Sunday, October 10, 2010

Not Something I Have An Intense Interest In, But Hemmings Classic Car Magazine Is Readable!

The Good: Good photography, Knowledgeable articles, Not as addy as many magazines
The Bad: Still seems like it could easily be replaced by a website…
The Basics: Surprisingly engaging, Hemmings Classic Cars is rightly a leader in monthly publications about car restoration and nostalgia.

Ironically for one who does not generally like the magazine medium, I have reviewed a lot of magazines. Yes, it’s true. Virtually all magazines could be replaced by good websites at this point in human history and save a boatload of trees each month. Even so, magazines do afford me the opportunity to truly open my mind each month to try something different and learn something new. In other words, in order to gain more perspective and shake up my routines, it is often through flipping through a magazine on a subject I either have no knowledge of or interest in that I explore the world. Today, it was a stack of Hemmings Classic Car magazines that I buried myself in.

As the name implies, Hemmings Classic Car is a magazine that each month devotes itself to exploring the restoration, culture and problems surrounding car restoration. The magazine focuses on cars that have been off the road for over fifty years and after reviewing several copies of the magazine, I find myself thinking that it may be intended for a niche audience, but that audience ought to be thrilled with the results. The articles are well-written and possess the necessary jargon to dissuade those not interested in classic cars from criticizing anything in the pages. As well, the monthly magazine is remarkably light on advertisements for a car magazine! This is not a car magazine trying to trade on T&A to sell issues. This is a publication for those who love cars from the 1960s and before!

For the purpose of the number counts, I am using the February 2010 issue of Hemmings Classic Car and one of the first things that surprised me about this glossy monthly magazine is that it is not packed with advertisements the way most car magazines I have seen are. Instead, Hemmings Classic Car is a 104 page monthly magazine and only 21 full pages are advertisements. Indeed, this is an admirable proportion and none of the articles are broken up by ads!

What Hemmings Classic Car does is immerse the reader in a classic car type each month and it explores everything they can about the models, makes and restoration of that type car. So, for example, the February 2010 issue explores the Packard. There are features on the 1954 Pacific, 1905 Model N Runabout, 1910 Model 30, and five other Packards made before 1954. The articles range from how experts in the field drive the old cars and how those who restore them manage to restore the cars. The articles have interesting takes, with some debate within the magazine between those who struggle to find classic parts or have classic parts manufactured for their old cars and those who look to restore the exteriors while modernizing what is under the hood of their classic cars.

Hemmings Classic Car is very much a hobby magazine for people who have a very expensive hobby. Amid articles written by professional artists, mechanics and those who worked making the cars originally (which gives the words in this magazine a ton of credibility) there are amazing photographs of restored works that have multiple angles and details – like the way page 32 in the February 2010 issue has pictures of instrumentation on the dashboard, the horns and handles in the back seat area! The photographs are all of professional quality and I suppose they are enough to make those in the field impressed and covet that which they do not have! Indeed, it is hard to not look at some of the pictures and feel like the magazine is trying to sell the reader something, so provocative are the images. Much of the photography has the look and feel of restoration artists cashing in their bragging rights by revealing what their hard work has accomplished.

In addition to features that truly delve into a single type classic car, each month Hemmings Classic Cars has regular columns and departments. The columns have five prominent writers in the field of classic cars musing on whatever they want (like reminiscing on growing up with a Packard in the family or discussing luxury in classic cars). The departments are more steady and they cover the art of restoring classic cars each month. In addition to a report on auctions of classic cars, each month readers are featured to information on books about car restoration, new discoveries in the marketplaces and junkyards of materials, technical guides that answer questions on car restoration and historical notes as they relate to classic cars.

Outside the jargon – and it is quite extensive – Hemmings Classic Cars is very simply written and those looking to restore cars will find this to be an invaluable resource to get started with. For the rest of us, it is impressive to peek in and see just how engaged people in this field can be about the subject. I recommend Hemmings Classic Cars to those who are into classic cars that they want to restore or keep in museum-quality repair off the road. But for those not into cars, it is easy to pass by.

For other magazines reviewed by me, please check out my take on:
Cuisine At Home
Entertainment Weekly


For other magazine reviews, please check out my index page!

© 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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