Chasing Cars — The Classic Automobile Book Collection of Ed Harri
Quiet people make the best listeners, because they’re not so busy talking that they don’t hear others speak.
Ed Harri, who with his wife Pat started Wenaha Gallery of Dayton 27 years ago, was such a person. Lawyer, university professor, family man, Ed — who passed away in March 2020 — was described as an exceptional listener. When he did speak, it was after much deliberation and thought. And people, sensing this, listened, because what he said was worth hearing.
“Ed was a student of life,” Pat says. “He had interests in many areas– people, art, books, and . . . cars.”
Growing up in Dayton in the 1950s, Ed lived in a town that looks very different from what it does today. One of those differences was a car dealership called Pool’s, located back then at the corner of Front and Main Street. On his way to or back from school, Ed stopped in regularly to look at the cars, talk to the dealers, and pick up any brochures or information available. Often the dealers saved aside auto manufacturers’ display books, and at the end of the season, gave the books and binders to Ed.
“He read magazines and books on cars, as well as talked to people, asked questions. He often knew more about the cars on the lots than the dealers did,” Pat said.
Cars: A Lifelong Passion
“It was just a passion with him when he was a little kid,” added CJ Horlacher, a longtime gallery associate who remembers the stories Ed told of growing up in Dayton. “He said that, before the new models came out, the dealerships plastered the windows with paper, and then they made a big deal about tearing off the paper to unveil the new models.
“He hung around and hung around and was right there on the spot when the moment came.”
Ed preferred American-made cars of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, Pat said, and his collection included real cars (“He had seven Cadillacs of various years”), the brochures, dealer display items, car magazines, model cars, car kits, die cast cars, and books, the latter which is the focus of an Art Event at Wenaha Gallery, but we’ll get back to that in a minute. From young boyhood on, Ed enjoyed putting together model cars, and when he passed on, Pat entrusted that collection to Savonnah Henderson, Wenaha Gallery associate and framer, to sell, one at a time or in batches, to car aficionados nationwide.
Model Kits and Coffee Table Books
“His collection included more than 600 kits, mostly from the 50s through the 70s, unbuilt, and then he had built around 600 model cars,” Henderson says. “His favorite model car was the 1968 Pontiac GTO — he built that at least 10 times, painting it differently each time, and I also sold six-eight unbuilt ones. He also had 300 die cast models as well, most of which we have sold.
“And now there are the books.”
The books. Ed also collected car books, again favoring American models from the 50s through the 70s.
“He always had a love of books and would buy them whenever he had money,” Pat said. “Anytime we went to a bookstore (and he loved bookstores) we would check out the car sections. Some of his books he received as gifts, because it didn’t take long for our kids to know that a car book was a sure hit for birthdays and special occasions.”
Through the years, the gifts and purchases accrued until the couple had more than 20 large bookshelves in their home for Ed’s many interests. A number of those shelves held coffee-table-sized volumes on cars — Corvettes, Cadillacs, Porsches, Camaros, concept cars, dream cars, Fifties flashbacks — large, photo-filled tomes that Ed found relaxing to pore through after an intense day of teaching future attorneys.
The Golden Era of Automobiles
“He loved cars, and books were a natural extension of that,” Pat says. “His collection is like a timeline of the Golden Era of auto making. Like the model kits and die cast cars, we are making this collection available to car aficionados like Ed himself. He enjoyed talking to other car lovers, and he would be glad to know that others, who appreciate these cars the way he did, have an opportunity to add these books to their own homes. In Ed’s honor, we are having an Art Event of his automobile books.”
Ed was a quiet man, but he was deep, and the young boy of Dayton grew into a man who asked questions, listened to answers, and, when you caught him in the right mood, told stories of a little town where there used to be a car dealership called Pool’s. And there was a boy called Ed. And Ed loved cars.
The Ed Harri Classic Car Book Collection is the featured Art Event at Wenaha Gallery from March 29 through April 25, 2022.
Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday through Thursday, 9-4 Fridays, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.
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