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Crankshaft: A New Automotive Magazine That Believes In The Art Of Storytelling & High-Quality Collector-Car Content – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Richard Lentinello, Owner, Publisher & Editor In Chief…

April 9, 2021

“Print is very welcoming. For a while, people were reading magazines online, but I have since heard a lot of people have gotten bored with that. A lot of people are working from home now and they’re on their computers all day. When they want to relax they don’t want to sit in front of a screen again and read. They want to go sit in their backyard in their favorite chair with a print copy, their favorite beverage alongside them, and enjoy a magazine, To have something tangible in their hands.” Richard Lentinello…

A Mr. Magazine™ Launch Story…

With his 22-year history at Hemmings Motor News, Richard Lentinello has been living and working in the automotive media world robustly and then some. After leaving Hemmings, Richard decided he wasn’t exactly pleased with the way American car magazines were handling their content and missing some of the most engaging car stories out there by not writing about them, so he decided to launch his own high quality automotive print magazine.

And Crankshaft was born. Crankshaft is a quarterly with 144 pages of non-stop automotive collector-car history. It’s well-designed, well-written, and a really refreshing addition to the automotive club of magazines.

I spoke with Richard recently and we talked about this new venture of his and his goal for the magazine. According to Richard, Crankshaft offers engaging content, thoughtfully crafted by established writers and photographers, along with his own artful input. The magazine will inform, entertain and captivate readers in a way that he believes no other magazine has done before.

So I hope that you enjoy this delightful Mr. Magazine™ interview with a man who is a true car connoisseur, Richard Lentinello, owner, publisher, editor in chief, Crankshaft.

But first the sound-bites:

On why he chose to do an automotive magazine at this moment in time: I was at Hemmings Motor News for 22 years and I left there July 31. I was sitting in my backyard thinking about what I was going to do after that. I thought the time was right for me to try something new. I knew people were stuck at home with the pandemic and people want to read when they can’t go out, so I thought it could be a good time or it could be a bad time; let’s give it a shot. (Laughs) People were telling me, it’s a pandemic, what are you doing? And I said, well, they’re stuck at home, people want to read.  

On how he came up with the name Crankshaft: The magazine is about classic cars and I didn’t want to go down the same road as classic, vintage, antique, all those names, because I figured, how are we going to attract a younger audience with those old-fashioned type names? So, I wanted to come up with something different, something that had a ring to it. I sent some of the guys that I used to work with an email and asked them to put their thinking caps on and some of them came up with Crankshaft. And I thought it was a great name.

On whether any of his friends or colleagues thought he was out of his mind for starting a print magazine during this digital age: No, no one said that to my face. (Laughs) Only one person online, when I posted it on Facebook, said that I was crazy. But you can’t listen to people like that. When I explained what I wanted to do and the focus of the magazine to everyone, they all said yes, we need this.  

On the business model he’s implementing: The business model is gut instinct. (Laughs) It may not be the best business model, that remains to be seen. I spend a lot of time at newsstands, Barnes & Noble and such, and I see so many magazines that are $14, $15, up to $20, these limited-type magazines. But a lot of them are only 112 pages or 128 pages, so we went 144 pages of good quality stock, $12.95. If you look at some of the regular car magazines out there, they’re $7 or $8, 72 pages and half of it is advertising. So how much editorial are you really getting, 30 pages?

On his favorite role: author, editor, car owner: I think it’s a little bit of all of that. I didn’t go to school to write, I went to school for interior design, interior architecture. But that’s how I look at creating magazines. You start with a foundation, then you put the interior walls in, you decorate it with photographs; so I use that same concept that I learned to create a car magazine.

On what he thinks the role of the printed magazine is today: Print is very welcoming. For a while, people were reading magazines online, but I have since heard a lot of people have gotten bored with that. A lot of people are working from home now and they’re on their computers all day. When they want to relax they don’t want to sit in front of a screen again and read. They want to go sit in their backyard in their favorite chair with a print copy, their favorite beverage alongside them, and enjoy a magazine, To have something tangible in their hands.

On whether he thinks the type of quality content of Crankshaft will be the wave of the future for American car magazines: I think it is, I really do. And it’s true about the British magazines, the quality throughout is excellent. I’ve been reading British car magazines since 1975 when I used to go to the newsstand at the Pan Am building in Manhattan.

On his reaction when the first issue of Crankshaft rolled off the presses: It is nerve-wracking. When the truck pulled up to my house with three pallets of magazines that I stuck in my garage, for a while I didn’t want to open them. (Laughs) I told myself, okay, I’m going to find all the mistakes; I’m going to find something that I don’t like. So I stood there and I opened them and it was just like when I did one of my coffee table books, you want to look at it, but you also don’t, because you don’t want to see all the mistakes. (Laughs again) But once you go through it, it’s very satisfying and rewarding. But the best part is hearing other people tell you how much they love it.

On what he hopes to accomplish with Crankshaft in one year: I hope I’m still around a year from now and can keep this magazine going, because it is an expensive proposition. Hopefully by then we’ll have some advertisers onboard to help support and fund it. And by next year I hope to have a good amount of subscribers that will help us keep it going.

On anything he’d like to add: The magazine is a very serious type of publication. We don’t use any slang; we don’t go into politics or anything like that. We focus on automotive history. That’s what it’s all about. And we try and stay focused on quality photography. Some of the writers who write for Crankshaft are some of the best in the industry.

On what makes him tick and click: Besides my three rescue dogs? (Laughs) I’ve been creating magazines since 1987 and it’s what I love. To me, it’s not a job. I’m one of the fortunate people who turned his hobby into a career. I just love the whole process of going out there and interviewing people, photographing cars, writing stories, and putting it all together in a really interesting and engaging, well-designed package. And then hearing the reader say, wow, that’s a great magazine, I love it. That’s what makes me get out of bed in the morning.

On how he unwinds in the evening: What I do sometimes is I go into my garage and work on my cars; I’m restoring some old cars. I read other magazines, mostly the British car magazines. And sometimes I write at 8:00 or 9:00 p.m. in the evening. But I really unwind by sitting down with a paper and pen and planning out the next two or three issues. I think of all the cars I’ve seen at the different shows and how I want to include them in the next issue or the issue after that.

On what keeps him up at night: All the things that float around in my head, such as is the magazine going to take off? Am I really going to be able to get advertisers to help pay the print bill? Can I keep it going? Those things keep me up at night.

And now the lightly edited Mr. Magazine™ interview with Richard Lentinello, owner, publisher, editor in chief, Crankshaft magazine.

Samir Husni: Give me the genesis of Crankshaft and on what made you decide at this moment in time to be the owner, publisher, editor in chief of a new automotive magazine.

Richard Lentinello: I was at Hemmings Motor News for 22 years and I left there July 31. I was sitting in my backyard thinking about what I was going to do after that. I looked at all the magazines that we were doing under the new leadership, how the quality was going down and how they’re pandering to advertisers. Not just Hemmings, but a lot of publishers do that. They create content for the advertisers. And I feel that’s wrong. You should create content for the readers. Those are the ones who are buying the magazine. 

Between that and the lack of quality content in the automotive industry for American-made magazines, I thought the time was right for me to try something new. I knew people were stuck at home with the pandemic and people want to read when they can’t go out, so I thought it could be a good time or it could be a bad time; let’s give it a shot. (Laughs) People were telling me, it’s a pandemic, what are you doing? And I said, well, they’re stuck at home, people want to read. 

A lot of car magazines have gone out of business in the last 10 years. I think a lot of them went out of business not because of the lack of interest from the readers, but from poor quality content. Again, pandering to advertisers, creating content that is fluffy, not hardcore, not serious. And I just felt, being a hardcore car guy… I was looking around and thinking there was no magazine that I really wanted to read. There were British car magazines, and I get them all. And they’re so well done. The British put a lot of effort in their car magazines. Quality writing, quality photography. 

And I just asked myself why doesn’t someone here in America do a quality car magazine without treating the reader like an idiot? Because all too often people think if he’s a car guy there isn’t much intelligence there, he just likes cars. And that’s not true. Car guys run the whole gamut, from plumbers  to doctors, a brain surgeon in Philadelphia, anybody and everybody can be a car guy, it doesn’t matter who they are.

We treat the readers with respect. We give them hardcore information. And that’s why I decided to launch my own magazine. 

Samir Husni: How did you come up with the name Crankshaft?

Richard Lentinello: The magazine is about classic cars and I didn’t want to go down the same road as classic, vintage, antique, all those names, because I figured, how are we going to attract a younger audience with those old-fashioned type names? So, I wanted to come up with something different, something that had a ring to it. I sent some of the guys that I used to work with an email and asked them to put their thinking caps on and some of them came up with Crankshaft. And I thought it was a great name.

The more I sat at my desk and thought about it, the more I liked it. And Joe Pep, who did the illustration for the first cover, worked in Manhattan for 22 years for DC Comics and he was a font expert. I told him that we were going to call it Crankshaft and asked him what he thought. And within one day he came up with the logo. And I think it’s attractive. A lot of young people that I showed it to love it. So we think it has legs.

Samir Husni: Besides starting a new magazine during a pandemic, did any of your friends or colleagues think you were out of your mind for launching a print publication in this digital age?

Richard Lentinello: No, no one said that to my face. (Laughs) Only one person online, when I posted it on Facebook, said that I was crazy. But you can’t listen to people like that. When I explained what I wanted to do and the focus of the magazine to everyone, they all said yes, we need this.  

Once the first issue came out and everybody started getting it, the reviews from all the readers were 100 percent positive. I didn’t receive one negative email or Facebook post at all. Everyone just absolutely loved the magazine. 

Samir Husni: You’re publishing the magazine as a quarterly with a very high cover price, $12.95, and a very high subscription price of almost $60. Since you’re targeting the magazine more toward the readers and the audience rather than the advertisers, what is the business model that you’re implementing?

Richard Lentinello: The business model is gut instinct. (Laughs) It may not be the best business model, that remains to be seen. I spend a lot of time at newsstands, Barnes & Noble and such, and I see so many magazines that are $14, $15, up to $20, these limited-type magazines. But a lot of them are only 112 pages or 128 pages, so we went 144 pages of good quality stock, $12.95. If you look at some of the regular car magazines out there, they’re $7 or $8, 72 pages and half of it is advertising. So how much editorial are you really getting, 30 pages?

In Crankshaft, you’re getting 144 pages of editorial. Once people saw the value and got the magazine in their hands, they felt it was worth the price and started subscribing or bought a single copy if they didn’t want to spend the $59.95 to subscribe. But I really think we’re on to something.

Samir Husni: You’re an author, an editor and a car lover, all combined; which role is your favorite?

Richard Lentinello: I think it’s a little bit of all of that. I didn’t go to school to write, I went to school for interior design, interior architecture. But that’s how I look at creating magazines. You start with a foundation, then you put the interior walls in, you decorate it with photographs; so I use that same concept that I learned to create a car magazine. 

But what I like best is creating content that people love to read. I go to a lot of car shows every year and I meet all these wonderful people and car owners and there are so many great stories out there that are so interesting and engaging. But they’re being lost because no one is writing about them. And I know if I find it interesting about this car owner whose 1914 Buick was bought by his great-grandfather brand new, how could you not want to read about that? How did the family keep for over 100 years? So that’s what I enjoy most, finding content, creating it, and watching readers enjoy it.

Samir Husni: What do you think is the role of the printed magazine today?

Richard Lentinello: Print is very welcoming. For a while, people were reading magazines online, but I have since heard a lot of people have gotten bored with that. A lot of people are working from home now and they’re on their computers all day. When they want to relax they don’t want to sit in front of a screen again and read. They want to go sit in their backyard in their favorite chair with a print copy, their favorite beverage alongside them, and enjoy a magazine, To have something tangible in their hands. 

I think print may make a resurgence. I think a lot of younger readers are starting to come around to the benefits of having a tangible product in their hands as opposed to just reading it from a screen. Where that will go, no one really knows, but until then we want to keep publishing and see what happens. 

Samir Husni: Do you think that Crankshaft is the way of the future for automotive magazines here in America? You mentioned earlier the quality of the British car magazines and how you see Crankshaft as along those lines and geared more toward the reader and quality content; is this a glimpse into the future?

Richard Lentinello: I think it is, I really do. And it’s true about the British magazines, the quality throughout is excellent. I’ve been reading British car magazines since 1975 when I used to go to the newsstand at the Pan Am building in Manhattan. 

I saw this British magazine called “Thoroughbred & Classic Cars” and I took it home on the subway back to Brooklyn and I couldn’t believe the quality. I wondered why American magazines weren’t like that. And they’ve just been getting better and better while the American magazines have been going downhill for a long time. 

I think it’s the way they treat people, but I do think that more magazines will come out. I hear of others in the process of being created now, along the same lines as Crankshaft. Bimonthly or quarterly, higher quality, higher-priced; it remains to be seen where that goes.

Samir Husni: What was your reaction when that first issue of Crankshaft rolled off the presses?

Richard Lentinello: It is nerve-wracking. When the truck pulled up to my house with three pallets of magazines that I stuck in my garage, for a while I didn’t want to open them. (Laughs) I told myself, okay, I’m going to find all the mistakes; I’m going to find something that I don’t like. So I stood there and I opened them and it was just like when I did one of my coffee table books, you want to look at it, but you also don’t, because you don’t want to see all the mistakes. (Laughs again)

But once you go through it, it’s very satisfying and rewarding. But the best part is hearing other people tell you how much they love it. That’s what I really like about it. Every time I open it, I see something I don’t like or I should have changed, maybe a font here or there should have been a little larger, this picture should have been a little bigger, little things that no one else would notice. It’s like the artist who sees a mistake in his painting. Only he or she sees it. But the satisfaction I get is from readers enjoying it. That’s what it’s all about for me.

Samir Husni: If you and I are having this conversation one year from now, what would you hope to tell me you’ve accomplished with Crankshaft?

Richard Lentinello: I hope I’m still around a year from now and can keep this magazine going, because it is an expensive proposition. Hopefully by then we’ll have some advertisers onboard to help support and fund it. And by next year I hope to have a good amount of subscribers that will help us keep it going. 

There is interest from some other people who want to invest in it. I’m holding off for now; I want them to see two or three issues to show them what we can do. I’m not interested in taking money from investors unless I know I have an honest, viable product that has the beginnings of a solid foundation. We’ll see what happens next year, but that’s what my goal is. To make sure that we’re still in business and subscriptions are still coming in and advertising dollars are starting to come in. 

Samir Husni: Is there anything you’d like to add?

Richard Lentinello: The magazine is a very serious type of publication. We don’t use any slang; we don’t go into politics or anything like that. We focus on automotive history. That’s what it’s all about. And we try and stay focused on quality photography. Some of the writers who write for Crankshaft are some of the best in the industry. And we’re very careful about what words are chosen; we never write down to the readers or over their heads or anything like that. We try and write as though it were a friendly conversation we’re having with the reader. And that’s where we want to stay. A magazine that everybody likes. 

Whether you like American or foreign cars, pre-war or post-war, whatever you like, you’ll find something in every issue of Crankshaft that you will enjoy. 

Samir Husni: What makes you tick and click and motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?

Richard Lentinello: Besides my three rescue dogs? (Laughs) I’ve been creating magazines since 1987 and it’s what I love. To me, it’s not a job. I’m one of the fortunate people who turned his hobby into a career. I just love the whole process of going out there and interviewing people, photographing cars, writing stories, and putting it all together in a really interesting and engaging, well-designed package. And then hearing the reader say, wow, that’s a great magazine, I love it. That’s what makes me get out of bed in the morning. 

Samir Husni: How do you unwind in the evening?

Richard Lentinello: What I do sometimes is I go into my garage and work on my cars; I’m restoring some old cars. I read other magazines, mostly the British car magazines. And sometimes I write at 8:00 or 9:00 p.m. in the evening. But I really unwind by sitting down with a paper and pen and planning out the next two or three issues. I think of all the cars I’ve seen at the different shows and how I want to include them in the next issue or the issue after that. 

Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

Richard Lentinello: All the things that float around in my head, such as is the magazine going to take off? Am I really going to be able to get advertisers to help pay the print bill? Can I keep it going? Those things keep me up at night.

Samir Husni: Thank you. 

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