Insightful writing and exceptional editing do not make a magazine great. Words have weight, but intriguing design and stunning photography give a publication personality. While the names of publishers and editors occupy the top spots on the staff roster, it is the unsung art directors, photographers, and illustrators who give a magazine its distinctive look. On the long and winding road that Car Craft has traveled in the last 60 years, the magazine has displayed a riotous variety of styles that reflected both the fashions and the technology of the times—for better and for worse.
In Nov. 1975, Kenny Youngblood painted portraits of the members of the Car Craft All-Star
Just as electronics transformed automobiles, computers revolutionized magazine production. Car Craft (and its forefather, HONK!) was born in the era of hot type, its pages composed on immense Linotype machines with molten lead. Car features were clustered in rich, green-tinted sections printed with the vintage rotogravure process—and color was a rarity.
By the 1970s, Petersen Publishing had moved Car Craft to photocomposition and computer-generated type, giving the next generation of art directors more creative freedom. Craziness flourished as graphic artists experimented with new styles, radical photo treatments, and unconventional layouts. Although still expensive and time-consuming to produce, color features became more common in the magazine's pages.
The advent of the Digital Age in the 1990s again transformed magazine production. Waxed type, T-squares, X-Acto knives, and the other tools of manual paste up became obsolete, as articles were written, composed, and prepared for press on computer screens. Film, transparencies, and four-color separations became archaic technology, since digital images captured in photographers' cameras could be transferred directly to design programs. The advent of digital publishing and the ability to deliver periodicals electronically at Internet speed eliminated the soaring costs of paper, printing, and postage.
Each successive wave of technology made an impact on Car Craft's look. Artwork that was once painstakingly done by hand, either in a camera, in a darkroom, or on a drawing board could now be created digitally. Surveying the musty issues of this periodical's 60-year history, the richness of the old-school images and layouts still resonates, a stark contrast to the high energy of today's full-color Loud-Fast-Real design.
To put Car Craft's milestone 60th anniversary in musical terms, the magazine has outlasted 45 rpm singles, vinyl albums, four-track tapes, eight-tracks, audio cassettes, and compact discs—and continues to prosper in these days of digital downloads. Long may it run.
The times, they were a-changin' in the Psychedelic Sixties. An influx of young, longhaired editors and artists transformed Car Craft from a middle-of-the-road magazine into one of the freakiest titles on the newsstand.
Car Craft went where no car magazine had gone before, with psychedelic photographic effect
The Feb. 1970 cover embraced Flower Power in its rendering of the Rod Shop super team in c
A groovy graphic collaboration by photographer Kim Tucker and artist Bill Duffus kicked of
With editorial offices on Sunset Blvd., Car Craft was in the white-hot center of Hollywood's rock 'n' roll scene. The move to hardcore drag racing coverage was accompanied by an infusion of wild, crazy graphics inspired by rock albums, festival posters, and pop art. These graphic special effects, such as solarizations, reversals, and negative images, and so on, were produced the old-fashioned way: in the darkroom. Decades before digital photo manipulation programs could alter an image with the click of a mouse, these alterations were done with chemicals, film, and photo paper. Some were simply happy accidents, and others perhaps the result of pharmaceutically enhanced genius.
Car Craft Cutaways
A long-running series of illustrated Car Craft Cutaways was one of the hallmarks of the magazine's addiction to drag racing in the 1960s and 1970s. Artist Steve Swaja's rendering of the Scrima-Bacilek-Milodon dragster in Feb. 1965 reflected Car Craft's ongoing infatuation with streamlined dragsters. Despite the mounting evidence that the weight, complexity, and questionable aerodynamics of early streamliners was a dead end for development, Swaja also penned streamlined designs for Don Garlits and Tommy Ivo. Other subjects for Swaja's pen-and-ink artistry included cutaways of George Montgomery's all-conquering Willys Gasser and Tom McEwen's rear-engined Hemi Cuda Funny Car.
When Swaja decided to focus on his commercial art, William A. Moore became CC’s go-to guy
Multi-talented Kenny Youngblood not only designed and lettered many of the top drag racing
In contrast to the stark line-drawing cutaways, Shusei Nagaoka’s rich color illustration o
Tom West succeeded Moore as the magazine’s technical illustrator in Dec. ’69 with a cutawa
As hardcore drag racing became less prominent in CC’s editorial package, the number of cut
X-Ray Images and a Ride With The Snake
Transparent images, aka see-through or "ghost" photos, complemented CC's cutaway illustrations. Before the advent of Photoshop and similar digital retouching programs, these intriguing images were produced in a camera by double-exposing the film.