Friday, June 29, 2012

Ampersand

There's only one reason I have any idea what that word means: the car magazine Road & Track.

I actually never had a subscription, I paid full price to buy it off the magazine rack.

I did this for years because I enjoyed it that much.

I once had a subscription to Car and Driver, but I became tired of the libertarian politics.

And I think P. J. O'Rourke is over-rated.

(I also never got the show Seinfeld, so I admit I may be the one with the problem.)

Aside from the cars, R&T (as the kids call it) the magazine had a cast of editors who made each issue like a friendly place to meet old friends.

This was especially true of Peter Egan's column Side Glances and his stories about his adventures with his "good friend" Chris Beebe.

The quotes don't imply anything about the nature of the friendship, it references my use of the same phrasing as an homage.

The universe of automobile enthusiasts is surprisingly stratified between drivers, mechanical enthusiasts, import and domestic (wherever it is that you live), perfectly restored classic cars, performance enhanced resto-mods, the people who love the unloved like Pintos, Vegas and Edsels and R&T's slice was geared towards sports and GT car enthusiasts. 

Over the time I read the magazine, there was a shift to reach a broader audience.

I understand the need for it beyond increasing revenue, in the current market it may be the only way to maintain viability.

But this meant a dilution of the number of enthusiast focused cars and prominence given to mainstream vehicles.

The breaking point for me was a six-way comparison test of mid-sized sedans with V6 engines and automatic transmissions.

Such cars exist because there is a market for them, but enthusiasts are not that market.

It should be noted this coincided with the withdrawal of number of sports cars from the North American market, largely in favour of SUV's.

Arguably, SUV's serve a purpose, but they're not often on the shopping list when the sports car lover is trying to figure out how to get the kids to school.

Neither is a Toyota Camry with a V6 and automatic transmission.

It may be what you end up with, but it's not where you start and it's probably not what you wanted instead of an Audi RS4 or a Subaru Legacy SpecB or a BMW M3, 5 or 6.

And it's not what I want to read about in my enthusiast magazine either.

It turns out fewer and fewer enthusiasts wanted to read about the latest SUV or V6 automatic sedan either.

So, R&T was sold to Hearst publishing who also own Car and Driver last year.

It was announced recently the magazine's offices would leave California for Ann Arbor, Michigan.

That didn't sound good for my old friends.

And now Jalopnik, my new car friends, are reporting most of the staff has been let go.

It's like hearing your buddy from high school, who quit the band and gave up music to become an insurance adjuster is terminally ill.

You hadn't seen him in years because your lives went different ways, and it's not like you were able to keep rocking either, but you weren't that great, you never had his innate talent.

He gave up the music because he had bills to pay, just like you, but the silence is greater because he could play a guitar, just like ringing a bell, and you played the tambourine.

I've missed hanging out with R&T, but the music was gone long ago.


Related links
Jalopnik
Road & Track

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