Car Corner
How I Got Into Cars (The Magazines)

April 2, 2014
By Scott Lewis

Many people who are passionate about cars tend to catch the bug early. Most people I know that are serious into cars, get it from other family members. It is a big father and son thing. This is not always the case, and it was not the case with me.

My parents were divorced. Although I vaguely remember my father having a neat old Datsun convertible that I helped him buff out the paint on when I was pretty young, I never got into cars with my father. What the hell... by the time I had a license my father lived in Manhattan and didn't even own a car.

I got into cars in the fall of 1980... my senior year in high school.

I had a free period that they would not let me leave campus for, so I did the least offensive thing offered and checked in at the library for "study hall." While sitting there I came across a couple of car magazines... having known almost nothing about cars. There was an article on an old Shelby Mustang in an edition of Car and Driver. Now I had heard of Mustangs... everyone in high school had, but I had never heard of a SHELBY Mustang before. It was cool.

So I went to the newsstand to buy that magazine. I Couldn’t find that article quickly at the newsstand, so I bought ALL the magazines. Car and Driver, Motor Trend, and Road & Track. I poured over each one of them, but no article on the Shelby Mustang.

Then I learned that the newsstand was a month ahead of the school, so I had to find a newsstand with the previous month's issues not sold out yet. By the time I had found the correct issue (of Car and Driver) I bought a few other magazines... and I was hooked.

As for the magazines themselves... it is crazy how passionate people get... its like Mac vs. PC or something. Jeez... get a life. Here are the opinions I formed back in the early 80’s on the "big three" new car magazines:

Car and Driver - was the best. They had the most detailed coverage (the only mag that ALWAYS listed top speed of a car... for every car they tested). Also they would do a project of their own 3 or 4 times a year. The 1st project car I saw in Car and Driver was a Mercury Capri (this was 1981... so think Fox body Mustang, from Mercury) with a 255 V8. They tweaked the car until it could run at at least 130 mph top speed. Cool... and then right after that Ford announced they were bringing back the 302 V8 in the Mustang (the Boss is back... in 1982). It was because of this that I have had a non-stop subscription to this magazine since September 1980. They have been slipping over the last decade or so. Becoming more generic and less passionate. I noticed this especially since Csaba Csere left... and even a little before he that.

Motor Trend - was always less detailed in the eighties. They would frequently not publish 1/4 mile speeds. I think they were trying to be politically correct when cars were forced to have 85 mph speedometers. Overall their writing style seemed at a lower level to me. That was then... today they are extremely detailed with their figure 8 g-force testing and such. But once an opinion is formed... I still prefer Car and Driver, but I probably shouldn’t.

Road & Track - was always a little more boring than all the other magazines... but most important to me is that it was too much track and not enough road. To this day I am not much of a racing fan. I prefer to read about cars I could possibly drive... on the street. R&T was about 50/50 street/track, so way too much track coverage for me. I believe this is true today, but I don't read it much so can't say for sure. Also, R&T always posted the slowest 0-60 and 1/4 mile times for road tests. so I eventually got the feeling the writers were wimps behind the wheel or something.

Automobile (OK the 4th... to rival the "big three," came later in the 80s) - I think people left the other magazines to start it (David E Davis I think started it after leaving Car and Driver). I already had too many subscriptions when it came out that I bypassed it. But it was a decent magazine. It was larger in size when it first came out, which should be a good thing... but for me it made it harder to stack with all my other magazines. I currently have a subscription because of a smoking offer. But I suspect I will let it lapse when it is time for renewal.

I have a friend in Houston that gets the print version of Auto Week... I don’t know that I could get into getting a magazine every week. I would end up not reading too many of them, and it would feel like a waste of paper sooner or later. I have enough trouble keeping up with my current subscriptions (and really don't, I have about 3 years of Hot Rod waiting... because I save the best for last).

I currently have paper subscriptions to Car and Driver, Motor Trend and Automobile. I expect Motor Trend to lapse at renewal time with Automobile. I still like Car and Driver a little better, but prefer Motor Trend's online coverage a lot more... so I will get my MT fix online.

I also subscribe to Hot Rod, Car Craft, Popular Hot Rodding & Corvette. But these are not new car mags, so they get completely different criteria for me. And maybe another article in the future. If only I could remember all the titles when my magazine fetish peaked. I do know that at one time I had 13-1/2 monthly magazine subscriptions. The 1/2 was a mag that came out every two months. I have never been below three (I have maintained Hot Rod, Car Craft & Car and Driver since the fall of 1980).


That is how I got into cars. Maybe someday I can tell you about my early (and bad) experiences working on cars.

If you are reading this you probably read other car stuff. What car stuff interests you? Let me know.