John Gunnell was a great automotive journalist

By Todd Haefer

Automotive journalist and historian John Gunnell, of Iola, Wis., died suddenly following a medical procedure Aug. 24 in Marshfield, Wis. He was 76.

He was the editor and/or author of such classic car books from Krause Publications as the Standard Catalog of American Cars, Old Cars Price Guide, 55 Years of Mercury, Standard Catalog of American Muscle Cars and dozens more. He was also the editor of Old Cars Weekly magazine for many years.

John was an essential part of the Krause Publications era that included Chet Krause, Terry Boyce, Kenny Butolph and others who started Old Cars Weekly and the annual Iola Car Show, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year.

John grew up in Staten Island, N.Y., and never lost his accent. He moved to Iola in 1978 in a 1953 Pontiac to join the Old Cars staff as its technical editor.

Here is a link to a story John wrote for Old Cars Weekly in 2022 about his experiences at Krause Publications:

I had the pleasure of working for John at Old Cars Weekly in the early 2000s. Unfortunately, it was only a temporary position lasting a few months, as the position had been promised to Angelo Van Bogart, who was finishing college and eventually became the editor of the magazine, which he still is.

However, it was one of the best jobs I ever had. I had previously been a police and courts reporter for an Oshkosh newspaper and was burning out with the daily routine of covering depressing human behavior and trying to pry truthful information from people on both sides of the law unwilling to provide it.

What a joy it was to be able to interview people who were happy to talk about their favorite hobby of classic cars.

John was a great leader, the type who caused his co-workers to want to do their best for him.

My favorite story I wrote during that time was a tribute to Big Daddy Roth, best known for his outrageous hot rod models driven by various monsters, including the famous Rat Fink.

John tried to keep me on, but the publisher said he couldn’t justify the extra position. John did steer me to IMOA President Jerry Robbin, however, which led to my position as editor of Quicksilver magazine 22 years ago.

John was the most prolific writer I have ever met. He wrote thousands of stories, not only for Old Cars Weekly, but for many club magazines. He said he had a working ethic of writing at least two stories a day!

He was also giving of his time. Knowing that the IMOA club did not have money to pay for writers or photographers, he would occasionally provide stories for Quicksilver free of charge.
One year, when the IMOA met in Iola for its annual car show, John hosted a barbecue for our members at his Gunner’s Great Garage restoration shop in Manawa, Wis., pressing me into service to cook hamburgers and hot dogs.

I was also able to take part in weekly gatherings with John and other current and former employees of Krause Publications at Little Norway tavern in nearby Scandinavia.

John seemed happy all the time, with what can best be described as “a merry glint” in his eyes. He will be sorely missed.