Barack Obama: The Lewis Hamilton Of Politics

November 6, 2008

While all the talk around the world has been about Tuesday’s election of America’s first black President, Barack Obama, mainstream media outlets have failed to tie in that, just days before, Formula One crowned its first black Champion. On Sunday, Lewis Hamilton of McLaren-Mercedes squeaked back into fifth place just seconds before crossing the finish line at the Brazilian Grand Prix to win the Formula One Season Driver’s Championship.

To add icing to the cake, Lewis Hamliton was also the youngest to ever win it, as well.

Obviously, there is little comparison in terms of relevance on the world stage between Obama being voted President and Hamilton winning in F1, but Hamilton’s accomplishments should not be dismissed. We’re not talking history back to 1776 here, but 107 years ain’t too shabby, either.

Okay, in actuality the modern era of Formula One started in 1950. The first “Grand Prix” race, however, was in 1901 at Le Mans. During this time not a single man (or woman) of color has captured a season championship. With European, Australian, New Zealander, South American, and North American (including one American and a lone Canadian) Champions, the faces aren’t quite as homogeneous as those of the US Presidents, but every Formula One champions’ has still been some shade of white.

The United States’ reputation for racism is legendary, but thousands of Formula One fans would fit in well in the deepest, darkest parts of the ugliest parts of America. During the last two years, fans have openly taunted Lewis Hamilton. Ugly racist comments from the stands…and even fans painted in mocking black face paint showed that there are plenty of classless David Duke types in Europe.

Unfortunately, F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone still is asleep at the wheel when it comes to denouncing the abhorrent actions of F1 fans. Just this week, Ecclestone commented that he felt some of the worst treatment – fans in blackface wearing “Hamilton’s family” t-shirts in the crowd at the Spanish Grand Prix, was just a “bit of a joke”. If the fans had dressed up in Chasidic diamond merchant outfits with signs saying “Ecclestone Only Cares About the Money”, we’re guessing that the Jewish Ecclestone wouldn’t have seen the humor. (And we wouldn’t have, either!)

But sadly, that’s in fact all Ecclestone cares about – and it has nothing to do with his religion or homeland. He has just proven time and time again to care about nothing other than control and receipts. If he cared about F1’s image, he would have squashed the nasty behavior of the fans and celebrated the groundbreaking achievements of a spectacularly talented driver.

So from The Four Wheel Drift: Congratulations to both Barack Obama and Lewis Hamilton for showing children with all skin colors that hard work and talent can translate to the highest honors in the toughest competitions.


It’s Going To Get Ugly: GM Had “Supercars” Before Setright’s Miura

September 24, 2008

It is considered automotive historical fact that British auto journalist L.J.K Setright coined the word “supercar” in his review of the Lamborghini Miura. Even I have referenced this piece of trivia.

There’s one huge problem, though! It’s wrong.

One of the benefits of having a huge collection of old automotive magazines is that you learn something new every single time your colon comes a-calling. For my morning constitutional today, I picked up the May 1966 edition of Car Life.

On page 28, Car Life’s road test of the ’66 Chevy II 327/350 V-8 uses the subtitle “Who Needs 400 Inches for Supercar Status?”. The last paragraph uses the word three times. (“More intriguing, however, is the fact that the Chevy II 327 relates more to the present proliferation of Supercars than it does to a counter-Mustang. And in that context, it is well worth a close examination. Unlike some samples from the Supercar spectrum, it maintains a gentleness along with its fierce performance potential; its power/weight ratio is second to none and it is definitely better balanced than most. While admittedly giving a cubic inch advantage away to the more established models, the Corvette engine manages to be just as competitive in pure output. On the basis of specific bhp/cu. in. ratios, as a matter of fact, it stands heads about the Supercar level.”

Gulp…did Car Life indirecly call the Chevy II a Supercar? And did they do it in a magazine that hit the mail before the May 1st opening day of the 1966 Geneva Motor Show, where the Miura was unveiled to the public and press?

But wait…there’s more!

This wasn’t a passing thing in this issue of Car Life. We now turn to page 51. In the comparison test of Pontiac’s Tempest Sprint (with OHC Six) and GTO, there is a caption for a picture of the GTO. “GTO CONTINUES to be a pace-setter in the Supercar crowd.”

Indeed, a little research shows that Car Life had been using the Supercar word to describe the cars in its pages for over a year. In March 1966, a review of the Plymouth Satellite has a picture with caption as follows: “PLYMOUTH 383-cu. in. engine has just enough space around it for easy tuning accessibility, is big enough to give the Satellite “Supercar” status and action. (By the way this was the same issue that covered the Lamborghini’s frame and V12 engine unveiling that would later become the Miura).

It seems Car Life started using “supercar” instead of “muscle cars”. The first use of supercar seems to be in its article on the 1965 Pontiac GTO. Fingering through earlier articles on 409 Impalas, 426 Mopars and even August 1964 articles on the 1965 Corvette and Cobra, there are no mentions of the word anywhere.

Car Life certainly didn’t invent the word, either. Supercar was first used conversation in England in the 1920s, or least that’s what I’ve been told. Since I wasn’t there, I have to believe that, like most elements of automotive history, someone somewhere else used it earlier, but we believe the legend.