By on February 26, 2013

I haven’t seen it yet — my only current magazine subscriptions are The Economist, Vintage Guitar, and Juggs — but I am reliably told that your humble author has two, count ‘em, two articles in the newest issue of that well-beloved and august publication, Road&Track. TTAC readers are already comparing me to the Emperor Napoleon as I triumphantly return to color magazines the way Napoleon returned from Elba.

Yes, I said return.

Twenty-two years ago, I began writing for Bicycles Today magazine. In a monthly column entitled “One Racer’s Perspective”, I railed against the excesses of the industry, provided advice for new racers, and exposed the too-cozy relationship between the manufacturers and the color mags. I even wrote a little fiction. Sounds thoroughly familiar, right? Most of all, I campaigned for riders to be given a voice in the sport of bicycle motocross, which at that point was run by an unholy coalition of parents and sunshine-state scam artists.

When BMX Action! became GO! magazine and a fellow pro racer named Chris Moeller took control as editor, he invited me to contribute and I did so… only to see the rag fold before my first column could be printed. Oh well. The first experiment in letting the inmates run the asylum was a failure.

A decade after that unhappy ending, I wrote an angry letter to Car and Driver objecting to their praise of a certain South African kit-car manufacturer. C/D printed the letter and a major online car forum of the era made said letter a subject of discussion. My decision to join that discussion started a chain of events that landed me right here nine years later.

Road&Track is not the first major car magazine to ask me to contribute. I declined for a variety of reasons in the past and when Sam Smith contacted me in August my first impulse was to decline again. Over the course of a couple discussions, however, I became convinced by the three-inch-thick stack of Benjamins Hearst Publications offered me clarity and integrity of Sam’s vision for the mag.

To bring me on as an occasional contributor, Sam not only had to convince me, he had to deal with a firestorm of objections, criticism, and negative reactions from automakers and fellow journalists who have been on the receiving end of my cordovan MacNeils since 2007 or thereabouts. To his credit, he did that and his boss, Larry Webster, stood behind him. They’re still hearing that they’ve made the wrong decision — from people in the business, from the yes-men in the PR cliques, from the whispering cowards at the press events.

If you pick up the April issue of Road&Track, you’ll see that my editorial voice and personal commitment to truth were allowed to shine through without modification or mollification. The comparison test I wrote, which pits the 911 Carrera S PDK against the Lotus Evora S IPS on the back roads of South Carolina, may shock the mag’s regular readers but it won’t shock you.

I will continue to do the majority of my writing right here at TTAC, but I am pleased to note that for the foreseeable future, you’ll also be able to read me at Road&Track. I’m also asking you, the reader, to hold me accountable for what I write here and there. I’m not doing this for the money or the perks; I’ve owned the kind of cars most autojournos have to sign two waivers just to touch and when I want to fly somewhere nice I just take out my wallet. I’m in this business because I believe in truth and I remain deeply passionate about cars. That won’t change.

This experiment that Hearst is trying — that of stacking a color magazine with actual club racers and letting them run wild — may fare no better than Wizard Publications’ decision to let Chris Moeller run BMX Action! I’m hoping that’s not the case. This time, the good guys deserve a win, and I expect to be standing right next to them when it goes up on the scoreboard.

Be seeing you.

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41 Comments on “Four Legs Good, Two Legs Better!...”


  • avatar

    Great news, Jack! I’ll be sure to pick a copy up and keep it on my toilet tank just in case the batteries in my tablet fail.

  • avatar
    raph

    Awesome, I’ll have to pick it up and heh… George Orwell in the tags

  • avatar

    Damn. Good for you, Jack. I haven’t cared for R&T since they started to go all blah and vanilla (Peter Egan excepted, mostly) in the mid-1980s or thereabouts. I may have to revisit that corner of the world.

  • avatar
    LBJs Love Child

    Great! Gives me something to look forward to while I’m waiting at Discount Tyres next month!

  • avatar
    cwallace

    Very cool, congratulations Jack. Could merchandising be far behind? A glovebox Baruth tool that combines the traditional glass breaker and seat belt cutter with an eight ounce flask and a Magnum dispenser seems logical.

  • avatar

    If you think about all the publications, and fairly prestigious ones, that current and former TTAC writers contribute to, you have to give Robert Farago props. The guy has influenced automotive writing. Just recently, besides Jack contributing to R&T, Murilee’s now at Autoweek and Car and Driver, and Steve Lang’s started contributing to Yahoo and Jalopnik.

  • avatar
    ToxicSludge

    The mag cover is good,and brings back a lot of memories but…..where’s the 65 Charger?

  • avatar
    Fordson

    Congrats – and I agree that Peter Egan is currently easily the best thing about Road & Track – and that’s not a backhanded compliment to Egan.

  • avatar
    johnharris

    Glad to hear it. It’s been tough going for Road & Track subscribers, and the recent editorial U-turn came just in time to save me. If it weren’t for auto-renew on Amazon I’d have dropped it ages ago.

    I’m always careful to read Jack’s articles here. I don’t pretend that my opinion matters. But I think I’m right that Jack’s prose has The Spark and his voice deserves a wider audience. As a professional writer and editor, I read his TTAC columns thinking to myself…”Okay, all we need to do is tighten this bit up, dial this back one teeny notch, and this piece is ready for the Big Show.”

    Congrats, Jack. You really CAN have it all in the world of glossies if you’re fair, choose your battles, and hang on to your distinctive voice.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    Congratulations. I thought Larry Webster was Car and Driver’s best new hire since the ’80s, if not their only worthwhile hire since the ’80s. If he wants you at Road & Track, that’s high praise indeed. He’s got his work cut out for him though, as the mag has mostly stunk on ice for years and the move to hell doesn’t bode well for editorial integrity. I’ll keep my eye out for your articles on line, but I’ve finally reached the phase where my decision to drop R&T no longer merits a daily appeal from them to reconsider.

  • avatar
    Rev Doctor

    Agree with many of the comments above- that R&T has become less than what it once was. Love Egan though. God speed Jack! I hope this is a sign of good things to come for R&T and her readers.

  • avatar
    replica

    It’s not hypocritical as long as you seduce the automaker marketing people.

    Live the dream.

  • avatar
    otter

    I’ll let this prompt me to pick up an issue and give them another try. I subscribed from 1985 until a few years ago, when I realized that, aside from Peter Egan, I didn’t miss it that much. I’m down to two car mags per month (from five many years ago) and I enjoy those two, but reading old issues reminds me of how much better I think pubs like R&T and C&D were decades ago. I reread a tattered 1985 issue of C&D the other week that I easily enjoyed more than the current one. While I do particularly enjoy the writing of some current writers, reading Jean Lindamood’s report of the 2nd One Lap of America – terrific fun to read – reminded me of what has changed. They were a lot more irreverent then, for one, and the big three each had a distinct voice. R&T used to have very good technology and race coverage, with excellent F1 race reports by people like Rob Walker.

    Even if I find Jack’s writing sometimes self-absorbed (Drama McHourglass, etc.) he writes with a distinctive voice that is enjoyable to read, and it is a refreshing difference from the anodyne drivel so common on the internet and the buff-book prose that has come to sound the same.

    • 0 avatar
      needsdecaf

      Indeed.

      I subscribed to C&D and R&T from 1989 until recent years. Writers like Bedard, Ceppos, Csere, Barry Winfield, etc. were giants compared to the crop of punks that C&D employs now. Punks that use way too much bathroom humor to sell their drivel.

      Larry Webster gets it. I remember his project cars and discussing sacrificing food to build those racers. Sam has been a good writer in the BMWCCA magazine and hopefully they can raise R&T back to the level that Egan deserves. He really is an island in a sea of mediocrity.

      Is Sam Mitani still around? He used to write well but now it’s terrible if it’s still there.

  • avatar
    photog02

    Congratulations- I am still waiting on Sam to transform that magazine into something worth subscribing to; bringing a better crop of writers on board will certainly help.

    Props for the Prisoner reference.

  • avatar
    juicy sushi

    Jack, good luck and I hope you’re part of a broader improvement at R&T and print automotive media in general. I don’t know what the future will hold for enthusiast journalism, but for all the wonders of the digital era, there is something beautiful in a really well done print publication.

    I just wonder if the future will have room for these magazines to find a viable business model, of if things will come down to Jalopnik vs. Speedhunters (with Pistonheads on the side)?

  • avatar
    jco

    of all the former-ish writers here, i think mostly I miss Murilee. I understand he’s spread thin with LeMons and now Autoweek (i used to subscribe, but I thought they had been mocked into submission), but just being able to read his junkyard reports here is a tease.

    when i was a kid and all I had was autoweek/C&D to read, I had no idea about the true nature of the business. but now that it’s been ripped apart, mostly by Baruth and this site, it’s hard to read anything but this.

    i’m glad R&T offered this to you. it was a brave thing to do given the state of things, but I think it will prove to be a good choice for them. as long TTAC gets to keep Avoidable Contact and Trackday Diaries, I’ll be happy!

    speedhunters is awesome, but it’s a totally different concept. they’re the glossy big format mag with captions instead of articles. there’s definitely a place for that, too.

  • avatar
    fredtal

    As much as I’d like to read that article, I’ll need some more incentive to buy R&T again. Sorry.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    I gave up on R&T a while ago, simply boring articles, boring writer, and re-hashed stories that TTAC did better anyway.

    Maybe if they are truly going to try a new format as described, that will turn around. And if they hired you that is a good sign! I still like paper magazines so hopefully one worth keeping will stick around.

  • avatar
    Junebug

    I say congrats too, I enjoy your articles and look forward to the R&T stuff.

  • avatar
    james2k

    And now I have a reason to read Road and Track again.

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    Able was I ere I saw Elba.

  • avatar
    mcarr

    I’m sure you’ll let us know here what issues you have articles in, because I will then by those issues. I don’t need a subscription.

  • avatar
    kkt

    Congratulations! I hope your return works out better than that of the Corsican Tyrant.

  • avatar
    MrGreenMan

    Remember to pause for introspection if you start leading off with: “I let the big engine unwind as I was rowing my own through the hairpin, twiddling the massive gearshift while diddling through the twisties.”

  • avatar
    MeaCulpa

    Not only animal farm, you’re watching us minions like something out of 1984*. Waaaaait a minute, you sling that old media stuff, then you pitch us against “old” media and now you’re back peddling paper again, you’re working for the ministry of truth aren’t you?
    I bellyfeel this could be Doubleplusgood for Road&Track readers.

    *To enter the university computer room reserved for law students you had to enter a key code, 1984, and somebody obviously thought that they were very clever coming up with that code. One day I banged on the door – having missed the tour when we were supposedly told the code – and were let in by a fellow student, I asked what the code was. He said “1984″, I said “hove the hell am I supposed to remember that?”. The other students looked at me as I was more then slightly retarded. Then I exclaimed; “AAAAAH!”, the other probably thinking “dude he’s slow, but not a full on Fudgetard”, then I continued “The year the Ferrari Testarossa were introduced, that makes sense”.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Because of you Jack, I’ll give them another try. I never like their traditional Euro snob attitude from years past…they were always the last on my list to buy at the airport…

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    Send a link to the articles when they’re online.

    I haven’t visited R&T for more than 5 years. C&D was in the same boat and I lurked there with a link MM posted here.

  • avatar
    doug-g

    Conrats. I’d forgotten about Sam Smith. I enjoyed his work on Jalopnik.

  • avatar

    In 1991, when I still had a subscription, I wrote Peter Egan a fan letter asking for advice to a young-20 year old with no college and a Georgia public education how to get into Automotive Journalism.
    He actually bothered to write me back. It was a simple, one-page, typewritten (pre laser jet printers) note with a very honest and detailed note of his hardships, luck and genuine “never quit” approach and how it worked for him. He underscored a need for a proper education and made several suggestions about relocating and preparing myself should these efforts fail. It probably took him less than a minute, but the fact that he would bother with the minute was enough to put me on the hook as a fan for life.

    That letter is still framed and on the wall in my office.

    I let my long standing subscription to R&T lapse in 1998. Now, I pick it up on the newsstand, if Egan has an article in it in addition to his column, I buy it. If not, I read his column and put it back. I do the same with Cycle World.

    Now I have another qualification to justify purchase. Good luck Mr. Baruth, perhaps honesty and talent can still save the printed car rag.

  • avatar
    skitter

    Enjoyed the articles. Far better than the spec-sheet recitations that have somehow passed for reviews in the past. Now you just have to lose the meaningless point systems.

  • avatar
    360joules

    Fair enough. Other than The Economist, Barron’s, Fortune, JAMA, and ENA Journal, I’ll give RT a try.

  • avatar
    vaujot

    When is the edition with your contributions going to be available. Or did I already miss it?

  • avatar
    vaujot

    I am pleased to report that the edition with Jack’s comparison test has now reached the newsstands here in Germany. So, if you’re in the states, you probably need to hurry to get your copy before the next edition comes out.


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