Rick Shnitzler was born on June 10th, 1943 in Boston, Massachusetts. Shnitzler began collecting auto ephemera and restoring automobiles as a teenager. He operated an auto ephemera business and sold literature. He also restored and sold automobiles for many years.
He met Z. Taylor Vinson at the Hershey Auto Show in the 1970s and the two shared a booth for a number of years. He sold Vinson some of the most significant pieces in his collection.
More recently, Shnitzler has been active in founding and operating TailLight Diplomacy – a lobbying organization that seeks to unite car enthusiasts in Cuba with those in the United States in an effort to preserve classic American automobiles.
Watch a clip of Mr. Shnitzler talking about how he obtained material and his insights on Mr. Vinson as a collector:
In Z. Taylor Vinson’s unpublished “Auto-biography” -- he wrote this of Mr. Shnitzler:
I used to go to Hershey [Auto Show] for only one of its 3 days and try to limit my spending to no more than $50. That was around '70, when I rounded a corner on my yearly day at Hershey and came across a Volvo sedan with boxes of foreign literature and ads on the hood. Their tousle-headed bespectacled owner, about 10 years younger than myself, lolled against the car, as surprised to find someone interested in foreign stuff as I was to find someone selling it. That was Rick Shnitzler...
...When I decided in '73 to become a vendor at Hershey, Rick suggested that we take adjoining spaces, and we did so for a number of years. The next year, Rick called my attention to the pre-Hershey show at Carlisle, and I joined him there as well. If memory serves, that was the year we stayed in a camping trailer that he'd towed along, an idea that grew as cold as the weather...
...I learned much from Rick from the vantage point of my adjoining space, about the art of talking to potential customers and getting rid of tiresome browsers. We were selling much the same kind of literature and would pass people on from one to the other if one of us didn't have the item sought...
...[Shnitzler sold Vinson] two of the most interesting items in the Collection: the 1924 Delaunay-Belleville portfolio, a wild thing with exotic body designs by the Parisian fashion designers of the day, and the 1934 Hispano-Suiza spiral bound catalogue printed in 500 copies.
When Shnitzler crossed paths with Vinson one year at the Hershey Car Show, Shnitzler told him about TailLight Diplomacy, a group he co-founded in Philadelphia in 1999. TailLight Diplomacy fostered improving relations between the United States and Cuba through connections among car enthusiasts and encouraging the preservation of Cuba’s fleet of aging American classic cars. Soon after, Vinson joined TailLight Diplomacy’s advisory committee. According to Schnitzler, Vinson's background in law and his experience of working in government made him a significant contributor to the group. Vinson served on the committee until his death in 2009. Shnitzler donated the papers of TailLight Diplomacy to the Detroit Public Library in 2012.