I’ve raised a family of three over the past 30 years.
They include my daughter, Alexandra, 26, my son Bradley, 10, and Sports Car Market, which is nearly full-grown at 30.
Just as I’ve watched Alex and Bradley mature and develop, I’ve seen SCM go from a little black-and-white newsletter that we printed on our own presses to a magazine now on the newsstand at Grand Central Station.
In 1988, I never imagined that I’d be writing about SCM in January of 2018.
I set out with a simple goal: Provide accurate descriptions of cars sold at auctions. Readers could then get a sense of why a specific car brought a specific price. Today, the Market Reports are still the most popular and widely read part of the magazine.
Even the proliferation of auction information on the Internet has not dampened their appeal. No other publication has so many skilled reporters who examine and evaluate so many cars in person. There is no substitute.
When we first started the Alfa Romeo Market Letter, I wore many hats. I wrote the articles, I took the pictures. I did the layout using Pagemaker. I oversaw the printing in our shop. I helped run the folder and the stitcher that bound the issues, produced the mailing labels, put them on the publication, pre-sorted them and took them to the post office.
It was the precursor of the modern “farm-to-table” movement — we did everything from writing the words to delivering the finished product.
I had no idea what I was doing. I stole every good idea I came across. Another magazine (now long-gone) had a “Legal Files” column that I enjoyed, so we added one. Carl Bomstead was writing a column about automobilia for a magazine (now also defunct), and I brought him to SCM.
In the early days, the Market Letter was mostly classifieds. In that pre-Internet era, I paid clippers around the country to snip out ads for Alfa Romeos and send them to me. Consequently we had the largest selection of Alfas for sale in the world.
When readers didn’t renew their subscriptions, I would call them and ask why. The common answer was, “I’ve bought or sold the car I was interested in, and don’t need to see any more advertisements.” So we created the Profiles and other editorial content that kept readers engaged even when they weren’t buying or selling.
From the very beginning, I have looked for writers who had a combination of knowledge, passion and insights. Many of them have become close friends.
In 2011, I refurbished three MGBs to drive to the MG National Convention in Reno. Donald Osborne, Miles Collier, Thor Thorson and John Draneas accompanied me on our madcap drive. An embarrassed John explained to the rest of us that while he could write a legal brief, he was unable to read a gas gauge — as he coasted silently to a stop in the middle of the Nevada desert.
Over the years, as the magazine grew, we came to enjoy the sense of community that SCM had engendered. Every issue was full of various points of view. Some viewed Citroën SMs as the greatest cars ever built; others believed that SM stood for “sadomasochistic,” which owners of the cars surely had to be.
Growing up with SCM
I asked Alexandra to reflect on what it was like to grow up around SCM — the magazine is just four years older than she is.
She wrote, “I didn’t realize that my childhood wasn’t like others. Kids in my neighborhood were driven to school in modern cars that didn’t leak water on them when it rained or lose first and third gear while driving on the freeway. At night.
“Growing up with Sports Car Market magazine taught me many life lessons besides just appreciating a modern car with heated seats. What do you do when your 1967 Alfa Giulia Super blows a head gasket on Highway 101 in the Redwood Forest, hundreds of miles from home? Call your dad, then just spread a picnic blanket, open a bottle of wine and wait with your two girlfriends for the tow truck to arrive.
“Everything in life is on its own time schedule, especially cars built in the ’60s that were never meant to survive to 2018. The classic-car world has taught me to laugh and shrug at the little things and accept that it will all work out in the end.”
Bradley went on his first two-day tour this year, in our 1965 Alfa Spider Veloce. He asked the same question Alex did. “Dad, is it supposed to be raining inside the car?”
Just as Alexandra and Bradley have grown up, so has SCM. It’s become a far-flung family of enthusiasts, all of whom would rather be out driving their old cars than doing anything else.
My greatest pleasure has been meeting and getting to know subscribers from Shanghai to Milano, Buenos Aires, Manhattan and San Francisco. What binds us together is that cars are our passion. We have differences of opinion about everything, from whether a carbureted 308 is better than a 328, or the impact on the collectibility of your TR6 if you put a 5-speed into it. We may never agree, but the conversations are always spirited, thoughtful and educational.
When I go to the SCM library and look back at 30 years of issues, each one painstakingly hand crafted, I think about how many people have contributed to the growth of SCM over the years.
Under the direction of Executive Editor Chester Allen and Advertising/Events Manager Erin Olson and the team they have assembled, SCM has achieved a new level of professionalism.
Sort of like “the little engine that could,” SCM has grown and survived three decades of a tumultuous market. We’ve seen the advent of the Internet and televised auctions. We’ve watched auction companies come and go.
The past 30 years have been quite a ride. Thank you for being on this roller coaster with us. Hang on, because there’s much, much more to come in the years ahead. ♦