Still Hammerin’
Rob Fortier headshot
Things, They Ain’t What They Used To Be …

ctober officially marks my 30th anniversary in the automotive publishing industry. Reflecting back on the past three decades, it amazes me not only how things have changed dramatically, but it also makes me feel blessed that there’s still a hobby to enjoy—and put food on the table.

To put things into perspective for the younger readers, when I started out back in 1993, the word “digital” was not in the magazine business dictionary. (Heck, the Internet wasn’t either!) I photographed everything with a non-metered Canon F1 SLR, wrote everything on an IBM 286 PC, and printed everything on dot matrix paper to be proofread by hand with a red grease pencil. But that was just the article preparation portion of being a magazine editor.

The industry itself was an entirely different animal—it was a beast! Street rodding was huge and the names behind the big builds—Coddington, Lobeck, Brizio, Fat Jack—were rock stars in their own rights. I honestly felt like a groupie with VIP access to all the big gigs the first couple years cutting my teeth. The best part was, I was a hobbyist first and foremost, so my job wasn’t really a j-o-b. Being able to immerse yourself in something you love on a daily basis was—and still is—unreal. But, it wasn’t—and isn’t—an easy means of employment, not by any stretch.

For the first couple decades, your average editor (not the unnecessarily spoiled ones in L.A.) ran the gamut when it came to job duties: I/we shot features (and covers), tech, and event coverage—and wrote the accompanying stories thereafter. If you weren’t proficient at all three, you either got seriously promoted or relegated to “staff photographer” status, which, looking back, wasn’t all that bad.

Five years in, either due to my extreme charm or ability to handle the abovementioned tasks, and then some, I secured my first magazine (Custom Rodder), and that’s when things really started to take off. The not-so-easy means of employment finally turned into a real job, despite the multitude of additional responsibilities. But it was that initial editorship position that truly threw me in the aftermarket waters headfirst, and there was no looking back from that point. Working closer with the advertisers/manufacturers/retailers as well as the builders/vehicle owners and even the event promoters showed me what a wonderfully diverse world I not only worked in, but lived in. And I loved it—especially once I’d moved on to take over Classic Trucks magazine.

But as the publishing world became way more corporatized, the charm began wearing off. Don’t get me wrong, I still loved what I did … it just became more of a job. What started out as a situation where I worked with like-minded (i.e., hot rodders) people all around me had evolved into working for committees, so to speak. As the suits and meetings multiplied, the fun dissipated. What kept me going through that period was the ability to continue building the cars and trucks I loved, but just as importantly, to work with an industry and the builders/owners I still loved. Without that, there’d be an orange apron or white uniform stained with fry grease hanging in my closet now.

Fortunately, that corporate entity is what brought us In The Garage Media! I’ve said it before, and I’ll gladly say it again: Working with like-minded gearheads is what lit my fire 30 years ago, and having the ability to do so here in 2023 with a tight-knit group of lifelong hot rod paper pushers is something I only dreamed of 10 or so years ago. But here we are, and I’m damn glad to be able to produce magazines for you all to enjoy! Thank you for your continued support!