Whatever Happened to the Competition Cars on the Cover

For about the first thirty-five years of existence, Road & Track honored it’s name and kept the balance between road cars and race cars on the cover split about 50/50.

But somewhere in the corporate eighties, they stopped that forever to focus on cars consumers could buy (albeit often expensive ones). Nowadays, R&T seems to be more a weird lifestyle brand than an actual car magazine, but we can talk about that later. Now, I want to talk about that wonderful Penske Javelin on the cover.

Pretty, isn’t it?

I suspect the reason we didn’t get more of those is that in the 80s, R&T became the higher-class US car mag with Car & Driver catering to the more blue-collar crowd. And Yuppies wanted to see Porsches on the cover, not greasy and noisy race cars. Fortunately, the race content didn’t completely disappear, but as R&T became more and more upscale during the nineties, the coverage certainly suffered.

Which is another reason reading these old issues is such a pleasure. There is a ton of racing here.

This issue not only covered the aforementioned Trans Am, but also the Spanish Grand Prix, Pedro Rodriguez’s classic Brands drive in the 917 and even a Formula A race. How’s that for a forgotten series?

And the mag didn’t take itself too seriously. There’s a test (actual, instrumented test) of a Bugatti replica car for kids. And it’s not even an April Fool’s test.

These guys know how to make one smile.

Gustavo Bondoni is a novelist and short story writer whose latest book is a dark historical fantasy in which the Etruscans desperately try to contain Roman expansion. You can check out The Swords of Rasna, here.


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