Why I’d recommend : Motor Sport / The Automobile / The Rodder’s Journal / Classic & Sports Car
One particular magazine might use this title as a wishful strapline but, of course there is no universal World’s Best Car Magazine. If your taste ran to tits and tailpipes, then how can I argue that, for you, the late Max Power was not TWBCM? When, after loyal decades, I finally gave in and stopped my subscription to the magazine that styles itself thus, Car Magazine, I looked around for alternative places to spend my pocket money.
For me, unfortunately, because I like words as much as pictures, I am restricted to English language publications. I can read French magazines, but my command is too poor to enjoy nuances and I can’t judge these as I can those in my own language. Disappointingly, no one magazine covers my interests which are sometimes intense, sometimes superficial, sometimes catholic and sometimes dogmatic. Single-marque publications can impress, for their depth of knowledge and the commitment of their contributors but, unless you are remarkably focussed, they don’t satisfy and, often, like a Mercedes magazine I bought a couple of issues of, they are just brand hagiographies.
I’ll single out these, as definite contenders in their field.
Motor Sport . The great survivor. I used to subscribe as a teen then, when my interest in racing diminished, I drifted away. The magazine went through various changes and owners and, at its lowest, a misguided designer replaced their green masthead with a red one, causing a casual buyer like myself to think it had disappeared from the newsagents. Now the green is back and it is well on form, a fine balance of contemporary and historical. Strangely, if judged by actually watching, I’m still not that interested in racing, but the standard of writing and the depth of knowledge means that I am happy enough to now have a regular subscription. Nigel Roebuck’s ‘column’ can stretch to eight pages but it never bores. Slightly concerning is that they have recently expanded their coverage of Formula 1, with another few pages from Mark Hughes. Whilst he is also a good writer, long-term, how much F1 do we need? My current conclusion is that I actually like reading about the current technology and politics of Formula 1, but I just have no interest in looking at the racing. Andrew Frankel seems an even-handed road tester though, being Motor Sport, the latest Dacia seldom figures. If you have been brought up on contemporary sport, I imagine the historical part fascinates and shocks in equal parts – hardly any story doesn’t seem to have a premature death attached to it.
The Automobile. Not to be compared with the US Automobile, this is a magazine devoted to pre-Sixties cars published by an original Car Magazine iconoclast, Douglas Blain. Not a sign of smartarse jokes and trouser thumping, but perfectly accessible stuff written with knowledge and genuine enthusiasm including, usually, a finely written letter from another luminary of Car’s past, the nonagenarian, Ronald Barker. There’s no set pattern to what might be covered, so my occasional purchases are a selection of pleasures or, very occasionally disappointments. I only say disappointments since some aspects of the pre-War era leave me disinterested, though I am very glad that there are people who are interested and there are discoveries to be made every month.
The Rodder’s Journal. Overlooked in the UK maybe, by those who think it is a trade publication for drain cleaners, this of course is devoted to US hot rod and custom cars. Expensive and, like expensive chocolates, not something I would make my regular diet, but a year’s subscription to this lavish quarterly was fun. Photography is its forte and it is auto-porn of the highest standard. Not that the writing isn’t knowledgeable but, for me, it underlines the ultimate sterility of so much of the US based custom scene. Three window Fords are revisited again and again and fantastic ‘vehicles’ are produced for shows with intricate engineering solutions but never run because that would compromise their showability. A fascinating insight though.
Classic & Sports Car. An obvious enough choice, I find this long-term rival of Classic Car the more consistent. A good range of writers, including Martin Buckley who I do like, despite his love of cheesy old films, and envy (as much as I can apply that useless emotion to anyone) for actually getting himself into the position to have a whole barn full of interesting cars.
The problem with all the above is that I am not a confirmed nostalgist. Apart from Andrew Frankel driving the new McLaren, I don’t get to read enough analysis about today and tomorrow. It is out there to a degree, but it seems filtered by journalists who might be enthusiasts, but their enthusiasm is not the same one I have for the all round romance of the car. Understandable, since most the journeys a car can make are no longer romantic, but their preferred journey is often five balls-out laps at Caldwell Park, and this fact affects most the cars the industry builds today to some degree. TWBCM? I wish it existed – I’d save some money.