Rod & Custom - Magazine Covers - 1953 to 1960
Rod & Custom was started by Quinn Publishing under the leadership of Bill Quinn. Bill left Road & Track and took Hop-Up magazine with him, along with Lou Kinsey (artist and writer) and Ralph Poole (photographer). Dean Batchelor joined in April 1952.
Hop-Up struggled financially due to its small size and lack of advertisers, so in March, 1953 Quinn went to a larger print format. Readers wrote and many complained about the change, so Quinn assigned Spencer Murray to create Rod & Custom in a small trade- or pocket-sized format similar to what Hop-Up had done in 1951.
Hop-Up was folded into Rod & Custom in the April 1954 issue when Quinn decided to position Motor Life to compete against Motor Trend. In May 1955, Quinn sold Rod & Custom and Motor Life titles to Petersen Publishing. The first publication of Rod & Custom under the Petersen empire was June 1955.
Rod & Custom was a huge hit when launched in May 1953, and quickly improved in quality. It went to a full-sized print format in 1961. The magazine was known for many "firsts": swapping a Chevrolet V8; the first project series with Dream Truck; the introduction of model cars, go-karts and dune buggies; and the emphasis on street rodding. However, Rod & Custom mostly concentrated on customs and hot rods, and it stayed true to its mission.
The magazine was published continuously through June, 1971 then was cancelled by Petersen and folded into Hot Rod magazine. It was resurrected briefly in July, 1972 and was printed until May, 1974 when it was cancelled a second time. Then it was revived again in December, 1988 under the editorial leadership of Pat Ganahl.
PUBLICATION DATA: In the beginning, Rod & Custom started strong and was consistently in #4, #5 or #6 position in print volumes among automotive titles that provided paid circulation details. But through the period ending in 1968 to 1970, it fell to #10 or #12 position. Its growth rate from 1955 to 1970 was 1.3% annually, which was too low given the general automotive magazine market was growing 16% annually. It's obvious that R&C wasn't competitive among other strong magazines.
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