Ten years ago, I began a journey into writing online through a friend’s publication. It was revolutionary for us to put together a piece of work geared towards the lifestyles of two subgroups in gay male society that it preceded this current art of blogging and citizen journalism.
As part of my work with Tillery Publication and Midwest Ursine, I began to integrate my first efforts into automotive writing. It yielded press coverage for two Chicago Auto Shows and a few other pieces geared towards the targeted demographic of the publication’s readership.
Would you believe I did a comparison between three "bear-sized" sedans: The Buick Century, the Dodge Intrepid and the Mercury Sable? I think the Sable won.
But, where did this love for the automobile come from? Where did this love for automotive journalism start?
I think it’s time to tell that story.
The year was 1970. Imagine a six-year old reading Motor Trend. My reading comprehension may not have been up to snuff, but I understood what it was all about. The pictures drew me in, which enabled my want to actually read the articles – at least attempt to.
Back then, we had a plethora of interesting automobiles. Automotive design began to take a more modern turn (to my eye, at least) with styling cues from airliners to soda pop bottles. This was before federally mandated safety requirements, such as the Five-Mile-per-Hour bumper and emissions control equipment. Through the automotive press, I understood the reasoning behind these changes in the automobile in the USA, but never realized the consequences of these changes for another several years.
As I got older, I began diving into the magazines. Car and Driver and Road & Track added to my reading list. My reading got better as I understood what the writers were saying. It also helped to have the wit of P.J. O’Rourke in Car and Driver to help bring the guffaws. I was reading Brock Yates, Patrick Bedard and the late David E. Davis. Car and Driver was considered high literature in the realm of automotive journalism. Davis, being the Hemmingway of the group, ran the magazine while Yates found ways to exude his want to motorized rebellion and Bedard’s love for speed with grace and fine engineering.
The real rebel was Jean Jennings. The 1970s was a time when gender equality was the big fight of the time. Jennings became the first woman to break into this male-dominated occupation by out-driving, out-racing and out-writing her contemporaries. When a Davis column seemed too sour, Jennings was the person to go to for honest opinions about everything automotive – especially in her "Vile Gossip" column on Automobile magazine.
Around high school, my curiosity wandered beyond the common shores of this country. I discovered a magazine from the UK called Car – and found a whole new batch of scribes to fuel my love for the automobile through the written word. Though his work appeared in Car and Driver, LJK Setright was equivocally English. Jeremy Clarkson is truly English, but he wasn’t as stiff upper-lipped and properly English as Setright. The gentleman with the flowing white beard showed us what the English language was meant to do – sing. It sang a tune about an automobile (or motorcycle) that conveyed the highest form of the language.
On the other side of the channel was the most connected automotive journalist in the world – Georg Kacher. His work appeared anywhere the discussion of the automobile was printed and distributed to the enthusiast. His German demeanor had global appeal touching everything with a critical eye and a brain absorbing every detail underneath the skin. From the 1980s on, Kacher was essential reading.
Which brings me to Clarkson…that showman of South Yorkshire whose column in The Times helped shape my approach to telling an automotive story. I had intention to follow his lead, but it just ended up that way. Yet, I had to find my own voice while still finding solace in providing context before diving into my subject. Our language is indeed different – as our socio-political views. Still, Clarkson shook up the way I absorbed the written automobile.
The through line of all of these scribes has been the use of language. To twist the use of words – in some cases, intentionally – is license to make you, dear reader, consider the message. Gasoline is not a word I like to use when I pour it into a vehicle. Petrol – rooted from petroleum – is an honest term to use for it. Acronyms are the bane of social media. Horsepower became “HP,” while “by the way” begat “BTW.” I think that most readers would be annoyed by the use of acronyms. They’re intentional to speak a language that is purely mine, though co-opted by common lore.
Now, I am pondering the future. I love doing this. I am about to embark on a new level of this unpaid job. Believe, I would love to get paid for doing this – and could possibly do so.
However, I am considering some changes. If the game is about to get better, maybe it’s time to consider how serious I am to get to the next level. What would that look like?
This is why I am considering a rebranding of my automotive writing. The larger issue is that there are a couple of sites using MotorGeek as their domain. If I am considering a spin-off from this site, I will need a different nomenclature that would be available as its own domain as well as a distinctive title that reflects my writing and subject matter.
…and, I’m open to suggestions.
Everything is done with a purpose. Everything has an intention. My automotive writing has been a safe harbor from the insanity of the closing moments of graduate school and the intermittency of regular employment that had been the case since my layoff in 2009. It sustains me – and hope it continues to do no matter what I call these posts, spin off the site, expand my subject matter and how I present myself to you, dear reader.
I bless those who have influenced me. They engaged me into a love for a machine many people either love or hate. The only way I can repay them is to keep on doing what I love. And, you stuck by me all this time – and I thank you.
Photo (c) 2005 GM, Inc.