Note: Car and Driver has just published their first issue of 2010, with a new Editor, a new look, and a new vision. This is a repost from an earlier version of my blog. I have made a minimal number of edits.
Since I was five years old, one of the greatest pleasures of my life has been to sit at the kitchen table almost every night before bed and have a bowl of cereal while reading. Because of the short time it takes to eat, some awkward dexterity requirements, and collateral damage from milk droplets, I found that it was not conducive to reading books in this manner (though I have certainly done so). I found that suitable reading material was similar in requirement to that perused while meeting another of our natural appointments. The “easily digestible” metaphor seems to lend itself almost too easily to resist, so there it is. Therefore, for the first ten years of this cereal-time experience, my reading material was exclusively the back of the cereal box itself and Marvel comic books.
However, at some point while I was an early teenager, probably through the influence of James Bond movies, I began to become interested in cars. So, my cereal-time reading material changed to car magazines and has largely remained so ever since. Simple arithmetic will show that I cannot possibly afford to keep a new car magazine propped-up in front of me every single night, even if there were that many available each month. This means that I read and re-read lots and lots of back-issues. Out of this familiarity with my back catalog has emerged a favorite issue. The November 1987 issue of Car and Driver magazine stands out as having featured an uncanny number of my all-time favorite cars all in a single regular issue.
I purchased this issue at the Sembach, AFB BX in West Germany, where I was stationed at the time. Despite the “Special Import Issue” title, it is a 160-page regular monthly issue, not a true special issue, like the “Road & Track Exotic Cars” series published around the same time.
Almost every page is special to me, causing sparks from cool car content and twinges of ordinary 80’s nostalgia. There, I haven’t even reached the contents page and I have come across a Pirelli ad featuring an UrM5, one of my all-time favorite cars. The Letters page features an almost full-page letter (all three columns) from a gentleman protesting a feature on Bernd Rosemeyer. The letter was written on behalf of Herr Rosemeyer’s widow and contains very interesting information about the famous Auto Union driver.
“The world has become a better place, thanks to the likes of the Audi Quattro Sport, the Ferrari GTO and F40, and the Porsche 959.”
The FYI section has some nice spy shots of the “King of the Hill” Corvette (the rare, Lotus-tuned ZR-1) and the restyled Lotus Esprit, another of my all-time favorites. “No word on whether the revised car can be driven underwater,” says C&D. There is also a preview of the Alfa Romeo 164, a car that I have always found handsome. The most interesting item to me though, is an article about Dr. Ferdinand PiÃ«ch planning to build an Audi hypercar. “The plan is to build a four-door sports-luxury automobile that will be to normal sedans as the Porsche 959 is to everyday sports cars. It will probably be powered by a twin-turbo version of the 32-valve, 3.6 liter V-8 that Audi is planning for it’s all-new 300 model, due in 1989.”
The first feature is a full five-page preview of the Ferrari F40. Despite only being a preview, the article is as detailed as a road test and features beautiful and detailed full-color photography of the supercar. “Wrap your reverie in artistic coachwork. Paint it red and let it blur.” Indeed. This feature alone is worth the magazine’s price of admission. But there is more to come. Oh so much more.
Next up we have a full road test of the E30 M3, another of my all-time favorite cars. All the full-page color money went to the F40, so with two exceptions, the M3 review suffers from bland b&w photography. Otherwise the review is well done and the editors fall all over themselves in praise of this car. “The M3 leaps through the corners like a cat, its feisty engine spinning and spitting until you snatch another gear or the rev limiter grabs it by the tail.” 80’s values are really apparent here as much of the article is devoted to exorcising the “yuppie” attachment to this BMW in particular. And, as with most other reviews in the magazine, a column-inch is devoted to the drag coefficient of the vehicle: 0.33 Cd, which as we find out later, is unimpressive by Audi and Honda standards.
The next article is a full review of the Toyota Celica All-Trac Turbo. While I can’t say that this is one of my favorite cars, I will say that this is a car that has always interested me. And why not? It is a 190 hp, turbocharged, four-wheel drive coupe. It’s also a Toyota. Could this be the answer to many of our dreams? Could this be…a dependable UrQuattro? C&D thinks so, calling it “a better Audi Turbo Quattro for fewer bucks.” Ouch. Still, my interest in this car, bolstered by this good review was enough for me to shop around for one once. Unfortunately, I found out that they (like older Audis) are rare in my area and they had held their value more than I had hoped (or could afford at the time). These days, I think they would make the good basis for an inexpensive AWD rallycross car.
Next we have the first real miss of the issue. A review of the Mitsubishi Galant Î£ (Sigma). First of all, any car name that has me having to go to my character map utility in order to properly type the name, can’t possible reflect a well thought-out car. Is that a ONE-spoke steering wheel? The review claims that this is a decent car, but it suffers from the same cockpit techno-excess as the Isuzu Impulse and 300ZX Turbo Anniversary Edition. This is painful 80’s nostalgia.
Still less than halfway through the issue, we have a two-page “Driving Impression” review of the new Audi 80/90. “Although the Sahara is hardly an ideal environment for assessing a car’s capabilities, we did manage to learn a few things about the new Audis. They can run at redline all day long in temperatures of up to 127 degrees Fahrenheit without overheating.” Drag coefficient: 0.29 Cd for the 80, 0.30 Cd for the 90.
This is followed by a three-page, full-color “Driving Impression” review of the Honda CRX Si. Great car. Drag coefficient: 0.29 Cd for the HF, 0.30 Cd for the Si.
Only just now wading through the middle of the magazine and we have another two-page “Driving Impression” review, this time of the BMW 750iL. “Under its hood, however, lies a magnificent 5.0 liter V-12 – the first twelve-cylinder engine in a German production car since the demise of the Maybach Zeppelin in 1939.” This review is followed by three single-page impressions for the Mazda 929, the Toyota Corolla, and the beautiful, if unexciting, Mercedes-Benz 300CE.
The issue contains a “Charting the Changes” section, where all current import vehicles are listed with the changes for the model year. What is most noteworthy are all of the companies no longer importing to the US (or no longer in existence): Panther, Sterling, TVR, Citroen, Peugeot, Renault, Bitter, Merkur, Alfa Romeo, Bertone…and Yugo, among others.
Next is a feature article about vintage California Cadillacs…like I ever read this article knowing what follows.
How can they have held off until page 116? The sunglasses and sheepskin seat cover ads are just a few pages away. Can the full road test of the Porsche 959 really be buried behind a prancing horse and other such distractions (fine distractions, though they were)? Apparently so. But the shock of its position within the magazine is soon replaced by the shock of how much content is really in this magazine. It is the gift that keeps on giving.
“With rocket-sled acceleration and the highest top end we’ve ever measured, the 959 stands alone at the pinnacle of production-car performance.”
“If that sounds like hyperbole, how does a 0-to-60-mph time of 3.6 seconds strike you? The drill was to switch the 959’s programmable four-wheel-drive system into its locked setting, engage low gear, wind the engine to 7000 rpm, and drop the clutch. The result was a cloud of rubber dust from the four spinning Bridgestone RE71 gumballs, and a car that disappeared as if shot from a cannon.”
Whew. This is good 80’s nostalgia. Decades later and the 959 could still hold its own against the modern supercar. Having a full road test of probably my favorite car ever at a time when otherwise finding this information meant a trip to the library microfiche reader is truly priceless.
Let’s see here, a couple of short takes to finish things off. Here is one of the Shelby CSX and as a bonus, the Volkswagen Jetta GLI 16V. Less than two years after I bought this magazine, I would own the smaller version of that car – the Golf GTI 16V. Okay, here we go into the ad zone. C&D paraphernalia, radar detectors, an ad starring a girl in leg-warmers, the dubiously-named “Muf-Loc” (which is a locking cover for your tailpipe that supposedly keeps thieves from starting your car), an ad for Shokan that looks like it was made with an early dot-matrix printer, sunglasses, seat covers and…oh…my…God.
No way. No WAY! Just when I am tiring of the ads, just when I’m deciding not to turn to Patrick Bedard’s commentary on the last page, just when I’m about to lock this issue into a safety deposit box…I come across the “Sport” section. There, beginning with a stunning full-color photo, is a seven page article about Walter RÃ¶hrl’s record setting run to the top of Pikes Peak in the Audi S1!
The article was even written by the late Larry Griffin, who wrote one of the greatest articles I have ever read about the Audi quattro rally car. His writing for this article was almost equally as clever, “When they pounce up the heights, they annihilate the quiet. The fastest Open Rally cars are demonically, hideously fast. More than ever you regard performance as a relative thing. If Einstein could see Vatanen and RÃ¶hrl apply the sciences of turbocharging and aerodynamics and four-wheel drive, he would clap like a kid and rewrite his theory of relativity to allow for such pluperfect aberrations.”
Griffin’s interview with RÃ¶hrl also turns up some items of interest for the technoweenies, “Last year, Unser demonstrated the thrilling effect of a toggle switch on the dash. Audi remains reluctant to discuss the particulars, but Walter confirms that, as rumored, the switch kicks in a jet of compressed air that keeps the turbo singing even when the throttle is closed.” Walter goes on to amputate Bobby Unser’s previous record (also set in an S1) by eight seconds.
By the end of the article, I’m spent. This issue of Car and Driver is for sale for one meellion dollars (or you can probably find it sans milk spots on eBay for $5). It comes with my highest recommendation and with the hope that Car and Driver can rebuild itself and reclaim its former glory.
Here’s a really weird question. Who wrote the BMW M3 article?
Arthur St. Antoine reviewed the M3.
I just purchased an 88 300ce and I will be purchasing this car and driver just to read the one page blurb on the car. I used to have a C&D collection that spanned from 1993-1999 but alas had to pitch them when moving as they weighed about 250 lbs! I used to love to re-read old articles! Although I still subscribe to C&D it is not the same as it used to be. Thanks!
Shame on you! The Mitsubishi Galant Sigma was the highlight of this issue! It showcased the world’s FIRST electronic suspension control (which would become vital in European luxury sedans over a decade later). I love that car with it’s classic timeless design and special unique features. It may have had a one spoke steering wheel but guess what? What other car had audio controls on the steering wheel back in 1987?
You know what Jimmy Pribble? YOU are the real miss here.