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Feature Story


by Bob Hagin

Novemeber 29, 1996

Subscriptions to periodicals are always welcome Christmas gifts and since there are literally millions of "car guys" (a unisex designation in this case) in this country, car magazines are a logical gift choice. Unfortunately, most of them already subscribe to Car and Driver, Road & Track and Motor Trend to get the latest update (sometimes in a somewhat "cutesy" style) on new cars, plus a smattering of general vehicular information. For a more eclectic overview, they also buy AutoWeek and if they're old-time Southern Californians (at least by inclination), they take Hot Rod.

But there are dozens of other auto magazines on the market and they're usually more specialized. These are the ones I subscribe to and a brief synopsis of their areas of concentration:

AUTOMOBILE QUARTERLY - It's almost a misnomer to call AQ a magazine. Each issue is hard-bound and contains detailed automotive history on a broad spectrum of items. My latest issue contains a biography of '66 presidential hopeful George Romney (he was the linchpin of American Motors for years), a piece on the Henry Ford Museum, and details of the custom-built Citroens of the '60s. The publication goes back to '62 and are of collectible quality but not cheap, since they take no ads. In the U.S. per year - $74.95. Subscriptions by phone to 1-800-523-0236

BRITISH CAR - If the car person on your list is into the old Brits, British Car is a good choice. It explains a little history, too, but is more into the cars that readers own, how they restored them and "happenings" in this country for owners of MGs, Jaguars, Austin-Healeys and the like. The U.S. rate is $22.50 each year. To subscribe by phone call 1-800-520-8292.

HEMMINGS MOTOR NEWS - This one is a Best Buy, at least on size. Each issue is at least an inch thick and contains almost 300 pages of classified and display ads. It's the publication for people who want to buy and sell cars, parts, literature, and other miscellaneous auto "stuff." Make sure you include a magnifying glass with your gift certificate since the classifieds are in really small print. Twelve issues for $26.95. Contact 1-800-227-4373 to sign up.

KIT CAR - Lots of car buffs have grand ideas of building their own sports cars in the garage and this is the magazine for them. Kit Car has a plethora of glitzy photos of one-offs (most of them are AC Cobra look- alikes), some quasi-technical articles (converting a Ford 351W engine to fuel injection, for instance), and events for kit-car owners. There's only six issues annually so a year's subscription is $15.95. The phone number is 303-678-0354.

MOTOR - Motor is no doubt the oldest ongoing auto magazine in the country (it started with the industry at the turn of the century) and is now a trade journal for working mechanics. If the person you're buying for is into the in-depth side of auto repair or running a shop. this is the just the ticket. A 12 month subscription is $48 and subscribing is kind of involved, but Motor's main phone number is 810-802-0000.

MUSCLECAR REVIEW - My youngest son Brendan isn't really a "car guy" but I got him a subscription the Musclecar Review because he likes to read about the old Pontiac GTO, Dodge Charger Daytona, BFX Mercury Cyclone, Yenko Chevy Nova, etc. There's a bit of technical how-to but not enough to distract the reader from the main purpose which is reading about the "fastest and baddest ever!" as this month's headline states. A year's subscription cost $21. For information, call 941-644-0449.

ON TRACK - Strictly for racing fans with insider insights into Formula One, IndyCar, NASCAR, and other big-time racing organizations. Up-to-the-minute detailed results of national and international races, driver profiles and the latest bits of pit gossip are the gist of the On Track mills. Your gift-getter gets On Track biweekly (26 issues) and it will cost you $37, but call 800-883-7323 for details.

SPECIAL INTEREST AUTOS - I hate to seem prejudiced, but Special Interest Autos is my favorite - maybe because the cars and personalities that are graphically detailed are old and so am I. The recent issue profiled a restored '37 Willys model 37 (my next door neighbor Mr. Waas had one in 1940), a still-fast '64 Chevy police car (I was pulled over by several), and the Triumph TR8 (I was a Triumph mechanic back then). It also contained one section of a special series on custom car builders of the classic era. Special Interest Autos is published every other month and costs $19.95 a year. If you want to hurry things along, call the main office at 802-442-3101.

If you're inclined to look for bargains in Christmas presents, be aware that several of these magazines have Seasonal Specials and offer subscriptions at reduced rates. But December 25 is coming fast and a phone call speeds things up.

But don't bother to trying to use my name to get a special discount. I always have to pay retail myself.