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A Look Back at Spring 1973 - Thunder Road

Editor's Letter

In the March 2013 issue, we celebrated this magazine's 40th anniversary. We had a pullout centerfold, our 40th logo has adorned every cover this year, and we had our 40th anniversary Camaro featured in our company's booth at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas—the largest trade show in the world.

The one thing we didn't have, believe it or not, was a copy of the first issue. Because of numerous ownership and editorial changes, plus office moves from Los Angeles to Placentia, California, then to New Jersey, and finally, to Tampa, Florida, somehow issue one (Spring 1973 cover date) had gone missing. Maybe no one ever bothered to archive it. Who knows? I was only 11 when that first issue hit the newsstands, quite a few years away from my debut in the automotive publishing world. Even the legendary Doug Marion, who started working at Argus Publishing in July 1976 and has become an icon of Team Super Chevy, was without a copy.

For a while, I'd been searching it out. I lost an eBay online auction on a box of old magazines that included the first issue. I asked Len Emanuelson, an industry veteran who was on the masthead of the magazine on Day One, if he had a copy. No luck. Associate editor Patrick Hill and I combed the massive swap meets at numerous Super Chevy Shows, but came away empty. It was as if we were looking for the Lochness Monster. Then a few weeks ago, we got an email from longtime reader Marlon Echols asking what the first issue was. He let us know he might have one (and did). He refused cash, instead taking a trade for Super Chevy swag.

As I look over this August periodical (thanks, Marlon), I'm grinning like a monkey. The only color editorial page was the cover. Price was $1. There was a road test of the new '73 Corvette 454. With an automatic and 3.08 gears, it ran a startling 13.91 at 96—not bad for a smogged-out, 8.25:1 compression Rat with highway gears. The first car feature is a twin-turbocharged small-block T-bucket; the second is a '67 Camaro Bonneville Salt Flats racer billed as the world's fastest Camaro. The only other feature is a customized '66 Vette.

The ads would blow you away. The inside front cover is a Berger Chevrolet ad. How about a 3/4-complete LS-7 454 with 12:1 compression for $987.50? A 1/2 LS-6 (short-block only) was $543.66. A complete solid-lifter LT-1 was $761.06. Sounds like a great deal, but this was some serious cash back in the day. There's a General Kinetics cam ad featuring Bill Jenkins wearing a towel, T-shirt, black socks and loafers. (“A GK cam runs so quick it'll scare your pants off … ask the Grump.”). Other advertisers included Manley (pistons), Mickey Thompson (headers), Nickey Chicago, Fairbanks Racing Automatics, and Obsolete Chevy Parts.

From low-budget engine building kits to how-to build your own fuel injection system, the tech had you covered. Unlike today, there was not much in the way of mail order business. Thanks to the Internet, now you can thumb through Super Chevy's ads, whip out your credit card, and order everything you need to build a complete car from our advertisers—including the body itself!

So, when did you start reading SC?

Jim.Campisano@sorc.com

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