When you are in the business of writing for car magazines, it’s easy to forget how meaningful our work is to our readers. The forward momentum of getting assignments completed tends to broom aside the fact that for tens of thousands of subscribers and readers, once a month, their Corvette friends arrive in their mailbox; full of Corvette news, stories, history, beautiful photography, how-to stories and art. And when you are a young person, the magazines can seem bigger than life—that was certainly my experience. So, one hot summer day in 1976, while at my favorite magazine shop I spotted something new. “What’s this?” I said out loud. “Vette Quarterly … hmmm.”
As I paged through the issue, it had a familiar flavor and style. Then I saw the From the Editor’s Desk column and recognized the editor—it was one of my car magazine monthly friends: Martyn L. Schorr. Hi-Performance Cars magazine had been my favorite car magazine since the summer of 1966 when they scooped the upcoming new Chevy Camaro (code named “Panther”). Under Marty Schorr’s leadership, CARS delivered sparkling road tests and photo features of the hottest Chevy supercars on the planet. For example, the Baldwin-Motion Phase III Supercars. I never missed an issue.
The magazine was out of New York City and Marty and his crew were mostly New York guys, with New Yorker “addytudes.” Think “Sopranos” but without the baseball bats, just lots of bad-ass street/strip cars. It was all big fun. So, when I saw that the new Vette Quarterly was a Marty Schorr production, I knew it would be great, and I knew I wanted to be a part of the experience. I immediately made copies of my best Corvette drawings and sent a letter, offering to be a contributor. A week later I received a phone call. “Hi Scott, this is Marty Schorr with Vette. I got your samples, very nice work. So, what would you like to do?” And that was the beginning of my relationship with Vette magazine.
Marty was quite the entrepreneur in the car magazine world back then. In addition to Vette Quarterly (the magazine started out as a four-times-a-year enterprise) Schorr was producing Thunder-Am (a Pontiac magazine), Chevy Action, and several “Annual” special editions, aka “one-shots.” Since the beginning of magazine publishing, every magazine has lived or died based on advertising revenue. Vette certainly wasn’t the first niche car magazine within the large category of “car” magazines. There were all kinds of subdivisions for different kinds of racing and interests. But Vette may arguably have been the first newsstand “car brand” niche magazine. By the 1980s the car brand magazines exploded, with mostly bi-monthly publications for all the most popular car brands. Vette helped get the trend rolling and quickly went from a quarterly publication in 1976 to a bi-monthly in 1978. By 1988, Vette was being published eight times a year, and finally by March 1989, went monthly.
To back up just a little, by 1981, after over 20 years in various title car magazines and books Schorr left Vette to start his own public relations and marketing agency: PMPR, Inc. Marty’s name continued on the magazine’s masthead as “Founding Editor” and he wrote a monthly opinion column titled, “Retrospect” until 1992. Late in 2008, I interviewed Marty Schorr for the June 2009 issue of Vette magazine. I asked Marty how his relationship with Corvettes began. His answer took me all the way through to the creation of Vette Quarterly.
Martyn L. Schorr: “When I was growing up in the ’50s, Corvettes were for rich kids and older guys. When I started working at CARS, if I wanted to drive a Vette I could borrow one from Chevrolet PR, Motion, or Baldwin Chevrolet. So, I had other cars; a show-winning hot rod roadster, the CARS magazine 390 Javelin project car and a Corvette-powered Baldwin-Motion Iso Grifo sports car.
“I always admired the Corvette’s ability to sell magazines. Issues with Corvettes on the cover or major Corvette features always spiked sales. Then we started doing annuals, or as we called them, ‘one shots.’ Around ’75, two years after I left CARS, I proposed a Corvette-only magazine. We went back-and-forth with Chevrolet over the title and settled on VETTE Quarterly. We got the first issues out and kept working the advertising until we were able to get the book bi-monthly, and finally monthly in ’80. Those were tough times; muscle cars were dead but the passion for Corvettes was alive and well.”
After Schorr’s departure, Vette’s commander and chief was Cliff Gromer from 1981 to 1989. Here’s how Cliff recalls his time in the editor’s chair.
Cliff Gromer: “Fun times, those, running Vette for the CSK/JHS juggernaut. ’Course I was blessed with a team of crack staffers and contributors, including D. Randy Riggs, Tony DeFeo, Bill Erdman, Larry Solnik and the ever-resourceful Steve Files among others—all fiercely loyal to the end. CSK was a hoot to work for, especially when the publisher was out of town. And as I recall, it paid pretty good, too.”
D. Randy Riggs became a staff Vette writer in 1987 and by December 1988 became Vette’s third editor. Car magazine contributors and editors tend to stay in the field because we love it. Randy has been the editor and publisher of Vintage Motorsport magazine since 1997. Riggs guided the magazine and kept us up with the latest and greatest. The C4s were coming into their own; SCCA Showroom Stock was dominated by the new C4 from 1985 to 1987; Callaway was the king of specialty Corvettes with its Callaway twin-turbo option (RPO B2K); and John Lingenfelter drove the Callaway Sledgehammer to a record-setting 254.76 mph, which is arguably still the fastest street Corvette ever. The ZR-1 was the new Corvette King of the Hill and Tommy Morrison’s team set an average 24-hour speed of 175.885 mph. It was a great time for Corvettes. Here’s what Randy had to say.
D. Randy Riggs
D. Randy Riggs: “I have many very fond memories of my days at Vette that lasted nearly 10 years, from 1987 to 1996. I became Editor-in-Chief beginning with the Dec. 1988 issue and made several immediate changes and feel like we moved the magazine to a higher level, though I was forever hampered by a very tight budget—one that often sacrificed print and paper quality and limited the number of color pages available. In short, we could have made the magazine much better visually. Along the way, Vette founder Marty Schorr always had my back. Thanks, Marty!
“Fun was introducing women contributors to the magazine and helping to launch the stellar careers of Jim Campisano (writer, editor and today with Power Nation TV) and Richard Prince (today one of the world’s top motorsport photographers), a Corvette Club feature in every issue, a once-a-year Ladies Who Own and Drive Corvettes issue that the readers loved (ladies sent in photos by the hundreds) and we later did police and firefighters, too. We went from eight issues a year to a monthly in March of 1989, the issue that featured the 254.76-mph Callaway Sledgehammer.
“I went to every Corvette show imaginable (photographed the Bloomington Gold Road Tour hanging out the side of a helicopter), got to meet most of my Corvette heroes and became friends with Zora Arkus-Duntov and Larry Shinoda, drove thousands of miles in every new Corvette that came down the road and joined the magazine soon enough to attend the still talked about ZR-1 introduction in France. Epic! There was fun around very corner and we worked hard at bringing that to our readers.
“What topped it all was meeting so many enthusiasts from the world of Corvettes, many still my friends today. Thanks to all of you who were along for the ride back when I was in the driver’s seat. I know you were at the redline with me.”
Early in 1996, Vette’s new captain was Richard A. Lentinello. During Richard’s tenure, Vette magazine went through a tectonic change. Primedia bought out CSK Publishing and, starting with the February 1998 issue, Vette was now a West Coast magazine. Richard Lentinello stayed on the East Coast and went on to a spectacular career with Hemmings Motor News.
Bill Moore’s editorship started late in 1998 and had a blast doing road trip features. But times were a’ changin’ and readers wanted more how-to and feature stories on modified and specialty Corvettes. Just like the Beach Boys sang in “California Girls,” “The west coast has the sunshine and the girls all get so tan…” The West Coast-photographed cars looked brighter and more colorful. California’s clear skies and bright light makes cars look extra special.
Bob Wallace started in spring 1999 and definitely had a flare for speed, power, performance and racing. The covers were always dynamic and the content nicely varied, which was becoming more and more challenging. Under Wallace’s leadership, Vette kept readers up with the spectacular C5-R Corvette Racing Team. With Chevrolet solidly behind the C5-R, each victory was a savory treat. The introduction of the all-new small-block Chevy LS1 in the 1997 Corvette was a total game changer. Parts makers and tuners quickly learned how to make astonishing amounts of power. There’s so much red meat left inside the LS engines. If more power is what you lust for, LS engines are the way to go. From here forward, easy-to-complex tech features were abundant.
The switch to Primedia was visibly noticeable in the very first issue. Previously, around 50 percent of the magazine was in black and white. Color pages were saved for feature stories. Within a few years, black and white pages became the exception rather than the norm. Vette magazine entered the digital age, too! By the end of Wallace’s first year, Vette magazine went “online” with www.vetteweb.com. Seventeen years ago, this was a really big deal! Today, Vette stories first appear online under the www.superchevy.com banner: www.superchevy.com/vette-magazine.
The July 2005 issue was edited by Drew Hardin and the following month, Jay Heath took over as Vette’s eighth editor. Here’s what Jay had to say about his tour of duty.
Jay Heath: “I took over as editor in early 2005, back when the magazine still ran some black-and-white pages. Mercifully, we went to a full-color format not longer after, greatly improving the appearance of the book. The biggest change, however, came in 2010, when Vette merged with sister publication Corvette Fever, which was then discontinued. Thanks to a fresh infusion of resources and a substantial upgrade in package quality, the ‘new and improved’ Vette that resulted was much better equipped to compete in a rapidly changing market segment.”
By the end of 2007, Source Interlink Media, publisher of almost all of the top name car magazines began publishing Vette. The Great Recession of 2008 hit publishing hard and many titles were closed and/or merged. In 2009, the publisher needed to consolidate its two Corvette magazines: Vette and Corvette Fever. Specialty magazines are fine, but the company had two in the same niche … so one had to go. An office survey determined that Corvette Fever sounded too much like Saturday Night Fever and disco. Whereas, people often refer to their “Vette,” or owners are asked, “What year is your Vette?” So, Vette survived again and was given a total makeover.
The difference between the October 2010 and November 2010 issues was another tectonic shift. The entire magazine is now in color and printed on thicker, high-quality paper and “perfect bound” (no staples), and printed on the spine was the issue date, a few feature story titles, and the website address: www.vetteweb.com. There was a new Vette logo and the entire layout had a uniform graphic look. The new Vette magazine was bigger too, 1/4-inch wider and 3/8-inch taller. Page count went from 84 pages to 100 pages.
Jay Heath moved on to Corvette Magazine and in July 2014 Super Chevy and Chevy High Performance tech editor Steven Rupp took over the captain’s chair at Vette. When Marty Schorr started Vette Quarterly in 1976 there was only one “big” Corvette show, the Bloomington Corvette Corral; which later became Bloomington Gold. Today, Bloomington Gold continues on, plus there’s; the Corvettes at Carlisle Show, Mike Yager’s Corvette Fun Fest, NCRS events all over America, plus events at the National Corvette Museum. And while Vette editors might not be “required” to attend every event, it’s good for the magazine for the editors to attend the big ones; on top of managing, editing, writing stories, and planning future issues that evenly cover seven generations of cars.
Vette was part of the Source Interlink family of automotive publications and internet-based video shows, such as the very popular Roadkill series. Life inside large companies can be very fluid. The January 2015 issue of Vette the guest editor was Nick Licata, former editor of Camaro Performance magazine. The following month Rupp was back and stayed on as editor to the August 2015 issue.
Scott Parker was five-point-harness-strapped into the driver’s seat from the September 2015 issue through the August 2016 issue. Scott was Editor-in-Chief with the now defunct GM High-Tech Performance magazine, Online Editor of 10 Source Interlink brands and Associate Content Director of the Super Chevy Network. Scott’s background at GM High-Tech Performance magazine and on the digital side made him the perfect Corvette man for our time. Modern tuners are tech tuners, and Scott helped us all get up to speed with the latest, greatest electronic wizardry in the hobby.
Vette magazine is a survivor. It has been a unique opportunity for me to be a contributing artist and writer for Vette since the second issue. When I spoke with Marty Schorr about this retrospect look at the magazine, he said, “I can’t believe it’s lasted this long.” I agree. It’s a surprising thing to stop and look back at. All along the way we were all focused on getting our current assignments completed and deciding on the next article or event to cover. And while we celebrate 40 years of publishing, Vette magazine is at the end of another chapter, as we wait to see who will be the next occupant of the editor’s chair.
And the beat goes on…
About the Author: K. Scott Teeters has been a contributing artist and writer with Vette magazine since 1976. You can follow his work at www.illustratedcorvetteseries.com.