• Mar 11th 2010 at 7:55PM
  • 34
Celebrating the art of the magazine cover – Click above for high-res image gallery

In the high-stakes game of magazine publishing, there's one critical component that can either make or break an entire issue. What are we talking about? The cover. Get it right and an editor-in-chief can move an extra few thousand copies to casual passers by at the nearest magazine stand. Get it wrong, as Car and Driver undeniably did for its April 1987 issue with the wretched Zimmer Quicksilver on the cover, and you end up with the worst-selling edition in the magazine's storied history.

We just happened upon what may be the very best (or worst, depending on your point of view) time waster in the history of the Internet. It's called Coverbrowser.com, and it allows you to see over 450,000 magazine and comic book covers dating back to well before most of us were even born. Using this tool, we dug up some of the best, worst and just plain ridiculous automotive magazine covers in the history of the universe... or something like that.

For instance, do you think unintended acceleration is in some way a new phenomenon? Think again. Can a Buick be worth $65K in 1980 dollars? Yes, according to C&D. Remember the Cadillac Cimarron? See here. Did Oldsmobile ever make a European-inspired sedan worthy of enthusiasts? Apparently, yes. The 1982 Olds Omega, built atop the X-car chassis. Can a lowly pickup truck from GMC outgun a bright red Ferrari? Sure can. How about when a 134-mph Ford was newsworthy?

Just for fun, we also analyzed a few trends in magazine covers. It seems that high-priced exotics were nearly always worthy of being shot with an equally tantalizing female model. See here, here, here and here. And, though there are rare exceptions, Japanese cars didn't necessarily get models unless you count robot ninjas and samurais. Oh, and there's always room for a little misplaced patriotism, right?

All of this raises an interesting question. What's the blogging equivalent of a magazine cover? What will we all be waxing poetic about 30 years from now when we look back at Autoblog? Whatever the case, check out our gallery of awesome (or sometimes not) magazine covers below, and be sure to kill an hour or two over at Coverbrowser.com when you're done. Got any favorites of your own? Feel free to discuss amongst yourselves in the Comments section.

[Source: Coverbrowser.com]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      Laughed my ass off at the comparo cover between a GMC Cyclone VS Ferrari 348.

      Would love to see how many lawyers Bandai could throw at Motor Trend today if they threw a Gundam model and a Nissan GTR on a cover.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Neat stuff. As a C&D subscriber back in the late 70's and early 80's I clearly remember a couple of those covers like the one from May 1979 with the X car on the cover (my uncle had one of those, the X-11) and the "Seven Econoboxes!" from July of 1978. In particular, I remember the Pinzgauer article from that issue. I really enjoyed those magazines, every issue showed me another car, maybe even a carmaker, that was new to my 12 year old self.

      I'm still looking for the one from 1977 with the RX-7 on the cover, my first car magazine.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I remember the Pinzgauer article. C/D was a little obsessed with those for awhile. As for the M-B Boss Wagon, it rear-ended a console color TV that some hooligans left sitting on the highway, doing a number on the front end. Good times.
      • 5 Years Ago
      That is a good question Autoblog. What will we be looking back at 30 years from now when referring to Autoblog? Hmmmm....
      • 5 Years Ago
      I am a hugemongous Fan old 60's 70's and 80's - thru early 90's nostalgia and Americana.

      I almost look at it like a hobby, i loved to take a magazine from the older days, and flip through it, and see all the old ads and marketing, and see how much times have changed between now and then.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I lold at the "UNINTENDED ACCELERATION" sub-headline. Hahahaha
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'm not gay or anything,
      but why did they have to ruin the cover with the Countach by putting that broad infron of it?
      Notice how the lambo looks timeless, whereas she...doesn't.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Andre Neves

        You didn't offend me in any way. I was actually agreeing with you. I never understood why there are women in CAR magazines either. Like you said there is a place for everything. I'd MUCH rather look at the Lamborghini! Cheers :p
        • 5 Years Ago

        Because every time I complain about these photo spreads where you have women taking up 25-50% of the car, the typical response is..."uh, what are you, gay"?

        No, I just prefer to see the CAR and could care less about the girl. I'm 26 yrs old, which is well above the age required to purchase a Playboy or FHM magazine if I want to look at women. I just think there is a place for it and it's not in a car magazine. You don't pick up Plane & Pilot magazine and see women laid out infront of aircraft...so why in a car magazine?

        Didn't mean to offend you(if I did), but it was not meant as a insult to gay people. I sometimes have trouble wording my thoughts.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Andre Neves

        Why do you have to clarify that you're not gay? Any sane enthusiast would rather see the Lamborghini over that chick anyday. Then again, I'm gay so what do I know? :p
      • 5 Years Ago
      I've read practically all of those C/D and R&T issues (which tells you how long I've subscribed to those).
      • 5 Years Ago
      The drugs in the 80s must have been incredible to make those cars look good. Or did everyone during the 80s realize how ugly they were and buy them because they didn't have a choice?
        • 5 Years Ago
        It is context.

        Compared to 1970s cars, 1980s cars looked better.

        It is always different when looking 30 years backwards at it.

        For instance... from the February 1980 cover...
        Subaru GL 1600cc 5spd and what a body
        AMC Eagle four-wheel-drive wonder wagon

        My, how things have changed. No Subaru would now be described as "what a body", and they are now the company of the four wheel drive wonder wagons, and AMC is a distant memory, long gone.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Think of 80's cars as the equivalent of today's skinny jeans. They look awful, but when that is all that's in the stores, you make the best of it. I subscribed to MT for years and well remember a lot of these covers, and the anticipation of getting the next issue.

        Seeing them again, what stands out to me is how much these publications did try to cheerlead for the US makers. It seems we've heard about the media "anti-domestic bias" for a long time, but that only took hold after literally decades of non-competitive products.

        These poor editors were grasping at straws, constantly putting the Cimmaron in comparison tests with BMWs and Audis, and playing up the Olds Omega Euro as "a car for enthusiasts." LOL If I remember correctly, the only thing "euro" about that thing was blackwall tires, black trim instead of chrome and some mildly revised nose cap.

        Not much to work with, but when everything was slow, boxy and horribly built, you had to try and find something to be happy about.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'm so glad you included the S12 (Nissan 200SX) cover... :)

      S12 Love

      • 5 Years Ago
      I love how on the Syclone vs Ferrari cover, the felt they needed to explain which car was which:
      "GMC Syclone (LEFT) vs. Ferrari 348"

      I'm glad they cleared that up....I was confused.
      • 5 Years Ago
      If you go to the Car and Driver link on the previous comments page, read some of the articles. I can remember the 'Escape from Baja' comparison test, how some of the cars never made it home.

      For a while (maybe late 80's) I actually went to the local used book store and bought old C&D and R&T magazines. I must have 15 boxes of em around here somewhere. I especially loved the Road & Track 'Exotic Cars' specials they put out in the late 80's to early 90's. Always planned on scanning them in, never got around to doing it.

      My most prized magazine from the book store was September 68' "Italy vs. England" with the 'flags' on the cover.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I was thinking the same thing: "is it wrong that I have half of these?"

      By the way, Car & Driver has uploaded great-quality PDF scans of several of their best articles from the '60s through the '80s--including a couple of the issues in the above list. Not sure why C&D buried them so deep in the site, but here's the link:

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