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Signing of factory letters - a few questions

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#1 dmj

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Posted 21 August 2017 - 22:49

I hope that this is the right place for this kind of question but if admin thinks that it should be in Racing collectibles, please be free to move it there. I'm posting this here because no one is trying to sell anything, just to learn something.


A friend recently purchased correspondence of late Zlatko Živković, late Croatian motorsport journalist. It consists of around 300 letters from different manufacturers and clubs all around the world to him, dating from 1947. to approximately 1980. Mostly there are the answers to various questions asked by him and sent along with brochures and photos. So far I went just through maybe 30% of it (sorry, didn't want to be impolite and ask friend to let me take a photo of it so can't prove any photo evidence - but if needed I'm sure it could be provided, to some reasonable extent). I sincerely doubt that it will give any new insight to mysteries of the racing world but there were some gems anyway in the part I checked so far.


For example, I saw a letter that could bring completely new light to events of 1955. An official one from Lancia, stating that they can't provide any details about their F1 car as they transferred everything to Ferrari. Great thing is that it is dated 13th January 1955! However (and indirectly confirmed in another letter from same factory) it is an obvious case of typo. So early in a new year it is not uncommon for anyone to erroneously type the previous year instead, so it is obvious that letter was actually written in January 1956.


I also liked pars like FIA confirming disregard of jet engines in terms of LSR, as they have "no practical value", ACO denying to say anything in 1957. about two years earlier accident, as the legal procedures were still ongoing, Raymond Mays explaining his racing exploits and denying any government backup to BRM and some more details. BMW denying plans to build a sports car or enter any racing activities in 1952. was also nice - and I was also a bit surprised to see that they were already referring to 1940. GP di Brescia as "Mille Miglia" back then...


However, my questions here are about the signatures on letters. I'm quite sure that Enzo Ferrari didn't personally signed the answers to some Yugoslavian journalist back in 1956., even if the correct violet-purple ink is present. It goes for Orsi signature on Maserati letters too, and I can presume that Stirling Moss was so popular in 1959. that he also hired someone to sign his letters. But there are some other names that I thought to ask, maybe someone knows if they signed their letters personally or they let the secretaries to do it for them? I know we can't really judge it without visual examples but let me ask anyway. Letters I saw by Raymond Mays have so great personal touch that I somehow believe that he really signed them. Also, HWM was probably so short on employees that John Heath might personally sign the letters. Also there's a Lotus letter from 1959. signed by sales manager P. Warr...


Letters are not for sale and I don't see any changes in foreseeable future but I'd like to determine - not the originality, because it is really obvious that they are original - but possibility that some of great names from racing history personally signed some of them. Don't know much of the way how it was done at those days and how probable it is. Your thoughts, please.


#2 Michael Ferner

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Posted 22 August 2017 - 08:51

I don't know of a single person who would let someone else sign personal letters for them! Who would do such a thing, and why? :confused:

#3 dmj

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Posted 22 August 2017 - 10:13

Maybe I didn't explain it well.

Most of these letters are regular factory/club correspondence, answering the questions to some journalist abroad, all of them typed.

However, these are signed by someone and in quite few cases these persons are really well known ones.

For very long time it is common that secretaries or someone else sign such letters for their bosses, occupied with whatever they do.

It goes for a lot of "personal" letters as well - don't talk about handwritten ones here, but typed like those I'm talking about.

#4 Vitesse2

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Posted 22 August 2017 - 10:52

The convention in British businesses was always that if a secretary signed typed correspondence it was signed in their own name, with the handwritten letters 'pp' (per procurationem) next to the signatory's name. In theory, if a letter is signed without 'pp' then the signature is that of the sender.


I'm pretty sure Raymond Mays would have signed his own correspondence. But my guess would be that Stirling - who's always been one for gadgets - used an Autopen. That might very well apply to Enzo Ferrari too. Probably others as well.

#5 Michael Ferner

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Posted 22 August 2017 - 10:58

But you still don't sign other than your own name, don't you? I understand that those letters may not have been written personally, that happens a lot. But where I live, nobody signs in another person's name, in fact that would cause very big legal trouble (where's Ensign when you need him?). You can sign on behalf of someone else, but you always sign with your own name!!

#6 dmj

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Posted 22 August 2017 - 11:20

Michael, have you ever seen an episode of „Pawn Shop“, or any of myriad of similar TV programs about buying and sellimg the collectibles? At least in USA it seems quite common that secretaries and assistants sign instead of their bosses, up to presidential level,without any kind of pp mark. I have a few autographs but I’m not a collector so don’t know much about it but it seems as a fairly common practice.

#7 Charlieman

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Posted 22 August 2017 - 11:37

Fan mail and autographed photos? We've all heard celebrities claim that they replied to all correspondence personally. We've all wondered how much was siphoned off by the manager to be handled by secretaries so that the star could do his/her main job...


I suspect that any letter from an identified journalist -- even or especially from Eastern Europe? -- would be given special treatment. The initial correspondence would be read and the reply would be a considered one. 


With regard to Enzo Ferrari, he was the man who created a racing team fan club in the 1930s. Didn't he publish newsletters and season reports? I believe he was very publicity conscious. Orsi at Maserati needed publicity to sell cars and keep the company in business.

#8 D-Type

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Posted 22 August 2017 - 16:29

There are a few different scenarios here.  
(1)  A secretary or employee signing with the boss's name.  This is illegal in most countries and can be considered fraud.  Commonly used for autograph requests - I remember on a TV programme someone produced a poster signed by all four Beatles.  The expert looked at it and said that two signatures were genuine but two were by a secretary who he named.
(2)  A secretary or employee signing with their own name over a typed version of the boss's name, usually, but not always accompanied by the letters "pp" in manuscript
(3)  A secretary or employee signing with their own name, possibly over a typed version of their name signing "on behalf of the company", eg Peter Warr might write and sign a letter from Lotus.


In my working career I have come across both (2) and (3) but never (1).  There are a couple of variations  I have come across:

(a)  All correspondence was in the name of our Project Manager to the other Company's Project Manager so both were deemed to know about it.  We would address a letter to the project manager but mark kit "For the attention of . . . whoever we wanted to communicate with" and I would include my initials in the letter reference and sign it in my own name but "PP" it.
(b)  All correspondence was written in the name of the Project Manager saying "I . . ." not "We . . .".  The originator included his initials in the reference and the Project Manager signed the letter in person.  I had a few returned saying "don't say that say this".  I think letters were addressed to the the company's project manager who would delegate 
Both strategies ensured that the legal responsibility was made clear. Once when we were in a hurry to issue a drawing on a Friday, I traced my boss's signature onto it - he was furious and I nearly lost my job.  The fact that he was Polish and in Poland, engineering liability is personal (not the company's) may well have had something to do with it