Driving the latest and greatest sports cars is fun, but hands down one of the best parts about writing for Motor Trend is having access to our 67-year-old achieve. I’m blown away every month when putting together the magazine’s “Rearview” section by the cars we’ve driven and stories we wrote well before my time. Rather than keep these stories for myself, we’ve decided to have a new monthly “Rearview” feature. Join me as we take a look at Motor Trend highlights from issues 50, 30, and 10 years ago. Let’s kick things off with a look at May 1967, May 1987, and May 2007.
May 1967’s cover was generic for a Motor Trend cover from the ‘60s—we can probably thank the “Win the $4,500 Sporty Car of Your Choice!” contest on the cover for that—but there’s some good stuff in this issue.
The highlight by far would be our lengthy buyer’s guide feature on “Those Sporty, Swinging Specialty Cars: Mustang, Camaro & Barracuda; Cougar & Firebird; Marlin and Charger; Sting Ray & Shelby GT.”
It’s easy to forget nowadays given our country’s penchant for high-riding crossovers and SUVs, but back in the late ‘60s auto sales were booming and buyers were snatching up so-called sports and personal cars as fast as the Detroit Three could make them. “[The segment] was created in a grand manner by the Mustang, which, from early 1967 returns, still looks like it will outsell all the competition combined,” we wrote.
“Since April of 1967, when the Mustang first made its bow, the field has proliferated to a total of nearly 40 models, if you count basic body and engine options as one each.
“The businessman or school teacher can commute stylishly but economically behind six cylinders in all but four of the nine basic makes if he so chooses. No one knows what’s under the hood, but the sporty image is still there. Or he can take the same basic car and put up to 375 horses ahead of him (up to 425 in the Shelby GT) and have a boss machine that doesn’t threaten to boss him.”
The story wasn’t a traditional Motor Trend comparison test with a winner and a loser as we now understand them, but it was instead a buyer-focused feature weighing the pros and cons of cars in each ‘segment’ of the sports car marketplace. It looked at powertrains, comfort, features, and the like.
That meant the likes of the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, and Plymouth Barracuda were directly compared, as were the Mercury Cougar and Pontiac Firebird, AMC Marlin and Dodge Charger, and lastly the Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray and Ford Shelby GT.
Other Highlights: A special feature on the dangers of driving while on drugs (consensus? Not recommended), and a look at why auto insurance rates were so high.
We were such teases: our cover proclaimed this issue was all about “Topless Models” in big bold type. Those “models” were actually America’s most affordable convertibles priced under $20,000.
After consumer protection threats made by the federal government nearly put the convertible as we knew it out of production in the mid ‘70s (where do you think T-Tops came from?), cloth tops were back in full force in the ‘80s. To celebrate, we invited seven different manufacturers (and three models) to send us their ragtops for two days of testing in sunny Southern California. The seven convertibles fit every niche possible, from outright sports car to compact car to luxury cars; the invitees were the Alfa Romeo Spider, Chevrolet Cavalier RS, Ford Mustang, Pontiac Sunbird, Renault Alliance, Toyota Celica, and Volkswagen Cabriolet. Because the cars were all representing various different segments, this wasn’t an outright comparison test—rather. it was a snapshot at what it was like living with each convertible. The highlight? The Toyota Celica’s boot cover went on “easier than a nymphomaniac.”
We also dedicated a page on the yet-to-be-released Chrysler LeBaron. It’s easy to forget now, but the LeBaron was somewhat revolutionary in the late ‘80s because it was designed from the ground up to be a convertible. Thanks to its K-Car underpinnings, cash-strapped Chrysler was able to pinch pennies on the chassis and spend it on its “shapely skin” and a “top and boot system [that’s] among the best in the industry.”
Other Highlights: A road trip from Jacksonville, Florida, to Los Angeles in the very-first Merkur Scorpio to hit U.S. shores, and a long-term update on our Peugeot 505 Turbo Wagon.
Our May 2007 cover featured an exclusive First Look of the 2008 Subaru Impreza WRX ahead of the car’s official debut at that year’s New York International Auto Show.
If our ensuing First Drive is any indication, readers didn’t react too kindly to the third-generation WRX. Some of the gems: “Somebody find the Subaru designer and shoot him.” “Seriously, I want to throw up.” “I see the Camry, where’s the Impreza.”
Those comments mirrored the letters we got from you guys seven years later when the fourth-gen Subaru WRX went into production. I guess we can expect the same in a few years when the WRX merges to Subaru’s new modular global architecture.
Although the then-new Impreza WRX drove as well as expected, buyers were ultimately disappointed by its carryover 224-horse 2.5-liter turbocharged flat-four and softer handling. A year later, in 2009, Subaru gave the WRX a proper power boost to 265 hp, and sharpened up its suspension, ultimately recementing its legacy among millennial gearheads.