Sunday, May 3, 2009

Interview with Author James Hale

“The Wonderful Wacky World of MarketingMobiles – Promotional Vehicles of the World” published by Veloce Publishing is an entertaining, colorful and informative insight to some of the most unusual and obscure product promoting vehicles from around the globe.

Author James Hale is known as the world’s leading authority on dune buggies and has been photographing and writing about unusual vehicles for more than 20 years. The English author spoke to us regarding his work chronicling product mobiles for the book.

Fast Food: How did the idea for "The Wonderful Wacky World of Marketingmobiles" come about?

James Hale: Veloce produces a variety of imprints, and…they had an idea that a book on Marketingmobiles was possible, but didn’t know where to start on it, or who should write it. I had already come across many examples of promotional vehicles during my career, and had seen the Outspan orange car, and a beer-bottle lorry, at the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu, Hampshire, England, when the museum first opened in its current building in the mid 1970s.

I loved the idea of using a vehicle shaped liked the product it was advertising to sell something, and agreed to research the subject to see if it was possible to even collect enough material to put together a book on the subject. Only when I was sure that I could do justice to the subject did I agree to accept the book contract.

FF: How did you research all the different vehicles in the book?

Hale: This was the hard part, as I was not aware of any other published books on the subject when I started my research. I began by trawling through photographic archives worldwide to see what I could find, and to follow up leads whenever they presented themselves. Through contacts at the Society of Automotive Historians (of which I’m a member) I came across the book ‘Special Use Vehicles’ by George W Green which contained some very useful information on productmobiles. I got in touch with George, and he generously helped me with contacts and some photographs.

In the meantime, I had also sourced many obscure images of historical vehicles from a really wide variety of sources including newspapers, private collections, and manufacturer’s archives. It really was a case of perseverance to find information. Inevitably, as soon as the book was published, more came to light. I still continue to collect these images and further information, just in case I need to revise the book some day.

FF: What surprised you the most during your research?

Hale: The most surprising thing all the way through was how little information about these vehicles had been documented over time. It would have been great to give more detailed backgrounds to the development of some of the vehicles, but usually this just didn’t exist. As with all unusual book projects – and I’ve worked on a few now – the other thing that struck me was how helpful some people can be when I approached them with what must have sounded like strange requests for pictures and images of long-forgotten vehicles.

Special thanks go to Tom Torrans who helped me with the images of the Sperry Chicken Dinner vehicles. These were rare pictures that Tom sent across the Atlantic for me to copy, and he didn’t know me from Adam! I’m delighted to say, we’ve kept in touch since – that’s the beauty of these types of project. The Motoring Picture Library at Beaulieu also helped enormously, and Margaret Rowles of their press team not only allowed me to have the Outspan orange car photographed with myself for the publicity pictures, but arranged the book launch at the Museum too.

FF: Do you have any favorites?

Hale: There are so many really unusual vehicles that it is hard to single any out. However, purely because it was the Marketingmobile that started this project, I’d have to say the Outspan orange car is a favourite. It’s also the only one I’ve been privileged enough to have a ride in. As I can say now, I’m one of the few people in Britain to have been squeezed into an orange.

FF: What reactions has the book gotten since being published?

Hale: It’s been quite mixed. The motoring press in the UK were really enthusiastic about the book’s launch in 2005, and it got a lot of coverage in magazines and newspapers at that time – mainly from the journalists who attended the book launch at Beaulieu. A lot of classic car magazines also picked up on the novelty of the book. Even a quality British newspaper ran a major feature on the book and the vehicles involved.

Since then, there has been less follow-up than I would have expected. One of the things that I’m still discussing is a Marketingmobile exhibition at Beaulieu. If that happens it might create a second wave of interest. Currently, there will probably not be a second volume, even though I still collect the information out of personal interest.

“The Wonderful Wacky World of MarketingMobiles – Promotional Vehicles of the World” is available from Veloce Publishing:

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