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And then there are the Brit car magazines. No, I don’t subscribe. I don’t even buy them all. With the prices they charge in the US, they’re purely the province of people who liquidated their hedge fund accounts before the bust.

But I do read them. Oh yes I do. I even have my own technique for reading them. I adopt a straight-back, standing position, in the Transportation section of the magazine racks at my local Barnes & Noble and Borders. I recommend this method, with one caveat; be prepared to walk away stiff-legged, from a long perusal.

Let’s stand up straight for the leading three. And let’s pick a month, any month. How’s October ‘09?

Evo. They call it “The Thrill of Driving.” This has my attention. The cover story counts down “The 100 Greatest Drivers’ Cars.” Is this accurate? Says who? Now, really, do I care? If the editorial package is up to the task, then it‘s a fun read. And that’s what really matters.

Each car merits a capsule summary. I count the brands and, sure enough, Porsche makes the list the most times, with 12 entries. When the listing gets to the top 10 qualifiers, the editors take each one for a “Final Countdown,” which means wringing them out, over untamed Welsh roads. Porsche has a contestant in this final group, a 996 GT3. It comes in third to a Lotus 340R and, drum roll, a Pagani Zonda F.

Car. For October, they cover “Japan’s new superheros.” They drive the Lexus LF-A, around Goodwood, which is interesting. But then they toast the usual Japanese icons, the NSX, RX-7, Nissan GT-R and so forth. My feet are beginning to need a stretch.

But I shift my weight, and the pain suddenly disappears, as I come to what’s next. They launch an “A to Z of Supercars.” For the letter B, there’s “Balboni, Lambo test driver,” who they interview. He says Lamborghinis were always tested on the street, because “Mr. Lamborghini was too mean for a track.” F is for the Prancing Horse, and a gorgeous double-page photo includes, let’s see, a 250 GTO, a 288 GTO, an F40, an Enzo and… a blue one. “My favorite Ferrari was Enzo’s last as an independent maker: the 275GTB/4,” writes the author. That’s the blue one. Cool.

Just as naturally, P is for Porsche. The caption reads, “So, Porsche doesn’t really do supercars, eh? From the left: 911Turbo, Carrera GT, 959, 911 GT2.”

T is for two hundred miles per hour. The limit. What supercars are all about. “You don’t do 200 mph out of sheer high spirits, to kill time between meetings. Every trip into the twilight zone requires….” Then they devote two pages to descriptions of what it’s like to take eight qualifiers over the magic number.

Top Gear. I have to say, the cross-pollination between the magazine and the TV show seems to work. There are readable columns by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May. Even if Jeremy doesn’t like Porsches.

For the cover story, they create “The Stig Showdown,” where they caravan 11 brutes, including a GT3, through London in predawn splendor, with a police motorcycle escort. “London through these early hours is weird. Sparse. It’s like going a bit deaf. Today, Top Gear plugs the gaps with color and noise.” Then, in “the sticks,” where they wring out the cars, the photographer “riding shotgun in the Ferrari halts the convoy to dive into a hedge and vomit. Strange it happened in the 599.…” The day’s drive ends at the set for the TV show, where the studio audience ogles appreciatively. Then the Stig takes each car out on the Top Gear test track. The results? The GT3 places second to a Murcielago SV.

Oh by the way, each magazine also does road tests. At least sort of. They provide what I would call driving descriptions. No data pages are to be found. Rather, there’s usually a small box, containing just the most vital information, as well as a rating. Yes, a rating. They all have their own scale -- 1 to 5 stars, 0 to 20 points -- but the important thing is that every car is rated.

Then, in the back of the book, each magazine has a full rundown of every car you can buy in the UK. Every one. With key specs and comments and recommendations. The Cayman S? “Pure and rewarding - if they‘d just move the engine back a bit,” - Evo. “Baby croc rocks,” - Car, and “All you could ever need or require,” - Top Gear.

I really like this approach. You want usable interior volume? Test inflation pressures? Brake swept area? Go to the manufacturers’ websites.

And the approach seems to work from a business standpoint. Each is as thick as a Fortune magazine from before the dotcom bust.

What I want to know is how they do it. I mean, these publications come from a population of 50 million, give or take, crammed into a geographic area the size of New York State, with no home-owned car industry left to speak of.

But my legs are now as stiff as cardboard. So I trundle myself away from the magazine racks, sore, but pleased. Give a try to my technique with the Brit buff books. Just be sure to wear comfortable shoes.
 

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240 Posts
Awesome first post!

Welcome to the swamp!
 

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Caymaniac
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5,658 Posts
...and we will all stand in front of our computer monitors to read your posts from this day forward.:cheers:

Welcome to Planet 9.

(formerly Planet Porsche, originally Cayman Club...eventually to be referred to by a symbol)

I must admit that I subscribed to Top Gear Magazine for a year. Much of the bulk I attributed to ads for UK insurance ads and the most bizarre of oddities...the exchange of license plates for money.

Is there really a higher overall density of automotive passion in the UK, or do we simply think there is because we happen to speak a version of English? With the high cost of fuel, traffic cameras, taxes, etc. it seems that being a petrol head in the UK is the last hedgerow between continental Europe and...freedom.
 

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Premium Member
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2,574 Posts
I regularly read 911&Porsche World, GTPorsche, and I have found the U.S. magazine Excellence to be somewhat equivalent of the Brits and less expensive. I do occassionally read EVO or CARS (at B&N standing up and do not buy them). I have grown tired of the U.S. magazines as they all cover the same thing usually in the same month. I do subscribe to Road & Track as the one that gives more comprensive coverage, AutoWeek to keep reasonably current on racing news and European Car because that is their focus, Europe.
 

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Middle-Aged Porsche Punk
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997 Posts
Great post, Rdbadler!! Back when I was looking at the Cayman, I bought both Excellence and Brit mags (TopGear and 911/Porsche World). (Years ago I'd bought TopGear to get a somewhat less fawning view of BMW than Car and Driver offers, before I made the plunge on a 3-series). My short take:

The US magazine writers sometimes put cars on pedestals. Usually for a reason. Occasionally a writer will dismiss American car buyers but rarely.

The Brit magazine writers put themselves on pedestals. And will dismiss cars, no matter how good, if they're driven by "toffs", "hairdressers" or "executives".

However, the Brits are infinitely more interesting to read. The US magazines are a little more generic....even C & D and R & T.
 
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