I don't make it a practice to make personal attacks on those with
whom I disagree, although the anonymity and safety of Internet-launched
attacks has certainly elevated this into an art form. Curiously, I've never received hate mail from owners of detectors sold by BEL, Cobra, Escort, PNI, Early Warning, Snooper, Uniden, Adaptiv, BG Tech or Whistler. This in spite of the fact that while my tests over
the past decade in Automobile and a dozen other magazines
both here and abroad have declared as winners a model or two from
nearly every one of those outfits, so have I declared others in their
model lineups to be losers.
On the other hand, I constantly get hate mail from fans of the
Valentine One. And I almost daily run across excerpts--sometimes
the entire pages-long diatribe--from Mike Valentine's personal attack
on me, prominently carried for years on his company Website. This
kind of personal attack is rather rare in the corporate world (when
is the last time you've witnessed something similar?) and I've
ignored these rantings since they began in 1993--Mr. Valentine is
nothing if not relentless--but frankly I'm weary of seeing one witless nutcase after another resurrect Mike's old diatribe to bolster yet another attack.
So just this once, I'll examine some of the more contentious
charges on Mike's Web site and repeated endlessly by V1 Zombies.
Then you'll have a balanced look at the facts. Here are some of
the high points of the Valentine attack.
" 'Craig Peterson's December  radar detector
comparison test generated more angry letters--and on-line discussion--than
anything since the Davis Ferrari/raccoon incident.' -- Automobile,
My response: Typical of his "do whatever it takes to win" nature, Mike has altered
this quote. Actually, it read: "...generated more angry letters--most
of them from Valentine owners--than anything..."
Nobody else has complained about any of my tests during the entire
decade I ran them for the magazine and in the years since for Radartest.com—Mr. Valentine excepted. But when I fail to pay homage to the V1,
many of those who purchase this heavily-hyped, expensive
detector instantly go into attack mode.
This includes Valentine himself whose 1993 letter to Bill Neill, editor of Car Audio and Electronics, had Neill rolling his eyes.
"You're not going to believe this but I got a four-page, single-spaced letter of complaint from Mike Valentine," he told me. "Took me 20 minutes to read it. But don't worry; we're used to this from little manufacturers with big egos. I mean, the guy did name his product after himself, which tells you a lot about the guy."
I get exactly the same reaction from purchasers of Rocky Mountain
Radar's bogus radar/laser jammers. They've just spent megabucks
for what's reputed to be a world-beating product and here I have
the temerity to question its supremacy.
"He gets measurements wrong
But instead of debating philosophy, let's look at his record on
simple facts. Peterson opens his website review of V1 by saying
it is "by far the largest and heaviest unit tested..."
On our scale, Passport is heaviest at 8.9 ounces followed by
V1 at 8.6 and the BEL at 8.0. Only V1 has a metal case (magnesium),
the others are plastic.
Passport is also the longest by a huge margin at 5.29 inches,
followed by the BEL at 4.72 inches. V1 is shortest at 4.46 inches,
more than a quarter inch shorter than the BEL and nearly an inch
shorter than Passport.
In thickness, all are within 0.1 of an inch (V1 is thickest). Only
in width is V1 significantly larger than the others, but the difference
between them is less than the difference in length."
My response: I weigh the unit complete with
power cord and the V1 with its substantial plug did tip the scales
a bit more than the Escort and BEL at the time of that 2000 test.
And face it: width in a detector is of far greater significance
than length. A wide detector blocks more of the driver's view of
the road ahead, an item of some importance to most of us. Length,
on the other hand, is of little consequence.
Despite his denial, Valentine finally
abandoned the fat housing I mentioned in the Automobile test and
returned to the original 1991 case that's slightly slimmer and lighter,
although just as wide.
"His range tests raise questions about his methods
In the Automobile straightaway/hill test, notice how his results
mostly fall into four narrow clusters at 23, 27, 31, and 40. In
fact, only three bars are not in those clusters. Look closely. Four
of five detectors have the same K-band range. Seven different X-band
tests have the same distance of 31; two detectors get exactly the
same results for both City and Highway modes (why have both modes
if they perform the same?)."
My response: As I mentioned in the story, those
"narrow clusters" correspond to slight hillcrests which naturally
tend to group together detectors with similar sensitivity. As they
reach a crest, they come more directly into the radar beam and bingo,
That phenomenon didn't occur until, after years of carping
by Mike, I lengthened this nearly-flat 4.1-mile straightaway test
site because I was accused of truncating the site to unfairly
limit the true maximum range potential of the V1. Once it became
evident that several other models had equal or better maximum range,
particularly on Ka band, Mike attacked my selection of test sites.
And apparently he doesn't often look at other detectors or he'd
know that many manufacturers don't alter sensitivity in X-band City
mode, they merely raise the threshold at which an alert is sounded. It keeps the unit quiet in town.
So naturally their detection range in both modes is nearly identical.
In my tests I rigidly group the contestants according to price,
mindful that higher price almost inevitably means better performance. So it's
not unusual for these comparably priced units to exhibit similar
performance, at least on X and K band. Ka-band performance costs
money and some of the manufacturers have slacked off in this area
and usually only a few show stellar performance on Ka.
In contrast, Mike's tireless champions at Car and Driver routinely
test the $399 V1 against models street-priced as low as $99, the
ethical equivalent to asking a 2.0T VW GTI to square off against a 911 Turbo. The test results are hardly a surprise--but they do
make for great quotes in Valentine's magazine ads. And some find it puzzling that Valentine uses as a testimonial only one ancient Car and Driver test. Over two dozen testers agree with me, finding his arch competitors' units, the Escort 8500 X50 and the BEL RX65, to be superb detectors, equal to or better than the Valentine One in performance while offering more features, for less money.
Car and Driver magazine's cozy relationship with big advertisers like Valentine is well documented. In a front page story in the July 29, 1990 issue of the Wall Street Journal, reporter Joseph B. White wrote: "At Car and Driver, America's largest magazine for car buffs, the writers and editors like to get close to their subjects. Very close.
Editor William Jeanes says he encourages staffers to be 'consultants' to auto makers, the better to get early access to new cars and inside dope."
That included letting editors work for Cincinnati Microwave, which created the Escort brand of detectors and sold them until its mid-Nineties implosion. (Its detector division's assets were purchased by a Chicago businessman and a new firm, Escort Radar Inc., was created. Other than the brand name, there is no connection between the two.)
Car and Driver personnel were regular guests of CMI during the glory years and not infrequently traveled on the corporate CMI jet. Editor Pat Bedard even drove Escort's Indy car in the Indianapolis 500 in 1983 and again in 1984.
Mr. Bedard created the radar detector testing procedures for the magazine with his inaugural 1979 test and either personally conducted or supervised many future tests. The stories share a common thread: Without exception a Valentine-associated product won every test of high-end models.
In 1984 Mike Valentine's partner and co-founder of CMI, Jim Jaeger, assumed control of the company and quickly showed Mike the door. While Valentine sat on the sidelines, bound by a non-compete agreement with CMI, Bedard generated puff pieces in Car and Driver promoting Mr. Valentine such as "Revenge of the Nerds, Automotive Division", (May 1985 issue) and he wrote the operator manual for the G Analyst performance computer with whose development Mike occupied himself while cooling his heels. When the non-compete agreement expired in 1992, it was back to business as usual.
In the April 1992 issue Mr. Bedard wrote the story "They Have Lasers". The laser used in the story, a target vehicle and most of the information were provided by the person on which the story focused: Mike Valentine.
Perhaps coincidentally, a Valentine product has won every high-end detector test the magazine has run in the 15 years since then, a feat unequaled in the history of consumer electronics.
"The man behind the byline
Rather than trying to explain Peterson's mysterious results, let
me just remind you that his credibility has long been in question.
In response to his December, 1995, test, Automobile admitted a flood
of "angry letters" which "criticized our selection of the BEL 745Sti
Plus as our first-place winner over the Valentine One, which tied
for third place. Amidst all the allegations of invalid test methodology
and unfairness were suggestions that Peterson showed undue favoritism
to the BEL unit because he has consulted for the company."
In the March, 1996, issue, Peterson replied, "Having consulted
to every major detector manufacturer, suggestions that BEL received
preferential treatment are nonsense."
He's wrong on that point too. He's never been a consultant
to Valentine Research, although he's approached us more than once.
We declined his advances each time."
My response: Not true. I've never met nor spoken to Mike Valentine but I knew enough about him that I wouldn't have worked for him under any circumstances. I volunteered the information that
I'd consulted to the industry because I felt ethically bound to disclose that to my readers. It appears that sense of propriety isn't shared by the editors of Car and Driver. But nobody had ever asked and frankly, no manufacturer but Valentine
has ever expressed the slightest concern over my consulting, either before or
since that 1996 statement that I insisted be inserted in Automobile magazine. The test results were repeatable and
when Automobile sent editor Kevin Clemens along to monitor future
tests, nothing much changed.
People who knew me weren't surprised. Such is my stature in the industry that in the early
Nineties I consulted to all three of the biggest manufacturers simultaneously.
Their faith in my integrity was so complete that even with intimate
knowledge of their plans and future products--information
worth millions to a rival company--none showed the slightest hesitation
in retaining my services, even knowing that I was providing similar
expertise to their fiercest competitors.
It's also worth noting that at the time of the 1995 Automobile
flap, unbeknownst to me, the CEOs of all three of these companies
wrote personal letters in my defense to Automobile publisher
David E. Davis, Jr., suggesting that he do a bit more than simply repeat
the rantings of the Valentine lobby. Instead, over dinner with Mike an arrangement was made: the magazine henceforth would drop my stories if Mike would resume advertising in Automobile. Which he did. I'll always be grateful for that decision since it spurred me to begin writing for the Internet, which in turn led to other opportunities.
But here's what really triggered Mike's outrage about the consulting
issue. Remember, my statement in Automobile began: "Having consulted
to every major detector manufacturer..." And I'd never met
or spoken to Mike Valentine, much less approached him about a consulting
Frankly it never occurred to me. Valentine Research, little more
than a storefront boutique outfit, is so tiny that the CEA, the consumer electronics industry
trade association, doesn't even bother to estimate the sales of this privately held company. (Mike and his wife are the owners.) Best estimates by industry experts
are that Valentine accounts for less than 0.8 percent of total industry sales.
Knowing this, my thought at the time was: Why bother? I'm already running Mach 3 with my hair on fire, trying to handle
existing clients, writing for a dozen magazines and producing videos, among other things. And with Valentine's famously abrasive personality, why even think about working for an ego-centric jerk? That's one of the few luxuries
of the self-employed--they can work for whom they wish.
Those who know Mike--and in the two decades I've been associated
with the industry I've met plenty of folks who do--are unanimous
in their opinion that he has, shall we say, some unresolved personal
issues. "Mike's ego walks into the room 20 minutes before he gets
there," a detector company CEO who'd worked for years previously with Valentine
once remarked. And that's why he was shown the door at Escort in 1984,
long before most of their landmark products were developed. Nobody
could get along with the guy. If I ever were to meet him, I have no doubt
I'd fall into that group as well.
One last item: Mike neglects to mention a rather noteworthy point
about that hated 2000 Automobile magazine test he remains so
vexed over. He won the damn thing. But even after I declared the Valentine One the winner of
that test, naming it the best in the business, he hounded editor Kevin Clemens for months afterward. Finally Clemens stopped taking his calls. And Mike's complaint? He hadn't won by a large enough margin.