While a minor shit storm erupted the other day over the use of a word denoting short-haired women who love women, and, allegedly, certain cars, I did a lot of the soul-searching and self-reflection demanded from me, and I thought about all the scandals I may have caused in my life, and which I would regret, if the hate mails are an indicator. There were many scandals, and one of the most egregious involved a car. Oddly enough, it involved a car that allegedly is a top choice among men who love men. The scandal, however, involved people who were into dogs, fish, and other animals. And it was about the Volkswagen Jetta.
Those who frequently demanded that the Autobiography Of BS © is turned into a book or a blockbuster movie see themselves a little closer to their declared goal. The series will be a monthly feature in Top Gear Deutschland, a very glossy magazine and spin-off of the TV series. The BBC-inspired buff book already hit the stands in Germany, and arrived in my Japanese mailbox today. (Read More…)
To commemorate the sudden departure of Marcelo de Vasconcello’s Illustrated History of the Brazilian Car, I’ll resurrect The Autobiography Of BS© - just for this one time, honest. It only tangentially has to do with cars, but a lot with Brazil. As all the other stories, the story is true. Even the name wasn’t changed. Hans-Peter is alive and well. He eluded the Brazilian DOI-CODI (their secret police) after I got him into hot water. He lives the good life, somewhere in Europe.
In the 70s, I started my career in advertising at GGK, one of the hottest shops in Europe. Our biggest client was Volkswagen and that client was mine. At that time, Volkswagen was on the verge of bankruptcy, the world went from one oil crisis to the next, and the end of the automobile was predicted by all. “When the liter Benzin will hit one Deutschmark, people will stop driving,” was the prediction by many experts, and everybody had bought into it. The other guys in the agency fled to safe accounts, such as alcohol and cigarettes, and I could take over Volkswagen.
One of the Art Directors I worked with was Hans-Peter Weiss. I made him a target of Brazil’s secret police. (Read More…)
Due to the animated discussion of distribution models and dealer profits, I’ll resurrect The Autobiography Of BS© - just for this one time. As all the other stories, the story is true. Even the name wasn’t changed. Harry is still alive and well. I just did make sure.
It was a Friday. At the tender age of 23, I served as the editor-in-chief of a small German weekly, and I hated hectic Fridays when we had to put the new issue to bed.
My friend Harry was on the phone.
“I need your help. Urgent financial matters.” (Read More…)
From 1973 through 2005, my job was to create excitement for Volkswagens in the hope that people would buy them. The job had its ups and downs. We loved facelifts and hated totally new cars. With a facelift, we could travel to attractive and warm places for the photo shoot. “Because of the sun.” Not to mention the beach. And the nice amenities of the Hotel Negresco in Nice. With a facelift, we could tool around in broad daylight, and nobody would bat an eye or even think of snapping a picture. Which magazine would publish the spy shot of a re-designed bumper? Totally new cars were top secret. Not allowed to travel outside the confines of the VW factory. Even there, constantly under tarps. The only places we could photograph them were at the in-house photo studio or at the VW proving grounds in Ehra-Lessien.
Ehra-Lessien (“Ehra” for short) was—still is—in a godforsaken place north of Wolfsburg. Surrounded by woods, barbed wire and an army of guards, Ehra is Europe’s largest test track. According to Wikipedia, “they had originally built it here during the Cold War, because it was a no-fly zone on the East German border, safe from prying eyes seeing secret prototypes.”
We said they built it there because they saved barbed wire on the one side abutting the death strip of the border. It was a lie. (Read More…)