History of UK Car Magazines

History of UK Car Magazines
18 Feb 2019
By Ronnie Lawson-Jones

Motoring magazines in the UK have been around for decades and are a stable part of most newsagents and supermarket magazine section up and down the country. Most people these days will have read a physical copy or visited a car enthusiast website to help them learn about a potential new car or to find out the latest news in the industry and they have played a big part in the car/automotive industry from the enthusiast to the car tuner all the way to the transport managers in large businesses. These days, however, printed car magazines are struggling to compete against the internet with many of them offering their printed version digitally to keep their subscribers.

We've always been big fans of the magazines in the office and wanted to give homage to the great UK car mags we've been blessed with. In this blog, we take a look at the history of UK/British printed car magazines through history and how they've evolved and ended throughout their long history.

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Autocar

Autocar Magazine

First Issue: 1895

Last Issue: Still going

Publisher: Haymarket Media Group

Website: https://www.autocar.co.uk/

Originally called "The Autocar", Autocar is known as the World's oldest car magazine and the most appropriate car mag to appear first in this list. Launched in 1895, this magazine is amazingly still going strong with a circulation of over 30,000. Features of Autocar are general car news, test drive, reviews and a motorsport feature. 

The Motor

Motor Magazine

First Issue: 1903

Last Issue: 1988

Publisher: Haymarket Media Group (via Autocar)

The Motor was one of the earliest motoring magazines which were eventually merged with Autocar in 1988. It served more or less the same content as Autocar so it made sense to merge as Autocar became more prominent and The Motor, less so. You can still find old issues on eBay and The National Motor Museum.

Autosport

Autosport

First Issue: 1950

Last Issue: Still going

Publisher: Motorsport Network

Website: https://www.autosport.com/

Autosport is actually a global magazine but their headquarters are in London so they have a rightful spot on this list. Autosport launched all the way back in 1950 just when motorsport was kicking off and about to enter into the golden era. Autosport entered the digital space in 1970 but still maintain their physical presence in newsagents to a circulation of around 16,000. This magazine as you can guess focuses on Formula 1/E, IndyCar, GT, World Rally Championship, Touring Cars and so on.

Car Mechanics

Car Mechanics

First Issue: 1958

Last Issue: Still going

Publisher: Bauer Media

Website: https://www.carmechanicsmag.co.uk/

Car mechanics is a monthly magazine which started all the way back in 1958 aimed towards those interested in DIY repairs, maintenance and improvements to their vehicles. It is now the only magazine of its type leaving it with no competition whatsoever in the UK. 

Car

Car Magazine

First Issue: 1962 (as Small Car & Mini Owner)

Last Issue: Still going

Publisher: Bauer Media

Website: https://www.carmagazine.co.uk/

Car Magazine is one of the oldest general car magazines which started off as Small Car and Mini owner before being renamed in 1965. The first editor was George Bishop. In the UK which eventually became a global magazine with a circulation of over 45,000. CAR magazine is perhaps best known for making 'Car of the Year' competitions mainstream. Amazingly, this magazine is another one of the classics which is still going! 

You can see all of CAR's history here.

Total 911

Total 911

First Issue: 1963

Last Issue: Still going

Publisher: Future Publishing

Website: https://www.total911.com/

As you can guess, Total 911 is a Porsche 911 enthusiast magazine launched way back in 1963 the same year the first ever Porsche 911 was launched. Despite the 911 being a German car this magazine started off and has remained a British publication. Although at the time the magazine featured only the new 911, the modern day magazine discusses the classic models as well as the new ones which bring in fans of both new and old. 

Parker's Car Price Guide

Parkers Price Buying Guide 1991

First Issue: 1972

Last Issue: Still going

Publisher: Bauer Media Group

Website: https://www.parkers.co.uk/

Parker's Car Price Guide is a magazine specifically designed to help its readers make an informed decision when purchasing a new car and does not get involved in car news, features and so on. As such, the Parkers brand has become synonymous with trust and accuracy and has a large following online and offline to this day. They, too, enable customers to find the cheapest car leasing deal online with their online tool.

WhatCar?

WhatCar First Issue

First Issue: 1973

Last Issue: Still going

Publisher: Haymarket Consumer Media

Website: https://www.whatcar.com/

WhatCar? magazine is one of the most famous automotive magazines in the whole world since 1973 and still is both in the news stand and online. Covering new car test drives, DIY advice, motorsport news as well as a large used car, new car and car leasing directory sections WhatCar? is a website most people have visited at some point to help them make a decision on what car (get it) to get next.

Auto Trader

Auto Trader First Issue

First Issue: 1977 (as Hurst's Thames Valley Trader)

Last Issue: 2013

Publisher: Auto Trader PLC

Website: https://www.autotrader.co.uk/

Similar to WhatCar?, Auto Trader is one of the most famous car trading websites in the UK. First started in 1977 by John Madejski who took inspiration from what car dealers were doing across the pond. They ceased production of the physical magazine in 2013 as they focused on their web presence instead as more and more people took to the web to look for used car deals.

Practical Classics

Practical Classics

First Issue: 1980

Last Issue: Still going

Publisher: Bauer Consumer Media

Website: https://www.practicalclassics.co.uk/

Practical Classics is a monthly magazine started in 1980 as the first magazines focusing on classic cars. Remember, most classic cars didn't become classics until this time and become a bit more affordable. Classic cars are just as popular today as they ever have been which shows just why this magazine is still in circulation 30 years later with a circulation of over 45,000. 

Classic & Sports Car

Classics and Sports Car Magazine 1982

First Issue: 1982

Last Issue: Still going

Publisher: Haymarket Media Group

Website: https://www.classicandsportscar.com/

Shortly after Practical Classics was formed Classic & Sports Car magazine also entered the UK market which focuses more on the prestigious performance car magazine from days gone by. This magazine is one of the biggest out there with an amazing circulation of over 60,000. 

Performance Car

Performance Car Magazine 1983

First Issue: 1983

Last Issue: 1998 (Relaunched 2008, closed again in 2009)

Publisher: Ascential

As hot hatches and affordable performance cars started gaining in popularity Ascential decided there needed to be a magazine to cater for this growing audience. In 1983 this became a reality with the first issue of Performance Car. An interesting tidbit is that Jeremy Clarkson was a former columnist between 1986 and 1994 before he was forced to write only for Top Gear magazine. Performance Car became Evo in 1998.

VolksWorld

VolksWorld 1986

First Issue: 1986

Last Issue: Still going

Publisher: Kelsey Media

Website: https://volksworld.com/

VolksWorld is one of the first manufacturer specific UK magazines (Volkswagen if you didn't guess) and it's still going today! Headquartered in Croydon, VolksWorld focuses on everything amazing from the German manufacturer. 

Fast Car

Fast Car 1987

First Issue: 1987

Last Issue: Still going

Publisher: Kelsey Media

Website: https://www.fastcar.co.uk/

Kelsey Media launched Fast Car only a year after VolksWorld and target those who enjoy performance cars as well as vehicle modification. Fast Car has a cult following which has allowed it to still enjoy a circulation of 60,000 decades later. Fast Car has a few competitors these days but many would view these guys as the 'OG's.

Land Rover Owner International

Land Rover Owner International

First Issue: 1987

Last Issue: Still going

Publisher: Bauer Media

Website: https://www.lro.com/

Land Rover Owner Internation is the largest and most popular Land Rover and Range Rover enthusiast magazine in the World. The magazine and the brand has deep roots in British history so it's no surprise this magazine has survived the test of time and still in newsagents up and down the country. 

Heritage Commercials (Vintage Commercial Vehicle Magazine)

Heritage Commercials Issue 1

First Issue: 1987

Last Issue: Still going

Publisher: Kelsey Media

Heritage Commercials (also known as the vintage commercial vehicle magazine is a very niche magazine that was launched in 1987 and still going strong today showcasing the finest vintage commercial vehicles and restoration tips. This is the only magazine of its kind.

Auto Express

Auto Express Magazine

First Issue: 1988

Last Issue: Still going

Publisher: Dennis Publishing

Website: https://www.autoexpress.co.uk/

Auto Express is a titan in the automotive news sector and it is the first from UK publisher Dennis. Auto Express did not attempt to reinvent the wheel in 1988 but did gain some notoriety for their spy shots of up and coming cars. As of 2011, Auto Express was the biggest selling motoring magazine in all of the UK which is amazing considering they were fairly late to the party.

Classic Car Weekly

Classic Car Magazine 1990

First Issue: 1990

Last Issue: Still going

Publisher: Bauer Media

Website: https://www.classiccarweekly.co.uk/

Classic Car Weekly is a newspaper which focuses on news and auction coverage in the classic car niche, similar to Auto Trader. Launched in 1990 when classics continued to be more and more popular, the paper is still going strong today.

Max Power

Max Power 1993

First Issue: 1993

Last Issue: 2011

Publisher: Bauer

Max Power magazine is a cult classic favourite for boy racers and car modders. Written in the same vein as Fast Car but with a more tongue in cheek approach that has a bit of fun with younger drivers with a taste for spicy hot hatches and even spicier exhausts. Sadly, the magazine gained a bit of criticism for its involvement in illegal cruise gatherings and their use of scantily clad 'Max Power babes'. The magazine eventually shut down in 2011.

Top Gear

Top Gear Issue 1 1993

First Issue: 1993

Last Issue: Still going

Publisher: Immediate Media Company

Website: https://www.topgear.com/car-news/top-gear-magazine-0

One of the most recognised automotive news brands in the entire World launched its first issue in 1993 along with the BBC Television series of the same name. Once again, Top Gear didn't attempt to reinvent the wheel but with the backing of its TV presence, large corporate budget and its association with celebrity presenters it was no surprise that it quickly became one of the biggest on the planet. As of 2013 it had a circulation of over 150,000.

Auto Italia

Auto Italia

First Issue: 1995

Last Issue: Still going

Publisher: Gingerbeer Promotions

Website: https://auto-italia.co.uk/

Auto Italia, in the same vein as VolksWorld, is an Italian car enthusiast magazine written and published in the UK. It has the distinction of being the World's first magazine aimed specifically at Italian vehicles which just goes to show how big cars are in Britain when compared tot the rest of the World. This magazine is still going strong today! Manufacturers often features are Lancia, Ferrari, Fiat and Alfa Romeo.

Evo

Evo Magazine

First Issue: 1998

Last Issue: Still going

Publisher: Dennis Publishing

Website: https://www.evo.co.uk/

Evo magazine, launched in 1998, is the successor to Performance Car which ended in 1998 and a competitor to the likes of Fast Car and Max Power and focuses on performance cars, hot hatches and super cars. 

Performance BMW

Performance BMW 1998

First Issue: 1998

Last Issue: Still going

Publisher: Kelsey Publishing

Website: https://performancebmwmag.com/

Performance BMW is a monthly magazine launched in 1998 the same year as Evo began and Performance Car ended. It's aimed towards everything the German manufacturer BMW do both past and present similarly to Land Rover Owner, VolksWorld and Auto Italia. It has labelled itself as the Ultimate Modified BMW magazine.

Octane

Octane Magazine 2003

First Issue: 2003

Last Issue: Still going

Publisher: Dennis Publishing

Website: https://subscribe.octane-magazine.com/

Octane Magazine is another monthly magazine which focuses on classics and performance cars on the upper end of the market.

Race Engine Technology


First Issue: 2003

Last Issue: Still going

Publisher: High Power Media

Website: https://www.highpowermedia.com/c/31/race-engine-technology

Race Engine Technology is one of the most technical automotive magazines in the world. Launched in 2003, RET covers all manners of engines and transmissions from civilian passenger cars to racing engines used in Formula 1, NASCAR, Le Mans and so on. As you can image, it's a very high brow magazine targeted towards engineers and engine enthusiasts.

Practical Performance Car Magazine

Practical Performance Car Magazine

First Issue: 2004

Last Issue: Still going

Publisher: Blockhead Media

Website: https://www.ppcmag.co.uk/

Practical Performance Car Magazine is one of the newer magazines (Issue 1 April 2004) out there which focuses on performance tuning as well as tips on building, tuning and buying real-world performance cars. PPC magazine has a particular focus on its social aspect which invites readers to share their projects and cars.

iCar

iCar Issue 1

First Issue: 2011

Last Issue: 2011

Publisher: Future

iCar was a motoring magazine launched in 2011 which sadly only had two issues. 

Carbuyer

Carbuyer Issue 5

First Issue: 2018

Last Issue: Still going

Publisher: Dennis Publishing

Website: https://www.carbuyer.co.uk/

Carbuyer is the newest quarterly magazine which interestingly became a magazine 8 years after the website launched which is the total opposite of how most magazines have gone about it. Carbuyer, as the name suggests, helps people find the best price and deal.

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