The Porsche Was Damaged, But The Smugness Is Intact

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth
the porsche was damaged but the smugness is intact

The auto-journo world has been a-Twitter all night about the journo’s kid who crashed a 997 Turbo.. The actual “crash” doesn’t amount to much (about fifteen grand in damage to car and house, most of it covered by insurance) but the article Peter Cheney wrote to describe the incident provides some near-priceless insight into the manner by which automotive “journalism” has become PR by another name.

The opening paragraph of Cheney’s article is smug, quasi-Boomerish writing at its less-than-finest:

That day began with deceptive perfection. I woke up in a sunlit bedroom next to my beautiful wife. We had celebrated 26 years of marriage just the day before. Our cherry tree was in full blossom, and in the garage, locked away like a crown jewel, was a 2010 Porsche 997 Turbo, the latest (and costliest) in a long series of test cars.

In the paragraphs to follow, we learn that Mr. Cheney “transitioned” to automotive journalism from news reporting some time ago. It’s probably safe to read “transitioned” as “demoted”, perhaps due to an overabundance of cherry-tree imagery. An afternoon hackin’ it around Mosport with a Porsche rep holding his hand from the suicide seat had led him to describe the Turbo to his friends as “a tiger in an Armani suit”, possessing a “killer chassis” (the 997 Turbo is the softest of the upscale 997 choices) and “unbeatable power” (the 997 Turbo has less power than nearly every other car in its class).

And then we have the central feature of the story — the lie direct. According to Cheney, his son had merely turned the key, intending to demonstrate the stereo, and the car had launched out of the garage. I happen to have a 997 Turbo in my garage right now. It isn’t courtesy of Porsche — they save their loaners for the cherry-tree crowd — but still, it’s a 997 Turbo. I put the car in first gear and turned the key. The radio came on. It turns out that you have to put the clutch in to start the car. Oops! I wonder what really happened.

What happened next, however, was predictable to anyone who has ever dealt with print journalists. Porsche fell all over themselves to assure Mr. Cheney that he would be in no way censured for letting his kid screw around with the car. Cheney’s friend sent him a note,

There must be just a touch of parental pride that he has the sense of adventure, the stones, and the good taste to give it a try.

Only in Canada, I tell you. My father would have punched me in the face until I didn’t get back up for a stunt like that. Mr. Cheney decided instead to punish his son by, um, making him eventually pay back the insurance deductible.

The story concludes with Cheney comparing himself to Frank Sinatra (I kid you not) and with the news that the little garage-rammer will be treated to a complete performance driving course this summer, “based on his schedule”. Said performance course will prevent this incident from happening again, presumably because there’s a garage-driving section involved. And let’s keep it on his schedule, because the kid has other stuff to wreck.

If you’re waiting to hear that Mr. Cheney is going to lose his $180,000 free-car privileges, you will wait a long time. This is the cozy “inside baseball” world of auto journalism, where writers whose contributions influence precisely no one are treated to an endless string of luxuries. Has anyone ever decided to buy a Porsche based on a story in their local newspaper, written by a guy who isn’t even competent to drive alone on a racetrack? Of course not.

Oh, it’s a lovely life beneath the cherry tree. Here at TTAC, we scrape and struggle to rent, beg, and borrow whatever we can get for you. Occasionally, a manufacturer will have enough guts to let us drive and appraise one of their cars, and we’re grateful for that opportunity. Furthermore, we know that many of our readers make personal decisions based on what they read here. Don’t look for your humble author and his compatriots to ascend to Mr. Cheney’s lifestyle any time soon, but should that happen, Porsche can take solace in one thing: my son is only 14 months old.

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2 of 43 comments
  • Bunk Moreland Bunk Moreland on May 26, 2010

    Ed, it's not jealousy. Sadly, the mainstream magazines have a near-monopoly. If Car and Driver or Motor Trend gives a nice, glossy advertisement, I mean, review, then the companies will happily give them as many cars as they can take.

  • Ra_pro Ra_pro on May 27, 2010

    I read Pravda for 10 years and I can honestly say that on its good days it was better than Globe And Mail. What a pathetic excuse for a newspaper. It used to be even worse but it improved slightly in the last 10-15 since National Post came out (and went away).

  • Haruhi Where’s this exact location
  • ToolGuy This is a good approach and a nice writeup, but it shows Tim Healey as the author. Who wrote it?
  • FreedMike Race car drivers are all alpha-types. Aggression is part of the deal. I think you see more of that stuff in NASCAR because crashes - the end result of said aggression - are far more survivable than they would be in F1 or IndyCar.
  • Analoggrotto Only allow Tesla drivers to race, we are the epitome of class and brilliance.
  • Wjtinfwb When my kids turned 16 and got their Operators, we spent $400 to send both (twins) to 2 driving schools. One held by the local Sherriff was pretty basic but a good starter on car control and dealing with police officers as they ran the school. Then they went to a full day class in N Atlanta on a racetrack, with the cars supplied by BMW. They learned evasive maneuvers, high speed braking, skid control on a wet skid pad and generally built a lot of confidence behind the wheel. Feeling better about their skills, we looked for cars. My son was adamant he wanted a manual, Halleluiah! Looking at used Civics and Golf's and concerned about reliability and safety, I got discouraged. Then noticed an AutoTrader adv. for a new leftover '16 Ford Focus ST six-speed. 25k MSRP advertised for $17,500. $2500 above my self-imposed limit. I went to look, a brand new car, 16 miles on it, black with just the sunroof. 3 year warranty and ABS, Airbags. One drive and the torquey turbo 2.0 convinced me and I bought it on the spot. 7 years and 66k miles later it still serves my son well with zero issues. My daughter was set on a Subaru, I easily found a year old Crosstrek with all the safety gear and only 3k miles. 21k but gave my wife and I lots of peace of mind. She still wheels the Subaru, loves it and it too has provided 7 years and 58k miles of low cost motoring. Buy what fits your budget but keep in mind total cost over the long haul and the peace of mind a reliable and safe car provides. Your kids are worth it.