There isn't a hot rodder alive who doesn't have three boxes stuffed full of old car magazines. Truth be told the number of these aged-crushed and water-stained boxes filled with then new and now-vintage car mags is probably closer to a dozen. My unofficial rodders' survey tells me many of us have somewhere closer to 20 boxes that secure and categorize our favorite titles. None of us read just one mag, it was three or more. All of us had, and still have, an insatiable appetite to see our dreams printed onto paper. A lifetime of dreams; the car we wanted but at that time in our life we had neither the funds nor the talent to replicate what we saw, but we weren't about to stop dreaming—at least not until we tried time and time again to bring our dream to a thundering and rolling reality.
For starters, with approximately 50 mags to a box that's a little over four year's worth of dreams neatly packaged and stored away high on a shelf in all of our garages. If you are, or were, like me I started collecting titles around age 12 and this effort continued for years. The years rapidly turned into decades, leaving me today with numerous and now historical saddle-stitched (an industry term for stapled binding) pieces of reference material. We have our favorite titles and our favorite years. For many of us the time frame of 1960-67 were our formative car years and the likes of Hot Rod, Car Craft, and Rod & Custom were constant companions. Always tucked under my pillow at the end of each day, I would upon my awakening roll and tuck it into the back pocket of my Levis. Upon arrival at school I cleverly, or so I thought, would press it between the pages of my history book. Sister Mary Bust Your Knuckles would always find my monthly "drug of choice" and confiscate it. She would tell me if I didn't stop reading car magazines and begin to pay more attention to my studies I wouldn't amount to much. I didn't go anywhere without my car mag; it was my first constant companion. You never knew when you were about to find yourself engaged in a conversation over a burger and malt with your buddies talking about this month's favorite model—of car!
These magazines provided all of us with heroes, men not much older than we were, who brought to life hot rods, customs, and really freakin' fast cars to fulfill our dreams and provide us with imagination of future conquests. It was the printed page that allowed us to touch the photos and words that would give us a sense we belonged and were an integral part of it all. Without heroes we don't know how far we can go and that still holds true today.
Now it's the vicarious experience that today has us pulling out back issues and for a moment to relive in our minds what was happening during the heyday of our youth. And this is why the printed page is still the way we like our magazines. Today you can find the information captured on these pages on websites within an instant. You can also get today's magazines through any one of several electronic sources (i.e. Zinio), and truth be told to see an issue of STREET RODDER on your iPad or computer screen is stunning. The color and clarity is something that a magazine can only hope for but, and, as the saying goes, it's a big but!
There's something fulfilling about handling printed pages that actually go back to the very day when we, as young men, held these books in our hands. For a moment we are transferred back in time gazing upon the discolored and browning pages of history, bringing us back once again into the moment. It isn't something that happened decades ago but rather it's happening now. There are a number of advantages to technology but technology can't replicate the experience of feel, smell, and the memories that a magazine brings back. And you sure as hell can't roll up an iPad or computer, no matter how small and compact, and stuff it into the back pocket of your Levis.
It was Garth Brooks who, back in 1989, coined the phrase, "...much too young to feel this damn old...". Well I'm now much too old but I want to feel that damn young ... again and again. The printed page neatly stored and hidden in my garage gives me the opportunity anytime I feel the need. It's the opportunity to go back to a time when our only worries revolved around the absolutely correct and kool wheels.