MyStarCollectorCar is not a collective of pagan worshippers but, if we were, the late Tom McCahill would be our god of automotive test pilots and writers.
MyStarCollectorCar has written numerous articles about Tom McCahill over the past 15 years because he made a huge impact on us after we learned how to read and write. A 2023 opportunity to buy a box of vintage ‘Mechanix Illustrated’ magazine was irresistible, so we became the proud owners of several issues from the Fabulous Fifties, an era before we even knew how to read and write.
Consequently, the issues are basically NOS (New Old Stock) to us in the Tom McCahill written content department, so we get to explore his material from the late 1950s from a new-to-us perspective. MyStarCollectorCar decided to share a few of his gems with our readers because McCahill was a master of the written word as it applied to cars and life in general.
The July 1958 issue of ‘Mechanix Illustrated’ is an excellent example of Tom’s ability to weave humor and information into his pieces. A test drive in a 1958 Imperial brought out the best in Tom McCahill right from the opening paragraph:
“In the modern industrial world of high-pressure claims and counter claims it’s sometimes impossible to separate the good guys from the bad guys. However, in my bald-headed opinion, the outstanding car built in America, bar none, is the 1958 Imperial.”
This kind of opening volley would most assuredly grab a reader’s interest because McCahill gave his best car honors to a giant Mopar land yacht and would have been forced to defend his position, given the outstanding choices in domestic cars sold in ‘58.
McCahill put the Imperial through a battery of real-world tests, including a drive in Florida’s backwoods that challenged the big car’s ability to navigate down a muddy swamp-adjacent road. The adventure brought Uncle Tom (his famous nickname) very close to getting stuck: “There were a couple of Voom! Vooms! and out we shot like a pebble from a slingshot. I feel sure that without the limited-slip feature we’d probably still be there, as no guy in his right mind would ever come down that path”.
McCahill also recorded the car’s top speed (120 mph), along with its 0-60 mph speed (9.4 seconds), speed measurements that he created long before any other factory car test driver.
It is no secret that Imperial was Chrysler’s flagship model in 1958, and Uncle Tom was sold on its ability to deliver every creature comfort available that year, including its factory air conditioning, a feature McCahill described as “effective enough to blue the lips of an Eskimo blubber collector parked inside a blast furnace”.
Uncle Tom’s test Imperial was a home run with him because he wanted a lively big car that could handle both the road and his large frame, height and weight-wise.
The other highlight in the July 1958 ‘Mechanix Illustrated’ was its ‘Mail for McCahill’ section that showcased Uncle Tom’s responses to questions from readers. Here is an example:
Question: “My son, aged 2 and a half, screams every time I stop for a red light. He thinks I should keep on going, traffic lights or not. Any suggestions?”
McCahill’s answer: “Try a blackjack or, if you’re soft-hearted, a rubber hose. If applied properly, he may even prefer stopping to going”.
Is it any wonder why Tom McCahill would have been a god to us here at MyStarCollectorCar if we were indeed pagans?
By: Jerry Sutherland
Jerry Sutherland is a veteran automotive writer with a primary focus on the collector car hobby. His work has been published in many outlets and publications, including the National Post, Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal, Ottawa Citizen, Montreal Gazette, Saskatoon StarPhoenix, Regina Leader-Post, Vancouver Sun and The Truth About Cars. He is also a regular contributor to Auto Roundup Publications.
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