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Unhinged: The Sunset Of Print Magazines

Unhinged: The Sunset Of Print Magazines

The starting point was a silver Hot Wheels C4 Corvette with the cream-colored interior tub and the red luggage case visible in the rear hatch. The ignition moment was when my uncle Benjamin and the man who would become my stepfather showed up at my grandfather’s house in Colorado Springs in a white Chevrolet Camaro Type LT, with the turbine wheels and the red interior. But the fuel poured in once I moved to Washington State and started to pour through the sizable collection of automotive enthusiast magazines that would be available to me. Old Hot Rod copies, Car Craft articles, and 4Wheel and Off-Road copies that were the current reading material for the day (thanks to the focus on building up a Dodge Ramcharger at the time) were mine for the reading, and since I didn’t really hang out with anybody and couldn’t stand being around my brother for any longer than necessary at the time, I buried my nose in the pages as if I was an addict finding a new, better fix.

Magazines were the fuel that drove me to be, to learn, to do, to create. I wanted to be the guy standing on the Bonneville Salt Flats when nobody is around…and I did that in 2009. I wanted to be the guy to find some cheap beater and go dick around with a few friends involved for some laughs…and I’ve been doing that the entire time the King of the Heap racing series has been going on. I wanted to see my car in a magazine, which happened when Mopar Muscle ran a “Reader’s Rides” piece on my 1987 Dodge Diplomat in the October, 2006 issue that they pretty much put in verbatim…except to change a word here or there. And yes, I still remember how over-the-moon I was when I saw it in print. I still have copies of that issue somewhere. I wanted to build the projects with the cool names. I wanted to race all sorts of shit. I wanted to drive every last car I could get my hands on, experience the highs and lows of the automotive world. And I’m still working on that goal. But it was all due to magazines. Every last ounce, from my phase with Lowrider that still leaves me wanting a 1969 Impala as a long and low cruiser that is relaxed, mellow and comfortable. Automobile left me panting over the original ZR-1 Corvette and LT-1 powered F-bodies. Muscle Car Review might as well have been my wish list to Santa every month, and the list goes on and on. From flying in the dunes to ripping up road courses, magazines were the inspiration

During those childhood years, a few names stood out among the authors: Ro McGonegal, Steve Magnante, David Freiburger. Freiburger stood out early on because he helmed many magazines during this influential period: Hot Rod, Car Craft, 4Wheel and Off-Road. So it seemed kind of fitting that I learned of the news through his Facebook page:

The adult in me has seen this coming. The Internet has eliminated the need for hardcopy magazines. But ten-year-old me is sick to my stomach. Getting your car on the cover, getting your letter printed in the mail feature, gone.

When CarJunkieTV started so long ago, I wondered if I was seeing the early sunset of print magazines. The forum flourished, and DF and Chad cranked out fun, imitable content that audiences not only could relate to, but could even interact with, to a degree. For you longtime readers, do you remember Freiburger’s ride-roasting thread? That was cool, those were good times. It was that kind of interaction that drove me to seek out to meet the people behind the scenes, and look at where it’s gone since. Anybody who is involved in automotive media puts their hearts and souls into this world that we’ve created. The three of us do what we can where we can, and we’re thankful for every reader, every fan, every friend. Hell, every troll too, why not. We are carrying the torch from where this story ends.

We will miss the excitement of getting the next issue in the mail. We will miss seeing our buddies’ car in the pages. But what I think will be missed the most will look a lot like Olalla, Washington, circa 1994: a young kid at a table, trying to trace out the car on the cover so that they can take the basic shape and work with it via pencils, markers, and their imagination to make that cover beauty something of their own making.

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27 thoughts on “Unhinged: The Sunset Of Print Magazines

  1. Steve

    Yep, change can be hard. You can not hold back technology. I built a huge library of car periodicals that I mentally cataloged for technical & inspirational reference. Now I carry several hundred pounds less material in my left pocket, and the images and information are fresher. Still, it seems we lost something important. Used to be, an automotive journalist had to know his stuff, lest he be flamed or fired. Today, anyone can be a writer, even if he is full of crap, myths, or can’t even spell. I miss the authority those good writers imparted. Oh well,onward through the cyber-fog!

  2. Weasel1

    I feel your pain. I bought Hot Rod, Car Craft and Easy Riders from the time I was 14 (1970) well into the 2000’s. When we moved 3 years ago we had a yard sale and a young man said “why should I buy all that clutter when I can just look it up on my phone”. I still have all my mags, just can not force myself to throw the away.

    1. 75Duster

      I’m the same way Weasel1, I still subscribe to Mopar Collectors Guide, Mopar Muscle and Car Craft, and when I was deployed overseas I would always pick up there car magazines as well.

  3. Don

    And how will they take care of people who still have outstanding paid subscriptions? Probably keep their money and tell them to F O.

    1. Turbo Regal

      No, they’ll sub the titles they are keeping. A few years ago when they killed High Performance Pontiac, they subbed Motor Trend for the remainder of my subscription.

      They probably thought, “Kia Soul/Pontiac Super Duty Trans Am, what’s the difference?”

  4. Rob Bennett

    I have subscribed to Hot Rod for decades and with the current editor it soon will be gone, IMO. It is tech article heavy and with the internet at peoples fingertips for better technical Q&A and how to videos on any subject imaginable it seems to me it has lost its target audience.
    It needs to get back to car features, event features and stories on the people of this hobby we call hot rodding. My 2 cents.
    Roadkill Magazine was killer but short lived. WheelHub is Awesome!

  5. Andy Thornton

    I subscribe to MT, CD, HR & CC. I understand that times change but losing the print option will have a negative affect on our hobby/culture. Web sites and apps don’t get left lying around houses schools airports or train stations. As a kid I could read HR at the library and as a teen gear head I subscribed to some and bought others off the newsstand. Upside? I won’t have to see a beautiful Cyclone GT that was obviously a high dollar build with an LS in it because the “performance to cost” was better that makes me want to shred the magazine. But I will know less about new models or changes from brand X. I won’t see some cool mod that could apply to any make and I will miss some junk yard score because I never knew about the low buck upgrade from CC. I won’t get the new writers style or insight or the “in this months” conversation starter with others from our tribe I don’t know yet. I also won’t see ads for products I might buy or use since I don’t flip thru a web site or app. COTM on any web site isn’t as cool as readers rides in print period , full stop. I don’t know if the print versions lost money or just didn’t make enough. Once these Icons are gone they never come back. If you don’t believe me grab the road test from Auto Week on the new Oldsmobile and meet me at the dealer for a test ride. We are losing mass market for niche and losing common knowledge for our digital silo’s. I like and am active in the digital realm but it doesn’t make me smile when I open my mailbox. The smaller titles also won’t groom the next generation of enthusiast writers so this is probably the continuation of the end of the hobby as we know it. Godspeed Car Craft… maybe I’ll run into Krass and Bernie at the Burger Shak.

  6. It\'s 80° in Hawaii. . . again

    I too feel the pain. My collection started from the 70s to 2005, including a couple of 1950s Hot Rod. I had all of them and I lugged them from house to house. I even had specific made boxes with labels and handles. They were my library and reference bibles. When I was in grade and high school I always had a couple of mags with me. I even had a teacher take them away and me stay after school. The ultimate was I became the art director of a locally produced car magazine called Hawaiian Cruisers. This was great as it opened many doors as media such as SEMA, NHRA races, car shows. Just flash the business card. Car magazines is a big part of my life. I no longer have the tons of paper as most was donated to a community college. They put them into binders and I get to visit my old friends. I still have a couple of collectibles.

  7. Larry Reed

    I was 11 when I found the car magazines large ones like Motor Trend small ones that showed cars that were taken apart and driven, I couldn’ believe it.
    MT had pictures and results from someplace called The Indianapolis 500. The 50th Anniversary, I will never forget who Ray Haroun was. I bought as many of those little gems and the big ones for the best pictures. It wasn’t long before I started to understand the automobile as mechanical and some as art.

  8. Anthony

    This sucks! I’ve been reading those magazines for so long,since I was a little kid. Technology excuse is crap. Go to a newsstand in London. Magazine rack is full of titles. It’s just a cheap way for that shitty company to not have to pay printers anymore. They bought all the titles now they cancel them. F’them. I was still pissed off about Popular Hot rodding. Now this?! F’them.

  9. Patrick

    WTF I just sent money to Street Rodder, got one issue and it’s the last? Want my money back this is BS

  10. tw

    I still have a bunch of them but can’t trow it away. Funny thing is the front page headlines were a click bait before the click was invented .

  11. Scott Liggett

    Sad day for sure. But, this day would not have happened if print mags were selling like they did 25 years ago.

  12. ratpatrol66

    Just sent money for two more years of Hot Rod Deluxe three weeks ago. I know they won’t send my money back. Probably get stuck with two years of Motor (suck) Trend! Really want to kick somebodies teeth in.

  13. Piston Pete

    I’m stunned. I bought my first issue of Hot Rod in 1959 when I was 6 years old and have subscribed to Hot Rod and Car Craft for decades.
    The first issue of my renewed Hot Rod subscription just arrived today and my CC sub is up, so I guess I don’t need to bother renewing. Seems like some sort of national memorial is in order. As Andy T mentioned, one less smile at the mailbox.
    This is truly troubling, not so much for the loss of the mags, but of the thought that thousands less people will be READING something. Doing it on the internet is not the same to an old man like me
    Sitting at the kitchen table listing to some tunes, having a cocktail and a toke while reading the latest issue, then go out into the garage and apply some idea or inspiration that issue just gave you to the car or bike. Sorry, I usually pride myself in stringing thoughts into cohesive sentences, but this is bad.

  14. Piston Pete

    Thank you, Andy Thornton for your comment. It sums up my feelings exactly, I’m just too mindfucked to express myself coherently.

  15. Robert

    This maybe the end for some, but just the beginning for others. Wheel Hub Magazine, for instance. There is an audience for print media. Since the launch of the magazine in 2018, we have seen a surge of high quality magazines come to the surface. We appreciate all the support from readers and industry alike, and we are just getting started.

  16. Forrest

    Hot Rod Deluxe is one of the titles that has gone away. I know there are other mags that are similar, but they just don’t have the archives of history that the former Petersen Publishing has. That it is what will be lost to the next and current readers. You just can’t replace that with digital media, it’s not the same and it’s not right. Sad days for sure…

  17. JohnnyMarauder

    Well, at least I won\’t be buying abother issue with yet another round of intake tests for the small block Chevy!

  18. c502cid

    It;’s been a long time since I received a JC Whitney and PAW catalog too, but we all lived. Yeah, I get the sentiment, I lived it too, but life moves on.
    The bigger issue facing the hobby is getting kids into cars these days. Most of us stood in line at the DMV at 6am on our 16th birthday. Our wheels were the way to see our friends. Now kids at 18 don’t care about getting their license, their friends are just a text away….

  19. Skeptical

    Maximize profits!!!!!!!! Its a publicly traded company. Theres nothing that will destroy tradition, offshore jobs, and sell you out faster than the scum running these places. All while telling everyone how much they care about “you”.

  20. Cruzer

    I’ve been reading HRM since the 60’s. My earliest issue of Street Rodder is from 1974. I have ADHD and an Anxiety issue. I’ve been a car lover my whole life. These magazines were my relief with my issues. They were the only things that I could rely on. Hot rodders are some of the first recyclers. The first cars are actually hot rods and customs. I have a 1969 Ford galaxie that I plan on running on alternative fuels (still internal combustion). Maybe alcohol. I miss the printed page (such as Popular Hot Rodding), and am very disappointed in more magazines going this direction. These large companies really are more interested in the bottom line. Which the wouldn’t have if it weren’t for the enthusiasts that still build their cars, trucks, etc, in their garage. All we can do is voice our opinion and hope some one hears us. A lot of jobs will be lost, aftermarket companies will lose ground. Even the TV is more difficult. Soon in order to see all your favorite shows you will have to purchase 10 or more different channels at $10.00 + each. It appears that a type of segregation is beginning to take place on our world. We’ll see.

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