A preview of Ted Burness’ automatic album
Decades ago, Sunday mornings were a special time when the Sunday paper arrived full of news, advertisements, coupons and, of course, comics. Whereas Jalopnik’s young readers might not be familiar with Ted Burness and his work, its weekly “Auto Album” panels and Spotter’s Guides have been a gearhead’s delight for years. I just came across one 1969 printed copy of his “Auto Album” book at a vintage sale, and it might be the cutest thing I’ve found.
The book opens with a preface by Burness, explaining how he got his published one-panel comics. “In 1962, I was trying to sell a variety of comedy stories to newspaper syndicates, and as a bonus, I developed a once-a-week panel on old cars that I called Automatic scrapbook. Most publishers weren’t interested in my comics, but some of them liked old cars.
Burness would strike a deal with newspaper syndicate owner Lew Little, who said that if Burness could draw 18 pictures of cars in two weeks, he would try to sell them to newspapers. Burness completed the art in 11 days, and in July 1966 the first panel of Auto Album appeared in print.
These panels are simply great intricate comic illustrations of cars that usually included the make, model, and year., as well as some wacky facts. For example, on page 70 is a 1931 Buick. “Introduced Saturday, July 26, 1930,The bottom of the panel reads: “A winner!” This new Buick was so successful that it remained unchanged until very late in 1931. Twenty years later: still a common sight, as many thousands of powerful and reliable 1931 Buicks remained in daily use everywhere!
These single-panel comics gave Burn the break he necessary, eventually becoming a founding name in car enthusiast circles. HWe were also the mind and hand drawing behind the Observer’s Guides. His illustrations have helped many young people car enthusiasts learn to distinguish a pre-war Chevy from a Buick.
The Last of 22 Spotter’s Guide to Burness Appears having been published in the middle of the years. According to Hemmingsthe artist died in 2012 at the age of 79.
I had never heard of Burness until I came across this book, which cost me $5.00, and I’m so glad I found it. In a sense, it looks like one of many Rosetta Stones for the car enthusiast – a lost art to be rediscovered and enjoyed for years to come.