Silvio Calabi: Our favorite carmakers do magazines, too
There’s a way to share in a bit of the thrills of exotic cars without racking up the stupendous costs of ownership, and that is to read their official magazines. From Porsche to Lamborghini, just about every top brand publishes one, and the costlier the car, the heftier, glossier and splashier the magazine. Generally they’re well written and edited, beautifully illustrated and laid out, and they share certain themes: The time-honored formula of loaning a product, in this case a pricey car, to a respected author in exchange for a story; the obligatory social-register photos of owners and celebs at toney events; and of course new-model debuts. It’s commercialism but it’s fun, and the intel comes straight from the maker. Here are three of my favorites.
AM Magazine: The cover of issue No. 31 is a torchy B&W photo of actor Daniel Craig — wearing jeans, t-shirt, a zipper top and his don’t-mess-with-007 face — arms folded and leaning against ... is that a car? Yep, there’s a wing mirror, and that must be a door handle next to his other hip. Oh, right — AM! There is a discreet subhead: “The Aston Martin Magazine.” This is no artsy film journal; it’s a buff book for petrolheads, if we may address Aston Martin fans so crude-ly. Brit understatement continues inside: Of this issue’s 124 pages, actual cars appear on only 36 of them. Many of these are devoted to the Bond oeuvre, especially the latest movie, Spectre, and the custom-made Aston DB10 that drowned in it. All this spy-flick coverage is appropriate, for AM executives freely admit that theirs is the only carmaker ever saved from extinction by MI6. Or by a fictional MI6 agent. Or a real scriptwriter.
The other stories in No. 31 are about bees in California, cuisine in Japan, textile craftsmanship in China, Columbia University’s stellar new gym in Manhattan, voyaging through the Spice Islands on a teakwood sailing ship, and grand libraries from Providence (Rhode Island) to Paris (the one in France). It seems Aston Martin people aren’t mere petrolheads; by definition, they must be connoisseurs of fine and rare handcrafted things and exquisite experiences. If you lean this way too, visit Astonmartin.com and order four issues per year for $83 post-Brexit. Or buy a car (prices start at barely more than $100,000) and get the magazine for free. Or skip the car and the nice paper and read AM online at no charge.
Ferrari recently re-formatted its print magazine and shortened its title to simply TOFM, The Official Ferrari Magazine. The coffee table “plop factor” is still there, though, and the glitz, gloss, velocity and car coverage are nearly ruthless — no British understatement here. UBS, the Swiss bank, speaks directly to Ferrari owners in its ad: Under a photo of a grizzled-but-still-manly dude at the helm of a sailing yacht the tagline reads, “Is 60 the new 40?” Thanks to car prices north of $200,000, Ferrari buyers skew older; and I’ve heard rumors that some people, often men, buy sports cars, often red, in order to feel younger. Three stories in issue No. 32 concern famously successful males of a certain age — actor Peter Sellers, rocker Roger O’Donnell, diamond merchant Francois Graff — and their love affairs with Ferrari. Other articles focus on new models and what buyers can expect from them, or interesting places to visit in them. (Azerbaijan, anyone, for the Formula One Grand Prix of Europe?) There’s a great deal of red, some of it wine.
It’s not without humor, though. Six of these 148 pages are given to a story — titled “Brickwork” — about a Ferrari copied in 1,158 Lego blocks. Subscriptions are available online at magazine.ferrari.com. Three hefty issues a year, including a 246-page annual Yearbook, cost an also hefty $285. Or buy a car and get the magazine free. Or skip the car, save the trees and read TOFM online for free, in seven different languages and with video.
For all their editorial quality, AM, TOFM, Christophorus (Porsche) and so on are largely ego trips. The Star, Mercedes-Benz’s 61-year-old glossy, is something else: A true community-building magazine dedicated to helping owners, would-be owners and fans understand their cars, new and old. I’ve never owned a Merc, but as a lifelong magazine and car guy I get The Star because it’s that good. It even has a “Trading Post” of classified ads for previously loved cars. Who knows — read it long enough, and I might even fall for one. Subscribe by joining the Mercedes-Benz Club of America at mbca.org. A year’s dues cost $55, for which we receive six authoritative issues.
— Silvio Calabi reviews the latest from Detroit, Munich, Yokohama, Gothenburg, Crewe, Seoul and wherever else interesting cars are born. Silvio is a member of the International Motor Press Association whose automotive reviews date back to the Reagan administration. He is the former publisher of Speedway Illustrated magazine and an author. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.