In March of 1967, for my 13th birthday, I was given a subscription to CAR and DRIVER magazine. I already had been reading everything I could on the topic of automobiles. Up until this point, the majority of that had been my dad’s Popular Science and Popular Mechanics magazines. While their automotive articles were good, they encompassed but a fraction of those magazines’ editorial content.
It was my father who selected C&D among the then-available buff books; it was a decision which profoundly affected and still influences the way I think about automobiles. CAR and DRIVER, in 1967 under the helm of David E. Davis Jr., was already displaying a slant toward European machinery and away from American iron. They were also several years into embracing a tone of irreverence, in part fed by 1960s counter-culture, that would grow stronger in the decade of the 1970s.
I recently plucked that March of ’67 issue from the bookshelf for a revisit. Their preference may have been sporty European cars, but they were also in the business of selling magazines (at 60 cents per copy), so the newly-announced 1967 Pontiac Firebird graced the cover. The statistics page at the end of the Firebird road test swings between factual calculations (0-60 in 5.8 sec.), and a “Check List” which uses “excellent”, “very good”, “good”, “fair”, and “poor” for its subjective ratings. Nice to know that the “synchro action” was excellent, while the “trunk space” was poor.
C&D regularly featured articles on personalities and/or topics related to, but not necessarily directly about, cars. Case in point was this article about the photographer Pete Biro. The sharpness of the color photos I find especially enthralling.
Some of the real fun in browsing through an almost-50-year-old magazine is re-reading the advertising. The Volvo ad for the 122 uses the “Stronger Than Dirt” tag line which Volvo aficionados know well. But look at the fine print: “Stronger than dirt copyright Colgate Palmolive, used with permission”. The Porsche ad, like Volvo’s, quotes a 3rd party source for credibility. With prices ranging from $4790 to $6990, these German sports machines were expensive cars, especially compared to other cars featured in ads in this issue such as the Renault 10 for $1647, the Fiat 124 for $1798, and the MGB/GT for $3095.
By contrast, note that these two ads from domestic manufacturers are in color. Bigger ad budget perhaps? The Camaro ad pointedly attacks the perceived discomfort and unreliability of other (unnamed European) sports cars, finishing off with “… and go show those purists”. The biggest surprise in the magazine for me is this ad: “Mercury, the Man’s Car”. Really? Try that today. Nevertheless, they still attempt a tie-in with the overseas competition by informing you that “European elegance comes to Cougar Country in Mercury’s Car of the Year”.
Cougar print ad from 1967
Bringing up the rear is “The Classified Marketplace”. While Road & Track magazine’s classified section was probably better-known (and more likely to contain exotic sports cars), there are still interesting tidbits here at CAR and DRIVER. Among them are a Lancia Flaminia for $1100, a ’63 Porsche 90 coupe for best offer over $3000, and a 1934 Rolls-Royce for $1450 FOB England. My favorite is the picture ad which ran in C&D for years: “A Playboy’s Dream”, the Volvo 1800 convertible. With all my years around the product, I’ve rarely seen one in the metal, which makes me wonder how many were made, and how many survive?
This glance back to March of 1967 was fun, and I think we’ll do this again with other ancient periodicals that may be in the collection.
All scans are from the March 1967 issue of CAR and DRIVER magazine; the copy of the magazine is from the author’s collection.