Ron Langenbahn has always loved to look at cars — inside and out, from all angles. For Langenbahn, American Motorhead Magazine is a car show with a table of contents. The longtime Pekin resident has read the magazine for five months — a long time considering that Liz and John Olsen have published only seven monthly issues.
Ron Langenbahn has always loved to look at cars — inside and out, from all angles.
“I just got involved with all these old cars when I was a teenager, and I stayed with it,” he said.
That’s why he joins other car enthusiasts at car shows and cruise-ins, where the hoods of their meticulously maintained vehicles are propped open to display pristine engines.
For Langenbahn, American Motorhead Magazine is a car show with a table of contents. The longtime Pekin resident has read the magazine for five months — a long time considering that Liz and John Olsen have published only seven monthly issues.
The magazine lists Liz as the publisher and John as advertising consultant. But, as with most enterprises that have only two staff members, they both do what’s necessary to get each issue to press and deliver magazines to readers.
“It’s a good thing John and Liz are doing,” Langenbahn said.
The Olsens’ young publishing careers started last year after he lost his job as a security guard and she lost her job at a pest control company. The Pekin residents reasoned that an automotive magazine would mesh John’s lifelong interest in cars, Liz’s experience in photography and graphics, and their desire to be self-employed.
The monthly result is a glossy magazine that features articles and photos from cruise-ins and car shows in central Illinois; the pages of American Motorhead feature pictures of machines that local car buffs might find at their next event.
“We concentrate on central Illinois,” Liz said. “We branch over to Pontiac, Lincoln, Springfield, Metamora. Each month we spread out our circulation a little bit further.”
Liz said their 16-page April edition, which focused on classic cars, had a reader base of 200. Since then, American Motorhead has grown to 32 pages, which feature newer cars as well as
classics, and now has a reader base of 10,000.
The magazine is available free at its advertisers’ locations and at many local cruise-ins and car shows. And all the cruise clubs in the area get enough copies to supply their memberships.
John Olsen acquired an interest in cars as a boy in the 1960s, at least partly due to his older sister’s boyfriends.
“All the guys she dated had old cars, so I was exposed to that at a young age,” he said. He took auto mechanics courses and developed a mechanical ability that later drew him into office equipment repair.
His first car was a 1955 Ford Custom Line with rust around the headlights; he paid his brother-in-law $150 for it. As the years passed, he bought and sold Camaros, Mustangs, Chargers, Challengers, Novas and others. Today, he owns a 1980 Corvette. John’s wife of 27 years is not quite the dyed-in-the-wool car enthusiast that he is, but she’s learning. She has worked a variety of jobs, including cashier, secretary and typesetter, and she’s just shy of earning a bachelor’s degree from DePaul University. For 12 years, the Olsens ran a copier repair and sales shop.
They’ve had to learn a lot of the publishing business on the fly, they said, and they have to tend to countless details.
“We had to decide the sizes of ads, how we want the magazine to look, what cars to feature,” Liz said. “It was a long process to figure out what we wanted. We wanted to be different, and I think we achieved that.”
Now the Olsens see American Motorhead Magazine as a way to recognize local car buffs and their love and devotion to their machines. The August edition featured a Ford 250 pickup truck that had been painted with murals as a tribute to a young man who died of cancer.
“They were lovely people,” John said of the truck owners. “We could relate to that story.”
“It’s not just a piece of metal with a bunch of paint on it,” Liz said. “There’s meaning behind all these vehicles you see out there.”
The Olsens said they have enjoyed meeting car owners at various events in central Illinois.
“The people are super,” John said. “We’ve met a lot of good people.
“This has been a blessing really. I’ve probably got the best job in the world. Or best hobby — whichever.”
It’s more of a hobby at the moment because the magazine’s advertising sales are just enough to keep the business afloat. That’s common with new businesses, the Olsens said, especially in a tough economy.
“But we’ve had good response to our magazine,” John said.
That’s the way Langenbahn sees it.
“I have a lot of friends with stock and muscle cars, and they all read it,” he said.
“The pictures are just beautiful,” he added. “It shows the cars in detail and in close-up shots. And it shows the color of the car the way it is.”
Lagenbahn’s own pride and joy — a 1969 Camaro SS— is featured in the September edition. He was pleased to note that the hugger orange on the car body came out hugger orange on the printed page as well.
“Now my friends are trying to get in the magazine too,” he said.
Pekin Daily Times