Long before I was given the honor of editorship here on this fine magazine, I'd always thought of Rod & Custom as catering to "mainstream traditional", the former part of that coming more into play as all the lower-class rags, as I refer to them, started cropping up. Unlike its big brother, Hot Rod, which has had to keep pace with the new cars (and yet still "try" and appease older generations at the same time), R&C has remained dedicated to true hot rods and customs all along.
Recently, after pouring through back issues while preparing for the cover car display at the Grand National Roadster Show, I came to the realization that I may have been doing more assuming than believing, at least when it comes to the R&C of the late '80s and early '90s. How could I have ever forgotten the pastels and (even worse) neons with the collaged or cheesy-themed studio covers?! Prior to that, "traditional" was probably too new to even be considered-it was simply hot rodding and customizing, just as it had been from the start. It might be a stretch for some to agree, but by today's standards, I'd consider '70s styling trends to be traditional.
Looking at R&C from its volume standpoint, that particular era would otherwise seem to me as a bad experiment if it weren't for the fact that its competition at the time (STREET RODDER, Rod Action, and American Rodder) was no different. Only problem is the competition didn't have the same heritage-despite having spent a little time away from the newsstands, R&C had still been around the block long before the others came out to play. But whether it was an attempt to compete with rival titles, to reestablish itself in the marketplace, or a combination of both along with some internal misguidance, I don't know for sure. What I do know is that the magazine looked nothing like its predecessor, nor its successor ... at least not in my eyes. Don't get me wrong, there were some great stories hidden behind those corny covers!
Today, it's a whole new ball game. What remains of the competition- STREET RODDER -is still an opponent even though it's now part of the same company (or vice versa). But regardless of what they or even any of the so-called "rat rod ragz" cater to, I don't believe that R&C needs to rely on anything above and beyond its already-established roots-just as long as it applies itself accordingly to the hobby and its enthusiasts so those roots stay firmly planted. To me, "traditional" isn't a fad or trend-it's the encompassment of hot rods and customs in their true, early form. Traditional is R&C, with no corny additives.