'Oh, and think of a name for your column too." The words sat discarded at the bottom of a Hardigree email containing the details of the miserly sum he'd offered in exchange for me filling this space once a week. So I thought I'd write a column about how you might go about naming a column. And see if the process helped me name a column.
It is a fact – beyond the fact that repetition is the first sin of column writing – that naming a column is the more difficult than staying awake reading the Editor's missive at the front of an issue of Motor Trend. And that comparison probably tells you more about the way I intend to run this particular show than any name could. I've done my stint as raw-meat for the YouTube comments section, it's time for some revenge.
Because there are already enough carefully crafted personal words about our industry and the products it produces, so you don't need any more from me. This is a clever strategy because it neatly circumvents the unavoidable fact that I can't write as beautifully as many of those seasoned pros, but it also means we can make this stuff a bit punchier. Call it like it is.
You know the drill: That whole zero-bullshit, I'm totally independent and don't rely on the goodwill of the motor industry Gawker thing – which sits very uncomfortably with the beautiful Audi RS6 I have, er, sitting outside my house right now. Which Audi has lent me for six months. You don't get the RS6 over there; we do, it's ace. Did I ever tell you that I love Audis? Brilliant company. Best cars in the world. That is until the RS6 gets taken away, at which point they of course revert to being heaving shit-barges with front-axle push not seen since Dolly Parton did the wheelbarrow.
So should the name reflect that this column will say the unsayable; unearth the stories no one else would dare publish? No, because I'm not going to do that – Hardigree would love nothing more than a weekly dose of professional suicide from me, but the fact remains that I have to work in this industry, and that these car brands do actually spend a few pennies advertising on these websites, so deliberately antagonizing them – by saying things like the Mercedes GLA must have been designed in three bodily sections, but the respective teams clearly never actually met, exchanged words or saw each others' work, isn't clever. Or helpful.
Did I tell you about the time I crashed an Aston Martin DBS on the launch event, then wrote a slightly scathing review, and the then CEO Dr. Bez went ape-shit?
Most of the conspiracy theories you read about in the weird little world I inhabit are just that – urban myths. Apart from the one about a German manufacturer having a list of journalists who are deemed especially 'sympathetic' to the brand, and who get special treatment.
That one's true.
'Loud pedal' 'VMax' 'Into the red zone.' Oh God help me. I'm going to have to trudge through the usual gamut of lazy, slightly shit oblique references to driving and being a gearhead.
'Intersection.' Nice word. Doesn't actually mean anything though. I'll prattle a bit more, see if it brings inspiration.
Did I tell you about the time I crashed an Aston Martin DBS on the launch event, then wrote a slightly scathing review, and the then CEO Dr. Bez went ape-shit? Understandable I suppose, but despite it being only a little crash-ette he still wouldn't look at me, let alone talk to me for six years. He once shook the hands of five people standing next to me, and refused to shake mine. What a silly man. He's written a book about how great he is and published it himself. I'm so glad he's left Aston Martin.
I don't think there's a car company I haven't fallen-out with at some point. Even Porsche, and most people seem to think I'm paid by them. Wish I bloody was – all that crap I spout about 911s being brilliant and I've never seen a penny. I should invoice them.
Years ago Merc went nuts when I said a Hyundai Coupe was better than a C320 coupe. And rightly so, looking back I must have been smoking something especially potent. I've had minor wars with everyone from BMW to Koenigsegg – and not because I've actually set out to have a war, but because car companies find it quite hard to accept that people might not think their car was the best thing ever committed to four wheels. Even when it's an Alfa Romeo. I mean, we're not in this to make friends, are we?
Actually I'm friends with most people at the moment, but that won't last long – it never does. Hold that for a minute: I'm not friends with Lamborghini. They got all hormonal about letting an Aventador go against an F12 a while back, largely because they knew it would get soundly thrashed in every dynamic department, and they don't like me any more.
This process isn't working. I'm spilling my guts here and am no closer to identifying a suitable soubriquet. ' Dust up'? Meaningless, context-less, not even witty.
I think what I'd like to do here each week is talk about stuff I might not be able to elsewhere. Because Matt's a bit fearless and doesn't really play by the unspoken rules of the motoring cartel. He kind of laughs at those, and I suppose I do, too. Or do I? I have a free Audi. I am writing this sitting on the Eurotunnel train, ticket paid for by Mercedes Benz. Much of what I do is paid for by car companies. And I have absolutely no problem with that.
The bit I have a problem with is the assumption that just because BMW lent me an M235i for several months, people think I'm unwilling to say that I'd rather disembowel myself than be seen within twenty feet of an X4. It can be done. You can accept an invitation to a product launch event, and still say the product is shit. Best of all, almost every car manufacturer will still invite you back on the next product launch. Which when you think about it is terribly open-minded and meritocratic.
Chris Harris's Jalopnik Column, on Jalopnik. That's the best I can do Matt. For both our sakes', I hope the content is better than the naming skills.