By on May 31, 2012

It’s the end of an era, as perhaps the best of the remaining American color car rags moves from Newport Beach to Ann Arbor. As the slightly snobby California counterpart to Motor Trend‘s unhappy mediocrity and Car and Driver’s wild swings between brilliance and boorishness, Road & Track has always provided pleasant, well-illustrated automotive content with a motorsports focus. No doubt part of that was due to the magazine’s distance from the Detroit manufacturers and its proximity to West Coast racetracks and the car-club culture.

No longer. Hearst Corporation is choosing to geographically merge R&T with C/D, and just in case there’s someone out there who isn’t getting the memo about what’s expected, they’re changing leadership as well.

According to the Hearst press release, former C/D editor Larry Webster will be calling the shots are the newly relocated magazine. Mr. Webster’s resume includes several impressive results in manufacturer-funded race appearances as well as a variety of legitimately interesting columns and features over his career. He is a legitimate “car guy”, not a “lifestyle guy” or a marketroid who endlessly bounces between both sides of the PR/journo buffet table.

Even with Mr. Webster’s legitimate qualifications taken into account, it’s hard to see this as anything other than the same sort of broken thinking that has over-promoted the current leadership at the other American magazines. Combine that with a move back into the sordid orbits of the PR machine, and it’s easy to conclude that Hearst is simply preparing everyone for the inevitable merger of their two automotive properties.

I will miss the old R&T. There was always a quiet dignity to their leafy photography and painstaking specification sheets. Let’s hope Mr. Webster makes this slide into oblivion as painless as possible.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

101 Comments on “Pour One Out For Road & Track...”


  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    I will miss the old R&T.

    Personally I miss the way Car and Driver used to be more than I miss the way R&T ever was.

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-X

      Ditto for me, for the spectacular writing C&D USED to have, but I’ll easily put R&T as #2 over MT.

    • 0 avatar
      mikedt

      I still remember when C&D would call crappy cars out for being crappy. That alone was why I was a subscriber for so, so many years.

    • 0 avatar
      philadlj

      Just curious, when did C&D stop being the way it used to be (for you)? I ask because I had a subscription from 1996 through 2010 and even in that period of time I noticed a downturn. By the time Alterman showed up and they actually put “irreverence” on the front cover, I was pretty much done (though not necessarily due to those things).

      • 0 avatar
        kksulli

        For me it was when Csaba Csere, Patrick Bedard, and Brock Yates suddenly vanished. At least Phillips is still around. I still have a subscription because I’m pretty loyal, and like getting them in the mail (20 years now!)

    • 0 avatar
      Astigmatism

      “We had a dog once. Something ate it.” may be the best thing I read in 20-odd years of subscribing to C&D. I think the last year or so has seen at least a very slight tick upwards, but they’re so far down from where they used to be that it’s hard to be optimistic.

      That said, people said the same thing about The New Yorker in the years after Tina Brown nearly burned it down, and look at it now. So there’s always hope.

      • 0 avatar
        Astigmatism

        And someone scanned it and put it online! Hallelujah.

        http://forums.subdriven.com/showthread.php?3998651/page2

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        I first ran into C&D in the library at the tender age of 12 (1989) and that lead me into pouring over years and years of it in the library stacks. I didn’t get a subscription until I was in high school and honestly I liked Csaba Csere, John Philips, and Patrick Bedard. I didn’t know the glory days of DED Jr or any of that. I enjoyed Brock Yates discussing the Cannon Ball Run but otherwise thought he was a pompus unreadable jackass of the first order.

        Reviews that compared the first Cadillac Escalade’s exhaust tip to a silver soup toureen and dared to put a picture of a “el caminoed” 1970s Eldorado in the review. I loved reviews that said the Dodge Viper “had enough torque to do a smokey burnout in third gear all the way down the Hardee’s drivethru.” That irreverance without being annoying is what made me love the magazine. (Actually its the same thing I like in Baruth’s writing.)

        I have noticed an upturn in quality in recent months (albeit a slight one) and I hope the trend continues. I might as well keep subscribing because right now I get a subscription for me and one for my dad at about $10 per year.

      • 0 avatar
        THE_F0nz

        I just read that article. I had no idea their writing was this good. Thanks for the link!

      • 0 avatar
        FuzzyPlushroom

        I just found that article for the first time thanks to the big ol’ heap of scanned uploads on TCL. Brilliant piece.

      • 0 avatar

        @Educator(of teachers)Dan

        I agree with you completely about Yates’ pomposity. He didn’t used to be that way. He had a column in the Washington Post Magazine in the ’80s, I think, where he was terrific. I don’t know exactly what happened, but I think the same sort of thing must have happened to DED.

    • 0 avatar
      slance66

      Agreed. Maybe the can bring back P.J. O’Rourke.

    • 0 avatar
      slance66

      Agreed. Maybe they can bring back P.J. O’Rourke. They need writers who can breathe life into the pieces, and write not just about cars, but about what cars mean to our lives.

  • avatar
    jeffzekas

    I remembered when Road & Track was the patrician, formal voice of wealth and common sense; Car & Driver was the irreverent, wild man of the woods… neither exists anymore…

  • avatar
    jeffzekas

    I remember when Road & Track was the patrician, formal voice of wealth and common sense; Car & Driver was the irreverent, wild man of the woods… neither exists anymore…

  • avatar
    beach cruiser

    I second that motion, Dan. I have read both magazines for many years. Car and Driver is still my favorite. I miss the days when just the letters to the editor would make you laugh out loud. One of my favorite writers was PJ O’Rourke. Sort of the Jack Baruth of the dinosaur generation. And Jeff, you can say that again.

  • avatar
    Charliej

    I started reading Car and Driver and Road & Track in 1961. Through high school, college, my Navy hitch, I purchased the mags from the book stores. I subscribed for over forty years. I quit Car and Driver after their big redesign five or six years ago. I kept reading Road & Track for Dennis Simaniatis and Peter Egan. My subscription ran out February of this year. I did not renew because I was moving to Mexico. Both magazines lost their relevance years ago. Car and Driver published some of the worst drivel after Csaba Csere left. I also missed Brock Yates rants. Pat Bedard wrote some very nice columns. Without the people who made them great, C and D is now just a waste. It is depressing to think that R & T will go the same way. You can tell the quality of a magazine by the cover. Quality is in inverse proportion to the number of exclamation marks on the cover!!! I don’t care about the mags today, but I would love to get a full set of back issues from the earliest through the year 1999. The work of Henry Manney III should be read by a new generation.

    • 0 avatar
      dejal1

      Glad you mentioned Henry Manney III. Loved the guy. I remember a photo of him in dressed in armor standing on motorized skateboard.

      I believe he died from a stroke that left him comatose for a very long time.

      Dennis Simaniatis has/had a hobby of making custom planes for Microsofts Flight Simulator.

    • 0 avatar
      autojim

      I agree — I’ve kept R&T (even as I’ve let countless other subscriptions lapse) because of Egan and Simaniatis. Egan will be the first to tell you he’s no Henry N. Manney III, but he is certainly Manney’s spiritual successor, the philosophical gearhead, and Simaniatis is a true wizard at conveying intricate technical information to non-technical people (I’ve sent copies of some of his columns to my dad because Dennis described whatever it was Dad was asking about far better than I’d been able to, sometimes even stuff I was working on!).

      Egan operates out of his home in Wisconsin, but I don’t know if Simaniatis will make the move from Cali. Figure there will be a LOT of staff turnover at R&T due to this move. Damn shame, because right now, R&T is the best in the business. C/D’s edge dulled gradually with attrition and the younger replacements not having that same kind of irreverence. The staff at C/D now has more more “Automobile” alumni than anything else.

  • avatar
    krohde

    I have read them both for 15 or so years, and hope this doesn’t lessen the quality work R&T still does. I still like C&D too though. However, the biggest differentiator for me is Peter Egan. I flip to his column first, every time a new issue arrives. The guy is just a fantastic writer.

    • 0 avatar
      snakebit

      Ditto my feeling about Peter Egan, though ironically, he has a shorter commute, from Madison, WI to Ann Arbor now.

      Closer to Detroit. Does that matter. That takes care of GM, Ford, Chrysler/Fiat. What about VW/Audi (Wash DC), BMW (NJ),Hyundai (L.A.), Honda and Toyota (L.A.).

      You know, C&D was in Manhattan for the longest time before moving to Ann Arbor. Move C&D to Newport Beach. Just don’t mingle the writers with the folks from Road& Track.

      A car magazine is its writers and photographers, not its CFO,Board of Directors, and parent company. Good luck Hearst.

  • avatar
    rawtoast

    If they mess with Peter Egan’s column in any way, I might consider canceling my subscription

  • avatar
    daviel

    I don’t care. I used to read both C&D and R&T from my youth to early middle age. I loved the old C&D especially Jean Shepherd. Now I get all automotive journalism here and a few other sites. TTAC is better than the mags ever were.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    When they started posting Egan’s column on the website, I had no further use for the print version. Anything else that might make it to the mag, I’ve already read online, so it’s irrelevant.

    • 0 avatar
      DougD

      +1
      I had an R&T subscription with my Dad through my teenage years, eventually I decided that R&T contained:
      – Articles on Exotics I’d never see
      – Articles on Sport Sedans I’d never own
      – Egan’s excellent Side Glances and occasional other pieces
      So other than Egan and Phil Hill it’s been irrelevant to me for almost 20 years.
      As an aside, never met Peter Egan but a freind did at Grattan once and he’s as great a guy in person as you hoped.

  • avatar
    segfault

    Just merge the two magazines and call it Car & Track or Road & Driver.

  • avatar
    jbltg

    Very sad and not in the least bit surprising. Grew up in the 70’s mostly reading Car & Driver and loved it. They lost me after Csaba unceremoniously left. There are still some good writers there, but it ain’t anywhere close to what it used to be…just kind of trashy and topical. Any whiff of sophistication and style is largely absent.
    So I read TTAC!

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    You can blame the internet, but you can just as easily blame global competition. I used to hoard old issues of R&T and C&D, but in the Age of Borders/Barnes & Noble the availability of print from across the pond was really eye opening. Pick up a copy of Autocar, Car or even the Top Gear and you see how far short the print standard is in North America. This applies across practically every genre… US GQ v UK GQ, Popular Photography vs anything that comes out of the UK, etc etc.

  • avatar
    Darkhorse

    Kind of sad to see this happen. I read both since the early 60s and still subscribe to R&T. I guess it’s part of the evolution of print communications to the digital world. Those of my generation will miss the thrill of opening your mail box to see the latest edition of R&T, C&D, PopSci, Popular Mechanics etc. Someone once said “Anticipation is 90% of realization”.

  • avatar
    CdnExPat

    This may be a naive question but why isn’t anyone mentioning Automobile mag?

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      Automobile is owned by a different company, so perhaps that’s why it’s not in the original post. However, they are also based in Michigan, and it’s my personal favorite of the print magazines.

      Ezra Dyer is a solid writer, and I like the auction reports and ‘collectible classic’ column. Automobile also seems to be mostly free of advertisement driven bias.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      Automobile is more of a life style magazine, whereas C/D, R&T, and to some degree, MotorTrend, are tech and spec.

      Automobile isn’t bad. Robert Cumberford has an interesting column on design and recently compared the FRS to the BRZ (he liked the BRZ better). Other columnists, Ezra Dyer and Jamie Kitman, are growing on me.

      And it was in Automobile that I learned the BMW M5 pre-recorded its V8 engine sounds and played them back for you thru the stereo speakers. The cabin was too damned insulated to let in real engine noises.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    If it is in print, it’s old news. Even Autoweek’s bi-monthly at the end of my subscription was dated.

  • avatar
    red60r

    I haven’t really followed R&T since the days of Henry N. Manney III. I always liked his style. Car & Driver was most notable for testing blueprinted 1960’s Detroit iron and extolling its performance relative to furriners, e.g., the original Pontiac Catalina 2+2 421cid monster.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    Back in the day, R&T ran racing reports from Europe written by Rob Walker. Rob really was Johnnies grandson. I thought that was cool.

    • 0 avatar
      Zarba

      Amen to that. I still have some old R&T’s from the early 80’s, and their F1 coverage was very good. And I second the writings of Manney, he was a great writer.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    For the all too few folks from the mag world who visit the confines of TTAC, you can look forward to the following sequence of events.

    1) Your magazine gets cut, sold, merged, acquired or sent to the hellish Siberia known as Michigan.

    2) Staff gets reduced further. Parent company starts getting the cold… or the corporate version of pneumonia. Magazine gets combined with automotive web sites and budgets are reduced further.

    3) Bored 16 year old invents a computer program that takes the writing from old magazine articles and alters them using an algorithm that relies on grammatical contexts, so that new car reviews and comparos are simply cut and pasted with mild changes.

    The ‘writer’ gets a free tank of gas and chotchkies for the next corporate event in exchange for cheerleading and rampant plagiarizing, which is OK now. Since everybody does it with the notable exception of Yahoo’s gifted editorial staff.

    4) Former auto journalists now perform routine automotive maintenance in Ho Chi Minh City where upwardly mobile Vietnamese drug distribution firms give out pills that offer the same high you got from reading Car and Driver. A gas station is named after Brock Yates. The end.

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      “Former auto journalists now perform routine automotive maintenance in Ho Chi Minh City where upwardly mobile Vietnamese drug distribution firms give out pills that offer the same high you got from reading Car and Driver.”

      rofl

    • 0 avatar
      scottcom36

      Steve, I enjoy your usual factual writing style, but this side of your writing deserves cultivation. Call it “Yin and Lang”!

      • 0 avatar

        I ain’t no Ho! I learned to read and write as a child from Road and Track. I have a database of 0-60 times in my brain. I thought Henry Manny was my uncle… He was my uncle? I read every issue at least once from 1952 until 1968… the day the music died. I argued with my wife about naming our first son Tappely Data.

    • 0 avatar
      Charliej

      I will take some of those drugs, although I prefer the R & T version.

  • avatar
    Silence

    This is an ill omen, for sure. Not that it matters to me, since I’ve been out of car rags since Chubby Cheetah took over C&D … a long time ago.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    I agree with Jack about the quality of R&T’s spec sheets – very reliable formatting and complete.

    However, I quit reading R&T (for the most part) when I realized that they mainly tested expensive, high-performance cars unattainable by mere mortals. The cover Jack posted is a perfect example. To me, it was almost like reading the celebrity sleaze in People Magazine, because that’s not my world. Their web site is no different today, with the word “Porsche” appearing 14 times on their home page (no offense, Jack), not to mention the obligatory Aston Martin, Jaguar, BMW, and Lotus.

    Honestly, I don’t care what happens to R&T since they really haven’t had my attention in 30 years.

    • 0 avatar
      dave504

      C&D tests cars that are affordable by mere mortals, but it doesn’t matter since the BMW always wins.

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        So just look at the car that came in second to the BMW and you know that’s the real winner. :)

      • 0 avatar
        dave504

        That’s probably the best idea. The most ridiculous BMW comparo win is at the link below. I won’t even spoil it for you. Let’s just say it came in last in acceleration, top speed, and lap times and still won (though it did place first in the sound level category).

        http://bit.ly/tgTZ9O

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        C&D has committed some horrible sins over the years. When the V6 Camaro and V6 Hyundai Genisis coupe were still new they did a comparo and declared the Camaro the winner even though it had been beaten by the Hyundai in every category. Their reason: “Gotta Have It Factor.”

        Puhhhhhhhhhhhhhleeeeeeeeezzzzzze, we’re enthusiasts we’re not suppossed to care what badge is on the front of the better car.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        Back in 2005, the GTO lost to the Mustang GT because the Ford’s higher “gotta have it” score erased the Holden’s lead. The GTO also won the ” Fun to Drive” category. I actually got into a bar fight with someone arguing over this.

        I’ve since decided to take auto comparison results less seriously.

      • 0 avatar
        needsdecaf

        Actually, Audi wins all their comparisons these days.

        I honestly miss the “old” print rags. Rich Ceppos, Pat Bedard, Csaba Csere, Barry Winfield, et. al. They have been replaced by idiots who spew bathroom humor and talk about getting drunk at auto shows (yes, John Phillips really devoted a whole column to that very topic).

        Egan is the only one left that I really like. Dennis Simiantis is good too, probably because he doesn’t review cars too often and just talks about engineering and other geeky stuff that I like.

      • 0 avatar
        markholli

        John Phillips forever!!! I’ve been a C/D subscriber since I was 14. I still love getting them in the mail, despite the overwhelming glut of online car reviews, videos and blogs that are available in the palm of my hot little iPhone holding hand. The first thing I read when I get a new issue is the Backfires section, where indignant letter writers complain about how Phillips’ last column shocked them so much that their monocles fell into their champagne glasses. Then I read his new column.

        It’s the personality in the writing that keeps C/D from being a technical journal and keeps me reading.

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        “Puhhhhhhhhhhhhhleeeeeeeeezzzzzze, we’re enthusiasts we’re not suppossed to care what badge is on the front of the better car.”

        Well…not necessarily ;]

  • avatar
    sgtyukon

    I go back with R&T to the time when Mr. Bond (John R., not James) lamented that Chrysler didn’t make a 3/4 scale Chrysler 300. I am sad that my shift lever will no longer fall readily to hand.

  • avatar
    rwb

    Very sad. I first received a subcription to R&T when I was 3 years old. Just like everyone else, I always liked Dennis Simanatis and Peter Egan’s columns. I haven’t picked up a copy in years, though. Probably part of the reason why the future is uncertain.

  • avatar

    Usually preferred C&D over R&T as it seemed a little more irreverent whereas R&T seemed more cerebral.
    I subscribed to C&D before letting it lapse in the mid 90’s and then only bought an occasional copy on a flight out until finally losing interest altogether.
    I wish them luck but they have a long road ahead if they over hope to reclaim their glory days.

  • avatar
    BTEFan

    I recently picked up a collection of Road And Track 1970-2002 and it has been fun reading thier take on what my Car and Driver collection has said about the same vehicles. Road and Track was much more technical in thier articles about production cars and had a lot more about motor sport (hence the ‘track’) One of my pet peeves was how they tried to snob up the term ‘ower windows’ by calling them ‘electric window lifts’. Sort of like Madonna speaking in an English accent. Excellent writing. Sad to hear that they are merged.

  • avatar
    Larry P2

    The Golden Age of journalism is over, and car magazines are even more so. Now it is time to turn off the lights and lock up the empty buildings, it doesn’t matter whether it be the New York Times, Car and Driver, or the Commie Worker’s daily. It is a model that is quaint and outdated and will be completely absent in five years or less.

    Modern cars are boringly excellent. There is little or no difference between brands like there used to be. Modern Hyundai economy cars are faster than 60’s muscle cars, get better gas mileage than than hybrids built in the 90’s, handle better than Ferraris built in the 80’s, and are far more durable, less polluting, safer and more dependable than even the gold standard-bearers of 20 years ago. With modern cars, you can have 600+ horsepower and still get over 20 mpg.

    There is nothing to write about with new cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheatridger

      Not quite so– today’s cars have bafflingly confusing screen-based controls (see the recent Fisker Karma review at TTAC), uncomfortable seats with unbearable headrests, baulky throttle and transmission programming (Toyota Corolla, ibid.) and blocked visibility. There’s a lot left to criticize. To paraphrase, all good cars are similar, but bad cars are bad in their own individual ways.

  • avatar
    Carl Kolchak

    Car and Driver may as well called Obama and Driver. When they got rid of Csaba Csere and Brock Yates, they brought in a bunch of left wingers. Read their articles and count the digs against assorted characters on the Right. Sometimes feel they are getting the outlines from the DNC. Motor Trend almost seems better than C & D,which I never thought I would say

  • avatar

    I’ve been down to Belle Isle a couple of times already to cover the Detroit Grand Prix (I got a chance to ask Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon how they’d like it if Indycar went back to the open formulas of the ’50s and ’60s instead of a spec chassis – as fans they’d love it, as drivers not so much). There wasn’t the internet and cable tv and most auto racing was on some kind of tape delay at best (except for the 500 at Indy). Road & Track was the only place to get any kind of international motorsports news (well, that and smaller magazines plus Autoweek). When you read Rob Walker’s F1 reports it was actually news to you.

    Now, the thought of a monthly covering motorsports news is almost as quaint as a black and white newsreel. That, though, was all we had.

    When my Zayde, my mom’s dad, was alive, we’d pick him up a copy of one of the Yiddish papers, usually the weekly edition of the Jewish Daily Forward. Zayde wasn’t a socialist but his favored paper, Der Tog Morgen Journal, had folded like most of the Yiddish newspapers. We’d bring him the paper in he’d say, “Day old news, a week late.”

  • avatar
    jnik

    That’s amazing news! R&T is still being published???
    Who knew?

  • avatar
    johnny ringo

    A couple of questions (1) What are they going to call this new creation, and (2) How long before it gets merged into Motor Toones?

    I tried reading Road & Track in the ’60’s, but as I was into Detroit iron it was the literary equivalent of being locked in a room with a bunch of geezers wearing tweed jackets, enduring their pipe smoking while they prattled on endlessly about driving their ’49 MGs-and being bored to tears by it. My favorite car mag in the 60’s was Car Life-it wasn’t snooty like R/T, but the caliber of the journalism was far above Motor Trend. Unfortunately it ceased publication in 1971 and I eventually migrated to C & D.

    I think this is just the start of the consolidation of the automobile magazines-I expect in the future more will call it quits.

  • avatar
    daveainchina

    Honestly Road and Track and C&D and etc etc etc. They look more like automotive billboards, not even about the articles, most pages are ads.

    The magazines are more akin to junk mail now than something I want in my mailbox. I’m sure there will be a merger sometime in the near future, and somehow I can’t bring myself to feel anything other than “so what”

    The times are changing and neither magazine appeals to me anymore and their recommendations beyond the 10 best awards are basically meaningless.

    As a side note, I remember when that Vector was introduced and I couldn’t help wanting one and was just waiting to see when they were produced. Too bad they never really were.

    • 0 avatar
      philipwitak

      i remember when vector creator jerry wiegert pulled up at our office building in del mar, california, back in the late 1980s or early 1990s [right around the time of the w2/w8 transition] to work out some sort of deal with a leasing company that specialized in european exotics and then found himself locked inside the vehicle for a couple of hours due to an electrical failure, unable to exit until outside help arrived.

      i was not impressed – and neither were leasing company personnel.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    To the staff of TTAC:

    Your reviews, comparison articles, news, and general-interest articles have a quality and timeliness that beats the print magazines I used to read. Perhaps it’s the cynicism that can accompany age, or perhaps I’ve reached a point where I no longer care about split-second differences in 0-60 times, but I appreciate the man-on-the-street (or track, in Jack’s case) approach of TTAC that chooses to inform and amuse me, rather than impress me with schtick and hype.

    And the B&B are always there to keep the “T” in TTAC, even applying a little heat to you and us when necessary (or not).

    Anyway, keep up the great work.

  • avatar
    tonyola

    I read Road & Track religiously from around 1968 or so well into the 1980s. I also read every issue of Car and Driver from around 1977 to the Great Makeover several years back as well as the UK magazine Car for a few decades. It’s all changed – I haven’t purchased a magazine in years. Printed auto magazines have become increasingly irrelevant and I won’t be surprised when the major titles start dying off completely.

    What I’d love to see are complete digital collections of the magazines I’ve mentioned. If Playboy, Rolling Stone, National Geographic, New Yorker, and Mad can do it, why not the car magazines?

  • avatar
    otter

    I started reading (subscribing to) both R&T and C&D in about 1984, around the time I turned 10. I stopped getting R&T a few years ago, and still get C&D. I like C&D well enough, but when I look through back issues from the ’80s and ’70s I miss the magazines they used to be, and the writing they used to have. In R&T’s case, it was not just the writing quality and style of individual authors, but the overall style of the magazine. Maybe nostalgia makes everything old look better, but there seemed to be a certain integrity, or clarity of opinion, that has been gone for a while now. Did anyone here read Sports Car International in the 90s? I liked that magazine, especially the old-car stuff.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    Since we’re on the subject of great writers, does anyone else remember Jean Shepherd’s column in C&D? At the same time Dick Smothers was also writing a column mostly about racing.

    I read R&T for Peter Egan’s column although I prefer his column in Cycle World. What’s really frightening is that these same people own Cycle World and I’d hate to lose Kevin Cameron’s column if anything happened to CW.

  • avatar
    fiasco

    I figured this was going to say R&T was folding, not just continuing their decline…when Egan hangs it up, their circulation is going to fall 60%.

    And what are any of the major car mags going to do when every car in the country has WeatherTech mats (which are actually nice products, but sheesh, how many pages of ads do they need to buy every month)?

  • avatar
    340-4

    And everything was doomed to roll downhill like a badly out of balance bias-ply spare when CarToons folded in ’91.

    • 0 avatar
      fiasco

      340-4: [i]And everything was doomed to roll downhill like a badly out of balance bias-ply spare when CarToons folded in ’91.[/i]

      Comment of the day!

  • avatar

    The future of print magazine publishing, what remains of it, will be along the lines of Automobile Quarterly or Rodder’s Journal. Quality printing and paper, lavish photos. Even in the digital age there will be people who value physical artifacts. Humans like artifacts.

    Just think, how are you going to get an author to autograph a first edition of a Kindle/iPad ebook?

    • 0 avatar
      gottacook

      Collectible Automobile (which has always been six issues per year) is one that I buy if I have an interest in a particular article; it’s a keeper under those circumstances, but I’ve never wished to subscribe (although there are a few back issues I may try to track down).

      I agree that any weekly, biweekly, or monthly magazine that attempts to be “current” is doomed, except for non-advertiser-supported, nonprofit ones such as Consumer Reports. Even daily newspapers aren’t able to keep up in the Internet era; they’re still in the process of downsizing their staffs after nearly 10 years of shrinkage, and in some cases (just this week, the New Orleans Times-Picayune) are even abandoning daily publication – all of which will lead to further declines in customer numbers.

      I agree strongly that people like artifacts; some of the ones I have around the house are old weekly or monthly magazines, such as Time and Newsweek issues with Watergate cover stories, or a 1967 issue of Road & Track (which I bought new, age 10) with photos of the Maserati Ghibli and DeTomaso Mangusta on the cover. I cannot imagine current versions of these same magazines having immediate value (i.e., being “keepers”) and being valued as artifacts decades later; maybe that just means I’m insufficiently imaginative…

  • avatar
    Zombo

    Oh no one of the so-called BUFF BOOKS is gone ? One less media outlet for the posters here to mock and deride since there will only be two left for the BUFF BOOK BUFFOONS to relentlessly ridicule !

  • avatar
    joeveto3

    I too learned to read, back in the late 70’s, by pouring through Car & Driver and Road & Track. I either read the issues at the library or bought old copies at the flea market. My love of car magazines started with R&T because of the pictures, the awesome cutaway shots, the stats. As a little boy, I was so happy to see paper with pictures of REAL cars, even though I could barely make out the words. As I learned to read, I moved on to Car & Driver and Motor Trend. But I still cut out the Road & Track pictures and hung them on my wall.

    Fast forward thirty years, and Road & Track, was the first of the car magazines to mostly lose me. Like so many others here, I flipped straight to Egan’s column, then to Dennis’. Other than that, the content in Road & Track didn’t interest me. Most of the cars they test have no relevance to my life. It seemed every cover screamed of some comparison of cars priced in the stratosphere. I found it painfully sad when the markets were crashing, the economy was melting down, and R&T was still sporting the same “unobtanium” as always.

    I looked at the cover, shrugged, turned to Egan’s column, and then threw the magazine in the trash (or left it at the gym for someone else to read).

    I still try to read the magazines as they come in. I think my subscription to R&T ran out. Funny, but very telling, that I can’t say for sure. I used to get excited when I’d open the mailbox and see a new issue of something waiting there for me. I’d spend a Saturday morning reading them cover to cover. I’d subscribe for multiple years, and smile when I’d look at the mailing label and see my subscription filled 5 years out.

    But now, not so much.

    Now, there’s really only one place I go to, usually daily, sometimes several times a day, for my automotive entertainment and information. And that’s here. The Truth About Cars has more or less replaced my car magazines, and I’ve religiously subscribed to them all.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      True, R&T mainly covers exotics and very fast street cars, vehicles I couldn’t hope to own or drive. The draw, however, is similar to those who like fantasy baseball, but with cars.

      Beyond cars and columnists, R&T has some interesting writing. One Q&A piece tried to describe what professionals drivers call “turn in”. Another attempted to answer the life expectancy and effectiveness of air bags in old cars. R&T dedicated a column to discuss start/stop technology and another to elaborate on the age old topic of fuel grades.

      Therein lies fertile ground — to write about supporting car tech, and not just the cars themselves. TTAC has done this recently with Andrew Bell’s piece on direct injection and I hope to read more.

      I hope R&T retains its own identity, but sadly, a merger with C/D seems probable. Track Cars for Road Drivers… nah, I hope not.

  • avatar
    NMGOM

    This merger is not surprising.

    I had been feeling uneasy about the technical quality, comparisons evaluation / choices, and writing competence in both magazines for about 3-4 years now. R&T’s writing style has become bland and boring; C&D’s famed irreverence has often bordered on being rude and disrespectful, especially in the “Backfires” section, in which the current editor often addresses letter-writers by their last name, and with something less than a cordial approach.

    C&D Technical: C&D seems to have wandered and struggled to find a way to test the handling of cars, an obviously simple thing. They used to do high-speed lane-change; and then went to a variably spaced slalom; and then onward to an instrumentation-equiped vehicle with g-meters, accelerometers, and so on. Now they ignore it or substitute skid pad, which does not test transient, reversed momentum behavior at all. Nothing seemed constant from year to year, and I could not easily look back to compare cars because of the ever changing methodology. The fact is that a simple 700-foot slalom with 8 cones placed 100-feet apart has been used by various testing organizations since the 1960’s (including R&T). Is it perfect? No. Is it easily doable and reproducible? Yes.

    I had also written to C&D’s editor on at least two occasions to remind them that “Final Results” used as an evaluation for car comparisons needs some mention of confidence level or a reproducibility indication, especially since all 22 categories are completely subjective! Take a look at something as silly as the comparison between the “Audi A8L” and the “Jaguar XJL Supercharged” on page 103 of the May 2011 issue. The Audi was ranked #1 (wow!) because its score was 203; the poor Jag was ranked #2 because its score was 202! What insanity! If the reviewer got up on the other side of the bed that morning, those scores could easily have been reversed; and here a “professional” magazine is making a big ranking deal out of a 0.5 % (1 part in 200) subjective-evaluation difference.

    R&T Technical: This is supposed to be R&T’s forte. How nice it is to look at all those comparison numbers for acceleration and braking and skid pad and slalom. And indeed, it is helpful. But here is something to remember: R&T does NOT have its own well-controlled test facility at all! The staff uses the less-than-happy deteriorating concrete and asphalt on the old, partially closed El Torro Air Base in Irvine, CA. The skid pad is runway intersections! (Go to Google Earth and check it out.) That facility is now scheduled to be permanently closed and dismantled this year or next. What is going to happen to the comparative relevance of all that historic performance data if testing has to be done elsewhere under different conditions and on different surfaces?

    I had also written to the R&T editor to suggest listing some of the most important vehicle characteristics for performance comparisons in their “Road Test Summary” data table: namely, whether a vehicle has FWD, RWD, or AWD; and what the weight distribution of the vehicle is (i.e., the % weight on front axel and % weight on rear axel). These are very simple things to determine, and yet, for those of use who have done track work (it is called Road&Track, after all), they are vital initial parameters for considering any new performance car. Has that been done? Of course not.

    And to think we pay money for these things! What I would suggest to Hearst Communications is that they start over, and really go upscale with a standard testing facility and top-notch scientific writers and analysts. In my view, the old guard of both magazines have had their day in the sun, and new, very skilled “blood” is now warranted. Again in my view, just change the newly merged magazine’s name altogether; go top quality; and, if needed, charge $40-50 per year subscription fee. After all, Evo is $120 per year hardcopy; $40 per year digital Internet. And THAT is one very good car mag to use as a role model here.

    ——————

    • 0 avatar
      VespaFitz

      Oh boy. Sounds like a great read.

      There’s a reason a lot more people watch Top Gear than watch Motor Week, and it ain’t because of boring-ass technical content.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    I subscribed to C/D from 1977 to 2008ish, and then would just pick up certain ones.

    But what did it for me was in the gas crunch of 2008, they pick the 20 mpg VW Rabbit, after preaching about how we need to save fuel. BAH!

    But, I do think they helped kill off the 55 mph speed limit in the 80s!

  • avatar
    Glen.H

    I used to read both these mags almost every month in the 80s and early 90s. They turned me into a tree hugging socialist. Anything to avoid becoming like Brock Yates or P.J O’Rourke….

  • avatar
    jimmyy

    The Newport Beach to Detroit move sounds like they are trying to dump the staff. Imagine how someone who grew up in the Newport Beach-Costa Mesa-Hunington Beach area feels when they are looking at Novi-Northville-Ann Arbor. Depression. Horror.

    They will quit Road and Track instead of making the move to the Detroit area. This is the easy way to get your employees to quit. Move the company to the Detroit area.

  • avatar
    FJ60LandCruiser

    When I was a kid, I used to read Automobile and Car and Driver religiously and memorize the stats.

    I was led to believe that BMWs and Hondas were the best cars ever made on God’s blue earth. Ten years of my parents owning Civics and
    Accords and my first car being a 1991 econobox Civic DX, then graduating to a miserable CX hatchback quickly made me re-evaluate that opinion.

    My college spent driving around in a 5 series wagon pretty much killed BMWs for me. I loved the car, but by the time my girlfriend destroyed it by driving a few hundred miles with no coolant, all of the electrics were broken in it and the transmission was a mess of metal filings and sludge.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    When growing up – well, when I first became interested in cars – my dad buying his 1960 Impala sports sedan in May 1965, to be exact – I eventually found and fell in love with Hot Rod Magazine, it becoming our bible to the automotive world that opened up before our eyes – my buddy up the street and me.

    Road & Track? It was all foreign iron, European exotic stuff that I had no interest in, let alone racing except for the brute force of drag racing that HR covered very well. A friend in the air force had a VW beetle that he drove as if it were a Porsche, so he read it religiously.

    Car & Driver? They were Communists, subversives, a national security threat that wouldn’t be tolerated today, Homeland Security would be raiding their offices regularly because they seemingly hated everything, BUT…some of the columnists had some very interesting things to say that made sense, so I peeked through their pages on occasion.

    Motor Trend seemed to be the “safe” magazine, neither being outright fanboys, but taking it easy on criticism lest they tick off their readers. I looked through one occasionally but didn’t buy. Seemed they didn’t stand for anything but ad dollars.

    Now we have TTAC and Curbside Classic; what else does a person need?

    Bye-bye car mags. I’ll still check you guys out at the magazine rack at Kroger on occasion while waiting for wifey to finish shopping.

  • avatar
    redav

    If C/D and R&T merge, what kind of alphabet soup will the new title be?

    • 0 avatar
      NMGOM

      Stepping away from the idea of combining soup, what about something entirely different? If the Brits can call their outstanding car mag, “Evo”, why can’t Hearst use “Enthusiast”? I suppose things like “Zoom” might be a bit too dramatic (^_^). Any other ideas? (You know Hearst are reading all this stuff, don’t you? )

      ————

  • avatar
    hachee

    There’s probably (surely?) nothing I can add here that hasn’t already been well-said by many of you, so at the risk of repeating…

    No surprise here, other than I would have expected it sooner. I too discovered C&D at the school library, probably when I was around 12 (in 1976), and subscribed soon after. R&T quickly followed, after reading it at the house of a friend, who had a cool, older brother. I loved both magazines then, and for many years, for different reasons, but all the same ones mentioned here. It was around 1980 or so that I discovered CAR, and it was obvious how much better the quality of the writing was, if not the pictures (CAR had a limited number of color, glossy pages then). The quality gap continued to grow, but I still really enjoyed R&T, especially the columnists.

    Flash forward to today, and I still get these mags, plus MT, Automobile and Autoweek. Even though I really get most of what I like (need?) on the internet, there’s still something about getting the magazine in the mail, and holding a magazine on the couch or….well, other places where there’s peace and quiet. Today I really just gloss over them, find the good bits, and maybe even barely read some issues, but the subscriptions are so cheap that I can’t see not getting them.

    I hoarded all of them until my parents moved out of their house, and then I only kept my collection of CAR (over 30 years’ worth now), but I wouldn’t mind going back and re-visiting the R&T’s from the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    If a Road&Track showed up at my house, sure I’d definitely give it a read, but I wouldn’t buy one. They need to realize they’re really a trade magazine at this point and trade magazines only exsist because they’re free. Not free to the advertiser of course, but R&T will lose theirs if they don’t increase their readership dramatically.

    No professional office or auto repair shop should be without one. Target the auto enthusiast demo with disposable income and zero-in with free subscriptions.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    I subscribed to C&D in the 1980’s & most of the 1990s, then the quality went down and I stopped subscribing. I still scanned the occasional issue, and I resubscribed about a year ago when I noticed the quality and the page count going up again. Car and Driver is now worth the very cheap subscription price. Since I don’t have the time or money to race cars, Road and Track was never particularly relevant to me.

  • avatar
    snakebit

    Car Life was the American car sister mag to Road and Track, which stayed wi=
    th foreign cars except for covering Corvettes in both mags. Lately, I’v=
    e been getting back issues of Car Life for 1960’s cars from eBay. The b=
    est comparision I ever found in Car Life was between the basic Shelby Cobra=
    289 and the fully optioned Corvette coupe with fuel injection and metallic=
    sintered drum brakes for 1964. Both cars very close in performance and pri=
    ce, and CL didn’t choose a winner, they said it depended upon whether y=
    ou like performance with a few creature comforts or a car that has nothing =
    on it won’t make it go faster, the fairest comparison I’ve read to =
    date.Road and Track did a comparable road test between the 2005=
    GTO/Monaro and the new Mustang GT. They concluded that the GTO does the sa=
    me thing for adults that the Mustang does for kids, again no clear winner

  • avatar
    NeonNoodle

    I’ll chime in…

    I’ve been a monthly reader of both C&D and R&T since the early 70’s, and like others here have expressed, I truly miss what both of these mags used to be. They are now just shadows of their former selves. Which makes it easy to read between the lines of the story here, and realize that consolidation of the two will be the next step. Not really surprising; Does Hearst really need to publish two car enthusiast mags in 2012?

    In my opinion, their decline coincides directly with the rise of the Internet in the late ’90’s, but oddly I don’t feel it was solely the Internet that killed them. It was (is) certainly a big contributing factor but I also feel that the car market itself in that same period of time started to become a bit antiseptic and boring. Cars now look and often drive shockingly similar to one another and all of the individualism has been manufactured out of them. I pick up and look at an issue of one of these magazines from the mid 1970’s and am amazed at the uniqueness and sheer variety of vehicles that existed in the marketplace then. And I am not talking about high dollar stuff either…even “basic” cars like the (German) Capri, Datsuns, and Opels, let alone the really idiosyncratic stuff like Fiats, MG’s, and Triumphs were all within the reach of the common auto enthusiast. I realize the obvious huge leaps in quality, safety, and performance that have been made in the past three decades, but it has been at the expense of character. The days of personality filled cars are clearly over.

    And writing about them clearly also is. I still subscribe to both C&D and R&T for some reason. I think out of personal tradition (I still have every issue of both of them back to the late 60’s) and at a buck an issue, it is certainly cheap enough. But, I am realizing that I have close to zero interest in reading the new issues that arrive and they go straight to the shelf in the den.

    When I want to read about cars I actually pull a 60’s or 70’s copy of C&D, R&T, Sports Car Graphic, or even a 70’s Motor Trend from the shelf and read that. Or I come here.

    • 0 avatar
      NMGOM

      Excellent analysis, NeonNoodle…

      Among other things, you said, “Cars now look and often drive shockingly similar to one another and all of the individualism has been manufactured out of them.”

      Individualism seems still to survive in the super and hyper cars (Pagani, Koenigsegg, etc) to some degree and you will pay for it big time; and in the unique British-tradition efforts that continue from the past or are being revitalized, but aren’t commonly available here: Morgan, Arial Atom, Allard, Noble, Lotus, and so on.

      There may be several reasons why cars within a class (e.g., compact sedans) and chassis type (e.g, FWD, RWD, etc) seem to be very similar:
      1) Increasing use of aerodynamic testing for fuel economy that produces very similar exterior forms;
      2) Safety requirements mean that 10 airbags and soft materials can only be put in just so many places in the interior;
      3) More standard ergonomics for the controls and instruments mean copy-cat dashboards and center consoles;
      4) Swapping of design people and design houses among companies (For example, Dany Bahar, CEO at Lotus, used to work for Ferrari);
      5) Engines and other drive-train components that are made by one manufacture but are sold under contract to others (e.g.: BMW engines in various vehicles; ZF transmission for various vehicles, etc);
      6) Intense price competition within a class: If you want to compete in “compact sedan/ FWD” types, with sales target prices of $28-30K, then there are only so many things you can put into your car for individualization and still be price-competitive;
      7) Commonly accepted “good” suspension systems: usually double wishbone or McPherson struts in front with multilink now in the rear. No wonder they all “drive”, “feel”, or handle similarly.

      ———-

      • 0 avatar
        NeonNoodle

        That’s a great list of reasons that likely account for why the homogenization of cars has been taking place over the last 20 or so years. I never thought of the reason you cite for the exterior forms all looking so much alike at this time, but your point about aerodynamics all yielding the same goal makes a lot of sense.

        Bringing it back to the automotive press again, I feel a similar thing has happened to the major magazines as with the actual cars over the same period of time…they’ve become more similar than more distinct.

        In the 1960’s through 1980’s publishing period, ALL of the major car mags had completely distinct personalities that they actually became identified by. So much was this the case that in the December 1971 issue of Car & Driver, they did a satirical piece that had a series of “mock” road test articles (on a fictional car) done in the “style” of a few of their competitor magazines. There was a Mechanix Illustrated Tom McCahill test, a Road & Track test, a Road Test Magazine test, and a Consumer Reports one. Of course all of the characteristics of each publication were grossly exaggerated to make their point. It was one of the most brilliant things I have ever seen in an automotive magazine to this day. I pull it out from time to time and read it again and it still makes me laugh. The point is that these magazines used to have such recognizable styles and personalities, but sadly those days are long gone.

        When, in 1971, Petersen folded Sports Car Graphic into Motor Trend, I believe lots of feathers were ruffled. When this consolidation of C&D and R&T takes place at some point in the future, despite the monumental nature of what is occurring, I don’t think many people will care very much. And that is simply the result of the magazines being somewhat similar now and the increasing irrelevance of the print media in today’s world.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    Someone give Jack a car to drive and write about. This is getting ridiculous. How long has it been? Was the rental Corolla really the last one? Am I forgetting a car?

  • avatar
    jeffsnavely

    I think R&T is currently the worst of the mags – all their new car previews & reviews read like press releases with no opinion or commentary to be found. The big comparos are good, but I only skim R&T vs. reading all the other mags.

    • 0 avatar
      NMGOM

      Sometimes I wish they (R&T, C&D) wouldn’t turn everything into a contest of rankings with winners and losers. Why can’t they just generate the test numbers, and then take the car out on its own merits for a drive and comment about its attributes?…

      Let us take that info and do the comparisons, if we wish. Now, they sometimes compare cars I would never compare, or omit comparing some that are obvious head-to-head competitors.

      ————–

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        “Sometimes I wish they (R&T, C&D) wouldn’t turn everything into a contest of rankings with winners and losers.”

        They’re in the business of selling magazines. That’s why they chose that format. And they each have their favorites, driven by the amount of ad dollars spent with them.

        My recommendation is to test drive each of the vehicles you are interested in and then decide for yourself.

        One example was a friend of ours whose Murano CVT had died for the second time and was no longer covered under warranty. My wife let her drive our 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee to Albuquerque to buy a new car and the woman fell in love with it.

        Instead of buying a Pilot, as she had intended to do, she ended up driving another Grand Cherokee home.

        Mags are good for entertainment value, not much else. The final decision should always be seat-of-the-pants.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • ajla: When did they say that? Shelby, Roush and Saleen all offer hopped-up F-150s right now. The Shelby and Saleen...
  • spamvw: They thought Demon was bad? Time for a little history lesson from Wikipedia. The 1970 Dart’s dual tail...
  • raph: Ford has said the current F-truck is too porky to do a proper Lightning. When they looked at adding power it...
  • MRF 95 T-Bird: I wouldn’t mind a new version of the F150 SVT Lightning which had the supercharged 5.4 Triton and was...
  • Lorenzo: Funny that zinc coating was used in the 17th century in India, and zinc paint was patented in 1837, but US...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Matthew Guy
  • Timothy Cain
  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Chris Tonn
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber