I don’t know how many times over the years I’ve wondered if this is the trip that will kill David Tracy, and I’m glad I don’t have to worry about it any more.
I mean, I guess I do. It’s not like the guy is going to stop taking in derelict Jeeps like stray cats. It’s just now I won’t be a party to it, in a business sense. I won’t be part of the editorial team that said “sure David, that sounds like a good wrenching extravaganza” and then he gives himself trench foot.
I don’t think it will be the wrenching stories that I’ll miss from David, though. I edited most of them with my hands over my eyes anyway, afraid of what horrible death-defying hack each new paragraph will detail. Maybe he’ll have filled his eye sockets with rust flakes again. Maybe he taped a gas can to the roof of his Jeep and drove up the side of a mountain. Maybe he’ll have set himself on fire. Like a cartoon character, he’ll always peel himself off the floor, stick his finger in his thumb and re-inflate himself for another horrifying trip.
What I’ll miss are the technical articles he churned out.
To work with David Tracy is to be Zooey Deschanel in Elf. There he is, Will Ferrell, bouncing off the walls. You will see a new truck debut and be happy to file a brief article introducing it to the readers. David will already have found a way to see it in person, crawled under it to inspect the chassis in detail, grabbed an engineer by the collar and held them there until they’ve explained their every bit of rationale for choosing an independent front suspension as opposed to a live axle. Minutes later you’ll have 15,000 words on your desk, desperately trying to cut some — any! — of the copy down to something legible while David fights for every line.
I’ve tried to help him. I’ve tried to tell him that he doesn’t need to do it. He doesn’t get paid by the word. He never listens.
Even the Jeeps! I don’t know how many times we’ve tried to steer him away from the endless road trips. We’ve gotten so, so close to getting him to buy a clapped-out first-generation Mazda RX-7. He’d never be able to get it to run. It’d keep him in the safety of his own garage, and we’d all breathe a sigh of relief.
But he’s not our problem anymore.
I really hate what David Tracy turns me into. He turns me into a mom! And I don’t even want kids! But I always have this fucker to worry about. And I can’t not worry about David every time I talk on the phone with him—he’s always going on about some harebrained idea or another, like driving the entire length of North, Central, and South America in barely running bullshit or flying across the country to fix up some shitty vehicle that probably would be better off left to crime scene investigators. Then there were the times he lost his glasses while trying to bathe in the Baltic fucking Sea and then giving himself literal trench foot. I thought this condition died out after the end of WWI?
But I, never one to turn down a good project, volunteered to stay with David at his house in Michigan for five whole days in 2019 under the pretext that we’d take our ailing video operations into our own hands and shoot some goddamn video ourselves. Patrick, catching wind of the idea, grew horrified and insisted that I get a hotel instead. I said no because the actual goal was to give David’s house the deep clean it—and my own conscience—deserved.
My reputation preceded me; another thing you must know about David is that he is extremely afraid of me. He spent hours cleaning up before I arrived and it was still bad. But no matter. Armed with a vacuum and multiple containers of disinfectant wipes, I scrubbed the place from top to bottom. I sent this photo to everyone behind David’s back. We all had a laugh at his expense.
In the subsequent days, I observed David in his natural habitat. I learned that David will eat a hamburger the size of his head.
I learned that David had never seen Mean Girls before, so I made him watch it with me. He compared it to how Dieselgate shook out. I think we also watched the first episode of OG Gossip Girl but I frankly cannot remember because I’d had quite a bit of the moonshine David kept in his kitchen cupboard.
But I think the crowning moment of that whole trip was when we were cleaning up the kitchen after we’d cooked a meal using only car parts. I wiped down the entire workspace and gave David the task of disposing the food. This, I reasoned, was fair. His solution was to huck fuckin’ everything—the cake, the chicken, the carrots, and the potatoes—straight into his back yard because “the raccoons will take care of it.” What the fuck, man.
I’ve met David’s mom. Did you know that? I was on vacation with my family in Prague and the two of them drove out to visit us for lunch. She’s awesome! She finished a liter of beer by herself! She worries about David. Girl, same!
I’ll end this by discussing David’s beverage of choice: a glass of milk. While at the 2019 LA Auto Show, he asked me to pick up some milk for him. It’s fucked. Over the years, I’ve been trying to get David to give up the milk for something, anything. But I’ve been largely unsuccessful; David likes his milk and dislikes the taste of most alcohol. Except! David loves makgeolli. If you ever see him, get him some makgeolli. It’s basically milk.
Now that David is leaving Jalopnik, I pray and hope that it also marks the end of my worrying. Yet, who am I kidding? David won’t rest until he gets, like, scurvy or something. David, eat shit. But please eat a vegetable first.
I don’t know David that well, but I read about him having to bathe in the ocean in Sweden in the cold and losing his glasses and that made me feel pretty good about my own life.
David and I once had a long conversation about PB Blaster, which he consumes on a regular basis to stay loose. Jason Torchinsky agrees that it’s a great idea.
Some will tell you David Tracy is a good guy, a mensch who always helps a friend out. But it’s all part of his con game. He pulled the wool over everyone’s eyes years ago. The man is a shark in oil-dyed sheep’s clothings. He’s actually the Junk Lord of suburban Detroit, lowering property values and raising insurance rates by keeping his rust buckets in his yard and on the road. The worst trick he’s played is convincing so many readers they should be driving a shitbox.
City officials fear him, neighbors hate him, and auto repair shops build tasteful altars in his name, usually right next to the cash register.
At least here at Jalopnik we kept him distracted from his dark purposes but now he’s off to start a new publication, where he’ll renew his reign of terror in order to write 7,000 word posts on Jeeps to his heart’s content. There will likely be fewer broken down, rusty Jeeps on Jalopnik, but just as many (if not more) roaming the streets north of Detroit. For that I say, from the bottom of my heart: eat shit David.
The first interaction I ever had with David was on Twitter, maybe in 2016, when (not shockingly) all of his cars were broken and he needed a ride to Indianapolis for the 500. We offered him a ride. I’m guessing it was too nice for him to accept, considering the messes he usually drives, and he turned down the offer. We get it David, not everyone can be on your level when it comes to junk collections, and not all of us drive Jeeps.
Getting this job has actually been part of a long-game ploy to encourage his impulse-buying adventures to satisfy my personal curiosity as to just how far he’ll go.
You’ve been my automotive inspiration since you joined this site, and it was a dream come true actually joining you in shenanigans and seeing my byline up there. You’ve made this woman’s dreams come true, never forget that!
With that out of the way, let me describe the man’s pure crazy. David will cobble together the world’s most rusty Jeep then limp it to Moab at 45 mph. David ignores rust holes like teenagers ignore red flags. This is a guy who would sleep in a van and bathe in a sea on the way to meeting a wild car engineer/future James Bond villain. I mean, this guy just throws his food into a truck bed for the winter instead of a refrigerator. When I visited his house I had to wait for my bottle of water to melt.
Traveling with David is like taking a trip back in time. Not to the nostalgic near-past that most of his trucks are from, but to a medieval era where you fight with animals for your food, unknown diseases could linger on any surface, “mechanical work” involves blacksmithing and magic, and of course, comfort is a non-starter. “Hey David, we’ve been working on this Jeep for 14 hours, can we take a break?” No. “Hey David, you got a heater in this garage?” Of course not. “Hey David, let’s stop at this nice hotel.” You’ll sleep in the truck and you’ll like it. “Hey David, a racoon just stole our pizza off your countertop.” Better get your ass outside and get it back from him! I love you, DT. Also, I’m never going back to Detroit except for whatever six weeks a year it’s above freezing out there.
Recently, David shared that he’s a mere two years older than me, but admitted that he looks like he’s got “ten years on me.” I didn’t have the heart to disagree. You’re right, David. Sorry.
To this day I still don’t understand half of the things he says. My favorite post of his was the one about how he almost ignited his dryer after dyeing his clothes with motor oil.
You people…you love this David Tracy. Folks, don’t we love him?
If you’ve ever wondered what David would be like if he went from having a job that – at least theoretically – required him to check in occasionally to being wholly left to his own devices, you’re about to find out. Will he live? Will he die of trench foot? Will his landlord sue him into the ground for turning his house into a superfund site? We’ll see.
Last summer David came up to prep his Jeep for our off-road trip to Drummond Island. After a day, and a night of the most chaotic wrenching I have ever partaken in (I found a 13mm socket 30 feet from the garage a week later) I called it quits at 4 or 5 in the morning while David was still trying to plumb a transmission cooler with the wrong-size hoses. We left for a 4 hour drive later that morning and David was so tired we had to pull over multiple times for him to close his eyes until I finally talked him into drinking a Red Bull.
I don’t need to go into any greater detail about his, or really Jason’s time here thanks to their WILDLY self-indulgent, self-congratulatory victory lap of a farewell post. But I guess thanks for doing a couple 5,000 word posts a month while working on your cars and doing fun road trips?
Road trip your way up here, the girls wrecked those tractors you got them and they want more cotton candy.
The worst thing I can say about David is still that I did not like how many people confused me for him as “The Jeep Guy.” I just don’t see it. My advice for David is to try more food. One new menu item a month or something, you gotta get out there, man.
David is like oil. Useful. Plenty of good qualities. A little thick.
And before we know it, I bet he’s also going to end up everywhere.
Did I ruin David Tracy’s life or was he always going to ruin it?
This question has haunted me for years now. When I met David he was an undergraduate at the University of Virginia who had started a club for car enthusiasts. He was dating a seemingly wonderful person. He owned only one car.
Would I come speak to his auto club? Sure, why not.
First, it was a simple request. Could I help him look at an old Mustang for his brother that was in terrible shape? Sure, why not. Could I introduce him to a mechanic friend who could teach him how to tune the carb? Sure, why not. Maybe he could intern for me and Jalopnik? Sure, why not.
Maybe I could help get him an internship with Chrysler? Sure, why not.
Maybe he could get a job with Chrysler after college? Sure, why not.
Maybe he should come back to Jalopnik and edit our Buyer’s Guides (an in-market, funnel play that was ahead of its time but not well understood by the powers-that-be or maybe anyone else). Sure, why not.
I have driven around Detroit in one of his Jeeps and begged him to sell some cars and restart his life. It’s not too late, I’d say, to find a life partner. You’ve done it before!
There I stood, two years later, in a pick-a-part in Sterling Heights while David stood there taking apart the rear seat he needed for a Land Rover. A Land Rover, he slowly explained while sweating in the hot August sun, he was rebuilding for an ex-best friend. A person he did not want to talk to or maybe ever see again. An enemy.
“Why?” I asked.
The reply was simple: “The car needs it.”
I am proud to know David. He is that rare blend of writer, engineer, and personality.
When I heard he wanted to start a site with Jason I was tempted to tell him to run far, far away. Move to a place with young people! But I’d tried that many times before and it never worked, so my reply to his new endeavor is the same as it ever was:
“Sure, why not?”
Sometimes, in my most quiet, private moments, when I sit alone in the darkness late at night contemplating the decisions I’ve made and the chaos I’ve unleashed upon the world, two words linger in my mind longer than any others: David. Tracy.
It was I who hired David as a full-time staff writer. And thus, it is I who bear at least some responsibility for his countless ill-advised off-road misadventures; for the ire of the Troy, Michigan City Council over those stacks of rusted off-roaders piling up on David’s front lawn; for the widespread resetting of used Jeep XJ values; for the lowering of the bar of what is permissible to operate at the Moab Easter Jeep Safari; and for putting readers at risk of a tetanus infection merely for visiting the website Jalopnik.com.
He was a sweet boy, once. Fresh out of college and after an engineering stint at the company that today, hilariously, calls itself Stellantis, David was hired to single-handedly write a library of make and model pages so we could both game Google and score lucrative direct ad buy revenue. (FUN FACT: Car and Driver has a small army of people who do only this, but for some reason, Gawker management thought David could pretty much handle it solo.) But I quickly realized this fine young man had a sharp wit, the mind of an engineer, the determination of a grizzled homicide detective and basically no fear at all, and so we put him to work doing news and features instead. It seemed like a solid idea at the time.
After all, David’s not just about the nicest human being alive, he’s a brilliant storyteller; the rare talent who can translate technical jargon into the kind of tale that can captivate even the most hardened, car-agnostic cynic. It’s impossible for me to count my favorite David stories because there are so many; he’s still written the best treatise on unibody trucks that anyone has ever done.
But of all the folks I’ve worked with over the years, and ostensibly been “in charge of,” I can honestly say David was the one I worried would die in the line of duty the most. Every Easter, he sought to one-up the past year’s Moab excursion in something even rustier, sketchier, and more unfit for American roads and polite society writ large. Remember the mail truck Jeep? I don’t think I slept much that week. David went from “make/model guy” to “car internet icon but don’t try this at home” quicker than any supercar.
That’s David for you, though. Some may call what he does a lack of good judgment, and it certainly is. But there’s also an iron determination at work, a hardened belief that the answer must always be somewhere, and a willingness to make himself—and his cars—better and better every day. It’s the same quality that makes him a good reporter and writer too.
I’d go even further and say that David helped change the way we talk about cars on the internet. All those “I bought a garbage project car” blog posts and YouTube videos that blow up everywhere? A good chunk of that playbook is owed to David, whether folks will admit it or not. I remain proud of my time at Jalopnik, and we wouldn’t have been who we are without him.
For these reasons and more, I sincerely wish David the best of luck at his new venture with Jason. Both of them are crucial voices in modern car culture and neither man is to be underestimated. I have two pieces of advice for both of them: Have a good SEO strategy, and don’t go on too many insane adventures at the same time together. Someone has to make sure The Autopian’s lights stay on.