VIP Sponsors


Auto Historian, Editor, Writer Dave Brownell Dead at 80

Dave Brownell is on the far left in this photo taken during a press trip to Germany in 1997. Fourth in from the left is Dieter Zeitz, who ran Chrysler in the U.S. for a time. 
By John Gunnell
David W. Brownell, a well-known editor, writer and car historian passed away on Nov. 15, 2021 in Bennington, Vt., at age 80. Brownell had suffered a stroke in the early 2000s. It ended a long career for a man who loved Brass Era automobiles, British sports cars and almost anything else with wheels.
Brownell started writing stories about vintage automobiles while he was still a high school student. His father collected Buicks, Cadillacs and La Salles, so it was not surprising that Dave’s first car was a 1936 La Salle convertible that he bought for $25. He spent summers of his youth visiting his aunt in New Bedford, Mass., where he loved looking for ancient brass automobile lamps in junkyards.
In 1971, Brownell moved from the Providence R.I. area to Iola, Wis., to become the first editor of a new tabloid publication called Old Cars.  About five years later, he became the editor of Cars & Parts magazine in Sidney, Ohio. After spending a year there, he relocated to Bennington, Vt., to work for the Hemming’s Motor News group.
Brownell became the editor of Hemming’s, as well as of the companion magazine Special-Interest Autos and the Hemming’s Vintage Auto Almanac, a guide to parts and services suppliers in the old-car industry. Over the years, he owned more than 50 collectible cars including a Morgan, a 1924 Bentley touring, a 4-door Lincoln convertible and a 1909 or 1910 Brush. Dave enjoyed dressing in period clothes at car shows.

Dave Brownell’s appeared in 1967 on the George Allen TV talk show in Providence, R.I. He is closest to the camera with Ashley Clark in center and Allen at right. (Linda Clark photo).
Brownell attended the National Automotive Journalism Awards conference at the Imperial Palace Auto Collection in the 1980s. He also traveled to England several times to participate in the famous London-to-Brighton Run. He was a member of the Veteran Motor Car Club of America (VMCCA), the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) and the Society of Automotive Historians (SAH) and the Horseless Carriage Club.
In 1994, Brownell partnered with auto memorabilia collector Jerry Letteri of Rocky Hill, Conn. to form Automobilia Auctions, LLC. He also became a vintage car appraiser and the Eastern Representative for Gooding & Co. auctioneers and the Vintage Car Brokerage. In the late-‘90s, he joined the Meguiar’s Award Committee. Dave won the prestigious “Friends of Automotive History Award” from the SAH in 1999. He was a columnist for Keith Martin’s Sports Car Market magazine from 2002-2004. 
Brownell was married twice. His first wife Mary Brownell and his second wife Marian Savage both passed away in 2016. Following his stroke, Brownell dropped out of the public eye. Many of the enthusiasts that he met over five decades wondered what had happened to him. They were saddened to hear of his passing late last year.