Terry Dunham – Tribute

Terry B. Dunham – June 22, 1940 – November 2, 2012

Terry B. Dunham, 72, the founder and a past president of the Buick Heritage Alliance, died on Friday, November 2, 2012. Terry was considered one of the world’s leading experts on the heritage of the Buick automobile, creating an award-winning book, a national enthusiasts’ organization, an innovative website for vintage car owners and major magazine articles.

Terry, of Apopka, Florida, had been active until his death despite an illness of several years. He is survived by his wife, Jeanne (Golden), who was his high school sweetheart in their home town of Howell, Michigan, their daughters Terrilyn (David) Hundeby of Orlando, Florida, and Traci (Glenn) Garde of Atlanta, Georgia; and grandchildren Paul and Shauna Hundeby, and Shelby and Sydney Garde. Also surviving is his mother-in-law, Helen Golden; sister Janet Kerr of Cedarville, Michigan and brother, Roger Dunham of Howell, Michigan.

Terry was born on June 22, 1940 in Howell, Michigan. He was a 1963 graduate of Western Michigan University, where he majored in automotive engineering technology. He was employed in sales and service operations of General Motors’ Pontiac Motor Division from 1963 to 1992. After retirement from GM, he worked for Engineering Analysis in Detroit, handling product liability investigations for GM, Ford and Chrysler. Those assignments often took him to the Caribbean and Mexico and even to Casablanca.

Terry was particularly well known for the book, “The Buick: A Complete History,” which he co-authored with Lawrence R. Gustin. The award-winning and critically acclaimed book came to be accepted by the Buick Motor Division and auto historians as the automaker’s definitive history.

terrydunham1Terry B. Dunham (left) with co-author Lawrence R. Gustin and their book, The Buick: A Complete History – the 6th and last edition.

Terry’s enthusiasm for Buick was also apparent in other activities. He was an active member of the Buick Club of America from its inception in 1966, once president of its northern California chapter, and in 1996, was elected as the club’s national vice president. He wrote several award-winning articles for auto magazines on Buick engine and racing history. He was instrumental in the creation of the Buick Heritage Alliance, a charitable and educational organization which he helped found for the acquisition and preservation of Buick literature, manuals and documents, and to provide an on-line, central information source for Buick restorers, researchers and historians. The Buick Heritage Alliance’s website that Terry created provides access to vast amounts of Buick historical data.

Terry developed a data base of Buick historical production and manufacturing data. With his data base, and through his company, Automotive Research Service, he made it possible for the owner of any vintage Buick, just by getting numbers from the car’s firewall, to obtain details about that specific model, including when it was built.

Terry once said that he became a Buick enthusiast in 1957 when a modified 1937 Dodge he was driving was “soundly beaten” in a back-road drag race by a stock 1937 Buick Century sedan. Shortly after that, he started gathering what became an impressive archive of Buick lore.

During the late 1960s, he began to search out, locate and interview engineers, designers, executives, dealers and others who had contributed to Buick history. Those interviews were tape-recorded and remain a valuable first-person reference.

In 1975, Terry suggested the idea for a major Buick history book to Automobile Quarterly (AQ). Encouraged by that publisher, he conducted research across the United States and in England. In 1980, the first edition of “The Buick: A Complete History,” co-authored with Terry’s good friend, Lawrence R. Gustin, was published by Automobile Quarterly. The book, a critically acclaimed award winner, was reprinted in five more updated editions until Buick’s centennial in 2003. The co-authors had met in 1971 when Terry and his wife, Jeanne, were organizing the Buick club’s first national meet, held at Buick’s headquarters in Flint, Michigan. In 1971, when Terry and Lawrence R. Gustin met, Mr. Gustin was the auto editor of The Flint Journal.

In 1994, Terry completed work on the national award-winning article, “Cobwebs and Overhead Valves,” an in-depth study of the long misunderstood work surrounding development of the first overhead-valve engines produced by David Buick and his team, while the Buick Motor Company was just getting started in Detroit. Long interested in Buick’s early 20th century racing exploits, Terry used 30 years of research to create another major article, “Something Wicked This Way Comes: The Buick Race Cars From Hell.”

When it was announced in 1996 that Buick would be relocating from Flint to Detroit, Buick turned to Terry, asking him to help locate and identify historical documents still stored within the company. Over the course of three years, Terry made a number of trips from Florida to Flint, and in the process, he secured literally thousands of documents that might otherwise have been lost to automobile history. He then oversaw their packing and transportation to the Buick Gallery and Research Center of the Sloan Museum in Flint.

2001 – The Buick Gallery and Research Center at The Sloan Museum, Flint, Michigan.

terrydunham2Left to right – Jeffrey R. Brashares – President, Buick Heritage Alliance, Peg Holmes – Buick Motor Division, Terry B. Dunham, Joe Taubitz – BCA member and mechanic for The Buick Bug, Lawrence R. Gustin – co-author of The Buick – A Complete History.

Terry was honored by the Buick Motor Company in 2006 as a recipient of the Buick Heritage Trophy, the automaker’s top honor for those who preserve and promote Buick’s heritage.

Most recently, in honor of Terry, the Antique Automobile Club of America announced the creation of the Buick Heritage Alliance Award. That award will be presented to the owner of an outstanding 1921-1942 Buick entered in a national meet. Jeffrey R. Brashares, who closely worked with Terry to create and found the Buick Heritage Alliance, said the award was donated by the Buick Heritage Alliance “to honor its board member and former president, Terry B. Dunham, for his untiring devotion to the Alliance’s educational and charitable mission, and his lifelong contributions to the preservation of Buick’s history.”

terrydunham3December 2, 2012 – Howell, Michigan –

Board members of the Buick Heritage Alliance in attendance at Terry B. Dunham’s Memorial Service; from left to right: William C. Anderson, P.E, Jeffrey R. Brashares, Richard P. Sills, Esquire, Joel L. Gauthier, CPA, David M. Landow.

Terry, along with his wife Jeanne, was selflessly and tirelessly committed to the rescue of stray, homeless and injured cats, finding homes for them and saving their lives. Contributions honoring the life of Terry B. Dunham may be made to the Union Rescue Mission, P.O. Box 2791, Orlando, Florida, 32802, or to the Orlando Humane Society, SPCA of Central Florida, 2727 Conroy Road, Orlando, Florida, 32839.