My first issue of IronWorks – April, 1993, left, and the last, March, 2014.
IronWorks Ends 24-Year Print Run
My March, 2014 issue of Ironworks arrived just in time to coincide with the news that publication of the long-running indy v-twin book was ending as of Volume 24, Issue Number 2. Never saw that coming? Actually, a disappointment, not a surprise.
I first came to know the popular culture niche IronWorks 20-plus years earlier. That would be IW Vol. 3, No. 2, April, 1993. Whadyaknow; an even 21 years of familiarity.
I’d just started work as advertising creative director at Easyriders. Truett & Osborn, my first bike client as a freelancer some years before, needed a small (is there any other size?) b&w ad. I was able to accommodate the Wichita aftermarket flywheel manufacturer by forwarding what was referred to then as an ad slick for reproduction to Dennis Stemp Publishing in Versailles, PA.
When my proof copy arrived I was surprised to discover that Dennis and I shared rides: Willie G’s H-D orphan, the XLCR. And while the few hot rod examples I’d seen revolved mostly around Thunder Heads, Dennis saw fit to go flat out by swapping an XR1000 dual carb beastie for the otherwise anemic stock 61-incher the original shipped with.
Several years later we met for the first time in Cordelle, Georgia. Dennis and Marilyn were on their way to Birmingham, I was returning home from Louisiana, and this seemed a logical place to get together.
ironworks sold, invades newstands
By then, Dennis, Marilyn and the kids had made the move to Morganton, NC, and the book was owned by Birmingham trade publisher Hatton-Brown, their only consumer product. He and his wife formed the nucleus of a formidable collection of Harley institutional knowledge, surfing the break of a boomer driven biker wave.
We talked mostly about the various trade and craftwork involved in putting out a publication. Dennis, with an art direction background honed in corporate Pennsylvania, tried mightily to inspire a professional regard for design in a DIY industry that continues to struggle with the concept of appearance as an investment.
He’d hung out briefly in Indian Rocks Beach, so we were both surprised to imagine how we may have crossed paths at a central Pinellas printer he worked for and that I occasionally used. On the eve of first desktop publishing, then the web, Dennis was one of the very few industry talents I’ve known who was as comfortable with an X-Acto blade on the design side as he was a micrometer on the build end.
We’d see each other at Indy, Myrtle Beach, Daytona. We collaborated on a couple of projects: the first serious print review of Confederate’s V-twin anomoly, and one build project that I still consider the most fearsome raw expression of mechanical adaptation I’ve seen, his Flyin’ Fossil dual-carb, mag fired 93-inch Accurate Engineering Knucklehead (IW Vol. 10, No. 2 – March, 2000).
So it came as an ugly shock when Dennis, not known for excess in a culture devoted to lifestyle chance taking, died in 2000 from a particularly brutal form of cancer. (AdFax 15, Vol. 4, No. 3 – July, 2000.)
january 2014 – end of the line
What was it about IronWorks that proved popular? For awhile IW ran with the tagline, “The Thinking Man’s Harley Magazine.” Good luck with that now, but for me it didn’t require parsing – IW was about Harleys, PBR and nothing but.
After I heard IW had reached the end of the line, I dug up my first copy to see what the fuss was all about. What I found on page 34 was the latest on Alan Sputhe’s 95-inch Not A Harley 60-degree V-Twin. And there, just across the gutter on page 35, was the detailed heritage of Nostalgia Cycle’s Super Vee that included a reference to Supercycle publisher Steve Iorio, who I freelanced for several times.
For those who don’t know, the original engine derived from the front two cylinders of a Chevy small block. Boom. If that ain’t hot roddin’, I don’t know what is.
For now, Marilyn Stemp is channeling the original zeitgeist of Dennis’ vision into a new, web-driven venture called Iron Trader News.