Founder of Hemmings Motor News dies at 88
On February 25, 2015 the classic automotive industry lost a one of a kind individual. Ernest R. “Ernie” Hemmings passed away peacefully in his sleep. He was 88. Ernie was a quiet, unassuming individual who loved antique cars and loved being around them. He grew up in Quincy, Illinois where he lived upstairs above the family business, Standard Auto Parts.
Standard Auto Parts and Early Ford Cars
The auto parts business was his life. Ernie began working in his dad’s shop in high school and he eventually took over in 1945. With the exception of his time in the military during the Korean War, Ernie poured his heart and soul into the parts business. The Standard Auto Parts store was known for stocking parts for early model Ford cars like the Model A and Model T. It gained a national reputation as the place to go for that elusive part or accessory you needed.
An Idea Is Born
In 1952 Ernie Hemmings began a mail order parts catalog to help expand the clientele for the store. The catalog was an immediate hit classic car buffs. In 1954 the catalog transitioned into a newsletter aimed at people interested in early model Fords. Ernie edited, mimeographed and distributed the newsletter by himself. He proudly called it the Hemmings Motor News.
Hemmings Motor News - the Magazine That Started It All
The newsletter (or magazine as Ernie called it) was sent out to the Standard’s catalog customers and offered free ad space to subscribers. The first edition was only 4 pages long and annual subscriptions went for just 50 cents. 500 subscribers signed up in the first year and soon a legend was born.
Want to Sell a Car, Turn to the Bible
Hemmings Motor News garnered a loyal following. It became a forum for individuals interested in selling or restoring antique automobiles. HMN was the “bible” for car collectors. Ernie had found a niche market that no one realized existed and he did it years before anyone even knew what a niche market was. Mr. Hemmings was ahead of his time.
New Owner, New Home
In 1969 Ernie Hemmings sold the magazine to another car enthusiast, Terry Ehrich of Bennington, Vermont. By then the magazine had close to 40,000 loyal readers. Ehrich moved the production to its new home in Vermont but nothing could part Ernie from his beloved magazine. He continued to write a monthly nostalgia article for the magazine up until 2004.
60 Years and Still Going Strong
Today Hemmings Motor News has close to 200,000 subscribers and is still produced in Bennington, VT. Its yearly subscription cost is $31.95 per year. At 550 pages in length, HMN looks more like a phone book than a magazine. It is a far cry from the early days when Ernie typed the pages himself.
Leaving a Legacy Behind
Ernie Hemmings was a simple man. His love of antique cars led him to seek out others like him through his magazine. He became an icon in the classic car community. His once little newsletter is one of the largest subscriber based classified Ad publications in the world. Now a part of American City Business Journals, HMN has spun off three associated titles – Hemmings Classic Car, Hemmings Muscle Machines, and Hemmings Sports and Exotic Cars. Together these four publications have a combined readership of half a million.
For the Love of Classic Cars
But success did not change this humble man. “He was not the kind of person who would splurge on too fancy a car” Ernie’s son, Trent Hemmings notes. “The biggest revelation for him was when he bought his first car that had heated seats.” Ernie Hemmings was a man of simple tastes. He liked what he liked and what he liked was classic cars. His love of vintage autos made it possible for others to share in the pleasure of owning and restoring them. For that we are truly grateful. Thank you Ernie. God Speed.
From all of us at Classic Auto Insurance we would like to extend our deepest sympathy to the Hemmings family for their loss. Ernie was one of a kind. Thank you for sharing him with us over the years.
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