CC Literature: Michigan’s “What Every Driver Must Know,” 1974 Edition – An Illustrated Amalgamation Of The Detroit Four

When I was growing up, my best friend just happened to be the kid who lived kiddie corner from my house, or as the Instagram quips might say, “What luck that my best friend would live so close!”  Even more fortunate, my friend’s mother worked at the local Secretary of State office; therefore, every year, she would bring me a copy of What Every Driver Must Know.  As a preteen in the late 1980s, I would go home and read all the new changes in state vehicle code and make sure I knew the basic rules of the road.  Little did I know, however, that Michigan had been publishing this same book for years.  When I found a 1974 copy at a local swap meet for a dollar a few years ago, there was no way I couldn’t relive those dorky days of my youth.  The 1974 copy was better than the ones I remember, however, because the illustrations within held mysteries of the noblest sort.

Even though most rules have been an anathema to me, I’ve always found the rules of the road to be fascinating.  My parents even bought me this popular-at-parties board game, which I still have, and which my lovely bride will still play with me on a very limited basis, such as during the bleakest days of a pandemic.  She’s a good player, but the game hasn’t quite won her over.

Nevertheless, there was a familiar face in my new swap meet find: Mr. Richard H. Austin, Michigan’s Secretary of State from 1971-1995 (he passed in 2001 at the age of 87).  This is the same picture that the office was using in the late 1980s, so Mr. Austin must have liked it.  It looks like he’s driving an upscale Ford of some sort.

The 1974 edition uses illustrations that could only be the product of a late-1960s or early-1970s artist.  Seemingly hastily drawn, the images depict Detroit product mashups with a few more flattering portraits thrown in for seemingly no reason at all.  The car above resembles an early-1970s Matador to me from the front, but only vaguely.

As an aside, the Secretary of State plays fast and loose with capitalization throughout the booklet.  Grammar is a slippery slope, kids.

Motorcycles and minibikes were popular throughout the 1970s, so it makes sense that information about your motorcycle endorsement was located early on, page 13 to be specific.  Any ideas on the brands?

This truck is obviously a GMC with nothing to hide but an emblem.

On the other hand, this slowpoke who’s clogging the lane and infuriating their fellow motorists is driving a, a…Montego?  It’s not quite clear.

In the signaling section of the booklet, Dodge must have given the “all-clear” on copyright infringement, as a Dart and a Challenger bookend another motorcycle.

Under “passing,” we have some cars with vague GM styling cues, paired with a ’64 Pontiac on the bottom of the page.

Here we can see some more mashups, such as the car on the bottom of the page: Is that a ’62 LeSabre or a ’72 Impala?  Maybe both?

A 1969 or 1970 Ford wagon has been parked by a very inconsiderate motorist on the top left; the others are harder to “box in.”  Is that a ’68 or ’69 Buick Skylark or Special on the lower left, with the rear end of a ’67 or ’68 Chrysler nearby?

Here’s a real-life picture of a ’69 Ford wagon (from for comparison.  I wouldn’t mind driving one of these.

I think we have a 1970 Chevelle on the top right, and a Chevy Colonnade sedan with a missing rear door on the bottom right.  Maybe a ’67 Chevelle on the bottom left?

Then, we have some obvious Chrysler product placement with a ’71 or ’72 Charger parallel parked incorrectly (?).  It’s tough to tell.  Any firetruck fans in here who can give us more information on that illustration?

This “cutaway” hardtop looks like a vague cross between a 1967 or 1968 Mercury and a GM A-Body hardtop from 1966 or 1967.

Is it a Pontiac?

I’ll lean toward the Mercury.

This faceless gentleman could be driving a ’67 Camaro or maybe the never-made ’67 Nova convertible.

More Chrysler product placement: That’s definitely a 1972-1974 Plymouth Barracuda.  Is that a ’69 Chevy sedan on the top left?

Here is a rare 1970 Chevy Nova/AMX mashup that’s gone off the road in a cloud of dust.  Look up from your phone, joker!

Uh-oh.  The owner of this 1967 or 1968 Buick Electra has run into some trouble on the highway.  Or is it something else?

This one is as shadowy as a dusky road: The grille resembles that of a 1963 Galaxie, but the bodyside is too swoopy for that.

No idea…this could be anything.

My wife has been considering the purchase of a 1970s Rupp snowmobile; she had one in her youth, and I can’t argue that we’d have a great time.  Any snow machine fans in here who can identify this drawing?  Maybe a Ski-Doo?

Michigan’s booklet even covers watercraft; after all, we are the “Great Lake State” and are also home to more than 11,000 inland lakes (five acres or larger).

In addition to the illustrations of cars, boats, trucks, and snow machines, What Every Driver Must Know is filled with 79 pages of road signs, driving tips, and other such minutiae.  If you feel the need for more rules in your life, or are just looking for a nerdy diversion from your day-to-day travails, find yourself an old copy.  If you want a more up-to-date version that is not nearly as entertaining, it is now on the internet, which is not nearly as romantic.  See the link below:

Click to access wedmk_16312_7.pdf