Fifty years after Tom McCahill invented “zero to 60,” it remains the road-test’s benchmark number. Simple to understand, easy to compare, McCahill’s 0-to-60-mph yardstick captured the public’s imagination. Bolstered by frequent use in automotive advertising, nought-to-sixty took on a significance way beyond its true value. Nobody cared about other figures. Forget quarter-mile times, esoteric 45-to-65-mph passing numbers; only top speed gets close to resonating with enthusiasts in the same way.
Thomas Jay McCahill’s first road test, on a 1946 Ford, appeared in the February 1946 issue of Mechanix Illustrated magazine. Readers soon learned that, as well as his elementary, much quoted 0-to-60 time, McCahill provided irreverent, vibrant words that made the car live for the reader. McCahill entertained, combining a quick—if sometimes corny—wit, exaggerated metaphors and similes, and a stimulating and original writing style with serious foundations. You always knew if a new model met with his approval. McCahill didn’t believe in hiding behind euphemisms. Of the new 1949 Dodge with Gyro-Matic transmission, which advertising claimed was the greatest improvement in 39 years of Dodge history, Tom wrote, “It’s a dog.”
Only McCahill could write of the Jowett (a long-forgotten British marque) Javelin’s ashtray, “It looks like it was invented by Lord Whiffenpoof after he was shot in the rump during the Boer War. Like the cup your favorite dentist tells you to spit your teeth into, it hinges out but spends most of its time just rattling.” For the full story, check out this article from Motor Trend.