Holdin’ back the years

Tony Oksien looks back fondly on almost two decades of Classic American and his association with the title…

This year is a Herculean one for anniversaries and nothing in the world of classic car magazines comes bigger than the 30th celebration of a title’s very first issue. Classic American was a trail-blazer for American Car publications in the UK, taking in not only classic cars, music and lifestyle, but also giving a voice to thousands of retro American car fans. On sale to us petrol heads at the time were a couple of other titles that dealt with the hobby admirably – and still do to this day – however, Classic American reached out to a wider audience looking to embrace the whole of the American car scene.

1988 seems an awfully long time ago now, although my name never appeared in Classic American until the 1990 Winter edition, when my pride and joy at that time, a 1970 Lemon Twist Plymouth Superbird, became a feature car, photographed and written up by Nicky Wright, an early contributor to the magazine. I had to wait until 2009 for another car to be featured, which was my 1968 Plymouth Barracuda that I had restored, photographed by Craig Pusey and written up by the infamous Eddie Rodbolt.

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My first big break into automotive journalism came from Classic American’s editor Sarah Bradley who I pestered mercilessly to let me have a shot at writing a feature and photographing an American car for publication in the magazine. That car belonged to Mopar aficionado Neil Crozier who allowed himself and his outstanding 1968 Dodge Charger R/T to be my inaugural victim. A five-page feature duly appeared in the early Nineties and was written and photographed by myself.

With a promise of other features in the pipe-line I quickly realised that I needed to hone my photography and journalistic skills so I contacted my good friend Greg Rager at Mopar Muscle magazine who organised 10 days of photography training with Tom Shaw their resident snapper – I had the pleasure of assisting him around Florida shooting numerous high dollar quality muscle cars and learning the craft. Since then, my monthly column “Muscle Car Files” has been a feature of the magazine for a number of years now.

My involvement with the Mopar Euro Nats stretches back some twenty-five years and Classic American have always supported this muscle car weekend, indeed have contributed to the show by making it one of the final heats of the “Car of the Year” competition. By taking the contest around the country (and to a diversity of shows,) the magazine has engaged with all sorts of American car fans, demonstrating its commitment to the hobby and acting as a focal point for the American car community in the UK. Conversing with the public is a first-hand form of feedback from the readership and acts as a valuable source of opinions and ideas that the magazine can take on board.

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The current editor and head honcho of the magazine is Ben Klemenzson, who over the years has stamped his authority on the title and his enthusiasm and sheer love of American cars shines through the magazine. For over twenty years Ben has steered the ship through calm and troubled waters; the world of publishing is notorious for wrecks along the highway, yet Ben has always stuck with Classic American. Long may it prosper as a hands-on “old skool” publication that is dedicated to the hobby of all things American and automotive. With the show season in full swing make sure you head for the Classic American stand and have a chat!

So, summing up thirty years of the UK’s number one American car magazine, all I can say is that I look at this milestone with immense gratification not only to be an avid reader and collector, (yes, I have every copy in my collection,) but also to be a contributor to the best publication in its field, it’s an honour that’s never lost on me, as each new issue is produced, happy pearl anniversary!

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