After a week’s hiatus when nothing changed, Window Shopping is back for mid-October. The subject? The event that made Car and Driver a cultural touchstone. And secured the legend of Brock Yates.
When the history of civilization is written by the Morlocks who succeed us, they may only remember one thing about Car and Driver. That thing is the Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash conceived of, organized by, and competed within the mind of C/D’s late editorial id, Yates.
The not-a-race cross country race was run five times between 1971 and 1979 when frustration with the then-mandated 55 mph national speed limit enflamed the C/D collective soul. The result in the magazine was some of Yates’ very best writing. The result in the culture at large was the most attention ever focused on C/D and a fiery gust of enthusiasm across all of American adolescence.
Since then, well, there was a movie. And then the culture moved on. And the idea of transcontinental race doesn’t inspire the same unambivalent excitement any more. Not even around the slightly yellowing walls of C/D itself. 1971, after all, is now a half-century away.
Still, there’s Yates in our marrow. And that comes out in speculation about how to run the Cannonball now, even if no one currently here has the Yates-rated cajones to actually make such an attempt. And Dan Gurney isn’t around to co-drive any more either.
So the Window Shop clique of clichés got together to pick the perfect vehicle to assault the cross-country record—from the Red Ball Garage in New York City, to the Portofino Inn on the shores of the Pacific Ocean in Redondo Beach, California. Both of these fine institutions still exist today.
With K.C. Colwell taking the day off to deal with his “children” it was left to quizmaster Tony Quiroga, youngster Connor Hoffman, veteran bon vivant Jonathan Ramsey, and some guy named Pearley who just couldn’t hack it at C/D and was therefore banished to Road and/or Track.
Carefully planned felonies got little respect. Crafty and reasonable Germanic vehicles were dismissed. A Ferrari sure was pretty but, well, come on. And, finally, Quiroga himself went full dingbat. The result was dissatisfying to all involved. But since you weren’t involved, there’s some fun to be had in the viewing.
Yes, there was corruption. So the prize money carries over into next week to bring the total up to $0.
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