Rasslin’ a Beast of a Story Idea

Vile Gossip

I wanted the story to be “The 100 Greatest Sports Cars of All Time!” But first of all, no one at this magazine is big on exclamation points-or screamers, as we call them. Too undignified and breathless. An old journalism adage says that every writer gets one to use in a lifetime. When a screamer actually makes it onto our cover, be assured there was a knockdown-dragout over the subject. (I was undoubtedly the one all for it.) Whatever! And second, italics are sort of girly and emotional, aren’t they? Huh. It’s beginning to feel warm in here. Cooler heads prevailed, and we agreed that choosing a mere ten would allow us to go out into the world, locate those ten and become reacquainted behind the wheel, get some swoony action photography, and give each car its own page of homage. We canvassed our usual editorial suspects and came up with a master list.

Unfortunately, there were sixty-seven cars on it.

Of those, about half had only one vote each. I won’t name names, but a couple of lists were turned in that were entirely made up of cars for which no one else voted. Well, never let it be said that we aren’t our own men. So to speak.

Anyway, after laying down some basic ground rules for what makes a sports car a sports car and, then, what makes a sports car great, we eliminated all but about twenty.

We looked at each other and said, “How can we possibly leave out — ?” You fill in the blank. We all made impassioned little speeches for the Porsche 356, the E-type Jag, the Bugatti T35, the Mercedes-Benz Gullwing. There was an Alfa Romeo Giulia and a Giulietta, six different Ferraris, and six BMWs besides the one that actually made the final cut. We persevered, ending up with the ten cars of our collective dreams. The easiest culls were cars we deemed more significant than actually great. You will understand how the Ford Thunderbird fit that description, not to mention a few MGs and Triumphs. Or maybe you won’t. You’re as entitled to your opinion as we are to ours. We, of course, are in charge here, so we win. One of our winners was the Shelby 289 Cobra, seen below, a perfect example of a car that was not only one of the all-time greats but also an inspiration to many of our also-rans. The fun begins on page 58.

May I say again how badly we all miss our longtime contributor Phil Llewellin and how this issue was especially difficult to put together without him? He should have been writing about at least one of those ten cars, if not half of them. Mark Gillies would have called him in England to winnow the original list before the big meeting. Phil would have been the guy Wendy Keebler would have called to check some obscure references. His many friends have written to his widow, Beth, back in Welsh Frankton, overwhelming the local post office.

Our founder and editor emeritus, David E. Davis, Jr., writes his own lovely remembrance, beginning on page 76, and Phil’s last feature for us begins immediately after that. He had pitched the idea a few years ago of traveling to Russia after the fall of communism to see how the common man felt about his car. The story was mothballed when he had his second heart attack. He recovered and was thrilled to finally make the trip.

This was Phil’s penultimate e-mail, a classic, with the subject line “All at sea . . .”:

Mes amis: Please note that on Monday we are due to start what Beth assures me is our first holiday since February 2004. We will be sailing along the coast of Croatia, which involves being 100 percent out of touch with the rest of the world. We are due back on 8th July. I intend writing “Motoring in Moscow” before we depart, of course, and am reliably informed that Comrade Mackie’s pix were excellent. Best wishes, Phil.