A Remembrance Of Tactile Automotive Enthusiasm

Illustration for article titled A Remembrance Of Tactile Automotive Enthusiasm
Image: Matt Brown

Like most people under the age of your next U.S. president, I consume my media on various glowing rectangles. But I still love the look and feel of dramatic car photos on glossy paper, even though I don’t read car magazines as much as I used to. So it isn’t surprising, but still disheartening to hear that a whole slew of great automotive magazines are going out of print.

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As we reported yesterday, TEN publishing has 22 automotive magazines in print, but that number will be cut down to three (Hot Rod, MotorTrend, and Four Wheeler) by the end of the year. The other publications will move entirely to the internet.

A few months ago, when I made the decision to step away from automotive engineering to pursue writing (you know, for the money), I emailed several writers for advice. One of the most common suggestions was “Forget about print.” It’s advice that has probably been given for over a decade; magazine subscriptions have been declining for years. I get it, but there’s something magical about seeing your article in print.

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There’s also something special about the experience of reading a printed magazine. For many years, I loved going to a bookstore and getting drawn in by the glossy magazines, judging them solely by their covers, and flipping through seven pages of ads to get to whatever Shootout or Crazy Build was featured that month.

I’ve been engineering and building cars for a very long time, and the foundation of all that knowledge was set years ago by wrinkled copies of magazines like Car Craft. I didn’t really get into cars until I bought my first one, an old Plymouth, and Mopar Muscle helped grow that passion with stories about hot rod builds on cars not too dissimilar to mine. Automobile magazine was basically required reading for a young auto engineer and you’d always see copies passed around the office with notes and sharpie circles.

Undoubtedly, the transition to the internet has greatly increased accessibility to the kind of content that shapes an automotive enthusiast. It’s not surprising, and it’s not a bad thing, but it has been such a big part of my enthusiast upbringing that it’s hard not to feel melancholy about the loss of so many magazines. It’s hard not to be a little nostalgic about all the time I spent flipping through magazines at the book store.

The magazines, like the book stores, are getting hard to find. Times change, and like many people who enjoy magazines, I only buy them occasionally: when a friend has a cover article about their project, or a cover catches my eye while I’m buying Fritos at the airport. Like many of you, I stopped renewing my subscriptions years ago; there’s just so much good, immediate content online.

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It’s not surprising that TEN is ceasing publication of some magazines, though this is a big chunk of enthusiast magazines gone all at once. When I imagine what the automotive section of the magazine rack is going to look like next year, it’s hard not to feel like some part of my past is fading with it.

Matt Brown is an automotive engineer, writer, and builder of unconventional things. Mostly vehicles.

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DISCUSSION

I grew up reading every auto magazine I could get my sweaty, little paws on. My gramps got me two subscriptions every Christmas: Motor Trend and Automobile. I still remember to this day cracking open the Detroit auto show edition of Automobile and seeing what I thought was the most special car ever... the Porsche Boxster concept. It seems silly now but those glossy pages were filled with the stuff of dreams back then. It has fueled my love of everything automotive.