Digging In The Crates has now reached our stockpile of old CAR magazines. yeah, thats CAR magazines, not car magazines.
CAR magazine was launched in 1962 under the wordy moniker of Small Car and Mini Owner incorporating Sporting Driver . It was renamed as CAR in 1965.
CAR magazine back in the 70's and 80's was a bit of a firebrand; it pulled few punches and took few prisoners; they said what was on their mind and the motor industry frequently didn't like it. They complained all the time, withdrew their adverts, and even stopped CAR getting hold of test cars on occasions.
CAR was far ahead of other motoring magazines for the quality of its content. The depth of its prose, Photography (Ian Dawson's work on this particular article is a good example) and artwork (an example being Bob Freeman's technical watercolours are a particular standout for me) made the likes of Motor and Autocar seem staid in comparison.
As well as fantastic photography and artwork, it had equally fantastic prose; significant contributors during the magazine's heyday included George Bishop (the original editor), Henry Manney III (who sprung to prominence with his witty and amusing articles in Road & Track magazine), Doug Blain (editor from 1964 to 1971, and the man who really created the CAR 'template', Ronald 'Steady' Barker (who ironically defected from Autocar, as he felt his writing style was being compromised by their editorial outlook), Ian Fraser, Mel Nichols (two more memorable editors and publishers), Steve Cropley (probably the best CAR editor of them all, and the man who later saved Autocar & Motor from oblivion, in my opinion), Russell Bulgin (a true original thinker who went way before his time), Phil Llewellin (another brilliant journalist). Also, there were contributors you should be very familiar with: Alexei sayle and Rowan Atkinson were surprise gems and a certain James May also had a monthly column. And lastly, the legendary LJK Setright wrote for CAR for many years, in many insightful series of articles, linking the development and history of the motor car to many other contexts.
It was a magazine that pioneered a lot ideas that are now commonplace; in the '60s they pioneered the 'Car of The Year' (COTY) competition that was subsequently decided by motoring journalists on a Europe wide basis. In the 70's, they started the 'Giant Test' feature, which compared similar cars against each other in one test, an idea frowned upon at the time by other motoring magazines desperate not to make one manufacturer's car seem inferior to another's and there offend. And talking of offending car companies, CAR's other great 70's invention did that with great frequency: 'The Good, The Bad and The Ugly'. Billed as ‘your new car guide to make the salesmen shudder’, Gavin Green once said that it "pithily summed up every car sold in Britain."
CAR was also renowned for its 'scoop' photos and mockup pictures and took delight in the irritation it caused to car manufacturers by revealing significant new models ahead of time. Thanks to the talents of spy shot photographer Hans G. Lehmann, they were almost unparalleled in publishing spy shots of car manufacturers new wares still in development; another area where CAR innovated.
Sadly, although CAR magazine still exists, it is but a pale shadow of its former self. Now owned by Bauer Consumer Media, it may be a decent enough read, it is but a pale shadow of its once mighty self; it is indistinguishable from any other UK car magazine covering the new car market now, in my opinion.
Bu anyway, let us not tell sad stories of the death of kings, but celebrate them in full pomp. Witness this article from the April 1984 issue, about 1980's supercar icons (all ironically launched early in the 70's), namely the Ferrari BB512i, Porsche 911 Turbo, Aston Martin Vantage and Lamborghini Countach LP500.