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Vintage Car Magazines from the 40s, 50s, and 60s

Those old hot rodding magazines could be worth some cash. When hot rodding started growing in popularity in the late 40s, it didnt take long for enthusiast magazines to start popping up to cover the hobby. Once a month, gearheads opened their mailboxes or headed to the nearest newsstand to grab the newest issue of their favorite magazines. When they got those magazines, they saved them, for months, years, and for the rest of their lives, until they became collectors items. Jerry Dixey has been well known as the organizer and leader of the Street Rodder Road Tour for 25 years. Since 1989, he has been the proprietor of Classic Automobilia, buying and selling things like pedal cars, gas pumps, and neon clocksand automotive publications. Dixeys Car Mag Collection During every period of my life, I have saved things. Its not hoarding if the things that you are saving are cool, and the stuff Ive saved is definitely cool. In the spring of 2020, I began to sort and straighten up my collection of all that cool stuff. What I found blew me away: a treasure trove of magazines and books. As I went through all this material, it occurred to me that so many hot rodders have lamented the passing of print magazines, and I am sitting on about 10,000 of them. I have early car model and slot car magazines, early skateboard magazines, custom chopper magazines, custom van magazines, and of course thousands of hot rod related magazines. I decided to share these items, offering them for sale and reducing the clutter in my buildings. I started The Hot Rod Paper Company as a division of Classic Automobilia and began listing the magazines on eBay. I learned a few things from my initial sales. The magazines I thought would be desirable as collectibles are not always sought after. What Vintage Mags Are Hot? In the 50s and early 60s HOT ROD was sold on newsstands all over the country, and most rodders had a subscription. They kept their magazines to use as reference books for future projects. Consequently, there are hundreds of thousands of them around, and more are surfacing daily as that generation is downsizing or passing away, leaving their families with hoards of Dads old car magazines. I discovered that the more obscure titles that were published for a limited time and in smaller quantities are more desirable than the bigger, better-known publications. Smaller circulation hot rod magazines that were sold regionally are popular. Model car and slot car magazines are very hot collectibles. The chopper magazines from my motorcycle days are desirable, as are custom van magazines from the 70s. There is also a great demand for old speed equipment catalogs. Whats the Appeal? What drives the magazine and paper market is the same thing that drives any collectible market: people reliving their early days and the hobbies they had when they were young. Maybe theyre looking for a magazine that featured one of their cars or their fathers car. Maybe their car club was featured. I have customers that collect magazines from the month and year that they were born. Others want to see how things were really done back in the day. For whatever the reason, print magazines are alive and well. They may have been printed 50 years ago, but they are still a wealth of informationand a nostalgic look back at the way we were. The Hot Rod Paper Company has connected me to friends and has been a great chance to relive my earlier days also. I can be reached at Jerry@Classicautomobilia.com or by calling 800-676-3026. Texts and pictures can be sent to 330-506-9169. It has been said that the start of the interest in hot rods was based on the race cars of the day. The midgets were the race car of the people. These two general-interest magazines, the 1937 Science and Mechanics on the left and the June 1950 Popular Mechanics on the right, both featured midgets on their covers. The hot rodders wanted to go further and faster than they could on speedway ovals. In the late 1930s and 1940s they headed to the dry lakes north of Los Angeles. Veda Orr documented the activities in a number of programs and pictorials. Many of them featured drawings by artist Dick Teague. This S.C.T.A. (Southern California Timing Association) Program is from the July 6, 1947 races at Harper Dry Lakes. Inside was the list of racers, their clubs, and many of the record times, as well as news and editorials. These original S.C.T.A.programs are very rare. Gus Maanums illustration is repeated from the cover. Maanums action drawings from the dry lakes are as iconic as a Deuce grille shell and are sought after today. Because of street racing and a wild image, hot rodders of the day were generally looked down upon by the public. This August 1948 issue of Varsity magazine featured sensational headlines on the cover decrying the Hot Rod Killers. In January 1948, Robert Petersen and a small group of young enthusiasts published the first issue of HOT ROD magazine. On that early team were Wally Parks and Tom Medley. HOT ROD magazine would change the way the public viewed hot rodders, introducing hot rods to a huge new national audience. The February 1948 issue of HOT ROD is actually rarer than the January issue because production numbers were lower due to lack of funds for publishing Issue #2. Even though the Feb #2 issue is rarer, Volume 1 Issue 1 has always been the holy grail of HOT ROD magazine collectors. The HOT ROD magazine issues from 1948 still mainly featured race cars on the covers and race coverage on the inside. The tide would soon change as the editors at HOT ROD knew they needed to expand the market. The October 1948 issue of HOT ROD was significant for two reasons. The iconic roadster of college student Bob McGee was featured on the cover, and inside, the news was announced that the S.C.T.A. was joining the National Safety Council. These were moves to clean up the public image of hot rodders. In 1949, HOT ROD s focus was still mainly on race cars. There were a few exceptions such as the May 1949 issue that showed some young people socializing in a hopped-up roadster pickup. The October 1949 issue of HOT ROD went to the standard size format that we know today. Prior to the October issue, HOT ROD was published in a considerably larger size. Collectors bewarethere were a number of reproductions of the 1948 and 1949 HOT ROD issues, but they were all done in the smaller format, which distinguishes them from the originals. The cover of the November 1949 issue featured the now famous Jack Calori Coupe. It is interesting that the photo was taken in a suburban setting with a pretty young lady. The push for legitimization of the hobby pressed forward. The 1950 issues featured many race cars, but the big change was the focus on location. The 1949 trip that a small group of rodders made to Bonneville would change things forever. Don Waites iconic roadster was shown on the September 1950 cover. The April 1950 issue featured Bob Pierson and the groundbreaking Pierson Brothers Coupe on the Bonneville Salt Flats. An article in that issue mentioned something that would again change our hobby/sport forever: drag racing. The cover of the October 1950 issue was a fantastic photo of streamliners on the salt at the 2nd Annual Bonneville Nationals. Inside were the results of the event. Salt flats interest really revved up. The November and December issues featured more Bonneville Nationals cars. The December issue is significant because it is the first time a car appeared on the cover with any color in the photo. The April 1951 issue of HOT ROD magazine featured the first full-color cover. Inside, the monthly feature Parts with Appeal continued to be popular. Back in those days P.C. meant Pretty Cool. The cover of the August 1951 issue contained headlines that would again move the hobby/sport forward dramatically. Inside there is news of the growth of the National Hot Rod Association headed up by HOT ROD magazine staff member Wally Parks. By 1953, there were a number of magazines that were competing for the hot rodders dollars. Many of them were done in a much smaller size format. While it was probably done to keep production costs down, there was talk that they were popular because they could be hidden from the prying eye of a teacher inside a math book. Honk debuted in May 1953 and was rebranded as Car Craft in December 1953. Rodding and Re-styling was another one of the little books, which featured many how-to tech articles. One can only imagine the number of missing shopping carts after the article appeared showing how to turn them into bucket seats. Rod & Custom was probably one of the most popular little books of the 1950s. In 1961, the overall size was increased, and, as the cover states, it was still only a quarter. Rod & Custom would go on to become one of the most popular of the Petersen magazines. The popularity of hot rodding was also helped by the growing number of speed equipment manufacturers and distributors. One of the first was Bell Auto Parts of Bell, California. While it began in 1933, it was purchased by Roy Richter for $1,000 in 1946. Bell went on to pioneer the safety equipment market. This is a very clean example of their 1949 catalog. Edelbrock, Edmunds, and Newhouse were among the many companies that fueled the hot rod boom of the 1940s and 1950s. Most distributors carried a wide range of speed equipment from various manufacturers. So-Cal Speed Shop has been around since the early days of the hot rod movement. Alex Xydias started the company in 1946, upon his return to California after World War II. Xydias went on to be a major force in the hobby. In 1997 Pete Chapouris of Pete & Jakes fame revived the So-Cal Speed Shop name, and Xydias was on board to continue his dream from the 40s. Mainstream publications took note of the hot rod boom in the 1950s. Mechanics Illustrated brought out special issues titled Best Hot Rods during that decade. These are examples of issues 1, 2, and 3 from 1952, 1954, and 1956. The premier issue of Best Hot Rods featured the So-Cal Speed Shop race team on the cover. Inside was an article about Wally Parks and the NHRA. All this national coverage helped the NHRA explode in popularity. Not to be outdone by their competitor, Popular Mechanix published annual issues called Hot Rod Handbook , which featured the growing number of speed shops around the country. The 1958 edition featured a fantastic painting of a racer next to his streamliner at Bonneville. In the 1950s and 1960s nothing was more mainstream nationally than Life magazine. The April 29, 1957 issue featured the start of a drag race. It was a long way from the hot rod killer articles of the late 40s. Inside that issue of Life was an article titled The Drag Racing Rage. The photo was taken at Southern Californias famous Santa Ana Drags, the first commissioned dragstrip, which was open from 1950 until 1959. That momentous Life issue also features the famous picture of everyones favorite, Norm Grabowski, enjoying a burger at Bob's Drive-In in his very famous T-bucketthe car that kicked the hobby into the stratosphere. Is hot rodding a sport or a hobby? That question may have been answered when the cover of the April 24, 1961 issue of Sports Illustrated featured some young fellows leaning over the engine bay of a hot rod while wearing Ed Roth Weirdo sweatshirts. One of the young men was 16-year-old Doyle Gammell, whose father was the engine builder for Dean Moon. Doyle went on to work for Roth and owned one of the most famous traditional 32 coupes of all time. Also in that issue, a young Ed Roth standing next to the Beatnik Bandit. That 1961 Sports Illustrated issue provided many people with their first look at Chili Cattallos 1932 Ford coupe, nicknamed Silver Sapphire. Two years later, Cattallos Barris-built hot rod would appear on the cover of a Beach Boys album and attain a new nickname: Little Deuce Coupe. 1 Next time, we will look into the boom in special interest hot rod, custom car, and drag racing books and magazines that occurred in the mid 1960s and continued into the 2000s. The post Vintage Car Magazines from the 40s, 50s, and 60s appeared first on Hot Rod Network .

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