If Such a Thing as a Perfect Car Magazine Exists, this Issue Comes Close

I suppose perfection, like mere beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Automotive perfection even more so… hell, I once got into an argument with a guy who stated that the Ferrari F50 is NOT a stunted unlovable gnome of a car.

So, not everyone might agree with my assessment, but here are some thoughts.

First off, if a perfect automotive magazine were to exist, it would have to be an issue from either the sixties or the eighties. In the fifties, cars were not quite at the level where they could be enjoyed by everyone… and in the seventies, all the social engineering and heavy-handed regulation pretty much destroyed the enjoyment of life. And cars exist for people to enjoy (cars that are merely transportation are for soulless drones). Of course, competition cars in the seventies were amazing, but that’s only half the equation. You also had some good ones in the sixties (all decade) and in the eighties.

With this in mind, I’d argue that the November 1984 issue of Road & Track has to rank near the very top of the most wonderful mags ever. Not only were the 1980s the decade where humanity rediscovered the fact that it was okay to have fun, but this particular issue shows a couple of mid-engined cars specifically designed to be both fun and affordable, from two of the otherwise stodgiest motor manufacturers out there: Toyota and General Motors.

The MR-2 and the Fiero were eighties icons. The Fiero V-6 engine was even a credible competition powerplant in Camel Lights. So seeing both of these cars on the cover of R&T is wonderful. The Fiero was there because it was getting the bigger engine, and the MR-2, angular and so eighties in look, was being launched. There’s a photo of w pure white model with black bumpers, trim and spoiler that looks like is should have been driven by Max Headroom. Perfectly captures the Era.

But “Road” is only half of the title, and the “Track” part was equally amazing. I’ve already mentioned that the GP cars of this era are among my favorites, aesthetically (along with the 1960s pre-aero cigars), so having two separate GPs covered (and by Rob Walker!) was great.

Better still, however, was the feature on that year’s 24 hours of Le Mans, with a focus on the Jaguar XJR-5s that were beautiful but failed to finish. It marked Jaguar’s return to Le Mans after the glorious wins in the 1950s, and, though it would take TWR to win the event, the Group 44 Jags were among my favorite racecars of the 80s.

And there was more. Another, much less famous endurance race was run in the timeframe covered: The Longest Day of Nelson ledges, which is a showroom stock (plus a few non-stockers) event that, at one point was actually 25 hours (not sure if that is still done, or even if I’m right about it). There’s full coverage in this issue.

So, for someone like me, to whom econoboxes are anathema, this issue hit the spot perfectly.

Gustavo Bondoni’s latest novel is a jungle-and-monsters romp in the south seas entitled Lost Island Rampage. You can check it out here.

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