In memory of our founder, David E. Davis, Jr., Automobile Magazine editors are choosing our ten favorite American Driver columns and will be posting one each day over the next two weeks.
Today I flew to Dallas from Ann Arbor and got a shoeshine. I’ll be flying home again in a couple of hours. Not even I am ordinarily that extravagant. I was supposed to fly on to Los Angeles, where I would have had lunch with Nissan’s senior management and presented them with the unprecedented three awards that they garnered in our 1990 All-Stars competition, but my American Airlines DC-10 suffered a mechanical, and lunch in L.A. went on without me. I faxed some remarks suitable for the occasion and hoped that they’d get read, but except for that--and a very good shoeshine--I was in danger of blowing a whole day. Fortunately, the Dallas Admiral’s Club provided me with a desk, and I had one of my trusty yellow legal pads in my briefcase, so I decided to write down my thoughts on the occasion of Automobile Magazine’s fourth birthday.
As Mr. Dickens said: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was a difficult time for the automotive industry, but that made it a terrific time to launch a new automotive magazine. Never has there been so much going on in our automotive universe. There’s real tragedy, real suspense. Real heroes, real goats. Imagine yourself coming to work tomorrow morning, knowing that you had to make the final decision as to whether your company would gamble a couple of billion dollars on a new product. Bet wrong, and your company will probably go out of business or be absorbed by another. Bet right, and your company will barely survive. Those are not great odds, and the automobile business in 1990 is no place for sissies.
Automobile Magazine has benefited hugely from all that and from the fact that there have never been so many really good cars available to the public. Perhaps even more important, we seem to be living in a golden age for car enthusiasts. David Holls, of the General Motors Design Staff, brought that to my attention at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance last year. It was first morning light, and we were standing together watching one extraordinary car after another roll across that beautiful lawn to its assigned place on the Pebble Beach golf course. An incredibly noisy, very low Scaglietti coupe came blatting in. Not a Ferrari, what was it? Oh, wow! It was one of three running Corvette chassis that Texan Gary Laughlin shipped to Scaglietti in 1957 for special bodies, saying that he was sick and tired of paying Luigi Chinetti’s prices for Ferrari parts and he wanted to build a high-performance GT car around a $54 crankshaft.
We marveled at its percussive progress, and David, a concours judge, said: “There’s never been a better time to be a car nut. When you and I started out, we could look at pictures of great cars in the books and magazines, and that was about it. How many great Ferraris or Bugattis or Hispano-Suizas did anybody see in the Fifties or Sixties? Today--with concours like this one or Meadowbrook, and vintage-car races all over the country, and museums, and even the auctions--a guy can see cars that you and I never dreamed of. Half the great cars that were ever built are alive and well today and accessible to anybody who can afford an airplane ticket.”