On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff
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.
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.
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.”
“Pale cream? Yes,” I continued, “this month’s stunning cover photograph is a product of computer technology, not the paint booth.”
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.
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