PAUSE ON THE FRONTIER
From its beginning, the history of the American automobile has been linked with racing. Henry Ford learned about cars by building and racing them before the Ford Motor Co. was ever organized; General Motors' bestselling current product is named for one of the greatest of the oldtime racing drivers, Louis Chevrolet (who designed the original Chevrolet in 1911). Given such a grand tradition, it seemed strange that the directors of the Automobile Manufacturers Association should announce last week their unanimous decision not only to deemphasize speed and horsepower in automobile advertising, but also to sever all connections with racing competition in any form: stock car races, hill climbs, acceleration tests, even the providing of a pace car for the Indianapolis "500."
It is true that many of today's cars already have speed and power beyond the call of necessity. But it is also true that racing is a major frontier of all automotive progress, not of speed alone. Mercedes-Benz won the world championship with fuel injection, and Jaguar won at Le Mans with disc brakes. Both these milestones of automotive design are now offered on production cars, and their primary contributions are efficiency and safety, not speed.
Proving grounds have their uses, but a lot of Americans will go on insistently believing that competition offers the ultimate test—in running a mile, selling a toothpaste, making a better mousetrap or building a car.
Detroit's announcement actually amounts to an agreement not to compete. "If this had happened in Europe," one auto executive said, "a cartel would have come out of it. That's why the resolution was reworded and reworded again. They didn't want anyone shouting collusion, even though the intentions of the Automobile Manufacturers Association were good."
But collusion it is, whether anyone shouts it or not—and collusion of a peculiar and complacent kind. In a country that has always found its growth and, indeed, its special sense of destiny in crossing borderlines and pushing back barriers, Detroit has turned its back on the frontier.
THE AMPHETAMINE HUBBUB
The deliberations of the American Medical Association are sober, weighty and meticulous. They are also, as a rule, technical beyond the layman's understanding, and they pass into medical history without causing a flutter in the world at large. But last week the association's House of Delegates, meeting in New York, condemned what it termed the indiscriminate use of a drug called amphetamine to produce souped-up performances by high school, college and professional athletes. It also resolved to investigate the matter—and these particular deliberations exploded on front pages and produced a rain of all-but-radioactive comment.
From coaches, trainers, athletic commissioners and managers—and from athletes themselves—came denials and righteous indignation. Seventy-five newsmen converged on the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel for a press conference with Dr. Herbert Berger, the man who caused the resolution to be brought before the AMA delegates. For in supporting his contentions, Dr. Berger had pointed to the running of under-four-minute miles by 12 different athletes as one of the more obvious results of mixing amphetamine with sport. In his college days, he said (he is 48), such an achievement was as unlikely as a trip to the moon. And now look—12 different men had done it. It was significant, Dr. Berger added, that Roger Bannister, the first of them all, had been a medical student when he crashed through the barrier in 1954.
Almost everybody, from the man in the street to the milers themselves, disagreed with Dr. Berger's assertions, in detail and on Page One. (In London, Roger Bannister said, "I have never even contemplated using such drugs myself," and Brian Hewson and Derek Ibbotson called Dr. Berger's notion "nonsense." John Landy's comment was promptly relayed up from Australia: "Ha ha, ha!")