…or the ’80s: an era of optimism through CAR
I know it could be argued that, if I were wearing my Octane hat, I’d be promoting a rival product by doing so, but I have to say that the 50th Anniversary of CAR magazine is a hugely significant event in my life. I’ve rambled on before on these pages how I’ve been reading car magazines since I was eight years old, but my motoring passion became an obsession sometime towards the end of 1980 when I picked up my first CAR magazine. See the difference? There are many car magazines but, back in the dawn of Thatcher’s decade, when technology was new and exciting, there was but one CAR magazine.
After that fateful day, when I bought a copy with my own pocket money, the way I viewed the car industry was changed overnight. There’s a huge number of fans of ‘old’ CAR magazine around these parts – so I don’t need to revisit the cult of personality that surrounded the regulars that graced its glossy pages. We all had our favourites – and there are so many classy writers to choose from: LJKS, Bishop, Bremner, Cropley, Green, Llewellyn, Bulgin et al.
I think my favourites were Llewllyn and Bremner – the former for his effortlessly entertaining road trips; the latter because his enthusiasm for great cars (and dismay for rubbish ones) was – and remains – so utterly infectious.
However, now the magaazine”s in its 50th year and rightly celebrating its past achievements on a timely microsite, CAR is helping a new generation of fans appreciate just how much the world has changed with in its lifetime. For us Brit car fans, leafing through the archive of cover images on there makes you realise just how we’ve receded from the central automotive agenda. Yes, we make lots of cars here, but no longer are the brilliant cars that roll off the many lines in the UK the talking point of mainstream car journalism.
Back in the 1980s, British car stories sold magazines. Lots of them… Rather like the banks today, the British general public felt it needed to know what was happening with British Leyland – it seemed that CAR magazine had the inside view of what was going on and revelled in both analysing the then current situation and telling us what was coming for the future.
And that was the exciting bit…
I probably spent more time reading CAR’s BL coverage than any other aspect of it – including the supercar drives – and loved it all. I guess, like everyone else, I cared deeply about the fate of the home team – and willed it on to success. From the Metro scoop ‘drive’ of October 1980 (clearly bagged on an advertising shoot on the lead-up to its memorable launch), to the triumphant coverage of the Rover 200 in 1989, it seemed like BL and, latterly Rover, was on a course for success.
We, of course, know the outcome and how Rover unravelled dreadfully quickly between the mid-1990s and mid-’00s but, up to that point, it looked like we really could do it.
I don’t know about you lot – but the excitement of opening a new issue, only to see a grainy scoop shot of next year’s exciting new car remains something that’s unmatched in the magazines to this day. For people of a certain age, seeing the distance blurred Maestros (with van lights), the AR6 development hack and the R8 prototype running elaborate cladding were what made this a magical time for us Brit car enthusiasts – and, of course, we have CAR magazine in the UK to thank for that.
Many happy returns – and here’s to the next 50 years!
Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...
Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
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