For me, it began with a letter to the editor.
"Since the [Triumph] TR8 in the article was a convertible," said the reader, "the girl in the photo should have been topless also. Try to do better next time."
The reply: "And when we test a car with a moonroof? - Ed."
This was my late-Seventies introduction to Car and Driver, the one automotive magazine that's been a constant in my mailbox for two decades and more. And while the identity of Ed. has changed over the years, the mission of C/D has never wavered: Driving ought to be fun, and cars ought to contribute to that fun, and people who get in the way of that fun, be they on the road or in a government office, need to be identified and dispatched to the slow lane.
One of the hallmarks of C/D has been an absolute refusal to accept dogma handed down from on high. In the Seventies, to get some unfiltered data on the dangers of drunk driving, the magazine rented a test site, got some of its staffers soused, and measured their driving proficiency at various levels of inebriation. The published results basically, "this stuff is obviously bad for you, but not everyone is impaired at exactly the same rate" were sufficiently offensive to Big Brother to encourage C/D to repeat the test in the early Eighties with a different drug: marijuana. The results, unsurprisingly, were about the same.
It should surprise no one that this fearlessness has gotten them in a lot of trouble with the sort of kinder, gentler fascists that tend to accumulate in government departments and in "independent" organizations with axes to grind. C/D doesn't care. When the fracas over Ford Explorers and Firestone tires came to a head, C/D bought an Explorer, rigged up a system whereby a tire could be instantly blown by remote control, and watched for signs of rollover. There weren't any. Why are all those Explorers turning up topsy-turvy? Editor-in-chief Csaba Csere isn't assigning any blame, but I believe (and I suspect Csere does too) that this is natural selection in action.
A common theme at Car and Driver is society's apparent willingness to make the many suffer for the sins of the few. So they opposed attempts to tighten the drunk-driving blood/alcohol content standard to 0.08 percent, pointing out that drivers between 0.08 and 0.10 (the previous standard), by the proponents' own statistics, cause a lot fewer fatalities than drivers way over the limit; in fact, the average BAC for a driver