We’ve mentioned how automobiles in 1971 were the victim of a concerted attack by politicians, but in reading this huge pile of car magazines, there is more than just gloom and doom and things that make you want to go back to 1971 and slap Ralph Nader around.
There is also racing.
Yes, that is a Porsche 917 on the cover, on its way to winning the greatest race still around in 1971 (and, happily, still around today). The regulators soon “realized” that the 917 and its contemporaries were too dangerous to compete (of course, that would assume that people were somehow forced to drive the things instad of the reality, which was that the real drivers were lining up for a chance) and legislated them out of existence, but it hadn’t happened yet.
So we had a glorious Le Mans, and we had the Denny Show in Can-Am with the glorious orange McLarens (Bruce himself had been killed testing one recently, so Denny Hulme was the soul of the team). These, too, were magnificent automobiles, the likes of which (unlimited except for mandatory roll bars, essentially) we will never see again. Ironically, the Porsche 917–in a turbocharged 1500 bhp form–and the McLaren would soon cross swords in Can-Am, in what was the greatest example of unlimited auto racing ever seen.
But that was in the future, and the present was glorious enough, something reflected in the coverage. Apart from Le Mans and the analysis of the Can-Am car, this issue covered the SCCA Trans Am (also in its glory years as ponycars battled for supremacy in the hands of Donohue and Parnelli Jones and others). Formula One was also traversing one of its golden ages (compare that to today’s boring Mercedes dominance) as Jacky Icxx attempted to wrest the title from Jackie Stewart.
Finally, this magazine contains an article that has become a classic, a piece entitled “The Empty Bleacher League” by Allan Girdler. It describes a small Midwest Auto Club and its races, and makes you want to join right now… the problem being, of course, that I forgot where I left my time machine. Probably in 1812 or something.
Anyway, a good counterpoint to what was happening to road cars at the time.
Interestingly, this was the most butchered of all my 1971 R&Ts. Not only were the classifieds missing, but also a couple of articles, the Isotta Fraschini Salon (which I do regret) and the road test of the De Tomaso Pantera (not so much). The ’72s seem to be in better shape.
Interestingly, the mad clipper didn’t touch the race reporting, which is what makes these magazines worthwhile. Perhaps he just didn’t know he was living in a racing renaissance. His loss, my gain.
Gustavo Bondoni is a novelist and short story writer who enjoys writing about people and places that most people have never heard of. His collection Off the Beaten Path is a shining example of this. You can check it out here.