By on August 11, 2016

2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302

“How do you get a job like that?”

Since June 13th, 2012, I’ve been asked this question more times than I can count. That was the day that my first post appeared on TTAC. Between then and now, I’ve been fortunate enough to be published on several sites around the internet and in print. As a result, I can’t sit next to somebody on a plane or work a corner at an autocross with a group of Tilley-wearers without being asked some variation of that same question.

I typically respond in the same way. “Start writing.” You can’t be a writer without writing — seems simple enough, but that’s where most people get stuck. Never fear. Your Uncle Bark is here to help you get started. If you want to get free flights to Tenerife, I can’t help you. But if you want to share your love of cars with the world, keep reading.

 

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By on June 30, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 6.58.43 PM

Here at TTAC, it’s been a tradition of sorts to call out poor examples of car reviews. In fact, we’ve done it so often over the years that I wondered if doing it again would be overkill. There’s such a multitude of miserably bad car reviewers on the minor car blogs of the Internet that it hardly seemed worth pointing out yet another case.

Well, I did wonder that. Then I read some reviews by Tim Esterdahl of Car Revs Daily. I wondered no longer.

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By on April 21, 2016

Vehicle Virgins still

Always dreamed of becoming a YouTube sensation? Wish you could get millions of clicks and finance your life from it?

That dream is a reality for Parker Nirenstein, a 21-year-old automotive engineering student at the University of Michigan and star of YouTube’s Vehicle Virgins channel.

Young, tech-savvy entrepreneurs always draw a crowd, and the BBC is the latest to take notice of this creator of viral car videos. Filmed on his own time, featuring supercars one day or simple used car advice the next, the channel sometimes generates nearly $1,000 of revenue a day. (Read More…)

By on January 1, 2016

2016 Volvo XC90 Exterior-001

Checking the files, I drove over 120 different cars, trucks, SUVs and crossovers in 2015. On track, off road, and in the Taco Bell drive-thru line. No wonder I’m tired and fat.

Here are my eight top picks from 2015. If you’re car shopping and you don’t buy one of these, you should be forced to own a Mitsubishi Mirage. Yes, I said it.

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By on December 11, 2015

2016 Honda Accord Touring

“Very little to dislike,” I found myself responding day after day during my week with the 2016 Honda Accord.

Rarely does a visiting test car generate as many questions and compliments. But the slightly restyled Accord, riding on the Touring’s eye catching, wheel-arch-filling 19-inch wheels, was deemed by friends, family, and neighbours to be quite the looker. And because it’s a car that’s squarely positioned in the affordable realm, they didn’t just compliment the Accord the way they did the $85,000 Audi A6 I drove earlier this fall. Rather, they’d ask, “Would I like it?” (Read More…)

By on June 23, 2015

is7

I usually have more fun with $5,000 cars than with $55,000 cars.

It’s not because I’m cheap. Well, let me rephrase that. I love investing in a quality vehicle, but in the world that is wholesale auctions, I rarely get to see them. You can find nearly anything at the auctions that has been traded-in, repossessed or not picked up at the end of it’s lease. What you can’t find are the keepers.

Toyota imported only a bit over 5,000 of these IS F sports sedans from 2008 thru 2014. The number brought to auction so far in 2015? 35. Annualized, that’s less than a 1.5% turnover rate in a business where anywhere from 20% to 60% of late model vehicles will revisit ‘wholesale heaven’ before getting shucked back into a retail dealership.

After a week and change behind the wheel of this 2014 Lexus IS F, I finally figured out why you see so few of these vehicles at the auctions. It’s the one missing ingredient that nearly every enthusiast publication glosses over when they review any high-end sports car.

The real world ownership experience.

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By on June 18, 2015

music-store-1024x682

About twenty years ago, I made a decision that had the potential to severely limit my earning potential, increased my chances of becoming an alcoholic, and statistically ensured that I would die much, much younger than most people.

That’s right, I decided to major in Jazz Saxophone Performance. Yes, you can do that. No, I wouldn’t recommend it. Luckily, a combination of factors led to my ceasing to pursue music as a career a long time ago, but not before I spent nearly four years working behind the counter of a musical instrument store in the Brass and Woodwind department as a part-time college job. We sold three levels of most instruments – Student, Intermediate, and Professional. Guess who we sold the most “Professional” instruments to? Professionals? Uh, no. A professional-level saxophone retails for more than $4,000 in most cases. For your average professional musician, that’s like, a year’s worth of ramen noodles and Crown Royal.

Nope, we sold them to the upper-middle class parents of high schoolers. They’d come in with their kids, who had been given a recommended name brand and model by their private lesson teacher, and I’d send the kids into a practice room with three or four different examples of professional-level instruments to try. They normally sounded equally horrible on all of them, but they always came out of the room proclaiming the clear superiority of the one that their teacher had recommended, or, lacking a recommendation, the one that had the coolest looking engraving or lacquer. They possessed neither the talent or the ear to discern any difference between the professional horns and the student one that they came in with. Buying a more expensive instrument was not going to make them one iota better as a musician.

But, considering that I stood to make about $200 in commission if they bought one of them, I congratulated them on an excellent choice, cheerfully swiped the parents’ credit card, and sent them all on their merry way. Hey, those pizzas I ordered to my dorm room weren’t gonna pay for themselves.

This is exactly what the modern day car review is like. Allow me to explain.

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By on May 20, 2015

2015 Smart Fortwo ED

I like Smarts.

It’s not a guilty pleasure, for I am not ashamed. It is a bizarre pleasure, however, lacking consistency and believability.

I’m a true blue car enthusiast with a love of V8 rumble, turbocharged torque, supercharged sizzle, manual shifters, and performance wagons. And yet, I can’t help myself: I like the way the Smart Fortwo steers. I’ve adapted to the way it wants to be shifted. I love the feeling of interior airiness. And I periodically enjoy well and truly pushing a car to its limits just to make proper forward progress. Approaching the limits in those performance cars I love? That’s a recipe for jail time. (Read More…)

By on May 12, 2015

2015 Jaguar XJL AWD

In February of 2013, when speaking to the opening breakfast of the Chicago Auto Show, Andy Goss, the head of Jaguar Land Rover of North America, made a couple of comments about the luxury market in the United States. He said that 90 percent of vehicles with luxury nameplates are sold with V6 engines and  you can’t sell a luxury car north of the Mason-Dixon line if you don’t at least offer all-wheel drive. The 2015 Jaguar XJL AWD Portfolio is the result of Goss’ perception of the lay of the luxury land. (Read More…)

By on April 28, 2015

2015 hyundai santa fe xl

Americans have spoken with their wallets and we can, for the most part, forget minivans. Consumers accept the loss of much of a minivan’s practicality and flexibility so long as their new vehicle still provides three rows of seats and gains a measure of all-weather usefulness.


• U.S. Market Price As Tested: $41,545

• Horsepower: 290 @ 6400 rpm

• Torque: 252 lb-ft @ 5200 rpm

• Observed Fuel Economy: 18.8 mpg


Exhibit A: the Hyundai Santa Fe, which is ostensibly a second-generation Hyundai Veracruz, a vehicle which joined many a three-row crossover in killing off vans like Hyundai’s own poorly named Entourage, which didn’t actually have an entourage of any kind. No following to speak of whatsoever.

Oh, there are still minivans. In 2015, Toyota will likely sell more than 150,000 Siennas in America for the first time since 2006. But total minivan volume is down 12% through the first-quarter of 2015 and minivans only accounted for 3.4% of all U.S. new vehicle sales in calendar year 2014, down from 6.5% a decade ago.  (Read More…)

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