Catching Up

“An Experienced driver could be caught out by the Porsche 911 – it’s one of the nearest things to a racing car, says Stirling Moss.” That’s the intro to an article from Harper’s & Queen, a 1975 copy of which I found in a local “retro” styled bistro in my locale. Here is the rest of the text.

“The motor car has come in for quite a lot of criticism of late, and the most recent charge to be levelled against it that it squanders precious energy at a time when we can least afford it. Maybe this is the reason for a profound change in many people’s whole attitude to motoring.

1976 Porsche 911: Harpers & Queen

Aided by a steep increase in petrol prices and taxation, lower speed limits and other restrictions, driving a car is danger of become a mere duty rather than a pleasure, and a great deal of the sheer fun of using a car is in danger of becoming completely forgotten.  Until you have the chance of making the acquaintance of car like the one I have been driving recently – the Porsche 911.

In some people’s eyes, a car like this is little short of wicked. It’s sleek, faster by far than most speed limits will allow, hideously expensive and yet it really makes no presence of wanting to carry more than two people in the most decadent luxury. In a world where the mass-produced, tiny-engine, frill-less utility car promises to take over completely, the Porsche already has an air of dated nostalgia about it, aided by the fact that it has used the same basic design and body-style now for more than ten more years.

A car like this is a real product of the engineer’s art. It has a sporty feel in every line, the kind of image which every manufacturer would love to give his cars, yet which is present on so very few – and it has something else too, a potential for filling those of us who stop and stare with an instant envy, a wistfulness that we are not part of the comfortable and privileged world to which it belongs….”

Part 2 comes soon. H&Q isn’t sold on my benighted gravel isthmus so I don’t know if they still have car reviews. How prevalent were car reviews in non-car magazines in those days? I can say that Homes and Gardens used to run car reviews in the 1980s, the kinds of cars that might have interested buyers of House and Gardens (estates, Land Rovers, cabriolets).

I recall a review of the Austin Montego which puts the reviews at 1984 onward. The editor titled it “Montego At Bay” for no very good reason other than there is a place called Montego Bay and the insertion of “at” makes it more like a headline than plain “Montego Bay” so readers would not mistake the article for a travel piece.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with House and Gardens, it presented images of country homes and aristocratic urban dwellings to inspire the rural home furnishings ambitions of the middle class. It was not be mistaken for Homes & Gardens which presented newer dwellings and furnishings further down the price scale (as in not antiques, not hand-made).

I regret the H&G magazines departed the family household on an annual basis so I can’t transcribe any for your delectation. The reviews might be as interested as that written here by the eminent Mr Moss.

As motor journalism has retreated from general interest magazines into its own cloistered, anoraked world I presume it has lost some of its variety. If you have to write for a general audience you must write in a more accessible style. I expect that the specialist magazines tolerate more jargon. Boiler-plate tends to escape the editor’s pruning shears. Mr Moss’ prose has a laid-back, spoken quality to it. Is that because he typed it up as he thought of it? What has word processsing done to the written language?

Our editor Simon A. Kearne has asked me to inform you that Garvey sherry is still in business. I was able to sample their fino last summer; Simon rates it but I considered it a bit ordinary. A regular bottle of La Guita is much better


Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

2 thoughts on “Catching Up”

  1. Re: ‘Montego At Bay’, perhaps they were going for a Landseer reference (?).

    1. That´s possible yet it it still a random reference. The dear old Irish Times has a tradition of contrived headlines formulated by a word association rule. So, if the article is about actor Edward Drayne who is in a new play the headline will be “Down the Drayne”. If the article was about pistachio nuts the headline will be “Nuts About Pistachioes”. If the word “Pole” or “poll” or “pole” is involved the headline will always be “Polls apart” regardless that that subject did not involve disagreement or differences: John Pole is a writer who has opened a cafe. Headline “Pole´s apart”. You can have a go yourself.
      One: think of a word is a homonym or synonym or has been used in a well-known phrase.
      Two: think of a simple story,
      Three: find a headline as unrelated to the story as possible.


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