I wasn’t going to believe it until I saw it. But I had high hopes. I kept a positive attitude.

So this is the best news I’ve had in a long time. And I wanted to share it with you as soon as I could affirm it was true.

The Rodder's Journal Issue Number 85

Yes, The Roddder’s Journal is back. There it is. Those are the front and back covers of issue No. 85. They’re not proofs, or mock-ups. Those are complete, printed and bound actual new magazines, hot off the press, ready to ship.

I’m so excited about this I’m getting ahead of myself.

Early last week someone forwarded me a photo from Facebook showing the copy with Lee Pratt’s coupe on the cover sitting on the seat of a hot rod. No pertinent info, just “It’s back.”  I knew the cover was right because I had written the story on Lee’s coupe, after Steve Coonan’s coercion, several months ago. I had seen the photos, I had seen layouts, I had written captions to fit, and I saw the final proof flats. My hopes were high. But then nothing. So after a while I emailed Geoff Miles, who still works for TRJ although he’s moved back to Australia, and he said there were the dreaded “supply chain issues” getting the paper to the printer, or the ink, or something. Otherwise the issue was done and ready to print. So I knew there was no point in my bugging Geoff or Steve. I’d wait and see.

But when I saw this photo of one apparently finished issue, I immediately emailed Geoff, and this is just part of what I got in response:

The Rodder's Journal Issue Number 85

The Rodder's Journal Issue Number 85

The Rodder's Journal Issue Number 85


Actually, what I asked last Monday was, “Please, give me some hints, clues, or actual information. Is it alive?”

And Geoff replied, “YES! We finished the issue a few weeks back. It is printed, bound, boxed, and on its way to the mailing house.  Attached are some images. Feel free to share them around if you want.”

I wasn’t sure if that meant I could show them here, in my column. And my next immediate concern was “mailing house,” given the debilitation of the U.S. Postal Service over the past few years. With all the snafus encountered already, I was certainly hoping this wouldn’t be the final one.

So I got a response from Steve Coonan the next day saying, yes, please share this with your readers–and thankyou. He also assured me that his mailing house feels confident that postal snags have been remedied.  I almost hate to say this, because it sounds so cliche’d, but as of this writing, your long-awaited, new issue of The Rodder’s Journal No. 85 should be in the mail. For real.

The Rodder's Journal Issue Number 85So here’s just a taste of what’s in it.

Most of you know Mark Skipper of Fresno, CA, for the green and white chopped ’51 Ford custom he built for his wife Kelly, which was featured in TRJ No. 59. I knew he was working in his garage on a clone of the storied-but-lost Wes Collins custom ’34 Ford roadster, because he had sent me some beginning photos and was asking if I had further historical ones. I covered it in as much historical detail as I could find in a 10-page article in TRJ No. 51. I had no idea he was this far along in the project. So I can’t wait to see the details in this bare-metal feature in the new issue.

Oh yes…  I know it can be confusing, and Steve actually semi-intended it that way from the beginning. Those are not two different magazines in the opening photo. Well, in a way they are, but not really. Every issue of TRJ has a front cover and a back cover. Most magazines have their most expensive paid ad on the back cover. But advertising is limited to a small percentage in TRJ, and never on the back cover. So each issue has the image of one car on the front, in this case Lee Pratt’s channeled Deuce Coupe, with the magazine logo above it, and the image of a different car–Mark’s bare ’34–with no logo above it, on the back cover. However, from the beginning, Steve has always printed a certain number of each issue with the back image on the front (with the logo), and the front image on the back. Exactly the same magazine inside. So the one on the left in the opening photo, with Mark’s ’34, is a “Back” issue. Why? For magazine collectors. You probably know that, though they’re somewhat pricey to begin with, every issue of the Journal tends to increase in value with age (some to hundreds of dollars). “Back” issues, being rarer, fetch even more. And a pair of front and back issues, together, are worth more than each individually. Plus, it’s an only slightly sneaky way to sell more magazines. As far as I know, The Rodder’s Journal is the only magazine to do this, ever.

The Rodder's Journal Issue Number 85TRJ has always been good at finding and featuring lost hot rods. Not junked Camaros or Dodge Chargers, but significant rods and customs with history or other intrinsic value, usually in good original or beautifully restored condition. I had heard that Pasadena-area Rodder Gary Lorenzini had acquired and restored the 150-mph Jerry Moreland “World’s Fastest Street Rod” Forty sedan, and it was on my “to-do” list for this column. But the Journal beat me to it, and I can’t wait to see more.

The Rodder's Journal Issue Number 85Speaking of customs, I am so glad that Steve fully understands the importance of custom cars, mild or wild, in the rod and custom mix. There’s a full feature on at least one in every issue, and this mild ’62 Pontiac with wide whites and all-white interior looks tasty to me.

The Rodder's Journal Issue Number 85And speaking of history, you know it’s my specialty. It’s what grounds and defines the culture that hot rodding is. And it has always been an integral component of TRJ. I wrote a whole book on Big Daddy Roth, and have hundreds of Roth photos in my collection. But none of these. I can’t wait to find out where they came from and what this story is about.

The Rodder's Journal Issue Number 85I can tell by the firewall and hood that this is a ’31 Chevy. And the engine is an all-too-familiar (to me) ’53-’62 235 (or 261 truck) inline six with full-pressure oiling and insert bearings. It obviously has two one-barrel carbs on a polished intake. What’s more unusual, today, is the split stock exhaust manifold (for dual pipes) rather than cast-iron Fenton headers. Another thing I love about the TRJ package is the mix of some high-dollar pro-shop-built cars with really nice, sometimes unusual or “off-brand,” but always cool home-built ones.

The Rodder's Journal Issue Number 85We call this the Contents Page Photo. Sometimes it comes from one of the issue’s articles, other times it’s just a great loose photo Steve finds somewhere. All I can tell you is this is a well-equipped drag club somewhere in the Midwest or East, and it’s probably about ’63 or ’64. We’ll see.

The Rodder's Journal Issue Number 85Finally, this looks like a good roundup article on classic 1940 Ford rods and customs. I should know this ’40s-era mild custom ’40 Standard convert, especially from the small bumper guards behind the ripple DeSoto bumper, but I can’t place it. However, I’m very glad to see this piece is by Greg Sharp, because he really knows this stuff and his articles are always excellent.

So that’s your sneak preview of Issue No. 85. If you’re a paid subscriber, your magazine should literally be in the mail to you by the time you read this. Steve says he’s honoring current subscribers first (as well as shipping ordered merchandise), before accepting any new subscriptions. But if you’re not subscribed, I’d suggest you watch the Rodder’s Journal website for info on how to sign up. And I further strongly suggest (and hope) you do so, because your support is what will keep this finally revived, unequaled rod and custom publication alive and well. Both Steve and Geoff said they are already at work on the next issue. I can’t wait to see this one. But I’d sure like to see more. Lots more.