Mail for McCahill
March 1965 Mechanix Illustrated

March 1965 Mechanix Illustrated

March 1965 Mechanix Illustrated Cover - RF CafeTable of Contents

Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early mechanics. See articles from Mechanix Illustrated, published 1928 - 2001. All copyrights hereby acknowledged.

Tom McCahill was Mechanix Illustrated (MI) magazine's automotive guru from the late 1940s through the early 1970s. He sometimes wrote for other magazines such as Popular Mechanics as well, but was best known for his testing and review of new car models, and for his witty - sometimes biting - question and answer column in MI. When I first began reading his "Mail for McCahill" works, I thought he was too haughty and abrupt with some readers, but then realized the responses were a clever and often humorous reply to someone's misinformed, snarky, or plain old stupid question. The one about the psychologist is a good illustration. His self-deprecating remark offsets what was probably an insulting insinuation by the reader. In fact, Mr. McCahill was very knowledgeable of engines, transmissions, suspensions, frameworks, pricing, model features, etc. Naturally, some of his opinions reflected a personal bias in certain areas, and that could earn him the scorn of dissenters. I find it to be entertaining and educational reading.

Mail for McCahill

Mail for McCahill, March 1965 Mechanix Illustrated - RF CafeUncle Tom answers his most interesting letters in this column. Write to him at Mechanix Illustrated, 67 West 44th St., New York, N. Y. 10036.

• What state sells the most automobiles?

George Appleton Dallas, Tex.


• Would you please say whether you dislike state troopers. I seem to detect this dislike in some of your articles.

Tpr. Chester M. Coburn

Beaver Dam, Ky.

I have many good friends who are highway patrolmen and state police. I've conducted a number of tests with their help and I've checked some of their radar equipment. The head of the state highway patrol in Florida is a friend of mine. The head of the state police in New York for many years played on the same water polo team with me at the New York Athletic Club and was a pal. Not to be Pollyanna about it, however, there are some state cops, as in any other field of endeavor, who are out-and-out jerks.

• Have you ever been to a psychologist, officially?

Frank Harris

Philadelphia, Pa.

Officially or unofficially, I don't intend to spend good money to find out I'm a nut. Many amateurs have already confirmed this.

• To settle an argument between the local barbers and me, how many years since 1936 has Ford outsold Chevrolet?

Don Reynolds

Monmouth, Ill.

Ford outsold Chevrolet in 1957 and 1959. Before this you'd have to go all the way back to 1935 to find another year when they clobbered the GM mink trust.

• What is a Gordon Blue Chef? My husband (a new-car dealer) and I were taken to dinner in New York by another dealer from our home town while visiting the World's Fair. The meal was only fair and our host announced that it hadn't been prepared by a Gordon Blue Chef: I've heard the term before but hesitate to ask what it means. Can you help? Please don't print my name.

Mrs. L.

St. Louis, Mo.

Gordon Blue plays left guard with the Green Bay Packers. The term your host probably meant to use was Cordon Bleu Chef. Le Cordon Bleu, in Paris, is the world's most famous cooking school - with the most exacting standards. Nearly all the really great chefs in civilized countries are graduates.

Mail Column Department: Every month some auto nuts write in and take me to task for some of the stuff printed here, feeling it should be 100 per cent about automobiles. Let's clear up a few points.

Years ago when the column first started, I agreed to do it with one provision - that I could answer any kind of a letter on any subject I wanted, whether it pertained to dames, dopes, dogs or Denmark. My crazy cousin who lives in the rubber room, Knot-head the Nut, thinks it's dandy this way - so there.

• Please tell me about the canned tire inflators that are appearing in great numbers? Do they always work.

Harvey Stromberg

Jackson Heights, N. Y.

I always carry a couple of cans with me and twice they've got me home. They won't work on tires that have had blowouts or severe rips but for most simple punctures canned air beats all hell out of the jack, which can kill you. Remember the good old days when most jacks were simple and safe?

• You seem to think you know how people feel about everything. Too bad you can't become a millionaire so you'd know how they feel, A Bentley fan.

C. D. Davis

Seattle, Wash.

Well, C. D., I guess I'm supposed to assume you're a millionaire, and if you are, enjoy it. Actually, I was a millionaire at 5 and flat broke at 25. I've run the whole scale but I've been on those lower bass notes much too long.

• Who do you think was the best driver of all time at Indianapolis?

Raymond Fisher

Indianapolis, Ind.

Tony Hulman (the owner), who drove a great bargain with Eddie Rickenbacker when he bought the track for roughly $750,000 just after the war. It's worth millions today.

• A friend recently told me that Ford made a six-cylinder automobile for a short time in 1926 or 1927. I have never heard of such a Ford. Is he right? .

Dr. Earl Bolton

Wenatchee, Wash.

Ford built a six in 1906, 1907 and 1908. The next six they tossed together was in 1940.

• Air Suspension. A longstanding reader.

Charley Hupp

Winnetka, Ill.

Air suspended?

Bicycle Department: Lydia Nunes, a 14-year-old girl of 23 Jackson St., Little Ferry, N. J., has invented chains for bicycle tires so that bikes can be used in light snow or on ice. Any manufacturers interested?

• As an old pipe smoker maybe you can straighten me out. For years I've wondered about the difference in smoking pleasure between a cheap pipe and an expensive one. Does the expensive pipe taste much better than the cheap one? I've never paid more than $3.50 for a pipe in my life. Please straighten me out if you can.

Roy Bates

Cincinnati, Ohio

Roy, I could have thrown your letter in the wastebasket and been happy about the whole thing. Yours is a question I really can't answer and, within limitations, I don't think anyone can. I own hundreds of dollars worth of expensive pipes which include Charatans, Dunhills, Barlings, Commoys and others, and I've been smoking pipes since I was in prep school.

During the darker days of the Depression I was caught with my pipes down and I remember one I bought for 39 cents in a drug store. It was one of the finest smoking pipes I've ever had and I smoked it for years.

I've read a number of articles and books about pipes. They all tell about the great flavor from fine aged briar and I must confess I think this is a lot of malarkey. Once you smoke a pipe enough to thoroughly carbonize (cake) the inside of the bowl, how in the world could the briar influence the smoke? I'll undoubtedly get clobbered for this statement but these are the facts as I see them.

The expensive pipes usually are better balanced and better looking, and have no holes or surface blemishes. The stem usually feels better in your mouth. The big thing in buying a pipe is the thickness of the wood between the inside bore and the outside circumference. The more wood, the cooler the pipe will smoke. Shell briars smoke cooler than straight briars and are lighter, but even these need plenty of wood between the bore and the outside to keep your tongue from burning. Mild tobaccos smoke the hottest and strong tobaccos the coolest.

• Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense, was once president of Ford Motor Company. What I want to know is how long was he president of Ford?

Joseph P. Engle

San Francisco, Calif.

Hardly long enough to hang up his coat. He was president of the corporation from November 1960 to January 1961.

• A current model car, seen head-on, is plainly labeled Chevrolet. But seen broadside, forward, it becomes Chevelle, aft, Malibu, and emerges astern as Chevrolet SS. I find such brand multiplication a bit puzzling - do you approve of it?

George Betancourt

Seattle, Wash.

They didn't even ask me - and I feel hurt.

• You're nuts. Being a safe driver has nothing to do with avoiding accidents. I just returned from a 3,000-mile jaunt around some eastern states and I'm convinced of it. What you do need is luck - and lots of it.

Murray L. Rothstein

Rutgers University

New Brunswick, N. J.

Luck is a great thing to have with you and it saved me on several occasions, but some how a smart driver doesn't seem to need as much luck as Pea-Brain Willy in order to keep living.

Free Country Department: As many of you hipsters know, being a company man in some huge organizations means absolute control not only over your work for the corporation but in the way you live and even the way you dress. An engineer with one of our biggest auto companies has been racing one of the firm's sportier cars for about two years. The car is his and for many months he never placed in a sports-car event. Suddenly he won two races in succession and was quickly yanked on the corporation carpet and told if he raced again he would be unemployed. The company is one of those that does not approve of participation in competition. It was okay to lose on his own time but when he won - pow!

• I learned to drive by myself in a parking lot many years ago and at that time it never occurred to me to do anything but keep my left foot exclusively for the brake and my right foot exclusively for the accelerator. This arrangement has worked fine for me and I've never had an accident.

Now i find out that most people use only the right foot for both brake and accelerator. They say that is the right way to drive. Seems to me the time-lag in getting one foot off one pedal and onto another pedal might be fatal in some circumstances.

Bonnie Mason

Saugus, Mass.

Bonnie, you taught yourself the right way for automatic-transmission cars. Old-timers like myself and some modern sports car boys who learned on stick-shift transmissions use the left foot for clutch operation only. It would be foolish for you to try to change your method or for the stick-shift graduates to change theirs. Most stick-shift men, when they try to brake with the left foot, do a lousy job because they haven't got the feel for this type of braking and if the brakes are especially good, they could easily toss Junior right through the windshield.

•Is customizing a car a deterrent to theft?

Bob Birch

Lisbon, Ohio

Real wild body customizing would certainly be a deterrent unless the thief is an out-and-out moron. The sophisticated crook goes for an average-looking car, not a lavender barouche with polka dots or a zebra-striped Bentley that would stand out like bloodshot eyes on a bishop.

• Why do you use Boji in your car tests to test the trunk size? Are you trying to get money from him too?

Bill Foulis

Menlo Park, Calif.

You some kind of a nut? How else can I make him deductible?

• Do two-ply tires really give the same mileage and over-all performance as the four-ply tires? Also, with the emphasis on higher-power cars, wouldn't the advent of two-ply tires be a step backward? It seems to me that heavy-duty four- or even six-ply tires would be advisable.

Brian Kerry

Georgetown, Ky.

The big deal with two-ply tires is faster heat dissipation. This is an advantage in high-speed running over long periods. At average speeds under rugged conditions the typical four- and six-ply tire should prove a lot stronger and enduring.

-Tom McCahill



Posted January 9, 2023