I misspent a large part of my youth reading Max Power. With its potent mix of hotted-up cars and dumbed-down jokes, Max was – briefly – Britain’s bestselling car magazine. That’s no mean feat for a publication boasting ‘Show us your sister’, a feature that encouraged teenage boys to send in photos of their scantily-clad siblings.
But I digress. Because above all, Max Power was about the cars: Vauxhall Novas slammed onto 17-inch alloys, Citroen Saxos with bass bins instead of back seats and Escort RS Turbos with gasket-busting levels of boost. It spawned an entire automotive subculture, with scant regard for the opinions of older petrolheads, parents or the police.
But Max’s readers got older, and the increasing difficulty of modifying cars (along with soaring insurance premiums) saw the tuning scene decline – and Max Power with it. Its final issue was printed in 2011. However, the spirit of the mag lives on in the new Honda Civic Type R.
Now, at the age of 36, I’ll admit the ruby-ringed alloys and sky-scraping spoiler make me feel slightly self-conscious. It’s all a bit in-yer-face for a man edging towards middle-age. However, when I was 17, things would have been very different. With outrageous styling, scarlet seats, a G-FORCE METER (!) and way more power than its scrabbling front tyres can handle, the Type R would have been my perfect car.
That’s not to suggest the Honda is some half-baked ‘project car’, modded to within an inch of its life. It’s a well-engineered hot hatch that loses none of the vanilla Civic’s practicality or usability. Plus, on the right road, it’s faster than anything this side of a BMW M3.
So while some of us mourn the passing of Max, and the exciting (and yes, often terrible) cars it inspired, it somehow seems less relevant now. When you can pick from 300hp+ hatchbacks like the Type R, VW Golf R and Ford Focus RS – and have a manufacturer warranty to boot – the need to modify seems moot.
Maybe Max Power isn’t dead after all. Like most youth subcultures, it’s simply grown up and joined the mainstream.