The topic of the day was press cars, and the fascinating, bizarre world behind how they work and how us miscreants get them. Matt’s right, it’s the one thing we get asked about the most by people who learn about what we do: “You mean you get new cars all the time?!?”
Yeah, but that makes it sound like our lives are lived on the ragged edge in one Lamborghini after another. Man, I wish that were the case. Most days I’m stuck writing, editing, putting shit on Facebook and arguing with people. It has its cool moments but it’s hardly as glamorous as some think.
I am lucky enough to write for an enthusiast publication, which means I mostly only ask for press cars that I know you fine people will care about. Also, I get rage issues in midsize sedans, so I try to stay out of those. Veteran auto journalist John Pearley Huffman has the right attitude about how press cars should work, and he stopped by share his experiences:
I’ve been doing this a lot longer than you... I’m really old as you have pointed out several times. But let me add a little something about test cars that you don’t bring up: chasing them isn’t worth it.
If you’re an automotive journalist, your job is to create content, not drive test cars. I know guys who spend good chunks of their days juggling schedules, plotting schemes and coming up with new lies to keep themselves in test cars all the time. Meanwhile, the work of journalism doesn’t get done.
I’ve written for The New York Times, I write for Car and Driver and Edmunds.com (which also buys some of its cars) and BBC Autos and Yahoo! Autos and literally a hundred others over the the years. And despite what sounds glamorous about test cars, if you don’t treat them like the professional tools they are — and not a perk to abuse — you’ll be distracted and marginalized out of the business. It won’t happen overnight, but soon you’ll be working in PR asking working journalists if you can freshen their drink.
Maybe it was different in the Eighties, and it was certainly different in the early Nineties, but owning your own car is now part of the deal of working in journalism. And your own car is often a necessary tool too.
So with that, I’m off in my 16 year-old Toyota Tundra to drive 100 miles to pick up a minivan. The glamour is overwhelming.
I can only hope the minivan will be track-tested against a Ferrari 488 GTB, but I’m not optimistic.
Congrats on your comment of the day win, John! Stop by anytime.
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