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Book Review

Hemmings Motor News

By John Milliman

    Serious Stovebolt restorers have a few must-read books on the night stand or in the "reading room." One, of course, is Tom Brownell's How to Restore Your Antique Chevrolet Pickup Truck. The other is Vintage Truck magazine. The third usual suspect is the latest Hemmings Motor News. If you don't already subscribe, or if your subscription has lapsed for awhile, you might want to check out the updated Hemmings -- it could help you ...


Mr. 2-Speed meets Mr. FrameRe-light that old flame

Among the two or three perqs I get as boss around here (once I get done washing bottles, cleaning Mr. Thomas' kitty box and taking out the trash) is every year I get to pick the judge (or judges) for the annual "It Ran When I Parked It" photo contest.


Tough act to follow

    As you will remember, for our first year we had the inimitable staff of Tom and Ray Magliozi's radio show, "Car Talk." Man, was that a hoot dealing with those folks. Then, last year, it was the high-brow judges, the esteemed author Tom Brownell and American Classic parts maven Marsha Williams.

    This year ... I'll get to that.

    But throughout it all, there was one little surprising bit of enthusiastic support for our not-so-little-anymore web site and our eternally goofy little photo contest. Surprising in that its support seemed as incongruous as Big Oil funding solar power research or Congress voting itself a pay cut. You wouldn't think as established a traditional media outlet as Hemmings Motor News would deign to notice a cheeky mom-and-pop truck web site, lost amid the maddening din of this brash new medium called the internet.

    But it did.

    Not only notice, but enthusiastically support us. And with prizes like the much sought-after "aesthetically abandoned vehicle" calendars, stickers and what-not, too. And this year ... ah, this year ... we got bold.

    "Why don't we ask those calendar folks from Hemmings to judge?" Peggy said. Knowing full well that the Car Talk staff, Tom Brownell and Marsha Williams were going to be tough acts to follow, I had been at a loss to dredge up some possibles. I even considered my own truck mechanic, Billy. But as I was wallowing in the depths of my despair, plumbing the expanses of my self-pity as it were, the idea bolted across the sky of my imagination with as much subtlety as a horn-helmeted, sword-swinging, valkyrie-riding Nordic goddess belting out a Wagnerian aria (I always wanted to use that image again...).

    But of course! And so we happened to meet Richard Lentinello. "Meet" as in the Internet sense. But nonetheless, like our previous celebrity judges, Richard turned out to be a kindred spirit (even if he has a British car ...) and well and ably discharged the duties of judge in an exemplary fashion -- Exemplary even for the Stovebolt Page where excellence is standard.

John sets, falls into, a trap

    And so I was emboldened again.

    "Richard," I said, speaking as one editor to another (ha!). "You know, not everyone knows you've revamped Hemmings' design and content a little (I wouldn't have known, either, if he hadn't brought it up...) -- why don't you send me a copy and I'll do a review on it for the Web Site?" Richard, not knowing of my heretofore unfruitful search for several key parts for my '49, fell for the bait.

    "Sure," he replied, sticking one foot in the web. "Give me an address to send it to." I had him!

    For the price of a few electrons, I was going to get my hands on the latest edition of our hobby's most sacred text -- Hemmings Motor News. A veritable cornucopia of automobilia, vehicles and an absolute treasure trove of parts. The January/February edition (which I received, courtesy of Richard) has 28 pages of truck and commercial vehicle classifieds alone! And that's not counting the Chevrolet-specific pages, either.

    That Carlisle trophy was as good as mine!!! As lost as I was congratulating myself on this fortuitous stroke of genius, I failed to notice that Richard and I were changing places on the web (as in spider, not World Wide). I had thought myself crafty and cunning -- I had pulled the very prize from the clutches of the treasure master himself! But I was so engrossed in the full-color ads, the new cover, expanded sections and all-new editorial section, I little noted who was snaring who.

A .... Schwimmwagen?

    That the trademark panel trucks, long staples of the cover environs, were conspicuously absent should have been my first clue. But no. In my headlong rush to rediscover the thrill of opening my very first Hemmings (way back when it was white and about half its current size) and discovering vehicles I'd never heard of before, I had completely lost my dastardly bent. I was completely snared by the almost magical lure of the brown paper cover. I dove right in, heedless of the peril lurking behind me (all 5' 6", 110 lbs' worth of peril...) It might as well have been called Lemmings Motor News...

    The thrill had returned! There it was ... A Schwimmwagen?

    I'd always loved Volkswagens (and I've had about 10 so far...), and I'd always loved seeing the Kubelwagens in the old war movies (You cried when Bamby's mom died -- I cried when the Kubelwagen flipped over in The Longest Day), but a Schwimmwagen? And with a machinegun, too?? Anybody can own a mere Kublewagen, but only those rare and priviledged few can actually own the amphibious version. I haven't been able to sleep since, what with visions of Schwimmwagens schwimming their way through my dreams. Ja...

    So, can you imagine what other neat and wondrous things can be found in a publication cool enough for Schwimmwagens?

    Okay, so no Schwimmwagen this time around (Peggy says any judge would rule it justifiable homicide...), but man are there a lot of truck ads! And you can even skip right over the Ford section, too! Shoot, I think half the fun is just looking at the pictures. All that neat stuff... out there ... available .... It's enough to feed your dreams like an adolescent motor head with his first ... um ... Hemmings Motor News! Yeah!

21st Century Hemmings

    And the best part -- Richard has even introduced an editorial section (that's our editors' lingo for "stories") where you can read actual articles about antique vehicle-related subjects! Wow! Split into six major sections for "Automania," "How-to," "Buyer's Guide," "At The Auction," Garage Tech" and "Personalities," I found articles ranging from buying an MGB, the latest big auction results, modern oils for the antique engine and insurance concerns not only informative but an enjoyable read, too. What an added bonus to the main reason you'd want to pick up a Hemmings in the first place -- thousands of classified ads arranged by vehicle type and make. And even then, you get three subsections for autos for sale; parts, literature service, etc; and wanted.

    And if you wondered about the calibre of vehicles to be found in Hemmings, here's a few that caught my attention and are now on my wish list: '37 Packard Rollston dual windshield phaeton ($148,500); '78 Alfa Romeo Spider like the one I used to have (a project car for only $1,800!); '54 Cadillac Model 62 convertible ($46,500); Herman Goering's '38 Mercedes 320A 4-dr cabriolet parade car (?) for a mere $94,900 (Jim P -- this is the car I was talking about!); '37 Rolls-Royce drophead coupe ($139,900); and a '50 Volkswagen Hebmuller convertible (precurser to the Karmann cabriolets). Alas, no Schwimmwagens in this issue. Nonetheless, my total to outfit my dream garage -- a mere $531,600 (assuming a $100,000 pricetag on the Hebmuller -- they're quite rare, you know!).

    More to our liking, lots of treasures are to be found in the 28 pages of Trucks and Commercial Vehicles. Some that cried out for me to save them -- '35 Suburban ($12,000); unrestored '39 COE (no price listed); non-running '50 COE ($2,000); '57 Cameo ($4,000); ahhhhhhhh....I could go on, but you get the picture.

    And I didn't even get to the parts ads...

    Do yourself a favor -- if you don't already read Hemmings on a regular basis, get renewed. Give your dreams and motivation a boost by browsing the "bible" of the old car hobby! I can't think of a better way to beat Winter's "Dark Ages" and the short-day blahs.

    I may even re-subscribe.

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