelligent women. Great combination fit to stimulate anyone’s imagination.

  7. Very sad to hear about Clive ,,, i read all his books and dreamed about being a Dirk Pitt an even started to write my own novel about my adventures,,, He was a part of my youth and part of my fanatasy,,,,great novelist,great man! We readers will miss him dearly! Fred Czubba —Ottawa Canada

  8. Looked forward to the release of every new book by Clive Cussler. The pictures of some of his collector cars were a true bonus to every book. I enjoyed many of his series , but of course my favourites were the Dirk Pitt novels. He will be truly missed but he left an indelible mark in history. As a Canadian fan of his I unfortunately never got to meet him but it always felt like I had. RIP Clive !

  9. Who is going to continue the Clive Cussler tradition? Miss his writing already, will start rereading from the beginning

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