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TO CONTINUE MY perusing R&Ts of six decades ago, I share a few tidbits from February 1956. Among them are a test of a Ford NASCAR, a Letter to the Editor announcing a name change at Porsche, full details of an Anglo-American sports car that I was destined to race one day, and Editor John R. Bond’s view on journalistic gullibility. Altogether, what a neat issue.
The subject of improving domestic car performance was a hot topic in R&T. One of the magazine’s two road tests in February 1956 addressed this with details of a Ford Interceptor Coupe.
Giving a nod to the late lamented Carrera Panamericana races (run 1951–1954), the Ford had what the magazine called “the full ‘Mexican’ treatment in the suspension department.” It began as a Mainline Series Tudor Business Coupe, “the lowest price and lightest Ford available today.”
This model’s base price was $1362, the equivalent of $12,050 in today’s dollars. Added to this was an unspecified cost of Ford’s full stock-car racing kit “sometimes supplied to police departments as the ‘Interceptor’ kit.”
“This test proves that stock American cars can be modified to handle better, but only with some sacrifice in riding qualities. It proves that even when modified, the stock car is not as roadable as the poorest sports car.”
The word “continental” made news, quite apart from its describing the domestic fashion of an external rear-mounted spare tire. A couple months before, R&T had cited Lincoln’s resurrected use of the name in the 1956 Continental Mark II luxury sedan (sort of the era’s Maybach), along with the Bentley R-Type Continental and the Porsche Continental
Import-wizard Max Hoffman felt that U.S. buyers responded better to names than to numbers, thus, American imports of the 1955 Porsche 356 carried this Continental moniker. But not for long. Among the issue’s “Letters to the Editor” was the following.
Porsche 356s carrying the Continental logo are highly prized today. Bentley’s Continentals continued to 1965, then reappeared in 1984. Lincoln’s Mark II lasted only two years, 1956 and 1957; the company has used the Continental moniker all the way through to its tenth-generation 2017 models.
The Arnolt-Bristol has already appeared here in SimanaitisSays in ”Wacky’s Neat Cars.” Back in February 1956, the topic was its Bolide version, as minimally equipped for racing. And, indeed, in the same issue there was a report of races at the California State Fair Grounds in Sacramento, in which this particular car took a Class E victory.
The Arnolt-Bristol’s mechanicals were largely British Bristol, its bodywork Italian Bertone and the person pulling the deal together Chicago’s Stanley Harold “Wacky” Arnolt. In retrospect, not wacky at all.
By 1956, John R. Bond was Editor of the magazine; he had evolved from Technical Editor two years before. In his February 1956 “Miscellaneous Ramblings” column, John wrote, “One of the things which always amazes me is the gullibility of the average newspaper automotive editor. Look back at the millions of words printed about the original Tucker, for example.”
“Or,” he continued, “look at the more recent publicity on the British Ferguson ‘Turbine Drive’ car. The idea of using the engine to drive a hydraulic pump and convey the power so generated by pipes to ‘motors’ at or near the wheels is as old as the industry.” Bond’s complaints of the concept centered on its low efficiency and high cost.
“One weekly paper,” he added, “goes so far as to say that the reason Mercedes dropped all competition activity was to expedite work on a production car powered by a gas turbine…. Let’s give the turbines another 10 or 15 years, before we get too excited.” ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2016