Daily Features

REACQUAINTING MYSELF WITH AN AUTOMOTIVE GOD

By on July 8, 2017
McCahill-003

McCahill-003

 

I first became acquainted with legendary automotive writer Tom McCahill shortly after I learned how to read when I was a young kid.

 

He was a bald, dumpy middle-aged guy and he was a rock star to me when I was a kid.

 

Tom McCahill had the world’s best job because he got paid to push cars to (and well past) their limits as a test driver for Mechanix Illustrated magazine.

 

McCahill 10

 

He dreamed up the idea to test new cars for MI in 1946 when the move back to post-war car production was in full swing.

 

Tom McCahill was more than just a test driver for a car magazine. He could drive a car right to the brink and then report all the details about his experience in wildly descriptive and often controversial articles for MI.

 

McCahill 7

 

His writing style was uniquely his own. Other automotive writers of the 50s, 60s and 70s stayed true to a clinically sterile analysis of vehicle performance while Uncle Tom (his nickname in MI) was a creative renegade who brought a take-no-prisoners approach to his car reports.

 

He was irreverent, mildly profane by magazine standards of the time, and used metaphors and similes like nobody else in the automotive writer field. McCahill also added an edgy style with a dash of cynicism to every article.

 

McCahill8

 

To be honest, I was likely too young to completely understand all the nuances of a Tom McCahill piece when I was in grade school, but I picked up steam as I got older and was full up to speed on his layered writing style when Tom passed away in 1975.

 

I had grown up with Tom McCahill and his in-your-face-approach to the world around him in his writing style, so his death meant the end of an era for me.

 

McCahill-006

 

Occasionally I will buy an old Mechanix Illustrated magazine off the ‘Net or from a swap meet just to reacquaint myself with the gospel according to Uncle Tom. I still enjoy his writing style and antics, even after all these decades since he penned his last piece for MI.

 

ad-MSCC Logo

 

I was unaware that Uncle Tom wrote some books during his heyday as top dog in the automotive writer field during the golden era of car-related periodicals until I saw one for sale on social media about a month ago.

 

The seller wanted 20 bucks for an automotive book written by McCahill back in 1956. I was too young to read in ’56 because I was still trying to master the English language in spoken form at the time, so this book was like NOS (New Old Stock) McCahill for me.

 

McCahill 11

 

The book was a paperback that was the same size and format as the monthly Mechanix Illustrated magazine in 1956. The choice to imitate the magazine dimensions and presentation was undoubtedly made for financial reasons, given the list price was 75 cents for the McCahill book.

 

The regular Mechanix Illustrated magazine had a sticker price of 25 cents in 1956, but it also had plenty of ads to cut the costs while the McCahill book only had a handful of ads at the front and back.

 

Plus the entire book was pure McCahill and had no other writers in it. Uncle Tom was at his finest in the book and discussed many subjects that ranged from new cars to the right time to let go of an old car.

 

1956 was an interesting time for the car industry because consumers wanted more power and creature comforts in their vehicles. The dawn of the interstate highway system and multi-lane freeways meant cars needed to be able to cruise at much higher speeds to keep up with traffic in ‘56.

 

McCahill9

 

 

Tom McCahill was well aware of the transition and discussed whether the cars and drivers could handle the newer and faster pace on the highways. He concluded that most drivers would lag well behind the then-new cars’ (1956) ability to go faster than ever before on the road.

 

McCahill 6

 

He covered the nuances of winter driving and crowded highways with a descriptive series of personal experiences that were drawn from over 2 million miles (and counting at the time of writing in ’56) behind the wheel of hundreds of automobiles.

 

He discussed the best ways to stay alive on the road with personal anecdotes about how to survive a skid, tire blowout, or maniac in the wrong lane, to name just a few crises Uncle Tom faced on the road.

 

Uncle Tom also touched on maintenance and weighed car repairs versus a new car in a cost analysis comparison. Uncle Tom also discussed what owners could tackle on their own when it came to repairs, although most 21st century drivers would be vastly under-prepared for some of them.

 

McCahill 5

 

For example, it would be well beyond most modern drivers’ skill sets to even identify a carburetor or points on a car-let alone set them-but McCahill had more faith in drivers’ mechanical ability when he wrote the book 61 years ago.

 

McCahill also described life on a road trip, complete with advice on how to avoid food and lodging dives along the way.

 

McCahill 3

 

The entire book was a very entertaining look at the world according to Tom McCahill.

 

For me, it was a pedal-to-the-metal trip down memory lane with one of my favorite car gods of all time. 

 

Jim Sutherland

 

CLICK HERE to Like us on Facebook

 

CLICK HERE to Follow us on Twitter

 

CLICK HERE to Follow us on Pinterest

 

 

print
170347 Total Views 5 Views Today

About admin

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Facebook

Featured Ads

Rear View Mirror

OCTOBER 28, 2015: QUESTIONS YOU NEED TO ASK ABOUT A CHOP

  One of the trickiest equations in the car hobby is the custom look.   One car guy’s concept of a dream machine may be another car guy’s idea...

October 28, 2015 View more...
52 imgp2908

APRIL 21, 2015 (MAY 2015): A 1952 CHEVY PANEL: THE PURPOSE-BUILT TRUCK FROM THE GENERAL

  A 1952 Chevrolet panel (sedan delivery) was not built for fun family outings.   It was a working vehicle with many applications in the practical world.   These...

April 21, 2015 View more...
68 igp3671

OCTOBER 29, 2014 (FEB 2015): A MOPAR GUY PUTS HIS MECHANICAL SKILLS INTO A 1968 DODGE TRUCK PROJECT

  Mark Klein is a transmission expert and a big fan of 60s-era Dodge pickups.   He spent his childhood on the family farm where the trucks of choice...

October 29, 2014 View more...
jr-g001

APRIL 23. 2014 (MAY 2014): 1962 DODGE STATION WAGON: THE REAL STORY BEHIND “VACATION”

  The movie “Vacation” was based on a typical baby boomer family vacation to Wally World with some Hollywood overtones like motel robberies, hostage-taking and armed conflict with police....

April 23, 2014 View more...

Most Viewed

My Star Showcase

news-mill-jjmscc_Neon-001

SIGN UP FOR THE MYSTARCOLLECTORCAR DAILY NEWSLETTER!

SIGN UP FOR THE MYSTARCOLLECTORCAR DAILY NEWSLETTER!   Are you too busy to check out MSCC regularly? That’s too bad because MyStarCollectorCar is updated every day.   You don’t...

October 25, 2017 View more...
mill-jjmscc_Neon

MSCC MARKET REPORT 2018

  MSCC MARKET REPORT 2018   Welcome to the MyStarCollectorCar Market Report.   This will be a regional look at prices for collector vehicles based on actual sales so...

August 3, 2017 View more...
products-IMGP5647

MSCC Products and Services Showcase

These are all great businesses and they support MyStarCollector Car through their advertising  so we can continue to bring you our  insight into the old car hobby 365 days...

July 13, 2016 View more...

More At My Star

BYE BYE TRI-FIVE: THE DAWN OF THE 1958 CHEVY

    The 1950s became famous when the finned car era took flight in the back nine of the decade.   GM joined in the reindeer games in a big way with their lineup and car guys witnessed the evolution of the fin on the 1955 to ’57 Chevys.   The three model years became See More

WHY THE SHOEBOX FORD WAS (AND STILL IS) A HOME RUN

  One of the most famous cars in automotive history is the Shoebox Ford.   This iconic car from the Blue Oval boys was introduced as a 1949 model and built until 1951.   The car represented a giant step in the post-war automotive era because 1949 was the first year for new car styles See More

MSCC APRIL 18 “WHAT’S IT?” WEDNESDAY: HEADLIGHTS, GRILLES –IT ALL ADDS UP

.   WELCOME TO MYSTARCOLLECTORCAR “WHAT’S IT?” WEDNESDAY FOR 2018   This is the third year for MSCC “What’s It?” Wednesday.   This feature was an overnight success back in 2016 so the only thing to do was keep it rolling in 2018.   Look for the first clue at the top of the section See More

WHY I LIKE THE 1967-69 DODGE DART

  The Dodge Dart was heavily associated with the compact car movement and economy from a bygone automotive era.   That practical image went flying out the open window of a fast-moving Dart when the Mopar crew added a V-8 option for the Dart in the 1960s.   The revamped style of the Dart caught See More

Editor’s Picks

69vw-IMGP0830

APRIL 2018: A 1968 VW BEETLE CONVERTIBLE IS NAMED AFTER A FAMOUS TV STAR

  The VW Beetle began life in pre-war Germany as the “People’s Car” under order from the highly unlovable but ambitious Adolf Hitler.   One has to wonder how...

April 15, 2018 View more...
TWO

REALITY IN THE HOBBY—WE’RE DOWN TWO MORE CAR GUYS

  The car hobby is a great world but one of its biggest enemies is found in the demographics.   There are a fair number of car guys in...

April 13, 2018 View more...
59

DO IT YOURSELF CAR APPRAISALS—YES, YOU CAN HANDLE IT

  I had my first experience with vintage car appraisals back in the late 90s with a ’59 Plymouth.   I needed an appraisal for insurance and they definitely...

March 29, 2018 View more...
duke

TALKING CARS WITH CATHERINE BACH—YES, DAISY DUKE IS DEFINITELY A CAR GIRL

  The Dukes of Hazzard ran from 1979 to 1985 and in that time this TV show became an icon to car guys.   Car guys liked this show...

March 13, 2018 View more...

Car Shows and Events

ST1
SAINT ALBERT ROCK’N AUGUST—THE BIG SHOW RETURNS AUGUST 7-11

  Rock’n August is one of Western Canada’s biggest annual car shows.   The whole community gets behind this week-long event because this is a showcase for the best...

December 16, 2017
IMG_4818
JULY 28, 2018 19th ANNUAL MICHENER ALLEN CLASSIC AND COLLECTOR CAR AUCTION

FEATURE CAR—THIS MONSTER ’69 CHARGER       The 2nd Generation Chargers are widely seen as one of the most iconic muscle cars ever built. They looked fast from...

June 19, 2017
EG-ED2018
JUNE 23, 2018 Our 11th Annual Calgary Premier Collector Car Auction at the Grey Eagle Casino!

  EG Auctions Is Proud To Present: Our 11th Annual Calgary Premier Collector Car Auction at the Grey Eagle Casino! SATURDAY MAIN EVENT June 23rd – 2018 INDOORS!!!! CONVENTION...

April 21, 2017
116-003
APRIL 2018 CAR SHOWS AND EVENTS MYSTARCOLLECTORCAR

  APRIL 1: KAMLOOPS, BC VCCC Kamloops Chapter Easter Parade   APRIL 1: EDMONTON, AB The Edmonton Antique Car Club will be Celebrating Easter with our 55th Annual Easter...

October 5, 2015

Ads

Ads responsive