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Don’t believe everything you read

Words and photos by Cliff Gromer

ne thing that cracks me up is the faith that most motorheads put in the printed word. Let the conversation turn to quarter-mile times of factory muscle cars, and inevitably, someone will rip out a '60s or '70s vintage car magazine, poke his finger at a page and proclaim the published road test strip numbers as gospel. Well, I was there, and while I can’t talk for all car magazines, I can speak for one that currently is held in high esteem, and often quoted today.

First of all, if road test reports had already appeared in other car mags, the editors would look at the numbers and say, “those guys are wimps. They could only get high 14s outta that crate. Any decent driver should be able to turn low 14s.” So, the published numbers would come out to low 14s no matter what the Chrondeks said. The strip times were “adjusted” for temperature, humidity, what the driver had for breakfast—whatever it took to “run the number.” There was sort of an undeclared contest between some mags as to which could turn the best time (at least in print) with a given ride. ‘Course the readers didn’t know what was going on and they’d say, “Wow, magazine X turned 14.1 with that Chevelle. Those guys are great. Magazine Y only turned 14.8. I’m gonna keep buying magazine X.”

Here’s another little tidbit. Another “respected source” of musclecar performances are some of those road test annuals. You know, a compilation of 50 or so road tests in one issue. Wow, what a great reference work. Well, I was there. And I happen to know that over half of those reports were on cars that never set a tire in the beams. The entire book was fabricated by one (very prolific) writer over a weekend. He figured, “let’s see, a HemiCuda should run so and so, and a 429 Torino would be so much slower etc. etc.) Gospel!

The “gospel” syndrome also extends to tech articles. I was with the writer of one how-to, step-by-step story on swapping something or other into a street machine. We happened to visit a guy who, just by sheer coincidence was in the process of doing that very swap. He had all his stuff laid out on the garage floor along with the magazine open to the article. And, he was dutifully following the bouncing ball.

It so happened that the writer had made a mistake in the story, which if followed as printed would have resulted in a major migraine for the wrencher. The writer told Mr. hands-on, not to do it this way, but that way. ’Course, the guy in the garage told the writer to get lost “because it says right here...” Gospel!


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