Sixteen years; 9,000 articles; a cabinet full of oily dishes; a bumper made of canned ham; clothes covered in used motor oil; squid cars. Jason Torchinsky and David Tracy have had an incredible run at Jalopnik, and now it’s time for them to say farewell. Yes, they’re leaving Jalopnik, but they’re not leaving you. This will all make sense very soon.
Hi, it’s David Tracy and Jason Torchinsky, the two luckiest people on the planet. We’ve had the honor of spending a large chunk of our lives writing about our greatest passion, cars, for an amazing audience and alongside some of the most talented journalists in the business. Thank you.
Today we announce our departure, but trust us, there’s nothing to be sad about; we’re not so much running away from Jalopnik as we are eagerly approaching something new and exciting. We can’t wait to tell you more but until then, it’s time for a walk down memory lane.
It was the summer of 2015, and I was an engineer at Chrysler’s Technical Center in Auburn Hills, Michigan. I had grown up off-roading Jeeps on the Missouri River floodplains of Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, so at a young age I’d fallen in love with Chrysler and vowed to someday work there.
A degree in mechanical engineering and some luck led me to that hallowed headquarters building, but after two years helping design the Jeep Wrangler JL’s cooling system, I was leaving. Nobody understood. “This was your dream job!” they told me. “Why would you leave engineering to be a writer and make significantly less money?”
The answer was that, all those years leading up to that point I had been focusing on getting into the industry that I love (automotive) and not on doing what I love. So while I scored the job I’d always wanted (and it was a great job in most respects), I was engineering — and I didn’t love engineering. I yearned for something more social, more creative.
I’d gotten my foot in the door at Jalopnik by emailing one of my favorite writers, Jalopnik editor Matt Hardigree, after his post “The ground has stopped shaking; I have not” showed me that he happened to lived in Charlottesville, Virginia. My recently-20-year-old self had just started a car club at UVa, and was trying to lure in new members. So I organized “Cars and Pizza,” for which Matt was the keynote speaker discussing car culture.
During my fourth year at UVa, Matt hired me on as an editorial assistant making $7.25 an hour. Part of my job involved signing for his press cars at 7:30 A.M. Do you realize how much of an ask that is for a fourth-year college student? Seven-freaking-thirty! Not cool, Matt.
The complete story of how I ended up at Jalopnik full-time after two years at Chrysler is too long. It involves my fear of programming leading me to write an extra credit paper for my Mechatronics class — a paper that I recycled into a series called “How Cars Work,” which apparently made enough of an impression for Matt to tell me: “Hey, go work at Chrysler for a year, and then I’ll hire you back.” That one year became two, but he delivered on his promise.
It quickly became clear that telling stories about cars is what I was born to do. I found myself wrenching on and road-tripping awesome old machines, interviewing engineers, telling car-related stories about fascinating people from all around the world, writing late into the night, and just burying myself in car culture. If I was awake, I was working, but I didn’t realize it. It was a beautiful thing, and I wish everyone could fulfill their deepest passion to the extent that I have. It’s a privilege for which I am immensely thankful.
This is going to sound cheesy, but the biggest factor that led me to join Jalopnik was a realization that nothing brings me greater joy than building meaningful relationships with people from all walks of life. And 6.5 years later, it’s clear that I made the right call by ditching my engineering career for this publication, a public-facing platform covering machines that can unite people of all different creeds. This job has put me into contact with some truly wonderful people, so I’d to take a moment now to highlight some of them.
First, Andreas Aron (the GOAT), a reader from Germany who has become a dear friend. Our first interaction involved him showing me one of the world’s greatest Mitsubishi collections, later inviting me to his house to eat his mom’s incredible sarmale. A few years later, he bought a diesel manual Chrysler minivan on my behalf (seriously, who does that?!), and even helped me get the vehicle through Germany’s rigorous inspection:
Andreas and his girlfriend Josie also helped me navigate Europe’s complex COVID restrictions, allowing me to experience things like this:
It is thanks to Andreas’s generosity that I suffered true “driving hell” at the checkpoints between Germany and Turkey, and explored car culture along the way. In Belgrade, Jalopnik reader Dragoslav housed me for multiple days and introduced me to his beautiful family. Here he is translating what a Yugo’s original owner thinks about his little hatchback:
Here he is showing me car culture in Belgrade. Dragoslav is freaking awesome:
During another trip to Germany, I met Marcus and Eckhard, two World War II Jeep owners who, on my Grandpa’s 80th birthday, gave him an incredible gift that he will never forget: His first ride in a WWII Jeep since 1945.
Watching my Opa experience a sensation he’d been dreaming about for the 70 years since an American soldier had given him and his friend a ride was one of the great joys of my life. And the article that resulted is my favorite.
I met Victor Ma in Hong Kong. He is one of the most knowledgeable people in the world when it comes to 4x4s, having torn apart dozens of off-roaders and written a book on how they work. He owns unbelievable machines that collectors could only dream of, and he’s even driven in the Dakar Rally.
In his Fo Tan shop, his eagerness to talk with me about our shared passion led to eight hours of nonstop discussion about off-road vehicles. It was absolutely epic; he and I still chat over WhatsApp every now and then, and I plan to visit him next time I’m in Hong Kong.
I also got to know Ron Dauzet. His township near Ann Arbor forced him to sell hundreds of vehicles that he’d collected over the years, as they were considered “blight.” (So many people read the stories about Dauzet, as the government intervention vs. individual rights issue is rather divisive). I quite enjoyed his company; he’s a hilarious guy who just loves cars — maybe a bit too much:
Then there’s Dustin, the Wisconsinite who invited me to his former dairy farm to tell me about a rare but rusty manual transmission Jeep Grand Cherokee that was doomed to the crusher. So many of you read about Dustin’s one-of-1,400 Jeep and the unfortunate predicament he faced as he prepared to send the piece of automotive history to its burial.
Dustin and I have become friends ever since my visit, with him recently driving to Michigan from Wisconsin to help me pull the transmission from his green machine and install it into a $250 red Jeep that I plan to drive around the world.
I could go on for ages (I kind of already have, haven’t I? Sorry.) discussing the amazing people I’ve interacted with over the past 6.5 years. There was the young Kansas farmer I interviewed about his diesel-swapped Corvette. There was the Tesla engineer whose Jeep Cherokee XJ wound up under 10 feet of snow. There were Michael and Lalanie Blackburn, whose dad had died out in the desert near Las Vegas decades ago, leaving his old Datsun in the middle of nowhere. Writing about the Facebook community that helped the Blackburns rescue their dad’s old wagon was incredible.
There was Matthew Schaefer, a man living in his Land Cruiser, but stranded in a rather unfortunate situation — out of money, cold, and alone. Every now and then, Matthew still messages me to thank me for writing a story that led dozens of people to help him out of his predicament. (I always tell him to thank Jalopnik readers, not me).
The Jalopnik community has helped so many people over the years. Many contributed to the Gofundme of Gary Rider, a Pennsylvania welder selling his air compressor to fund a liver transplant. Scores bought raffle tickets for Angela Anstatt’s late son’s manual Jeep Grand Cherokee, which was being auctioned off to help a Vermont community. The auction ended up raising over $40,000, and Anstatt called me to express gratitude to the Jalopnik community for ultimately helping fix up a local school.
And then there are all the Jeep projects I toiled with throughout the years. There’s Project Swiss Cheese, the $600 Jeep XJ that launched what would become an annual journey to off-road Mecca in some cheap Jeep shitbox. Look at these kind readers helping me build a lift kit:
And check out this incredible crew of good friends:
The following year, I took a 1948 Willys CJ-2A farm Jeep out to Moab. My friend Brandon sacrificed at least seven years of life expectancy to get this junker into shape. I owe him a lot. (To reinforce how incredible a friend Brandon is, look at the bullshit I put him through when we bought a broken manual Jeep Grand Cherokee sight unseen in Colorado):
I will never forget my road trip in that vehicle with Freddy (Tavarish), and my late wrenching nights with this group:
The ultimate road-trip partner, though, was Andrew Collins, who partook in my trip in a crusty $800 Jeep Grand Wagoneer that I dubbed Project Redwood:
And we can’t forget about the Postal Jeep trip — a herculean effort by lots of gracious folks, including my brothers Ben and Mike.
I also want to give a shoutout to this dude right here named Bill, whom I met during that trip. He’s never going to read this, but it doesn’t matter. He let me stay in his camper and his wife fed me enchiladas, and that kind of cheesy, spicy generosity sticks with a man. Bill, you rule:
I’ll also shout out all the engineers who have helped me provide much-needed context for absurdly long deep-dive articles that I like to write. You fill my inbox with nerdiness — you talk with me on the phone about fastener grades, you discuss with me why GM used blue wheel cylinders on 2000s-era cars, you chat with me about what might have caused thermal issues on new Ford Bronco Sports, and sometimes you talk about stuff that goes way, way over my head. I love it. Thank you.
Lastly, I’ll mention the current and former team members at Jalopnik. Journalism may sometimes seem like a one-person sport (with an editor or two fixing typos), but actually, it’s a team effort. The crew at Jalopnik has always brought energy, which has helped make this job so fun. They’ve helped me track down stories, they’ve shared resources, and they’ve fleshed out story concepts. They have become some of my greatest friends. I thank them immensely, and I wish the talented team here at Jalopnik continued success.
Interacting with all of these people has been a joy, and that may lead many of you to wonder what my Chrysler colleagues wondered: Why leave your dream job? It’s for the same reason that I left Chrysler for a more social job: It’s all about personal growth — opportunity to become a better-rounded person. I will continue to write human-interest and engineering-related stories, because that’s what I love to do, but I’m yearning for a challenge — something tremendously difficult. Something that’s mine. Something exciting.
I’m taking this weirdo with me:
When I started work at Jalopnik way back in late 2011, I did it with one goal: to become the Elihu Vedder of automotive journalism. Over 6,700 posts later (that’s actually accurate, I checked) I can’t comfortably say I’ve reached this goal and, in fact, I’m starting to realize that maybe I never will. But maybe that doesn’t even really matter.
Maybe it doesn’t matter because that whole thing with Elihu Vedder, a very dead dude who painted sphinxes, is something that popped into my head one day and I thought if I ever left Jalopnik, I could use that sentence to start writing my goodbye post, because without some kind of starting-sentence crutch like that I have no idea how I could ever manage to even begin.
And look at that—it worked. I’m writing about leaving Jalopnik, the job I’ve loved more than any job I’ve ever had.
Now, sure, that’s not necessarily a high bar; I’ve worked at a cough drop factory, a primate research lab (remind me to tell you about the chimp and the yam, or the ejaculatron), taught design to high school kids, had a failed startup that could have kicked the shit out of Zoom if only I didn’t do it 20 years too early and I was a little less stupid. But those don’t matter. What matters is this job, writing for Jalopnik, because that’s where I met you, all of you, the funny, curious, and shockingly well-informed readers who made me feel so incredibly welcome and part of a remarkable community.
I know David mentioned up there somewhere in his colossal memoir something about us being lucky, and holy crap is that true. I don’t think I was really aware that one could make a living writing about cars or that there were whole groups of people willing to listen to someone go on and on about non-mainstream cars until I got a visit from Jonny Lieberman from a website with a funny Soviet-sounding name, ready to drive around in my Reliant Scimitar and try to find all the weird cars in my Los Angeles neighborhood.
That’s how this all started, really. Then I entered a Lemons Race where I got a little deeper into this exciting automotive subculture, and I knew that I had to find some way to make my work be somehow related to all the ridiculous car-things that were saturating my brain all the time, anyway.
Somehow, that happened. Getting hired at Jalopnik was wonderful enough, but the freedom and trust I was improbably given is what made this place so absolutely magical to me. I hope everyone understands the depth of my gratitude for that.
It’s not lost on me that if I worked at almost any other automotive publication, and told them that, hey, what I’d really like to do is write a whole crapload about mind-convulsingly minute details of taillight design or side marker lamps, they’d tell me, no, no fucking way, no sane person is going to read that.
But they would be wrong.
Same goes for writing about pre-1880 cars or making absolutely useless graphs or making up fake cars and the fake countries they came from or investigating things that maybe only I care about? What if I had to pitch any of those stories to an editor, like a real writer would? Who would have signed off on this stuff? Nobody, that’s who.
Thankfully, Jalopnik never stopped me from doing any of these things.
Do you have any idea how much I adore Jalopnik and the editors and writers I’ve worked with over the years for that? It makes me dizzy, this feeling of joy and gratitude. I don’t know what to do with it other than to promise you I will never take it for granted, and I will never stop.
Early on, I remember getting some comments suggesting that I was faking it, I was being weird for weirdness’ sake, but those went away pretty quickly, as people realized that I mean every stupid thing I write, and none of my interest or enthusiasm for these obscure, idiotic things is fake. This is it. You see who I am, good and bad, and the fact that people accepted me and the inane subjects I choose to cover will never fail to delight me.
This job, it sometimes hardly seems real. The opportunities I’ve had while doing this would, had I gone back in time to tell Young Me about them, have resulted in Young Me attempting to stab Old Me, thinking that these tales had to be some kind of lie, some sort of lure for a trap to prevent In-Between Me from doing some undisclosed future awful things — maybe sex things, maybe worse?
But, Young Past Me, listen: it’s all true. Thanks to my work at Jalopnik, I’ve met genuine automotive heroes, including Curtis Brubaker and J Mays and Jay Leno and Bruce Meyers, inventor of the Meyers Manx dune buggy. Here he is, not too long before he died:
I raced the Baja 1000 with Ironman champion Mark Stahl, and got desperately lost in the Mexican desert. Hell, I even got to discuss my ridiculous and frankly disturbing theory about the Cars movies with the very people at Pixar who made them.
How is this even possible? How does a dipshit with problematic hair like myself end up in this charmed position?
Look at this, for example: thanks to my work at Jalopnik, I’m somehow in a position to not just go to car museums, but I’m allowed to drive their priceless, rare cars, and, in at least one instance, I was allowed to fling raw hot dogs at one of these incredibly rare cars, which then mulched them into a revolting pulp:
Was I a saint in a past life to deserve this sort of wild privilege? Was I formerly the person who invented masturbation and cheese? I don’t know what karmic magic had to happen, but I do know I’m the beneficiary.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. That’s for you readers, that’s for all my fellow writers, talented, delightful people who are lifelong friends, names I started to list, but found to be too many, and I didn’t want to leave anyone out.
Editors, too, all of whom gave me so much trust and leeway that I almost feel bad posting this link about a thing I made up about Terry Gross (of the NPR or is it PRI? who the fuck knows) radio staple Fresh Air getting kicked out of drag racing, a post that Patrick George, an editor with actual integrity, hated.
Patrick never liked my satire/parody fictional stories, to be fair. In fact, I found this spiked story I did about a wholly-fabricated interview with Apple designer Jonny Ive during one of the Apple Car rumor times, and I just made it live so you can finally see it, after sitting in drafts for six years.
I also found a bunch of other forgotten drafts or spiked stories, some of which you can see above. I think it’s safe to say you didn’t miss anything.
I don’t necessarily want this just to be a clip show of what I’ve done here, so, if this is edging that way, I apologize. I’m just desperately trying to convey how important this work has been for me, how much of myself I’ve invested here, how thrilled I am every day to be able to share my life and my thoughts about cars with all of you.
My kid grew up on here, and and all of you were there with me, pulling that ever-growing kid from car to car until I couldn’t pull that “Will It Baby” schtick off anymore, because what I had was no longer a baby.
When the Beetle I adore was stolen, it was the Jalopnik community that got it back for me. How do I pay this back?
The reality is, I can’t pay it back. I’ll just greedily drink it all up, savoring the joy and opportunities I’ve gotten, desperately trying to be worthy of all of this, this charmed path I’ve stumbled onto by continuing to try to find and write and draw about (generally) automotive things that I so very much hope you’ll enjoy.
I’ve always said that cars are the least rational machines in our lives, and that’s why I love them so much. They’re an incredible catalyst for meeting people — all kinds of people, people you might never normally get to interact with, and that’s part of their magic. Cars are literal vehicles, sure, but they’re also the vehicle that carries my voice, and enables this odd and wonderful interaction we’ve developed, you and I, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. Except maybe more cars.
I know this is a sort of goodbye post, but it also very much isn’t, because David and I are, well, starting something. You’ll find out what it is, soon enough.
But I can tell you that I have so much more to tell you, and I fully intend to do just that, as long as you’re willing to listen.