|First issue||November 1998|
In the mid-1990s, then Harpenden-based farmer and property developer Harry Metcalfe had become involved in car tests for magazine publishers, after he purchased the first Maserati Ghibli Cup in 1994, through which he had made contacts into the motoring media. After EMAP decided to integrate specialist magazine Performance Car into Car magazine in 1998, Metcalfe and motoring journalist John Barker began forming plans to fill what they saw as a gap in the specialist motoring magazine market.
Metcalfe formed the business and would run the business side, with Barker joined by writers including Richard Meaden, David Vivian and Peter Tomalin all holding a minority share. Metcalfe created a business plan based on potentially selling his family holiday home in Wales, and although turned down for a loan for the business, he initially financed the three month launch period through a £275,000 loan originally designated to fund a grain store on his farm. Employing a research group, the original name was proposed by them to be Roadsport Magazine (also the name of a hill climbing journal). At a group brain storming session one day, after pointing out that there was a mobile phone company called Orange and a magazine called Red - neither of which included what they did in the title, but had an association with their market - whilst flicking through Autocar magazine Metcalfe suggested EVO based on seeing a Maserati Quattroporte Evoluzione in the future cars section. After proving successful in branding, the name stuck.
The first issue of EVO was produced in November 1998, and after the publication of the third issue in January 1999 - the Car Of The Year edition - the business was cash flow positive, with a worldwide readership of 30,000. Later writers included Henry Catchpole, Jethro Bovingdon, Russell Bulgin and Chris Harris. EVO was aimed, created and edited to be a virtual maverick car club, with typical stunts including buying and driving an original Audi Quattro to the launch of the Audi TT in Italy, and the forming of a supercar pool including a Ferrari F40.
Conscious that the business's success was bound to a single 13x a year publication, Metcalfe was approached by Future Publishing to sell the business. Conscious of the EVO-gang and approach that had been created, Metcalfe asked the Sales Director to approach his friend Felix Dennis about a counter bid. Dennis Publishing acquired the title in April 2001, with a readership of 40,000.
Dennis Publishing enabled the magazine to reduce its costs in both printing, distribution as well as IT; as well as increasing subscriptions and distribution, especially overseas licensing. The online Evo Forum at the point of takeover was consuming over half of the IT infrastructure costs, but not producing any revenue. Unable to form a positive business plan, the Evo Forum was shut down. Metcalfe continued as Editorial Director of evo in Dennis' growing Automotive division, which included Auto Express and the later purchase of Octane magazine and Land Rover Monthly.
Dennis' automotive publishing division was spun-off as independent company called Autovia.
Evo is now published 13 times a year, with Stuart Gallagher the current editor, with former editors including Peter Tomalin, John Barker and Richard Meaden. Owned by Dennis Publishing and going by the tag-line "The thrill of driving", Evo attempts to immerse the reader in the driving experience of any particular car, and all other aspects are considered secondary to this all emotive 'drive'. While hard data is accumulated in the form of lap-times (for which Evo regularly uses Bedford Autodrome), cornering speeds, and straight-line performance figures, the subjective nature of the driving experience is the paramount factor by which cars are graded by Evo.
Many prominent members of the automotive industry and celebrity automotive enthusiasts have made contributions to Evo, including Gordon Murray, Jeff Daniels, and occasionally Rowan Atkinson. Other contributors are John Simister, Ian Fraser, Martin Buckley, David Yu, Tony Bailey, Paul Bailey, Simon George and Richard Porter.
There are also international editions of Evo for France, Italy, Singapore, Croatia, Czech Republic, Greece, Turkey, Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Ukraine, India, Spain and the Middle East They are a little different from the original, and feature more localized content relevant to the respective countries. Editors & writers of the international editions are usually invited for test drives by many performance car companies, from major marques such as Porsche, to small supercar builders such as Pagani and Gumpert.
In addition to the names above, it is worth noting that Evo occasionally makes reference to the term 'friends of Evo'. Some of these individuals submit contributions to the magazine, in the form of submissions outlining their experience with their own motorcars. Current such vehicles include the Porsche Carrera GT, Pagani Zonda and Lamborghini Murciélago LP640. This is a slightly different take on the 'fleet' theme often adopted by motoring publications, as the vehicles featured are often press-demonstrators.
Evo is famous for their year-ending Car of the Year issue, inherited from Evo's predecessor publication Performance Car. Members of the Evo staff take the top performance cars, released to market for the year, to public locations suited to high-performance driving and evaluation. For most years there is also a circuit test. Scotland, Wales, France, Italy, and Portugal are some of the featured locations for eCotY.
2017 (Only year that EVO changed the format for "Car of the Year")