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Auto Beat’s “Voice of God, Robb Mahr, Dead at 76

Veteran broadcaster's voice was a familiar one.

by on Oct.22, 2012

His voice could shake a room; Robb Mahr was known to many on the auto circuit as "The Voice of God."

By David Smith, Special to

When he was covering news for Detroit’s WWJ Radio in the 1970s and ‘80s, there was a button in the control panel marked “VOG.”

That was the button they pushed to contact Robb Mahr,  “The Voice of God.” Mr. Mahr, of Keego Harbor,  who died on Wednesday (Oct.17) after a year-long bout with cancer. He would have turned 76 on Nov.4.

While the laid-back journalist made no claim to sounding like God, his booming, deep base voice – even in normal conversation – was a natural for radio, his first love, and for television.

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Born in Colorado Springs, CO, Mahr attended the University of Denver and the University of Nebraska. He  was an on-air reporter  early in his career on radio stations in Monterey and San Jose, CA,  and continued in broadcasting  until his death.


Master Story-Teller, David E. Davis Dead at 80

A man of many hats and helmets.

by on Mar.28, 2011

The "dean of automotive journalism," David E. Davis died during cancer surgery at 80.

Few have left such a legacy on the car world as David E. Davis.  The knee-jerk response is to dub him the “dean of automotive journalism.”  But knowing David for the entirety of my career I would assume that should this copy have fallen into his hands he’d have quickly struck that out as clichéd.

There will be plenty of words spoken about David E. Davis in the coming days.  One cannot ignore the passing of a legend who had so much influence on the automotive world in his 80 years, right up to his death over the weekend.

Yes, he has often been called the “dean,” and by no less than Time magazine.  Elsewhere, it has been said, David “entirely and single-handedly defined…automotive journalism in the post-Vietnam war era.”

Davis himself suggested that his skill was “his ability to marry southern story-telling to big-city presentation.”  Journalists are, by definition, story tellers.  But few could so effectively captivate and hold the attention of an audience, even those who cared little to naught about automobiles.  Perhaps the closest I can think of with such a skill is Garrison Keillor, the host of NPR’s Prairie Home Companion.

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With the white beard – and girth — that sometimes rivaled St. Nick, eyes that alternately twinkled and pierced, and the trademark waxed moustache that added a touch of a smile even to the most cutting remark, Davis was one of those who seldom was lost in the crowd.

I last saw him less than a month ago, at the black tie gala at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance.  David had lost a significant amount of weight as the result of the preliminary treatment he was receiving for bladder cancer.  (He would ultimately succumb to complications following surgery for the disease.)  He was a bit more mellow and reflective, but if he feared the possible dangers he kept it hidden, matter-of-factly discussing the doctor’s prognosis as if it were another road test.  Only David could make the risks seem almost humorous.


Farewell, Jerry Flint

Curmudgeon, contrarian, car guy, and a member of the automotive media community we’ll be hard-pressed to replace.

by on Aug.09, 2010

The late Jerry Flint spent more than a half century covering the automotive beat.

We auto writers are seldom at a loss for words.  Heck, we’re often paid by the word.  But I think many of us, right now, are having trouble finding the right way to say farewell to Jerry Flint, who passed away of a stroke, this past weekend.

It would be tempting to go with a “just-the-facts, ma’am,” obituary.  But, then again, Jerry was never one to stop with the basic facts and figures.  It might be equally appealing to grab for a few obvious adjectives to describe a man who spent more than 50 years covering the auto beat.  Opinionated is one that anyone who knew Jerry Flint would agree on.  Curmudgeon is likely another.

But neither approach tells the full picture of a man who wasn’t just the “dean” of auto writers, as his journalist son, Joe Flint, suggests.  For all his talents, as well as his flaws, Jerry Flint fell somewhere between conscience and contrarian.  He accepted no easy answers and didn’t tolerate them from friend or foe, industry leader or media colleague.  It is that role, along with his wit and wisdom, his bawdy asides – and the encouragement he offered me routinely over the 30 years I can count him as a friend that I will personally miss.

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It’s tempting to suggest that Jerry Flint was born to cover the auto industry.  A Detroit native, he grew up in what he described as a “workers hillbilly neighborhood.”  Detroit had been a boom town, but by the time Flint was born, on June 20, 1931, it was deep into the Great Depression, and the Flint family would walk, rather than ride the streetcars, to save a few nickels.  When it came time to go to college, he didn’t stray far, enrolling at Wayne State University, which was then Detroit’s city college.