That Sound You Heard Was the American Car Magazine Business Downshifting: 0-60 Debuts

Brian Scotto is freakishly tall, at least to my average-minus eye height. He's also a freakishly nice guy, which in the magazine business is like finding a Tahitian pearl in a plate of McCormick and Schmick's oysters. That's why, when I heard Scotto was working on a new car magazine - not just a car magazine, my dream car magazine - I gulped hard and prepared for the day I'd have to look through it with the jaundiced eye of a media critic. I winced at the thought of deconstructing 0-60's flight toward the sun, then pointing at its waxen wings as it plunged earthward. By proxy, I'd be mocking poor Scotto - all 6'9" of him - a guy as undeserving of mockery as anyone topping a masthead. But as they say in the Bronx, he sure had some balls to attempt the kind of magazine he was attempting.

That's not to say I thought Scotto would fail. I knew his automotive tastes ran further afield than the narrow purview of Rides and Donk, Box & Bubble, the publications that put him on the media map. I also knew he was serious about creating a lifestyle car mag to fill the gaping void I knew was there. Car nuts in the UK often take for granted the joy of cracking open glossy books like Car, Evo and Top Gear, wonderful monthlies on which I'd spent hundreds in overseas distribution fees over the years. But despite what I felt was latent demand in the states for a stylish, large-format car magazine with spectacular photos and a broad cultural beat, such a magazine continued to elude the US market. But would 0-60 fit the bill?

As I write this, I'm scanning a pre-release copy of the premiere, Fall '07 issue of 0-60 for hints of the freshness, style and overall vibe of a good magazine. A roof-POV, stop-action cover shot of what looks to be a 2008 Dodge Viper makes for a promising start, as does an editorial letter that's a testament to the editor-in-chief's congeniality. Scotto chides the "big four" buff books with the faintest of praise, promoting peaceful co-existence and offering props for their dissemination of vital details such as, say, the interior volume of a Honda Odyssey. A less-classy act may have openly upbraided the Detroit/LA car-media establishment for not countering their long, slow slide into irrelevance by engaging in upkeep. That is, moving the front of their books online and focusing sharply on a single core competency, whether it be as a hardcore news desk, travelogue purveyor or strict road-test farm run by opinionated, quirkpot engineers. But why molest that deceased equine?

0-60 has done a few things extremely right. The layout is crisp and cosmopolitan with a techie edge extrapolated from early-period Wired. The photos are vibrant, though not as vivid as those of Car, the gold standard in car pornography, but together with the sizable pages, they do impart a pulse-quickening sense of wide-screen cinematography.

Nonetheless, there's room for 0-60 to grow into its looks. While the writing is punchy and jargon-free, and features count among them a selection of eclectica (hello, Cosworth Vega), the table of contents occasionally reads like a menu of low-hanging fruit plucked from the automotive orchard: driving on the autobahn; traveling to Japan's Ebisu circuit, birthplace of drifting, buying an Acura NSX. A few gems present. The account of a trip to Scotland to hang out with rally legend and new rally-car builder Colin McRae is just the kind of thing we've been wanting from a US car magazine for decades.

It's a decent starting lineup, if obvious to the hardcore gearhead set. But the first 0-60 is still a fun, inviting read. And for now, that's plenty. Has Scotto pulled off the impossible? The Reader's Digest answer is yes, but consistency and a bit of game-upping will be key as the seasons change. (Full disclosure: Jalopnik writers Mike Bumbeck, Wes Siler and Jonny Lieberman contributed articles to the premiere issue of 0-60)