By on May 18, 2010

I received a love note from (former TTAC scribe) Frank Williams that was more than a little irk-inspiring.  Frank still reads AutoWeek, but that’s not a big deal: he noticed that Senior Editor Mark Vaughn’s column on the print rag is called “Piston Slap.” Or to put it in his own words:

“I don’t know how long he’s been using it, because this is just bathroom reading material that I toss as soon as I finish so I don’t have any back issues to look at.  However, I’ll bet your use of the title predates his.  Sounds like the making of a snarky blog to me.”

Damn straight it does, Frank.  Then again, perhaps Vaughn’s column predates my 14+ month odyssey into the world of Automotive self-help. And I came up with the name myself, thank ya very much. Course I don’t know who grabbed this name first, because I’m fairly ignorant on most mainstream print media.  But maybe the Best and Brightest can help. Does anyone have AutoWeek back issues that show us when Vaughn used the “Piston Slap” name in his column?

My guess is someone owes me an apology, but perhaps I spoke too soon. In any case, this ain’t over.

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31 Comments on “Did AutoWeek’s Mark Vaughn give TTAC a Piston Slap?...”

  • avatar

    no no no, you’re doing it wrong.

    You’re being far to cautious first of all, this requires a full bore attack without any effort spent verifying the claim. This “perhaps I spoke too soon” thing just won’t do. Also, I’ve noticed a distinct lack of comments about his mother/sister/wife’s whorishness. This needs correcting immediately.

    I’m sure there’s an “blog-fight for dummies” book out there somewhere that will outline what’s required here.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Trademark War Watch 1!

  • avatar

    Get a lawyer, a real SOB, and slap him badly (with the lawyer, that is)

    Then post the pics, video, story, you know… the entertainment.

  • avatar

    You could pick up the phone and call him . . . just sayin’

  • avatar

    My guess is that a pre-production copy of Autoweek was “accidentally” left in a bar by a novice writer. It was found by an entrepreneurial fellow and sold to TTAC for $5,000. Mr. Mehta dissected the magazine, found the piston slap article and started posted here on TTAC. Lawsuits, copyright and IP challenges soon to follow.


  • avatar

    I tried to find something about either another Piston Slap or about Mark Vaughn on the Google machine, then on the Autoweek site, but no luck… Maybe it’s the title of an article he wrote rather than the name of his column?

    • 0 avatar

      I think you are right. The link to autoweek is below:

      His columns titles vary per week. So it was probably just a fluke.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree, it does look like that. On a side note, I just read some of his stuff… Not bad. Maybe instead of beating him you could invite him to join TTAC as a contributor?

    • 0 avatar

      I accidentally over cropped the picture, the column name sure looks like Piston Slap…and he covers various subjects under the Piston Slap name.

      It’s the name of a column, not an article about Piston Slap.

  • avatar

    So, Sajeev, if it turns out Mark Vaughn was first, will you be issuing an apology? Renaming the column?

    I highly doubt he got the idea from TTAC any more than you got it from AW.

  • avatar

    Ronnie’s Rule: If I have a clever idea, someone else probably already had the same idea.

    Isaac Newton was one of the smartest people who has ever lived. Calculus is one of his greatest achievements. Gottfried Liebniz derived the same principles independently of Newton.

    I’m willing to bet that neither Sajeev Mehta nor Mark Vaughn was the first person to titles some automotive writing “Piston Slap”.

    • 0 avatar

      Same thing happened with the Möbius Strip (and no, this is not a clothes-removal dance); someone else independently had the same idea at the same time.

    • 0 avatar

      And if someone calls me out on using the name after they did, I would change it out of professional courtesy. Because that’s what I might be asking of AutoWeek if I get more proof.

    • 0 avatar

      Are you absolutely sure? I mean really, truly absolutely sure that you’ll stop using the name if you are called out?

      Well, if that’s the case might I point you to the title of the club publication of a local car club of mine – The Thornleigh Car Club (TCC)based in Australia who have produced this publication since 1954. In fact here is the cover of their very first issue:

      Here is their website:

      The point is I guess, that ‘Piston Slap’ is hardly that novel a title for a car related article, given it is quite a distinctive and well known phenomenon, but could be a word pun too. Another good one is ‘Idle Chatter’ which is the name of the ADO16 club mag.

  • avatar

    This is a litle off-topic, but I don’t believe that the magazine is formally called AutoWeek any longer, but simply “AW”.

    As I understand things this isn’t an attempt to hide the fat and other unhealthy things contained in the publication as was the case when Kentucky Fried Chicken became KFC.

    Rather it was changed because AW is no longer published weekly. It seems to be more or less bi-weekly, although I’m not entirely sure.
    I believe that AW means “Auto Whenever”.

    I’m an expiring subscriber because, even though they’re cut down the amount of material they need to produce by 50%, they don’t seem to have much to say, particularly in race coverage and analysis which is what led me to subscribe in the first place.

    You may now resume your quibbling

    • 0 avatar

      Most people that are expiring don’t comment here. However, I guess non of us will get out of this alive, but you are one of the first to talk about it in TTAC.

  • avatar

    My mechanic told me my old BMW 2002 has “piston slap” about 5 years ago but I don’t think he knows Mark Vaughn. Does that help?

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Well we all know I was the first person in America to come up with the phrase, “Hammer Time”.

    I also invented the funny little pants for that rapper who came from Oakland.

  • avatar

    Actually it was I awhile back who first copywrote & trademarked the term “Piston Slap” here on TTAC, before it Mysteriously turned into the title of a column; just a few days later…
    -It was back in the days when we all learned to not be on the same roads as Jack Baruth and his Phaeton. -Somewhere around February 27, 2009 when Ed posted about the MCE-5 in “The Rabbit and The Hare”.

    So if anyone should be at all upset about this copyright-infringement bogartage it should be ME!!! :D

    That being said, I am not in the least upset. If anything, this column is so good and provides such a large & quality source of fixit info & community discourse that it Deserves a little flattery in the form of imitation.

    I think a lot of people had always wanted something like a VwVortex without the yobbos, and ttac has done it.

    Sajeev however, still owes me royalties. ;P

  • avatar

    Bluff well and truly called me thinks.

  • avatar


    Turns out there’s a website called that predates both of us, even your impressive 14-month tenure. So if you really meant what you said above,
    “I will rename my column if published proof surfaces,” then I’ll look for the new name soon.

    Mark Vaughn
    [email protected]

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks for stopping by, Mark.
      I don’t want to speak for Sajeev, but I certainly wouldn’t consider a consumer law firm site with the header “GM PISTON SLAP… GM Engines are “Like A Knock” a competitor to his column. The site solicits lawsuits for crying out loud, and includes the following disclaimer:
      This is a collection of articles, websites, and complaints from numerous consumers around the country. is provided as a public service for informational purposes only. Information on our website should not be construed as legal advice. For answers to specific questions, you may want to contact a consumer law firm listed on our site. Links included in our links section do not imply endorsement or recommendation by and are only provided as a public service.
      For this inconsequential distraction you pass up an opportunity to set the record straight? Sajeev gave you a link to his first-ever post… all you had to do was prove that you used the title first at AW, and this matter would be settled.
      As things stand, this picture explains why I personally wouldn’t be worried even if you did start using the title within the last 14 months. Live and let die, as the poet said…

    • 0 avatar

      Nice one, although it seems that, is a site that literally deals with piston slap. Mind bogglingly, it seems to explore the litigious aspects of the phenomenon, like some kind of automotive version of an ambulance chaser.

      Note also my other example of:

      A ‘Piston Slap’ titled publication that has been around since the 50’s.

    • 0 avatar

      I just checked the WayBack Machine and I can see that since at least 2006 ThornLeighCarClub has been using the PistonSlap moniker…

    • 0 avatar

      Older than that.

      The first edition was 1954:

      Either way, Sajeev needs to eat some humble pie and re-name the column in deference to the erstwhile aussie car club:-)

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