Spotter’s Guide To The May 2019 Road&Track

Oh, this is bittersweet. As I’ve noted previously, Road&Track changed leadership (and office location) in January, just after I accepted a gig working for Hagerty but before I started the job. The R&T change wasn’t entirely for the good — David Zenlea, Matthew dePaula, and Nate Petroelje were all genuine assets to the magazine in my opinion, and they’ve all found places where their talents will be valued — but the past few years had been rough from a leadership and vision standpoint. Now that Travis Okulski is in charge I think the outlook for the magazine is brighter than it’s been in a few years.

When Travis called me with the news I asked — no, scratch that, I begged for a couple of slots in what would be his first issue of R&T as well as my last one. He was kind enough to oblige.

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(Last) Weekly Roundup: Hitting The Wall And Everything After Edition

The little white Bimmer was right ahead of me in the Saturday-morning tech line for this past weekend’s NASA race at NCM Motorsports Park. Freshly wrapped in a fascinating PopArt-ish line-and-pattern vinyl, it had laminated copies of the original Monroney sticker taped to the rear quarter window. Thirty years ago, it had been sold as a new 325i by Dayton, Ohio’s sole BMW dealer, possibly at the same time that I was working down the road at David Hobbs BMW in downtown Columbus. I chatted with the owner and his co-driver, who was either his brother or someone who just happened to look exactly like him. I’d call them “good kids”, but that’s my age and detachment speaking. In truth, they seemed to be good men, bringing this very nicely-finished car to the track after months of hard work and detail-oriented effort.

A few hours later, after Danger Girl expressed some concern about how her slicks had behaved during qualifying, I borrowed her car and hopped in the “HPDE 4” session. DG was right — the tires were an absolute nightmare, completely grained and displaying some really unpleasant grumble-slide-grip characteristics. The young fellows in their BMW were gridded right behind me. I waved them past early in the session and then spent a lap or two trying to re-surface the slicks by heating and cooling them. I rolled back up behind the 325i just in time to see their newly-built car, on which they’d spent five months’ worth of effort, hit the wall.

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1974 Chevrolet Nova: Green Machine

Nova. A memorable Chevrolet from the past. Today, it’s mostly due to the high octane two-door variants: Super Sports, Yenko Deuce, and the like. But the majority of these compact Chevys were garden variety two- and four-door sedans. The 1962 Chevy II was GM’s second, and far more successful attempt, at cashing in on the compact scene of the early ’60s. Sure, we all love the Corvair, but were Ned and Betty Smith of Olathe, Kansas, going to buy one? Surely not. So the II and its tonier Nova version entered stage left, and sold like beer at a baseball game. By 1974, the Nova still was going strong, but was getting a tad long in the tooth, wearing most of its 1968 sheetmetal. But it was still fighting the good fight against the Dart/Valiant and Maverick.

The first-gen 1962-65 Chevy II/Nova and the redesigned 1966-67 version were both very squared off, but the new 1968 model had the same flowing lines and Coke-bottle flanks of the also-new Chevelle line. It was quite an attractive car, both in two- and four-door versions.

For several years in the early Seventies, the Nova was touted similarly to the VW Type I “Beetle,” in that no major changes were made to styling. Refinement, not change for the sake of change, was the watchword. That continued with the facelifted 1973 models, for the most part.

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1962-63 Oldsmobile Jetfire: With Turbo Rocket Fluid!

Note: Another one from Tony LaHood! The featured car was spotted by yours truly at the Oldsmobile Nationals in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, back in 2015. Enjoy. -TK

Our youngish readers might find it hard to believe that in the early 1960s the idea of a turbocharged production car was only slightly less fantastic than that of a pocket-size wireless flip phone. But in 1962, General Motors (Yes, there was a time when GM was a real innovator) rolled out not one but two such production passenger vehicles: the Corvair Monza Spyder, and the Oldsmobile Jetfire, America’s first turbocharged volume-production cars.

The Jetfire was essentially a 1962 F-85 Cutlass hardtop coupe (Holiday Coupe, in Olds-speak) with specific interior and exterior trim and, of course, a big surprise under the hood.

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Road Test: 2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD Momentum

I first spotted the redesigned 2019 Volvo S60 at my local dealer, McLaughlin Motors, late last year. It was sitting right outside the showroom, finished in gunmetal gray with black interior. My salesman buddy there, Brian Cox, informed me it was the first U.S. built Volvo. Interesting. I thought the car looked pretty good too. So I knew I was going to have to try one out sooner or later.

Sadly, a particularly nasty winter that didn’t really start ramping up until mid-January precluded any test drives for a while. But finally, on March sixth, Brian put me behind the wheel of a S60 Momentum, finished in Pebble Gray Metallic with an especially attractive off-white and black interior. So much nicer than the common all-black interiors, which have always reminded me of a cave. I prefer lighter interior colors; they come in handy during our Midwestern summers, too. A/C has to work a lot harder in 90 degree heat when the car’s interior is black.

Volvos of today are not quite the Volvos of my youth. My first one was a 940SE, built in Goteborg, unapologetically boxy, with a ‘redblock’ turbo four and rear-wheel drive. Today’s Volvos are anything but boxy (including the wagons), are front wheel drive (with AWD optional), and mostly sporting various four-pot mills with direct injection.

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1984 Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe: Activate The Turbo Boost!

The Thunderbird has always been something special. And while some are more interesting, cool looking or collectible than others, they always were a cut above basic transportation. Not the usual Falcon, Torino, Fairmont or mini-me LTD.

When the aerodynamically styled 1983 Thunderbird appeared in Autumn ’82, it was a revelation. With rare exception, most 1982 domestic rolling stock were rectangular, with additional chrome edging along the 90 degree angles the higher the trim level you purchased.

This was certainly true for the 1980-82 T-Bird, which could almost have been the box the ’83 came in.

A turbocharged four-cylinder was likely the biggest surprise to traditional Thunderbird buyers. A four-cylinder engine in a Thunderbird? It was a shock to T-Bird customers used to wafting along in cool, air-conditioned V8 comfort and silence in their ’60s and ’70s Nimitz-class Flair Birds and Glamour Birds. But the Turbo Coupe was the new top of the line ‘Bird.

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Weekly Roundup: It’s Mueller Time Edition

Like it or loathe it, the “Mueller investigation” has to be considered a complete and total success.

No, The Man From B.C.C.I. didn’t “get Trump” — but did anybody besides Rachel Maddow really think that “the Russians” had a significant hand in the 2016 election? Even if they’d seriously and illegally tried to game the outcome, with Trump’s encouragement and/or participation, what chance did a bunch of ex-KGB goons with Facebook accounts have against a weaponized Google, not to mention the super-wealthy who put millions upon millions of dollars in play on both sides of the political divide? Nor does the report appear to provide any ready-made basis to impeach the President, the way that Ken Starr’s work did with Bill Clinton — but again, what were the chances that a man with forty years’ worth of experience dodging politically-motivated prosecution in New York City would be an easy target for the man who appears to have been easily manipulated by both George Bush and the Boston Mafia?

From my outsider’s perspective, however, the Mueller investigation wasn’t about keeping Russia out of our elections. It was about making it perfectly clear that any future President who hails from outside the “Swamp” or the “Deep State” will be hounded into madness and bankruptcy by that so-called Deep State. This has little to do with party loyalty; one can easily imagine Tulsi Gabbard or Rand Paul being on the receiving end of a similar battering-via-prosecution after winning an election. Even if our potential maverick politicians are not discouraged by this prospect, surely they’ll have a hard time filling their staffs prior to those elections. You’d have to be a certified moron not to notice the fact that Jeffrey Epstein did thirteen months for raping dozens of underaged girls but Paul Manafort is almost certainly going to die in prison. When it comes to selective prosecution, there really is such a thing as being on the right side of history.

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1971 Ford LTD Country Squire: Vintage Suburbia

Today, most family haulers are silver silvermist or beige beigemist crossovers. But 45 plus years ago, things were different.

Yes, in 1971 Ford was Wagon King. Sure, GM sold tons of wagons too, but despite their being all new, not everyone was sure about GM’s new disappearing tailgate, where it retracted behind the rear bumper instead of folding down. Though GM still trounced FoMoCo in overall production.

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When Sofie Sings

von otter good

I chose to kick off the Music-Video Fridays series on my site, The Tannhauser Gate, with Anne Sofie von Otter, from her live-in-Paris 2004 DVD Voices of Our Time—a Tribute to Korngold.

The daughter of the Swedish diplomat Baron Göran Fredrik von Otter, Anne Sofie von Otter studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and made her début as Alcina in Haydn’s Orlando paladino in Basel in 1983.

In addition to her notable successes in the oratorio and opera music of Bach, Bartok, Elgar, Handel, Monteverdi, and Mozart, von Otter’s art-song repertory encompasses Brahms, Grieg, Korngold, Mahler, and Sibelius. In 1993, her Grieg song-recital CD (with Bengt Forsberg) became the first song recording ever to win Gramophone magazine’s “Record of the Year” award. Were that not enough, she has also collaborated with Elvis Costello, and with Brad Mehldau.

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