30 years ago, June 18-20 1982, Ford debuted the Mustang SVO to the world in the form of two engineering prototypes competing in a 24-hour endurance race: the Quaker State Oil Longest Day of Nelson. This SCCA-sanctioned race, held at the well-known (and very humble) club race track Nelson Ledges in Ohio, isn’t with us anymore but was well-known and beloved in its time. The event offered classes for what at the time was known as Showroom Stock cars, as well as future production prototypes, to race.
The SCCA Showroom Stock class in those days was just that: cars that were literally straight from the showroom, with only safety equipment added. Race tires were not available in those days, so whatever street tire came in the stock size would have to be used. Ford Pintos were very popular then because of their crisp handling and easy availability of replacement parts. We personally knew one racer who leased his from a local dealer and had several crashes over the years.
The Prototype class was something new to the SCCA, and it was controversial both inside the SCCA as well as outside. The intent was to generate excitement by allowing manufacturers to bring a prototype of a car that would be built within the next two years. It wasn’t intended for high-end or exotica, but for future versions of cars already racing in Showroom Stock. The Corvette wasn’t allowed into the event until 1985, and even then only under pressure from GM, but the Mustang was the perfect fit since it has already been racing in Showroom Stock since 1979. Racing would indeed improve the breed.
Ford brought two prototypes to the event with the idea of fast-tracking their development under the stress of racing, as well as to show the public the direction that the Mustang was taking. And to ensure that good publicity was spread far and wide, Ford arranged for Car and Driver and Road & Track to each have their own identical car. The magazines selected their drivers from amongst their own staff, which resulted in a mixed bag of skillsets. Road & Track had Innes Ireland, for example, and there was no question of the skill there. Each magazine also brought nearly their entire staff to crew their pits, cook for everyone, and cheer on their (hopefully) winning team.
And we were there ourselves, working as an SCCA-licensed Pit Marshall. That meant that we were working in the pits, right in front of the Mustang SVOs, and saw everything. We also got to meet our favorite writers from both magazines. What an incredible weekend! Read more
Yes, a 1985 Maserati Biturbo (pronounced “bee-turbo”) has been turned in to the cash for clunkers program. Unbelievable, right?
No. I remember that way back in 1984, at one of the early 24 hour endurance races at Nelson Ledges, somebody brought one of these to compete. I think it was Car and Driver, although it was a long time ago and I don’t remember who it was amoungst all the competitors. So you’d think they’d clean up, right?
No. It wasn’t the legendary Maserati un-reliability that did them in this time. It was absolutely unbelievable godawful structural integrity. The car flexed so badly in the turns that the gas tank split wide open. Yes, I saw it – I was standing in the middle of the pits as an SCCA Pit Marshall.
Even the lowly Pinto (which was a nice little car, except for one little problem) required somebody to hit it in the rear before it might develop a leak (and several competed in these races without issue). But the Maserati delivered a full gusher just from driving around a few turns.
So, yes, it was a POS then and should have been recalled. It’s amazing that one could end up like this – sent to the great beyond by the
Obama Healthcare Program cash for clunker program.
For those of you who weren’t born yet, the Biturbo had a 90-degree V-6 (inherently unbalanced) with a 3-valve head and two turbochargers. Strangely, those blew into a 2-barrel Weber carb. It was quick, but it couldn’t last.
Check with Car and Driver for the going rates on used Biturbos: http://usedcars.caranddriver.com/used_cars/Maserati/Biturbo
Older and wiser do not necessarily go hand-in-hand.
We’ve all made mistakes when we were younger… part of getting older for most of us also means getting wiser and understanding the difference.
Not so for PJ. At 62 years old, you have to wonder if he has gotten any wiser. He never looks back at his indiscretions as exactly that. We all had these kinds of “adventures” in our earlier days of the auto hobby… but how many of us have out-grown them and learned from them? P.J. cannot be counted as one – he seems merely to have moved on without looking at them as childish and irresponsible. Some of us, now both older and wiser, came to realize that we didn’t need to do everything we did – we just needed to grow up and part of growing up and wising up is recognizing past mistakes and learning from them.
If you’re a long-time Car and Driver reader like I am (40 years now), you’ll recognize many of these stories from many years ago. PJ was never one of my favorite writers – his stories were rarely about the car and were more often about the abuse.
Drunk driving is a big part of this book: drunken trips to Mexico, drunken press jaunts, drunken trips across the desert and on motorcycles. The first chapter is titled “How to Drive Fast on Drugs While Getting Your Wing-Wang Squeezed and Not Spill Your Drink” (first published in National Lampoon in 1979). This sets the tone for the rest of the book, although unfortunately it’s also the best-written chapter and it’s all down-hill from there. After the first few chapters the book becomes very hard to read and by the half-way mark it’s all a repetitive haze (no pun intended) and you just don’t care.
PJ also laments what he calls the “Death of the American car” – not recognizing the parallels to his own life. In reality the excesses of the “American Car” (and especially gigantic trucks and SUVs) has finally caught up with it. The difference is that American Cars will finally grow up and PJ will just continue to target his writing to the minority of people who never did and probably never will.
Car & Driver is starting to sound like themselves again after many years of churn…
In a June article, they propose 5 special edition/future Mustangs they’d like to see. One includes a special edition Smokey & The Bandit model shown below.
Follow this link (suggest <right click> and <open in new tab>) to the article: http://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/hot_lists/high_performance/features_classic_cars/five_future_mustangs_we_d_like_to_see_feature__1/(page)/1
This was apparently the end of the effort —- look at the rear rotor and broken rear suspension.
We’ll have to wait to hear the full story from them. There is little coverage of this event otherwise.
Here’s a write-up by Mike Dushane of Car and Driver, who provides a good overview of the S2000 CR and particularly how this is a retirement gift of the father of the S2000, Shigeru Uehara, Honda R&D
I’ve has a busy year and somehow I missed the controversy over Brock Yates’ firing by Car and Driver. I didn’t know about it until I noticed that there was no reference to him in this years coverage of the Cannonball.
The linked article at The Truth brings me up-to-date about what happened – Csaba Csere fired Brock.
IMHO, Brock should have a personal site and blog so that he can talk directly to his fans.
But it may well be related to the bigger discussion: how far Car and Driver has fallen.
Note the comments of the interviewee Frank Williams. I entirely agree – I have been subscribing to Car and Driver for 24 years and have also read every issue for 5 years before that as well. I’ve seen several ups and downs over the years – such as when Brock was fired for the first time. I met the entire staff at Nelson Ledges as they raced Mustang SVOs.
And Frank is right – the magazine is really dull compared to where it’s been. It isn’t the same magazine anymore, it’s probably not my favorite read anymore (what is? Probably Evo from Britain, or the very consistent - and rarely exciting - AutoWeek).
For the past 24 years the arrival of Car and Driver in the mail has been a big event – I’d stop everything and read it cover to cover. And I’d be mad as hell if it showed up on a newstand somewhere before I got my copy in the mail. But there is longer any point. This could be the end of an era for me.
- 2001 interview: http://www.racingarchives.org/transcripts/brockyates.htm
- April 15 2006: Csaba Csere fires Brock: http://onelapofamerica.com/whatsNew/index.shtml?0112
- Brock Yates: “Speed Secrets at The Glen”: http://www.kollins.com/speedsecrets/
Car and Driver is 50 years old. And they are throwing a party for their readers at Indy this weekend. I wish I’d had the time to attend, because of all the car magazines I read, this is the one I was reading even before I was driving. I’ve been through all the great editors and contributors, and the not so great (one from Britain comes to mind…).