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.