The History of Vintage Motorsport
Like many enthusiast publications, Vintage Motorsport magazine began as little more than a glorified newsletter. Published by the president and founder of the Southeast Vintage Racing Association, Ford Heacock, the first issue of Vintage Motorsport was mailed to SVRA members in May 1982. Four standard-sized sheets of paper were folded in half to make a 16-page booklet that contained several black-and-white photos—the luxury of color would come later. On the cover, the inscription “Summer ’82” signified a modest quarterly publishing schedule.
Born as an outgrowth of SVRA’s newsletter, Vintage Motorsport soldiered on in its original format for the next two years, albeit adding pages and color along the way. In 1984 the magazine graduated to full size, the first issue in the new format boasting a whopping 52 pages! In the interest of increasing circulation, the editorial content was expanded to include non-SVRA events and profiles on significant cars and people in motorsport.
Captivated by the rapid growth in technology and frustrated by the piecemeal processes involved in producing VM, Heacock purchased an Apple Macintosh computer in 1986. This positioned the magazine on the leading edge of what would become known as “desktop publishing.” His foresight garnered Vintage Motorsport a mention in the June 30, 1986 issue of Time that contained a feature on the recent advances in electronic technology and its potential and revolutionary impact in the publishing industry.
The following year Heacock made a couple of major decisions that would dramatically affect the magazine. Sensitive to the needs of a growing family and his insurance business, he decided to sell his interest in SVRA. Since its inception, Vintage Motorsport had been an integral element of SVRA with its staff members also being responsible for the production of the magazine. When Heacock sold his share of SVRA he retained ownership of the magazine and, for the first time, VM became a separate entity.
Concurrent with the sale of SVRA, Heacock hired Art Eastman to become VM’s first full-time editor. A contributor to the magazine from the beginning, Eastman brought to the table his expertise in graphic design, photography and a genuine passion for historic race cars. In January 1988, Eastman officially became the magazine’s editor.
Another milestone was reached in January 1988, when VM began publishing six issues a year. Now with a dedicated staff of four, the magazine set about establishing itself as an independent publication—no small task considering it was widely known as the “SVRA” magazine. Since a subscription to VM was still a perk of SVRA membership, a similar arrangement was made with HMSA members to help diminish the SVRA connection.
Early in 1989, the magazine received a boost towards its goal of becoming a serious publication of record by persuading the principals of Aston Martin to co-partner in producing an issue featuring the marque’s racing history. Inspired by Aston Martin’s appearance as the honored marque at the Monterey Historics, the comprehensive and authoritative issue showcased the magazine’s potential.
Never short of ideas to improve the magazine, without the necessary resources to implement those ideas, any real progress would be difficult to accomplish. The next major step in VM’s growth came in 1990 when Syd Silverman became the majority shareholder in the magazine. Although not unlimited, the resources Silverman’s involvement brought provided the necessary capital to add a full-time staff member and maintain forward momentum. Coming from a career in publishing, Silverman’s knowledge of the industry proved to be as valuable as his monetary investment in VM’s growth.
Now equipped with the resources to fortify enthusiasm and conviction, the magazine was able to recruit the best and most respected writers and photographers in motorsport. Several in-depth articles were published, culminating in the ambitious 10-part series on Road Racing Specials beginning in 1992. This series was immediately followed by multi-part articles on the Chaparral, Can-Am and Trans-Am. The little magazine had grown up and was successfully tackling the subjects of books.
Although achieving critical acclaim is a major accomplishment, VM also needed to succeed as a viable business. Consequently, in a move to reduce costs, the editorial functions and production of the magazine were transferred from Lakeland, Florida, to a Novato, California publishing house in early 1996.
Jay Lamm became the editor effective with the May/June 1996 issue, and new art director Henry Rasmussen gave the magazine an entirely new look and logo. Lamm did seven issues before turning over the editor’s reins to automotive publishing veteran D. Randy Riggs, who became editor-in-chief of Vintage Motorsport in March of 1997, working from his office in Marin County just north of San Francisco.
Riggs believes that editors of enthusiast publications have to be enthusiasts themselves—that “sharing the passion” is an important part of the job, one of the reasons Riggs races vintage cars as often as his schedule permits. As editor, Riggs has expanded the reach of Vintage Motorsport, adding many new features to the magazine and website while capitalizing on the magazine’s core strengths as “The Journal of Motor Racing History.”
And to that end, the multi-talented Dave McGowan joined VM in September 2003 as art director, and immediately set to work to evolve Vintage Motorsport’s design and “look,” as well as developing a new brand identity for the publication. His dedication to his craft keeps every issue of Vintage Motorsport fresh, alive and “pulsing” in the readers’ hands.
Into its fourth decade, Vintage Motorsport continues to add readers, editorial, web/tablet content and advertising pages in both print and electronic editions, mirroring vintage and historic racing’s amazing popularity and growth, with more cars, participants and spectators than ever before. Watch us grow as Vintage Motorsport continues to excel as the premier voice of vintage racing and motorsport history in the U.S.