Simanaitis Says

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RED & TRACK

WE USED TO joke that the real name of the magazine was Red & Track. Subscribers, bless their hearts, would enjoy a magazine whatever was on the cover. But a red car would boost newsstand sales. And first-timers could become regular readers.

Over the years, reflecting the times and readership, covers of R&T evolved. The premier issue, June 1947, had what came to be considered a definite no-no on the cover: competition cars. In this case, an Alfa Romeo Type 158 Alfetta leading the pack, all following a perfect racing line on a cobblestone circuit.

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R&T, June 1947.

Jean-Pierre Wimille drove the Alfa, later to retire with gearbox trouble. The race was the René le Bègue Cup, run on June 9, 1946, at the Saint-Cloud circuit in France. This is not to be confused with the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, a horse race still run each June over a distance of 2400 meters, about a mile and a half. Saint-Cloud, pronounced san klu, is a western suburb of Paris named for Clodoald, grandson of King Clovis, the latter renowned for his unorthodox interpretation of Christianity.

In the early days, all the magazine’s images, cover included, were black and white. What’s more, the familiar R&T ampersand didn’t appear until March 1954. But that June 1947 issue certainly started a trend: Red banners on Road and Track continued until June 1951. Only then did an occasional yellow banner make an appearance.

In my recollection, during the 1950s the Brit magazine Autosport set its banner red, British Racing Green or any other color of international racing. The choice depended on nationality of the car winning an important race reported in that issue. RandT/R&T followed no such consistency.

January 1958 was inconsistent to a bizarre degree. The cover placed a car and the R&T logo vertically!—and seated in the car was a woman! Though she wasn’t the first nor the last of the fair sex on the magazine’s cover, I recall subsequent Letters to the Editor complained about her presence and not the oddity of the layout.

By the way, the car, a vintage M.G. roadster, was red.

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R&T, January 1958.

During my time at R&T, 1979 – 2012, conventional wisdom was that vintage cars and competition cars made for deadly newsstand sales. Auto show concept cars were also iffy, especially if they weren’t red. This led to innovation on the part of R&T’s Art Director, Wm. A. Motta. It was 1985, back when magazines had progressed beyond B. Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanack, but not by much. (“Is this type hot, Grandpa?”)

I was at the Frankfurt Motor Show and was blown away by the Nissan MID4 concept car, replete with “mid-engine and four each of camshafts, valves per cylinder, wheels driven—and wheels steered.”

WELTPREMIERE, the sign read,” my R&T report began. “But in Frankfurt’s sprawling collection of sparkling exhibits, this new Nissan appeared understated. Graceful music of a classical nature accompanied its obligatory bank of video displays. There was no official press reception, no hoopla of orchestrated unveiling. The MID4 was simply there, a pale cream centerpiece of a straightforward display.”

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Nissan MID4, Frankfurt Motor Show, 1985. Image from Internet Movie Cars Database.

“Pale cream? Yes,” I continued, “this month’s stunning cover photograph is a product of computer technology, not the paint booth.”

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R&T, December 1985.

Bill Motta had shot the pale cream car in Frankfurt and, back in Newport Beach, performed wizardry unheard of at the time.

As a last example of R&T covers, one would think a world exclusive track test of a Formula One car as an exception to the no-competition-car dictum. It even had some red in its dazzling livery.

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R&T, April 1987.

The B186 Benetton Grand Prix car may have been one of the most exciting drives of my life. However, it remained glued to April 1987 newsstands all around the world.

Time for another “Mid-engine Corvette—Coming Soon!!” And make it red. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2016

8 comments on “RED & TRACK

  1. toby tuttle
    April 10, 2016

    My favourite cover was Rod & Truck with the flat tire and wire wheel.

  2. kkollwitz
    April 10, 2016

    I well-remember both of the more recent covers.

  3. Gene Herbert
    April 11, 2016

    My first copy was in 1959, with a fastback coupe side view on the cover. A special by Dick Thompson (?) however, I do believe it was a red coupe.

  4. simanaitissays
    April 11, 2016

    Hello, Gene,
    Maybe August 1960, the R&T Le Mans Car design, brought to rolling reality. It’s the only red coupe side view in the range ’58–’60. See backissues.com for a list of R&T covers.

    • Gene Herbert
      April 11, 2016

      That is it. Side view, slightly from rear quarter. Shot low from the ground. Very slight sculptural lines on the side. It was inspirational. I was designing model cars to enter in the Fisher Body Craftsman Guild at the time. Trying to work the functional ideas of Dr. Kamm into the rear, but the theme of G.M. dream cars at the time was for a sharp end. The LeMans Coupe was somewhere between but practical and what we now would consider ‘aero.’ I still have that issue. Thanks.

  5. Mike B
    April 14, 2016

    I suspect that the prominence of red, especially in the earlier days, was related in part to the frequency of Ferrari and Alfa in features. Both must, of course, be red. Plus, of course, red cars are by definition sportier (and require better specs and driving ability than average to deal with the cop-catching quotient). My R&T collection has been thinned considerably in the course of several moves (though I’ve tried to retain the April issues for obvious reasons), so the amount of red is somewhat subdued.

  6. carmacarcounselor
    April 19, 2016

    The first letter to the editor I ever sent any magazine was in response to a December Issue with a cover showing a red Ferrari against a background of forest greenery and snow near Reno, where the car was a member of Bill Harrah’s stable. In the fog of memory (today’s my 72nd birthday. My goodness! Was that 40 years ago?) that letter was printed. The first of a few over the years.

  7. Anton Thortzen
    May 28, 2016

    Never thought of race cars as a deterrent to potential buyers. It wouldn’t scare me away. I have most issues of R&T from August ’75 to March ’83 where I became a subscriber until March/April this year. Great mag, but I can no longer relate to the new style, tests and writings. I sorely sorely miss the glorious years before 2012.

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