The magazine business has been kicked in the teeth for the last decade. Launching a new one — especially one focused on a defunct brand like Pontiac — is either the act of a crazy person or a wholehearted labor of love. With Don Keefe’s Poncho Perfection, it might be a little of both.
Don Keefe has been around for a long, long time, and he’s been dedicated to Pontiac performance cars since the get-go. Back before the internet was a glimmer in Al Gore’s eye, he was Editor-in-Chief at Pontiac Enthusiast. That used to be one of two magazines focused on the brand. It published its final issue in March/April of 2010, during the nadir of the economic downturn, when magazines were closing shop at an unprecedented rate.
High Performance Pontiac was the other major Pontiac publication. It went under during the mass Source Interlink (formerly Primedia, formerly Petersen Publishing) bloodletting in 2014. HPP published its last issue in October last year, and what was left of its content was sopped up by the goliath that used to be Hot Rod magazine.
Keefe eventually went on to a contract position running Smoke Signals, the official magazine of Pontiac-Oakland Club International (POCI), resurrecting the magazine into a truly fine publication. Amid a lot of controversy this summer, Keefe’s contract wasn’t renewed, and his tenure officially ended on September 30, 2015.
Today, Keefe announced that he was going to gather the scraps of the Pontiac enthusiast community and launch a magazine of his own, which he’s calling Poncho Perfection. He’s put together a Facebook page for the publication, and a website (www.ponchoperfection.com) that will launch in early October. A print publication is coming after that.
Is it nuts to launch a print magazine now, especially one focused on a brand that hasn’t produced a car since 2009? Maybe, maybe not. The brand might be gone, but the enthusiasm for some of its cars is greater than ever.
For example, what’s left of High Performance Pontiac magazine is a Facebook page that redirects to the Hot Rod Network, with over a million fans. That might not mean much for a top-heavy publishing conglomerate, but if an enterprising publisher of a small magazine could tap into ten percent of that audience, there could be a thriving business there.
Secondly, when the economic downturn hit, it reset the cost for printing magazines, and new technologies made print-on-demand feasible. Aggressive publishers that are at the tiller of their own niche publications have a unique opportunity to take advantage of that. Poncho Perfection is going to be available digitally, too, a technology that never really hit maturity until after Pontiac Enthusiast was dead in the water.
Finally, there are thriving businesses that provide parts and services, all banking on the Pontiac brand. Companies like Ames Performance Engineering, Frank’s Pontiac Parts, Original Parts Group, Classic Industries, Year One and Butler Performance provide everything to restore or modify your vintage GTO, Firebird, Trans Am, Grand Prix and 2+2. Auction companies like Barrett-Jackson, Russo and Steele and Mecum spend freely to get you to pay attention to cars like the 1974 Pontiac Trans Am Super Duty that crossed the block at Barrett-Jackson’s Las Vegas sale in September for $110,000, or the Burt Reynolds Bandit Trans Am that sold at Carlisle last year for $170,000.
There’s interest in all these cars, and it’s not going away. We’re looking forward to a magazine that covers them.