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.
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.
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.