The US auto marketplace was never bare of fruit for the writers at MAD. From sleazy corporations, to clueless drivers, crooked mechanics, indifferent highway workers… nobody got off the hook. Not even auto “journalists”. (Was the “Load & Crash” title a sly, prescient glimpse into the digital future? I mean, did non-geeks in 1973 know what that phrase meant? Or were MAD readers of the day a sort of proto-geek?)
I’ll let it slip here that I may have studied some journalism in school, and I may at one point have taken part in covering some facets of the automotive world; that’s the reason I used quotes around the word “journalists.” Sort of like sports “journalists”…or cavemen hunting grizzlies with a spear; participants often end up getting dangerously close to the game.
My how the tables have turned! No longer are Japanese-made cars considered inferior to those of any other nation, even if they sometimes underplay their hand. (This overlooks the overt racism, which we really shouldn’t overlook.) Can you imagine the spiffy gal shown here being squired about in some Thunderbird-esque barge being satisfied with a mid-range Ford sedan of today? On the other hand, I can still picture the aging professor on a rattly, noisy, China-sourced scooter of some kind.
Another aging stereotype is the slippery used-car dealer. Carfax and similar automated vehicle reporting systems have made the modern used car a nearly fungible commodity; that is, no one car is more or less worthy than any other of comparable spec, being essentially a known quantity. Even buyers of classics can use the Hemmings-style 1-4 point condition rating to find comparable sales. While flipping cars is inherently an opportunity for fast dealers, the bad apples (and bad practices) are falling out of the scene. (I now humbly await all of your used-car dealer horror stories.)
All images and humor courtesy of MAD Magazine.
The best thing about Mad magazine was that no topic was taboo. Actors, Hollywood, government…. anything was open to comment. I can speak with authority, as I read them religiously in my adolescent period which left me with a slightly skewed view of the world. Then my next obsession was cars!! Go figure!!
Same here. My kids grew up reading all my old Mad mags and books, thus carrying on the “slightly skewed view of the world” for another generation. Fun!
Trading MAD magazines, with freinds was always fun. Some months you bought one if you could afford it. Other months you didn’t. With your freinds in the same boat, you could usually trade an issue that you read for one you didn’t.
I managed a Convenience store in New Jersey back in the late 70’s One 20-something guy came in once a month and bought the latest MAD magazine and a Hershey Bar. Said it was a tradition going back to grade school. Every month, a new MAD read cover to cover, while eating a Hershey Bar. It’s still in print. He probably still does it!
So right ! I grew up on Mad Magazine, but I must have missed this era of the publication. Did you say this was from a 1973 issue ?
The Shakibutsu review brings to mind a competitor title, the (actual) Car & Driver, which once or twice carried its own spoof coverage of an imaginary marque, Denbeigh; I recall the Super-Chauvinist sedan review. Oddly, that model also sported a very readable instrument panel, which unfortunately was merely printed on the dashboard. (I wonder who got to that one first !) Then one thinks of Bruce McCall and his Bulgemobiles (their vast bench seats upholstered in a “fabric-like material” and then a “material-like substance”).
Earlier, an upmarket spinoff of Mad, whose title I have forgotten (could it have been called Trump ? Good lord . . .) carried a sidebar ad for the Voomflauten V-12 X@&, a decidedly more sporting motor than the lowly Denbeigh — to say nothing of the Micro-Mini-Midget V-Zero. It would be fine to see some more of these print pieces again, after all this time. Thanks for bringing us the Mad material, Ex !
IIRC Denbeigh was also a Bruce McCall creation,
And was their take on the rapidly becoming pathetic British car industry.
Wasn’t C&D also pushing for Mercury to come up with the Marquis de Sade model?
Every year, they lamented Mercury still had not released a “de Sade” option package.
It was fun for the first few years.
“Still no de Sade option package, dammit”
The “upmarket” version of MAD was called “Crack’d”. Remember that mag well.
I remember Cracked well, but even as a youngster I could see that it was a Mad wannabe. There is still an online version of Cracked…
The Cracked story can be found here:
Wondaweave was later used.Also.”It’s full of sit!”
Ah, the Japanese car review! I’m certain this was the second time Mad did this review, the first time about 7-10 years earlier as a single article. Back then, for some of us, it was the first time that we even considered that the Japanese WERE making automobiles.
Also remember back then that anyone of middle age or older had taken part in World War II and there was still a fair amount of anti-German and anti-Japanese sentiment.
I remember when the character Red Foreman in “That 70s Show” said, having bought a Toyota Corolla due to the gas crunch, “The last time I was this close to a Japanese machine it was shooting at me!”
I remember this now, but I think Road & Track’s own April Fools self parody Rod & Truck was better, they also used to do some outlandish road tests in April, including a locomotive, a Goodyear blimp and a motorized pogo stick.
Car and Driver did some fascinating drives in odd stuff too – a huge dump truck and a submarine come to mind.
I remember that road test of the “Flying Scotsman” when she did her U.S. railroad tour!
I think our “friend” Malcolm Bricklin can take a lot of credit for the Shakibutsu article . The MAD satire is actually a mean but fair description of the Subaru 360 which was a lot closer to being a toy than a car.
When I was a kid, Miller’s Department Store (No, you’ve never heard of them) was selling the Subaru 360 on the sidewalk in front of the store, next to the bicycles. I don’t remember the price, but I remember that they were Cheap-Department-Store-Cheap.
Since my dad had spent the 60’s driving 3-cylinder, 2-stroke 800cc SAABs, we stopped to take a look. To be polite, they weren’t SAABs. They weren’t even really cars.
It should be noted that Subaru never intended to sell these cars in the U.S. as they were a 10 year old design and obsolete even by Japanese mini-car standards. However, good ol’ Malcom saw a chance to make a buck, so…. hey! Anything goes, right?
Here’s what Comsumer Reports had to say about the 360.
FWIU the Subaru 360 was easier to federalize than the larger, more modern, entirely more suitable FF-1 Star (a front-drive car with a flat-four, the ancestor of modern Subarus) because it was so light it didn’t technically count as a “car” under the earliest NHTSA regulations.
Millers on Gay?
Ah, the infamous Subaru 360-I only saw one in the U.S.; when I was in the Air Force stationed at Davis-Monthan I used to occasionally see one in one of the parking lots on base. However, when I was stationed at CCK Airbase in Taiwan the things were all over the place.
I spotted a Subaru 360 in the Amazon Prime series Man In The High Castle, it was in the Japanese Pacific States, probably in San Francisco
Erie had a dealership for a short while. It was a house that had been converted into a restaurant, that had gone out of business. The dining room had space for five cars. I don’t remember if they even had a service department.
I remember an old-style Los Angeles TV announcer/pitchman by the name of Dick Lane relentlessly hawking the Subaru 360 (he pronounced it “soo-BAH-roo”). MAD Magazine was a vital part of my adolescent years. We boomer kids in the buttoned-down LA suburbs couldn’t help feeling that our helpless laughter was a small act of rebellion. Fifty years later, I’m still laughing.
LA TV Channel 13 was giving them away back then.
The Load & Crash parody was from the September 1965 issue of Mad. I have the Absolutely Mad DVD set.
MAD was good, smart, biting satire, but then IMO was “dumbed down” in the 80’s.
The reference to Mexico and the front cover illustration couldn’t help but make me think it was a harbinger to C&D’s Mexico Odyssey in 1983. For those that don’t know, it was one for annals!
Lots of run-ins with Federales and 2 cars trashed!