In the '60s, most American car magazines were West Coast publications. CARS was one notable exception. And when the muscle-car scene heated up late in that decade, CARS Editor Marty Schorr was right in the thick of things, thanks in part to his special relationship with New York-based supercar builder Baldwin-Motion.
One day in 1976 I saw an issue of VETTE Quarterly. Marty Schorr was the editor, so I knew the magazine was going to be fun. I was right. The mag was so cool, in fact, that I wrote Schorr a letter with some article ideas and samples of my art. A week later, I was on board.
VETTE Quarterly went bimonthly in 1978, was retitled VETTE, and went monthly in 1980. Schorr eventually left the magazine to concentrate on his automotive PR agency, PMPR Inc. In 2007 I reconnected with him while researching KO-MOTION, the famous Astoria-Chas L88 '67 Corvette drag car. Last December, I talked with Schorr about his career and his Corvettes.
Vette Magazine: It sounds like a clich, but how did you get started?
Marty Schorr: I grew up in the Bronx, New York, in the mid-'50s and joined a hot-rod club in Yonkers, the "Draggin' Wheels." Members had serious hot rods, including a blown Cadillac fuel dragster and fuel coupe. There weren't many tracks in the area, so we used to race on the Bronx River Parkway and the unfinished Cross Bronx Expressway late at night. A lot of the guys got nailed by the cops with radar. Back then, if you ran away, the cops could shoot at you! It wasn't uncommon to see friends' cars with bullet holes. I could write pretty well and soon became the club's publicity director. I had a little Brownie 620 camera and got my first article published in around 1956 in Custom Rodder magazine. I got paid $25 and said, I like this! I kept practicing my skills, eventually landing a job as an editor for $100 a week. It was a dream come true.
VM: What kind of formal education did you have?
MS: I attended CCNY [City College, New York] at night for about five years, taking English, writing, advertising, and public-relations courses. I never got a degree because my freelance career took off.
VM: What kinds of cars were you driving back then?
MS: I had my parents' '51 Pontiac, a rare '40 Mercury convertible sedan, and a '33 Chevy Cabriolet. My hot ride was a cycle-fendered MG-TC with a bored-and-stroked flathead Ford V-8 60 and a four-speed. It was converted to left-hand drive, had skinny 19-inch wire wheels, no side windows or top, and I drove it all year. It handled terribly and had awful brakes, but it was incredibly quick and easily blew off Jags.
VM: Back in those days, military service wasn't always optional. What did you do for Uncle Sam?
MS: I was in the Army twice. I enlisted for six months of active duty, plus three or four years of reserve. After boot camp, I was stationed at Fort Eustis, Virginia, and got into the photography lab. It was experience that I applied to my freelance photojournalism work. A year or two into my six-month stint, I got called back because of the 1961 Berlin crisis. I didn't do anything interesting, but while stationed in Virginia, my wife and I were neighbors with astronaut Alan Shepard. I worked my Army job during the week and shot car features on weekends.
VM: When did your association with CARS begin?
MS: In 1961 I was editor of Custom Rodder and Car, Speed & Style and assistant editor of CARS. The car-magazine business was very different then. California was the epicenter of the car hobby, and Petersen Publishing owned the newsstands. CARS was one of the "secondary" magazines. Because of poor newsstand exposure, we didn't have the sales or budget for project cars like Hot Rod, Car Craft, and Popular Hot Rodding.