After honoring everybody's favorite driving denizen, Denise McCluggage, with our first Lifetime Achievement Award, everybody's favorite automotive curmudgeon, Jerry Flint, with our second award, and everybody's favorite automotive scribe, David E. Davis Jr. with our third award, we weren't sure where to turn for year four. After all, how can you top those icons?
We wanted to choose someone who was dynamic - a gifted and prolific writer who really knows about cars - someone who understands the business, especially the products that the business is all about. We wanted someone with an understanding of the past but who can look to the future and prognosticate on the kinds of cars and trucks we'll be driving two, three, even ten years from now; someone who'd risk life and limb climbing trees or hiding out all night in sub-zero temperatures in a dirt bunker of jumping onto the back of a fork lift to spy down the line on what the industry is cooking up for the next generation.
But who would it be, we asked ourselves? Where could we find such a dedicated, passionate, fire-eating, bonafide car nut...?
Fortunately, it all became clear on a dance floor, at a press preview of all places. There he was - this guy boogying with women half his age until the band played "Goodnight Irene" for the third time! There were two women in particular believed to be named Svetlana and Irina. Off they went into a corner, and with them went a man with a bottle of chardonnay and a gleam in his eye. He started reading their palms, telling them all kinds of things their mothers never told them - and probably never wanted them to hear! He claimed his palm reading was "a gift from God."
Suddenly, we realized that we were in the presence of the legend that we were looking for. That fact became clear when a teeny, weensy little camera fell out of his shirt pocket and a flash bulb popped out of his shoe, ricocheted off a metallic sounding object under a cover of some kind, behind a drape that was wrapped around a chain link fence and topped by barbed wire.
Jim Dunne had gotten the photo!
Jim Dunne - you just have to say the name and images magically appear - images that the auto manufacturers have spent millions trying to hide, by the way. Jim has made his name and built his reputation by getting shots of future products before anyone else even knew they were on the drawing boards.
He started his career over 40 years ago and his stories and photos have since appeared in magazines, newspapers and TV stations everywhere, especially in Popular Mechanics magazine where Jim has served as Detroit Editor for the past 21 years. His auto-related assignments have taken him virtually around the world - across Europe, Japan, China, India, Thailand, the Philippines, Morocco, South Africa and more, but his specialty has always been right here in Detroit.
In addition to writing about cars and photographing them, Dunne conducted on-track testing for years and can still quote competitive figures on acceleration, handling, maneuverability, fuel economy, braking... and probably VIN numbers for that matter! Specifically on the C5 Corvette that he actually helped GM introduce to the media at the North American International Auto Show in the late '90s.
He has become both the friend and the nemesis (probably at the same time in some cases) to just about every important automotive executive over the past four decades, and has written in-depth articles on everybody from Henry Ford II and John Delorean to Lee Iacocca, Bob Lutz and Dieter Zetsche.
But no matter what he was doing, or who he was talking to, his specialty has always been revealing the secrets that auto companies like to keep from the public, especially those that reveal the shape and substance of their future vehicles.
Before journalism, Dunne dabbled in just a few other areas. He was a paper boy, soda jerk, a produce clerk at Kroger, a Baker shoe salesman, a gofer for a catering company, a used car porter/parts chaser, a driving instructor, construction and office equipment salesman, postal service driver, roofer, furniture mover, door-to-door magazine salesman, technical writer for the Redstone Missile, press machine operator at Chrysler, inventor, landlord and REPO driver!
Actually, Dunne points to his military service - he was an NCO in charge of an infantry intelligence and reconnaissance squad during the Korean War - as a precursor to his automotive work. He says that learning to spy from unlikely places has served him very well as he scouts out places like "Dunne's Grove" just outside of GM's Milford Proving Grounds, the scene of many of his favorite shots, including his first-ever spy shot of the revised Corvair back in the early '60s.
Dunne has also always managed to have a great life outside the auto industry starting with his seven children and his idyllic-sounding summer family gatherings in Cape Cod. He's a lifelong sports enthusiast with a focus on handball, racquetball and tennis as well as sport fishing and, of course, reading the palms of unsuspecting young women and dancing their feet off well into the wee hours of the morning.
Jim Dunne has done it all and ROAD & TRAVEL Magazine and our Lifetime Achievement sponsor, DaimlerChrylser, are thrilled and privileged to honor him with the fourth annual Lifetime Achievement Award.