September 11, 2009
Over 100 years ago back in the time of the horseless carriage “Autocar” magazine began in the UK. It is still being published weekly to this day, concentrating on news and roadtests of the latest models.
Between then and now there have been 100s of different magazines about every aspect of cars and motoring. In the 1950s “Practical Motorist” and “Car Mechanics” had huge circulations with their tips on how to keep your car on the road with nothing more than (for example) a wire coathanger and a baked bean can (to repair your silencer with!).
In the 1970s “Hot Car” and “Custom Car” were popular with teenagers (Who me??) who wanted Carlos Fandango Go-Faster things nailed to various parts of their vehicle. The 1980s and 1990s saw an influx of magazines concentrating on Veteran/Vintage/Classic and potential Classic Cars. Their popularity seems to be waning now. And the current car scrappage scheme, rigorous MOTs and the cost of insurance may well end the days of 17 year olds hurtling around in £25 bangers. Incidentally when I was hurtling around in my £25 banger I did expect that if I managed to reach the C21st I would be the proud owner of a George Jetson type flying Jet Car. What went wrong ??
In the 1960s there was a car magazine that was somehow different from all the rest. It didn’t tell you how to patch up old cars and it wasn’t completely full of boring road tests. “Small Car” magazine would slowly transform itself into “Car” magazine which by the 1970s had become the most respected car magazine in the world.
“Car” had articles written by legendary characters such as L.J.K. Setright. Sometimes he used such obscure words you needed to check your dictionary. With his long beard, a monacle and cigarette holder his looks were as eccentric as his articles.
Back in 1964 “Small Car” magazine was brave enough to print articles such as “I drove home drunk last night – again”. This was a time before the police posessed any technology to check. Also in this issue was one of the first reviews in the UK of a Japanese saloon car. This 1964 Datsun Bluebird had a manual 3 speed gearbox !! It had an engine size of a mere 1187cc and yet only managed 20 miles per gallon !! And it needed an oil change every 1000 miles !!! Their verdict was that the UK car manufacturers had nothing to fear from Japan. Little did they, or we, know what the future would bring…………………………
PS: Even in 1964 Morgans were seen as “the last of the real sports cars”. A title their 2009 models still hold today.