‘Stick with ink, and sink’ was the mantra that spread like a digital virus across traditional magazine publishing houses in the mid-2000s, as in a blind panic, they either bought up fledgling websites or invested heavily in new ones – usually at the expense of their own print media.
Yet here we are at the end of 2018 and you can still wander into a store or petrol station and pick up a copy of your favourite car or bike magazine. The print industry is smaller now, there’s no doubt about that, but somewhat ironically, the internet and the new dawn of the digital era that was supposed to kill print off, has helped spawn a new generation of independently-produced magazines and fanzines – and car and bike titles are at the forefront.
Whether it’s blog sites looking to produce something more tangible, online tools opening magazine production up to the masses, digital printing that makes short print runs financially viable, or just fans that love the feel (and smell) of good-quality paper stock, the indie magazine scene has never been healthier.
Blake touched on some of the awesome titles published in Japan last year, but here’s our pick of just some of the fine indies that have either launched in 2018 or put out fresh editions.
If there’s one title that has the Speedhunters aesthetic down to a T in print form, it’s Rusty’s Vintage Spirit. Lovingly put together by a small group of friends in Hungary, the first issue published earlier this year is a visual treat, with automotive content from all over the world.
Though the emphasis is on classic machinery, the magazine has a ‘Light Side’ and a ‘Dark Side.’ Start with the Miura cover and you’re treated to restored factory-spec machinery like this Datsun 240Z in period livery, a Citroën DS, and even a Jaguar XK120.
Flip the mag over and the tone has definitely been lowered – literally with this bagged E21, plus a rat rod, and a pair of RWB 911s. It’s a neat way of covering all angles in print form and making the most of the medium.
Where Rusty’s Vintage Spirit has the whole classic scene as its inspiration, Sideburn from the UK has a much narrower field — that of flat track racing.
But you don’t even need to be into that particular aspect of motorcycle sport — or even bikes — to enjoy this mag. The enthusiasm for anything that interests the editorial team oozes from every page, from cult movies, road trips, desert racing, to motorcycle art, and of course great photography. Incredibly, this magazine has been going for 10 years now, and it just gets better and better.
More fanzine than magazine (and that’s not doing it a disservice) is Custom Vanner. Very much a labour of love, it’s published sporadically and put together almost solely by a few van-loving friends
They don’t make life easy for themselves either – issue 12 was shot entirely on 35mm and medium format film. And while the magazine’s emphasis is on covering the custom van scene in the USA, like Sideburn, there’s a bit of everything in here from philosophy to traditional metalworking skills, to the illustrative genius of Ed ‘Big Daddy’ Roth.
If Custom Vanner is a ’zine with a cult following, then at the other end of the independent magazine scale is Tank Moto from Australia. Born out of Fuel magazine, it’s a high-quality, glossy celebration of motorcycle culture with a leaning towards the custom side.
From Honda Tigers to traditional bobbers to this salt flats paddock scooter, there’s a bit of well, everything. Originally jacket-pocket size, Tank Moto has now grown up to the more traditional A4 format, which really does the photography justice. Heck, it’s even distributed, so you’ll often find bike fans poring over it on the independent newsstands in bigger cities.
The USA is awash with custom and hot rod magazines, so do we really need another? Yes, we do actually, and Wheel Hub launched earlier this year is it.
It’s a beautifully-produced celebration of all things modified with an engine, four wheels and a high level of attention to detail.
Well, not just four wheels actually; there’s even a feature on a custom boat.
And if you still need convincing that independently-published magazines don’t have high production values, take a look at The Road Rat, which includes, if this issue is anything to go by, absolutely everything automotive.
From the Lewis Hamilton cover story, to in-car air fresheners reimagined with classic Formula One liveries.
With the ink on issue one still drying, it’s very much the new boy here, but flick through its 244 pages and it certainly doesn’t feel like it. Beautifully designed, the photography is given plenty room — this image, shot on a medium format digital camera, is from a feature on some of France’s iconic mountain passes used in rallies from days gone by.
You just want to be there. Road trip in 2019, Paddy?
Of course, once you’ve finished reading these magazines, they’ll stand up alongside some of your favourite automotive books on the living room shelf.
But we recommend doing what you should with any good magazines – pass them on to your friends.