Thirteen people. Nine vehicles. Six cameras. Five hours of hooning. Untold gallons of fuel. Putting together our dinky little video of incredibly awesome snow hoonage with Consumer Reports took a lot more work than you think.
By now you've also seen the first episode of Neat Stuff in Cool Cars, and I'm sure you've all found it to be the most blessed and splendid thing you've ever seen. But everything isn't always simple.
When Matt first told us, a few weeks in advance, that we'd be heading up to the Consumer Reports test track in rural Connecticut to film some snow driving techniques, I was totally excited. The only thing I didn't really consider at first, with exactly how much it takes just to put this sort of thing together.
First off, let's consider the track, delicious beauty that she is. Situated in eastern Connecticut, about three and a half hours Northeast of New York City when all is said and done, it sits 327 acres of prime rural real estate. Building off of what remained of the Connecticut Dragway after it closed in the 1970s, its now a hybrid of every sort of hooning playground you've ever wanted, mixed with every garage you've ever wanted, and a big heaping dose of every automotive laboratory you've ever wanted.
It is, in short, pretty great.
But I'm not sure the general public understands just how great – and how thorough – the team at CR and its facility is. What started out as just the original dragstrip has been widened and lengthened (to the point where planes have actually landed on it, both accidentally and in case of emergencies), and a whole bunch of other driving bits have been added on. There are handling routes, complete with twisty bends, tight turns, and multitudinous elevation changes, a road circuit through the woods, and roads that are kept in purposely bad condition to test out suspension, tire, and braking systems to their fullest.
Add to that an enormous skidpad that's more of a big black lake than anything else, and you've got a few miles of asphalt that's really got everything you'd ever need. And just to make sure it stays that way, CR does all the paving and plowing itself.
And then add to all that a big building that contains their fleet of 60-70 cars that they actually purchase (undercover, from dealerships every year), a fuel bay, a tire testing lab, another building for testing headlights and car seats, and one just for taking photos, and you're looking at a pretty sweet setup for the 29 people that work there.
But it's not all about the track. It's also about what we brought. In addition to the Subaru WRX STI, the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG-S Wagon, the BMW 228i, and the Volkswagen Beetle Baja Bug you saw on camera, we had a bunch of other vehicles to make it all happen. First there was a Range Rover, which I promptly drove into a snow bank, and which served as one of our camera cars. It was also, as it turns out, quite the snow-drift machine in its own right.
A Chevy Silverado, strictly meant not to be driven by hoons, was used to tow us all out when we inevitably got stuck in an avalanche. Add in a few snow plows, too, to make sure the track was covered in snow, but still drivable.
Oh, and also a Mazda 3 hatch, which is probably the most fun family car your $25,500 can buy, shod with Bridgestone Blizzak LM-22 winter tires:
I included a picture of it because it's pretty, and also because it had the most important job of all. That job was, of course, to transport me and our Editorial Fellow, Chris Perkins, to the track, so that we could hang out in the snow, drive some cars, and generally get in the way.
On the way back I tortured him with the sonorous garbage noises coming out of SiriusXM's Patriot Radio station, and for that, I do not apologize.
And then there's all the damage we did. We may have accidentally broken a bit of the bumper on the Mercedes (sorry Mercedes), had the clutch on the Subaru go a bit squidgy (sorry Subaru), and caused untold amounts of damage to the Volkswagen (not sorry to Raph, as he's probably the one that did it the most).
Shooting a video about cars isn't just about the cars, however. Possibly the most important part is the video equipment, and for that we had the fantastic help of the Gawker Media in-house video team, and specifically of Devin Clark and Nick Stango. To shoot we used three GoPros, a Canon 7D, and a Canon 5D Mark II, along with a MoVIcam to make everything smooth, steady. and fluid.
Though, let's be honest. We couldn't have done any of this without the people. In addition to everyone I already mentioned, we couldn't have done any of this without the fantastic folks over at Consumer Reports. Jake, George, Ryan, Joe, Birch, and other George, as well as Doug Sonders, Chris Mascari, and everyone else, you have our huge and eternal appreciation.
Photos credit: Michael Ballaban/Google/Freddy Hernandez/Jalopnik