David E. Davis, Jr. Dead: Pioneering Auto Journalist Dies At 80

03/29/2011 11:50 am ET | Updated May 29, 2011

DETROIT — Automobile Magazine founder David E. Davis Jr. believed that at some point in every car enthusiast's life he or she should get behind the wheel of a 12-cylinder vehicle.

"Basically, it would be in a Ferrari," his son, Matt, told the Associated Press Monday. "It was just the image and spirit of driving a Ferrari or Lamborghini. You do know you've gone to a parallel universe."

David E. Davis, considered a pioneer in automotive journalism, died Sunday in an Ann Arbor, Mich., hospital of complications from bladder cancer surgery. He was 80.

Davis' remains were expected to be cremated Monday. The ashes eventually will be dispersed in various locations special to him and his wife, Jeannie, Matt Davis said.

A memorial service likely will be held in April.

Called the dean of automotive journalism by Time Magazine, David E. Davis split from rival Car and Driver to start Automobile in 1985 with financial backing from media mogul Rupert Murdoch. He had been editor of Car and Driver twice, moving its operations from New York to Ann Arbor.

Davis changed the auto magazine business when he started Automobile with thick paper stock and full-color photography, according to the magazine.

"These magazines were not supposed to be trade journals," said Joe DeMatio, deputy editor of Automobile Magazine. "They were celebrations of the automobile, but with a keen awareness of the industry.

"He was very opinionated and did not hesitate to ruffle feathers, even if they were those of his own bosses. He had a keen sense of self, but ultimately he was a serious car enthusiast and brought his passion for cars to enormous audiences."

Ford Motor Co. Executive Vice President Mark Fields said Monday in a statement that Davis' opinions as a journalist were respected.

"His deep knowledge of the automobile business was matched only by his ability to tell engaging stories," Fields said. "While his writing will live on for generations to come, his wit, charm and passion will be greatly missed. The industry has lost a giant."

David E. Davis attended Michigan's Olivet College and later sold Volkswagens and men's clothing. He later spent time on an auto assembly line, DeMatio wrote Sunday on the magazine's website.

Davis even tried his hand at auto racing, but crashed in 1955 in California.

He later sold ads for Road and Track, and wrote automotive ad copy for a Detroit firm.

Davis also is survived by another son, David III; a daughter, Peg; stepdaughter, Eleanor Snow; and stepsons, Vincent and Tony Kuhn.

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