I know. We’re all supposed to hate the eighties because it was a time when Reagan’s economics made a lot of people rich, and rich people are bad. Or something.
I was just a kid in the 80s, so I really can’t give an opinion about the economics of the age except to say that the editors of Road & Track were a hell of a lot more upbeat than they were in the dull and drear seventies, and especially during the disastrous Carter era.
So why do I defend an era that I viewed through what I have to admit was the eyes of a charmed and happy (by any objective measure) childhood?
Because, the adults of the era seemed to believe–as I do–that fun was more important than being earnest. I think, if he’d been alive today, Oscar Wilde would have had a field day with today’s oh-so-serious, everything-must-be-politicized world. It’s an utterly ridiculous parody of life (and young people, who should be out enjoying themselves seem to have the disease particularly hard) and Wilde, the eternal provocateur, would be mocking the po-faced boredom with gusto.
So, in the eighties a bunch of chain-smoking journalists invited a pair of race ca drivers to take some socially irresponsible machinery to Europe (where emissions controls were less stringent, and therefore the cars were faster) to see just how fast they’d go. The entire article celebrates the speed potential of these great machines, and not one single line is devoted to the stupid phrase “you really shouldn’t do this on a public road”. In fact, the wonder of speed-unlimited Autobahns is extolled frequently.
What a time to be a live and to have a drivers license!
Of course, the clothes and the hair were questionable, but I think it reflects the same attitude: sure it looks awful and hurts the eye, but I’m doing it for fun.
Apart from the wondrous cover article, there were three awesome competition pieces: coverage of the French and Monaco GPs and the Indy 500.
A quick note about formula one of the era. These are my favorite F1 cars, probably because this is where I came in, but also, in hindsight, because these cars were utter beasts, with basically whatever HP numbers you wanted–depending on how the turbo was dialed in. I’ve seen 1000 bhp quoted, and 1500, too, which I don’t think would be fun around Monaco, but still. Sure, engines exploded, but who cares?
Also, 1984’s Monaco GP was one of those might-have-been races in which a slippy-slidey Prost was in the lead when the race was red-flagged. But catching him quickly were the late great Senna and Bellof, both of whom were scintillating talents killed at the height of their powers while doing what they loved. But that was a few years in the future, and in Monaco, they shone brighter than the race winner. The race was considered a disappointment when it ran, but has since been reassessed as a truly significant harbinger of things to come.
The Salon article was of a 1955 Porsche Speedster, the poverty model which became a collector’s icon.
Also, Innes Ireland caught pneumonia on an emasculated, but still wild and wooly version of the classic Cannonball Run.
Fun was still allowed back then.
Not today. Today, we’ve forgotten Wilde’s lesson from The Importance of Being Earnest.
Gustavo Bondoni has recently completed the Emily Plair Trilogy with the final novel, Amalgam. Find out what happens to each of the characters in the satisfying conclusion, which you can purchase here.