The first iteration of Rod & Custom was started by Quinn Publishing. The magazine was a huge hit when launched in May 1953, and quickly improved in quality. The magazine was known for many "firsts": swapping a Chevrolet V8; the first project series with Dream Truck; the introduction of model cars, go-karts and dune buggies; and the emphasis on street rodding.
Due to numerous factors, it was ended in 1974 when its owner Petersen Publishing felt the magazine didn't have a suitable sales size. This happened just as street rodding was a serious trend and gaining in popularity. The decision to end the title allowed Rod Action and Street Rodder to thrive.
In this second iteration, Petersen Publishing designated Pat Ganahl to restart the title in 1988. Pat grew up reading the "little pages" magazines and loved R&C. Working at Street Rodder magazine at the time, he had made numerous pleas to "bring back R&C". Lee Kelly, head of the specialty publications division, decided to re-launch it as a bi-monthly. Pat pleaded again and was told he could run it.
Mr Ganahl pushed the boundaries and added custom cars, affordable '50s cars and street rods, classic pickups, nostalgia drags, personality profiles and historical content. He was clear in the first issue that he would ignore the arbitrary cutoff for pre-1948 cars, but he did draw the line and exclude new car tests, Pro Street vehicles, and muscle cars including Nova's, Chevelle's, Mustangs, and Camaro's. He mixed traditional with high-tech, and emphasized we should enjoy our old cars by driving them!
The magazine went through four changes in ownership starting in 1996. Robert Petersen sold his publishing company to a former Hearst executive for $450 million in 1996. Two years later, it was sold again to EMAP PLC for $1.5 billion. This was followed by a third sale to Primedia Inc. for $515 million in 2001. And, finally, Primedia sold its Enthusiasts Media Division to Source Interlink Media in 2007.
Rod & Custom is considered one of the three best hot rod magazines from the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. It ended in 2014.
No publication data are available at this time.
A total of 283 issues was printed from December, 1988 through October, 2014. However, only magazine covers are complete through 2000.