Rearview: Motor Trend in July 1967, 1987, and 2007


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One of my favorite things about working for Motor Trend is not driving the latest and greatest cars, but its spending time digging through our archives. Not to pat ourselves on the back too much, but there’s been some truly killer issues in the 67-years Motor Trend has been in circulation. Rather than just letting our achieves collect dust in the Petersen Museum (or more accurately, digital dust in our database), for our new monthly Rearview feature, we’re going to take a look back at the highlights of Motor Trend from 50, 30, and 10 years ago. First up are our July 1967, July 1987, and July 2007 issues. Enjoy!

July 1967

PRICE: $0.50

One of the things you’ll quickly learn digging through old Motor Trend issues—especially those from the ‘60s—is that just about every issue was a Future Cars issue looking at our predictions of what was going to be on the road the next year. July ’67 was little different. Our cover proclaimed that this was your, “FIRST LOOK AT THE ‘68s” and we backed things up inside with a fascinating illustrated compilation by editor Donald MacDonald.

The story lead with MacDonald lamenting the “prospect of a whopping ($100-$200, depending on the model) price increase to cover the cost of additional safety and smog devices” that Washington, D.C. was demanding. It then went on to discuss safety trends then-emerging on the marketplace:

“Certain trends will emerge in ’68 and perhaps the most important is that the industry is determined to say ahead of Washington.

“For example, GM, in its all-new ‘A’ body used on the intermediates will incorporate functional but hidden roll bars, two in coupes and three in sedans. Most makes will feature a buzzer to alert you that the key has been left in the ignition, and at least one will revive the old but sound idea of locking the steering wheel.”

Also interesting is seeing how much the American automotive market has changed in the past 50 years, “The Big 3 in an inadvertent show of unanimity have each made major styling changes in their intermediates, a group that is within the range of most pocketbooks and which accounts for 26% of the marketplace.”

Those “intermediate” sedans and coupes that American buyers loved 50-years ago were the likes of the Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fairlane, and Dodge Coronet. Nowadays the Detroit 3 are focused on “compact” crossovers, like the Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, and Dodge Journey. My how times have changed.

Other Highlights: A feature of a George Barris-built four-door Oldsmobile Toronado that doubled as a limo and a hearse; a story on water-filled bumpers designed to improve safety in low-speed collisions.

July 1987

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I love looking at old ‘80s Motor Trends simply because our covers are either super cheesy or incredibly cool – there’s really no in-between. July of ’87 leaned towards the latter.

Our cover story was an all-out battle between the C4 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible and the Shelby AC Cobra, which was celebrating its 25th birthday that year. Look past the “Beauty and the Beast” headline and the opening spread featuring a mustachioed-Arnold Schwarzenegger look-alike cradling a blonde in a bikini between the Corvette and Cobra, and the Technical Editor Rick Titus-penned peace is a pretty interesting look at the 25-year-old performance car battle between the Chevy and Shelby.

After walking through the history of the two world-class sports cars, Titus and the Motor Trend team had a pretty disastrous start to the comparison test. The photo shot got rained on, quickly revealing a huge advantage to the Corvette:

“During the early morning desert photo shoot, the first glaring differences in the ages of the Cobra and the Corvette became apparent. The Cobra’s soft top leaked cold air and rain faster than the heater could overcome it. Quickly, the romance of driving a legend wore off, and seats, steering wheel angle, control locales, and driving position all seemed uncomfortable.

“In comparison, the ’87 Corvette fast took on the image of a luxury car. Solid, no leaks, a warm heater turned to low, and a stereo to comfort the soul. Strike one for the Cobra.”

Things briefly got worse from there, as the team ran into snow on their mountain road drive loops, meaning throttle discipline was the phrase of the day.

Luckily the sun broke for the third day and the team was able to evaluate the Cobra and ‘Vette back-to-back on a race track. And the verdict? “Banzai performance to the Cobra. Comfort and convenience to the Corvette. It bears mentioning that the Corvette is a lot closer to the Cobra in performance than the Cobra is to the Vette in comfort…As great as the ’87 Corvette is—despite being a superior day-to-day transportation vehicle—it would have to be on fire and attended to by no fewer than seven fire trucks to fetch more attention than the Cobra at any given spotlight. But don’t feel bad, Corvette lovers. The same goes for any Ferrari, Porsche, Jaguar, Aston Martin, or Maserati. Guess things haven’t changes as much as we thought.”

Other Highlights: A wine country road trip in a Mitsubishi Galant. Why a Galant? Well, as I gather, we had a Travel feature at the time and reading between the lines, the Galant had a cassette deck we were itching to try.

July 2007

PRICE: $4.99

Anybody remember the Ford Interceptor? Back when the Chrysler 300C was the hottest thing on wheels, Ford debuted the Interceptor Concept at the 2007 Detroit auto show. Inspired by the legendary Ford Galaxie, it was built on the S197 Ford Mustang platform and was powered by a 5.4-liter V-8 backed by a manual transmission.

Then-editor-in-chief Angus MacKenzie got a stint behind the wheel of the bold, brash Ford.

“Press the electrically triggered chrome door handle and the door pops open. The sculpted one-piece leather seats are as stiff as the suspension, and you slide onto them as into a Barcelona chair. A 21st-century “shaker” looms in your view, and the rest of the hood is long and upright…you’re overlooking a similar expanse of sheetmetal as in a Chrysler 300. Hit the electronic ignition button on the headliner just aft of the header, and the 5.4-liter V-8 fires up with a rumble.

“The clutch is a bit heavier than a Mustang GT’s, but it releases smoothly and progressively. This big sedan is easy to drive-if you’re into low-riders. It bounces along the smooth test road like a candy-colored 1964 Impala on the haunches of its hydraulics. It feels like one good bump could launch it into the air. You shift cleanly into second gear, but that’s all she’ll show today.”

Ford originally planned on turning the Interceptor into a production car in time for the 2011 model year. Unfortunately the Great Recession intervened and the Interceptor’s styling got watered down into the front-wheel drive sixth-generation Ford Taurus instead.

Other Highlights: The Cadillac CTS-V and BMW M5 duke it out, and we test the 190 mph-capable 2008 Corvette.

More of our past Rearview feature here:

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