David C. Smith

Inducted 2005

David C. Smith

Michigan’s “Mr. Automotive”

After serving in the Korean War, Dave Smith, an honorably discharged U.S. Marine came to Central Michigan University to become a schoolteacher. Thanks to a couple elective courses in journalism, he wound up graduating top of his journalism class at the University of Michigan, contributing to a Pulitzer Prize and founding an internationally acclaimed automotive magazine.

“There is no question in my mind that Dave Smith is one of the most competent and knowledgeable journalists covering the industry,” writes David E. Cole, director of the Office for the Study of Automotive Transportation at the University of Michigan. “I have been particularly impressed with his integrity. He has never violated a confidence or used ‘off the record’ material from me. His work continues to demonstrate a high level of insight and understanding.”

Smith began his career in 1958 as a sports reporter at Central Michigan University where he received the Ralph M. Byers Award given to a student showing outstanding promise as a journalist. He worked at the Detroit Times, The Toledo Blade, The Wall Street Journal and the Detroit Free Press. While serving as its business and financial editor, he contributed to a Pulitzer Prize for Local Reporting of the Detroit Riots and won two major awards from the University of Missouri.

He joined a stodgy automotive newsletter in 1970, turning it into a formidable magazine, Ward’s Auto World, reaching 75,000 automotive executives, engineers and marketing folks.

Friends and former reporters say one of his best contributions was mentoring.“He trained me to sniff out a good story, recognize a scam, and how to keep the ‘maggots,’ as he called them, from sucking up precious time,” writes Patty LaNoue Stearns, a freelance journalist and author in Traverse City.

“ There are phalanxes of younger writers who are indebted to Dave for mentoring them along in their careers,” said fellow automotive journalist Michael Davis of Royal Oak.