On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff
I’VE NEVER BEEN much of a corporate type. When I left Caribbean academic life for the real world in the mid-70s, Joe Gilbert, rest his soul, was general manager of the Society of Automotive Engineers. It was Joe who had set me on a corporate path, but it didn’t take.
In 1979, I left being SAE’s manager of member relations for R&T’s engineering editor position. Part of my amicable departure from SAE was to retake the bevy of tests that had garnered me the job several years before. I recall one of the testers’ conclusions from this second time around: I was a “fortunate individual capable of fulfilling fantasies in a rational manner.”
This brings me to today’s topic: me and the suits, in particular, R&T’s bosses in New York City. Tidbits follow about taxi takers riding through the slalom, R&T telephonic munificence, and the mystery of the mojous.
R&T’s Remote Suits. The magazine became part of CBS Publications back in 1972. This was an era when Columbia Broadcasting System diversified into owning, among other things, Fender Guitar, Steinway Piano, Field & Stream, and Woman’s Day.
I don’t know whether CBS suits went fly-fishing with Field & Stream. But typically when New York City weather grew dreary, some suits would visit Newport Beach to learn more about cars other than yellow metered ones with lights on the roof.
Slaloming Suits. Track testing was part of my regular gig, and our visitors always set aside time to accompany me to nearby Orange County International Raceway, our local drag strip/abbreviated road course.
If possible, I’d arrange things to include an exotic car as well as something with rear seating. The era’s test equipment occupied the right seat, but the suits were invited into the back seat to experience incipient-lock braking from 80 mph, something only occasionally seen in taxies of The City.
The R&T slalom was another suit-pleaser: 700 ft. with cones spaced at 100-ft. intervals. Typical speeds for sedans were in the mid-50-mph range, whether done solo or with three suits aboard.
The Quattroporte’s road test report said, “… when driven at moderate speeds, it has feminine appeal, but the harder you push it, the more masculine it becomes. Altogether, a most sensual car in the best Italian tradition.”
I didn’t record slalom speed with three suits aboard, but my solo best with the Maserati Quattroporte was 55.2 mph. A non-taxi-like experience, even for The City.
Telephonic Munificence. Wife Dottie recalls a suit encounter of not quite the same kind: Rob Walker was our primary Formula One correspondent at the time. Ordinarily, he would post his race reports (neatly hand-printed; “I never learned cursive,” he’d say) immediately after returning to his home, Nunney Court, near Frome, Somerset.
We used to joke about an MI6/CIA drop between Nunney Count and Newport Beach, capable of delivering Rob’s reports in record time.
Rob’s reporting of the Australian GP was another matter: As soon as he’d finished the report (and once the times-of-day were appropriate), managing editor Dottie would phone Rob in Australia. He would then dictate the report to his “editress,” as Rob called Dottie.
She’d type it out, with one of those neck-cradling gizmos holding the phone to her ear. (Why not use speakerphone, Grandpa?)
Wife Dottie recalls pounding away on her IBM Selectrix for an extended period. Meanwhile, just outside her office the suits were having a lively discussion about R&T expenses—including exorbitant phone bills. One of the suits looked in, waved a friendly hello, and went back to the discussion.
Editress Dottie continued taking her long-distance dictation.
The Mystery of Mojou. I recall a visit from another suit whom we came to know as “Mojou.” He was a large fellow with a southern aristocratic manner, in a three-piece white linen suit and, oddly, without socks in his well-crafted loafers.
After studying several issues of the magazine, he assembled us all in the conference room to hear his improvements. “What this magazine needs,” he pronounced, “is mojous.”
We all nodded sagely, though we were too timid to ask what the hell “mojous” were. Only later, one of us deciphered the word as “modules.”
To the best of my recollection, we never adopted modules. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2021
Reminds me of a company that I worked at years ago. They promoted what they called HighPots (high potential younger staff) quickly up the ladder. On one major project that was estimated to cost around $2.5 Billion which was higher than the client wanted to see. The company promised that with a few changes and some innovation they could build it for 1.8 Billion.
The highpots came up with some dubious ways to save money. One of their ideas was to eliminate pile caps on foundation piles. They claimed a significant savings that when I analyzed it was higher than the total cost of the piling. The piles were drilled holes (some up to 90 ft. deep) filled with concrete and reinforced with rebar. Their plan was to set anchor bolts for structures and equipment directly into the top of the piles. The normal approach we use for these piles would be to extend the reinforcing above the top of the concrete and we then construct a pile cap that is larger in diameter (to compensate for piles not drilled at the exact specified coordinates) and we set the anchor bolts to required coordinates and elevation with wood templates.
Upon hearing about this brainwave I wrote a 5 page memo to the project management team explaining all the reasons why this pile cap elimination was not a good idea. They ignored me (assuming that I couldn’t think outside the box to understand their great savings idea).
Day two of pile installation I got a call from the piling contractor asking if they could do a two pour pile (effectively creating a same diameter pile cap). I asked why, and their response was that they couldn’t extract the pile casing pipes (required due to the soft soil that would have slumped into the excavation) as they were placing the concrete due to interference from the templates required to position and hold the anchor bolts in place. This casing/template interference was item 3 in my memo!
Final cost of project was $3.3 Billion. So much for the HighPots.