Cut It Out!
The year is 2006. I’m 13 years old and I just learned that old issues of Car Craft are better than new issues of Car Craft—like way better. I want to find them and read them. We have dial-up internet at home, and I don’t even know where to start looking. I had never heard of the H.A.M.B. and eBay was for adults. There was, however, one place where I may be able to find them. John K. King Used & Rare Books in Detroit.
King’s isn’t too far from our house in the suburbs, but my Dad and I made it an annual tradition to head there around Christmastime. Inside the old brick building, gray light cut through dirty windows, while floor planks groaned and cars whipped by on the nearby freeway. Musty books on wooden shelves spanned several floors. It was all good. Yet, at that time, all I could think about was the “Magazine Room.”
It’s a place I’ve written about but—to this day—have never seen. I’d tell an employee that I was looking for “old hot rod magazines from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s” and they’d eventually emerge from the depths of who-knows-where with exactly that. Like magic.
So. This issue of Car Craft. March 1968. Rumor had it that it had “Dragsters for the Street” inside. I wrote the month and year on a notepad along with about 10 other obscure issues that I wanted for one reason or another. That year, I handed over my list, posted up in a chair in their magnificently cluttered lobby. My focus shifts between everything at once and nothing at all—tattered postcards in shoeboxes—tomes from the 1700s perched in a cabinet—the portable space heater with tubes glowing red oh-so-close to all this old parchment and paper and decaying binding—oh can you imagine?! The danger! It’s easy to worry, but it’s keeping me warm as I wait. And wait. And wait.
What seems like ages later, they’re back with a stack. I can smell the dust. The information—it’s so old, but so new. My heart races. The heater continues to crank. I sweat. Customers walk in. Here it is! Car Craft. March 1968. I read the blurbs out loud as if others care. It’s a treasure! Look at that cover. It is a dragster for the street. A T-bucket with a stretched wheelbase and cycle wheels and a big chrome Cammer. Oh! And it’s in traffic. The motorcyclist is befuddled. And I’m sure the person in the car behind has never seen anything like it. I know I haven’t.
Do I open it now? Later? I couldn’t help it. I dug right in. I carefully flipped through the yellowed pages, making sure not to rip them. When I reached the article, I stopped. “Hey, there’s something wrong here.” Much to my surprise, it wasn’t “Dragsters for the Street.” Instead, it read “ers e Sueet.” And what happened to those amazing cars?
It became immediately clear that the previous owner figured they were some sort of artist and got overzealous with the scissors. Gone were pieces of the opening spread, Leroy Smith’s Topolino, my pal Randy Dubb’s Willys, an Anglia with wide tires and the big block Chevy-powered CT Automotive ’55 Chevy. Darn it. For whatever reason, the clip-happy hooligan wasn’t attracted to Russ Hess’ “Mind Binder” or Bill Fredricks’ SOHC T cover car. Phew.
Although it was a little upsetting, there was still plenty of quality information in that issue. I convinced my Dad to let me add it to my collection. Nearly 15 years later, I find the whole thing pretty humorous. Hey, cutting up magazines is part of being a hot rodder. I’ve been there, and I’m sure you have too.
So to wind things down this week, I’ll ask you this. Have you ever gotten a car magazine that someone cut into?
Photos from Car Craft, March 1968. Cutting by anonymous