1974 was a troubled year in American History. Richard Nixon resigned. The oil crisis was kicking into full gear. The world was facing a global recession. Muscle cars were beginning to fall by the wayside, and we were forced to watch the Waltons on TV. But Auto World was there to offer an escape.
As with every year since 1958 when Auto World came into being, our annual catalog showed up in our mail boxes or on the newstand promising every great model kit, accessory, slot car or radio control car on the market. Oscar made sure that there was hope in the world, and that a positive attitude and joyful spirit would prevail. If Auto World could be called the hobbiest's Bible, then Oscar was our Dalai Lama.
Drag racing was bigger than ever, with great names such as Don Prudhomme, Tom McEwen, Gene Snow, Ed McCulloch, Tony Nancy, Jim Liberman, and so many others were as popular as today's Nascar drivers. Kids graduating from Hot Wheels turned to HO slot cars, and Oscar made sure they had a drag strip to race on. For only $5.99 they could own their own NHRA replica drag stip and hold events in their own home.
Not only did Auto World make it possible to race your cars, it also provided the parts and accessories to soup up those cars and make them not only look fast and cool, but to smoke the competition. Jackie Steward once said, "If there is an unfair advantage, take it." Auto World was that unfair advantage. When you had Oscar on your side you could have the fastest, coolest car at the track.
Oscar's evil plan was to not just sell his wares, but to provide a means to teach. Kids were forced against their will to learn to read, learn engineering, math, physics and sportsmanship. Learning was disguised as fun, and because of it we unwittingly became better people for it. Darn that Oscar!
Sometimes we learned basic auto mechanics. With all the wiring kits, suspension parts, hinges, detail kits and lighting kits, we managed to learn some things about what makes the real cars work. Parts were not just called "A1" on the instruction sheet, it was a "Carburetor". B16 was not just another piece of white plastic to be glued onto B15, it was the intake manifold and it went on top of the engine block. We also knew that adding a blower would make the car go faster. A LOT faster!
No part of the hobby market was safe from Oscar. Offering anything from a motorized pogo stick called the Hop Rod, chopper front ends and drag chutes for our bicycles, Auto World pretty much had something for everyone. You could turn your bike into a motocross racer, add lights, pinstripes or even decals. There were books on bikes and minibikes, lubricants, tools, and even touring equipment for your bike. There were number plates, safety goggles, and even water bottle holders.
So 1974 was not such a bad year after all. Pocket calculators were just coming out in stores, Paul McCartney was singing "Band On The Run", and Herbie Rides Again was in theaters. And the 1974 Issue of Auto World was in the mail box. What could possible be wrong with that?