Wheel out the cake and party poppers: Autocar is 120 years old this month - so it's time for a trip down memory lane to sample a vehicle almost as old as the magazine.
It's actually a bit of a belated birthday celebration as this publication reached the golden 1-2-0 on Monday 2 November. Autocar was founded by William Iliffe and Henry Sturmey back in 1895, after someone brought a new-fangled horseless carriage to their offices. Iliffe’s family owned a printing company while Sturmey was editor for The Cyclist magazine. The former was looking to produce a new magazine, so asked the latter if he thought cars had a future. After getting yes as an answer, Iliffe exclaimed: “Then we will bring out a paper about them… tomorrow!”
The first issue may have only had 12 pages of editorial but it proved to be an instant success, even with a sub-24 hour deadline. By 1896 the first road test had been completed, while the 1920s saw these reviews become more structured, turning into the test we know today. Road test number one didn’t come about until 1928, but we are now on 5241 - and counting.
Autocar has also had plenty of scoops, even back in the early days. We were the first publication to reveal pictures of the Ford Model T’s replacement, the Model A, and the first to get behind the wheel WO Bentley’s first car, in 1918. We also drove the first Mini on a marathon month-long, 8200-mile journey, starting five whole days before the milestone model was even announced. But while the core of what makes Autocar the magazine we know and love hasn’t changed much in the past 120 years, the cars themselves have gone through an astonishing transformation.