Photoshop crimes of the century – evo Archive

How a curious cover and countdown for our 100 Greatest Drivers’ Cars test detracted from an epic finale

evo Archive issue 304

Just occasionally when I look back through the archives I happen upon an issue and wonder what we were all eating in the office that month. Had the local Tesco been slipping more than innocent porcini into the microwave mushroom risotto? One such issue is 135. An issue for which, unusually, I wrote the Ed Speak at the front of the magazine. 

Nothing wrong with the premise of the cover story: The 100 Greatest Drivers’ Cars. Solid stuff. The very heart of the evo tagline. What’s more, it’s backed up by a trio of absolutely core new launches, trumpeted from the important top-right spot on the real estate of the cover: new Ferrari 458, new 911 Turbo and a new rear-wheel-drive Gallardo (in the shape of the Balboni special edition) are all tempting reasons to buy the magazine. Look inside and you’ll find that the first two of those are covered off in a single spread in the news section, which is a bit disappointing, but never mind. 

But all this is avoiding the elephant in the publishing house. Why on earth is a massive, Monty Pythonesque ‘100’ dominating the cover? Like a cartoon reimagining of a maths class at Stone Henge, it is all you can look at. Was Terry Gilliam a guest editor? The beautiful blue Zonda and gorgeous grey F50 are mere footnotes, apparently inconsequential in the overall image. It was perhaps the most obvious use of Photoshop in evo since issue 129, when a Gallardo was pictured bending all known laws of photography on page 109. 

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Looking back on it now, the list of 100 cars is a little curious, too. There are no BMWs in the top quarter, an E30 M3 coming highest at number 25, with an E46 M3 CSL hard on its heels in 27th. Despite being crowned the Greatest Drivers’ Car of the decade in issue 066, the Ferrari 550 Maranello was only number 20 on the list this time. And it was beaten by the 599 GTB, the 360 Challenge Stradale, 430 Scuderia and F40 (as well as the F50, obviously). The NSX Type R was down in 29th, the Carrera GT only just snuck inside the top half in 49th – beaten by a 993 Turbo in 46th. I thought we always preferred the MR2 roadster to the MX-5, but the Toyota only made it in at 43 while there was a Mazda in the final ten shootout.

Anyway, I remember the test itself being a fabulous experience. The roads of north Wales were as wonderful as ever and it didn’t rain all the time. I recall that the F50 was a bit out of sorts compared to others I’ve driven since, but the Lotus 340R was everything I’d always hoped it would be. And I will never forget the truly nape-prickling sound of the Zonda F’s V12 bouncing off rock faces and filling the open cockpit. I can understand why Horacio’s masterpiece took the win (even if I did vote for the Caterham).

And now I come to think of it, it’s just occurred to me why it might have been me who wrote the Ed Speak column. I suspect it was nothing to do with the fact that Harry Metcalfe was on holiday in the south of France and much more likely to do with a desire on his part to distance himself from a test in which two cars in his collection came first and second in a magazine that he edited! Oh, and he also owned examples of the 6th placed Elan and 7th placed Clio Trophy. Just coincidence, of course, as there was a rigorous voting system and nobody else on the judging panel had skin in the game. But best to keep one’s head below the parapet nonetheless.

This story was first featured in evo issue 304.

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