By on January 7, 2013

When Joni Mitchell finally agreed to release a Hits album, she did so with the stipulation that the label also release a Misses album full of music that she was happy to have made even if the critics and buyers didn’t dig it.

So. What follows is five bona-fide, hit-counter-spinning hits, and five how-dare-you-turn-your-nose-up-at-my-talent misses. Let the second-guessing begin!

The Hits

Avoidable Contact: How Fake Luxury Conquered The World I’d written this for Speed:Sport:Life a few years previous, but I dusted it off and brought it to TTAC in order to test our august founder Robert Farago’s theory that “content longer than 800 words dies on the web.” We got a lot of inbound links and traffic on this one. Some people thought I was trying to dump on GM again but my real purpose was to examine consumer behavior and indulge in some authentic nostalgia for Seventies B-Bodies.

Avoidable Contact: Color my world, the case for front wheel drive. Everybody knows that the best Autobahn machines are steel-grey machines with black trim and exclusive drive to the rear axles, right? I made the case for automotive peacocking and high-speed stability with a push, not a pull. A lot of 17-year-olds with extensive experience borrowing their parents’ 328i automatic sedans told the Internet I was a n00b and a loser based on this column, which warmed my heart.

Avoidable Contact: The end, and the beginning, of great Japanese cars. This was a nostalgia piece mixed with criticism, much like the “Fake Luxury” piece, only discussing the way Japanese cars had become reflections of their customers’ worst qualities. An extended 1200-word digression into Orson Scott Card’s Speaker For The Dead and the “Descolada” was snipped in a half-hearted nod towards brevity.

How GM Could Save The Cadillac ATS From Its Otherwise Inevitable Fate of Complete Marketplace Failure This one was so globally popular that it was translated into German. It turns out that the Cadillac ATS is actually doing okay, in the sense that it has cannibalized CTS sales. Any chance at greatness, however, was engineered out during the product-planning phase.

Two Minutes Hate: David Sirota Is Ashamed Of His Inauthentic Masculinity My master plan to do a series of “Two Minutes Hate” articles, in which various autojournos and enemies of motoring would be eviscerated sans mercy, ground to a halt when Jalopnik appropriated the idea and ran it into the ground with a vengeance. Week after week, Hardigree and company went after various journalistic misdemeanors often enough to make the dish stale. After ten or so Gawker features about THIS IS THE AUTOMOTOTOTIVE JOURNOMALIST WHO BLAH WHILE BLAHING I felt like Peter Green being forced to watch a Nickelback stadium concert. Perhaps we’ll revive the feature in 2013, but I doubt it.

Now, for the Misses!

Hype and Hypertrophy: How Lamborghini Lost Its Man Card. Strictly speaking, this wasn’t a “miss”. It set a TTAC record for Facebook shares and was recommended and linked everywhere from “The Car Lounge” to a webforum for currently-serving Navy Seals. I wrote it at the end of a long work day, in about 75 minutes, and published it without even checking for typos. It was definitely my favorite article of the year, however. Sometimes the music comes to one’s fingertips, and sometimes it doesn’t.

Fiction: The little death. Written to memorialize a drunken three days in Destin and ignored by the readers with the same disdain they typically show for last week’s news. The readers who did comment thought that the protagonist was a horrifying person. I finally understood how Updike must have felt when the reviews for “Rabbit, Run” came through.

Fiction: The Dangling (Sponsored) Conversation Based on a date-that-wasn’t I had about six years ago with a girl from a VW owners forum, stirred together with the concerns I have about “sponsored conversations” in car (and other) web forums. For the record, the actual “TDIRiotGrrl” was quite fit and a solid twelve years younger than me, and we parted company after drinks.

Trackday Diaries: Consider Phlebas Meeting the mighty Panamera Turbo as a driving instructor, and trying to address the question everybody asks us on Mondays: why do you risk your car on a racetrack?

Never Mind The Shuffle Steering: Let’s Take The Falcon To Hyperspace This should have been hugely popular, right? I flew all the way to Los Angeles to help Hooniverse editor “Mad Science” kick some ass around a racetrack in a 1964 Ford Falcon — and he did kick ass, and we all learned a few things about trackdays that are applicable no matter what you drive — and it just landed with a thud. I’m still bitter about that.

All of these hits and misses, plus many more besides, are available at my author page at TTAC. I’d like to thank all off you for making 2012 a truly great year for me at TTAC. I’ve scaled my contributions to the site back a bit for the new year, and I’ve been involved in some new and different automotive adventures elsewhere about which I can’t wait to tell you, but I continue to believe that there is no group of “car people” out there as consistently knowledgeable, interesting, and worthwhile as The Best and Brightest. See you all again soon!

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27 Comments on “My Greatest Hits (And Biggest Misses) of 2012...”

  • avatar

    Hit or Miss..Jack? I find all your stuff entertaing.

    And really? Thats all that counts eh!

  • avatar

    Seriously, a clip show? This is like the time Arnold and Willis get locked in the storage locker in the basement of the Drummond’s apartment building…

    I keed, I keed. It’s always great to have an excuse to look at some of our favorite scenes again, and Jack is a good enough writer that I am happy to invest the time it takes to look through these for gems I somehow missed.

    The article on front wheel drive cars hits close to home. When I was in the market for a large sedan a few years ago I chose a 300M Special mostly because I liked the style and had enjoyed driving the one or two I had previously rented but I struggled with the idea of buying a front-wheel driver as my “cool car.”

    It took some time but I decided the practicality and all weather handling of the Chrylser were what I most desired in a car. I love it when the media affirms my choices.

  • avatar

    I thoroughly enjoyed “Two Chevrolets enter, one leaves.”

    • 0 avatar

      Yes! That was great. I often think of it when I consider how GM doesn’t understand its cars in the marketplace.

      • 0 avatar

        “[T]he watery Big Bang, the 32-step power steering fluid check, disposable faux-ury” was the best article of 2012 on TTAC (requisite IMHO), as it constituted a much-needed & appropriately brutal skewering on what is now our disposable “faux-ality” societal norms.

        The article only had to do with the Porsche Boxter in the most tangential of ways; one could have substituted a nearly endless array of objects in the place and stead of the Boxter as the metaphor to be used to drive the salient point that was made home.

        I sent that article to at least a dozen people.

        It was a masterpiece.

        I believe the apex of quality was hit, depending on make and model, in terms of the automotive realm, somewhere between 1995 and 2005, and the inclusion of gimmickry and technological gee-whiz-ness since then has been used as a smokescreen to help the automakers “pull over” the de-contenting of true material/mechanical greatness.

        This is why I’ll hang on to my present circa-2005 vehicle for as long as I can. I literally can’t find any vehicle priced at anywhere near its as-new price that comes close to matching its all around goodness. I have had good fortune, and am lucky enough to be able to buy many new cars fo’ cash money, yo, but have had great difficulty finding new, “improved” vehicles that haven’t had at least one fatal stake driven through their beating heart (either by engineers or bean-counters, for whatever reasons), and often many more than one.

        *The one automotive technology I will never NOT have, if I can help it, is stability control, which probably has prevented more accidents and saved more lives than airbags+antilock brakes combined (people don’t realize it, because it works so seamlessly and not only prevents accidents, but prevents them from realizing they were at risk of being in an accident). But this is no “gee-whiz, or oooh-ahhh” technological piece of douchery, but rather a solid techno offering of greatness.

  • avatar

    I honestly thought that “Two Chevrolets enter, one leaves” and “Love Song of the W Impala” were your best of the year. But then growing up in an ALL GM family (although I own NO GM products now) I’m biased.

  • avatar

    No more fiction

  • avatar

    Rockin’ “The Shocker” on the cover of TTAC.

    A classy way to start the new year.

  • avatar

    I thought “How GM Could Save The Cadillac ATS From Its Otherwise Inevitable Fate Of Complete Marketplace Failure” was the best article I read anywhere in 2012.

  • avatar

    Can’t win em all. Either way, your articles are among the ones I enjoy the most. When I started frequenting the site again, I made a point to go back and read your previous work posted here and was disappointed with none of it.

    My favorite of the year, which I’m surprised you didn’t include, was the open letter to Lincoln Motor Management. I think it embodies everything we in the car community feel about the brand in one piece. Well done.

  • avatar

    I’m shocked at the misses. I thought that they were all great! Sure the fiction pieces had some purple prose in it but it was different and very refreshing.

  • avatar

    Love all your stuff. I guess that makes me a fanboi. I’m rereading everything you linked.

  • avatar

    As long as we are doing a clip show, how about a special edition with deleted scenes? I want to read about the Descolada…

  • avatar

    I loved the case for Front Wheel Drive article. It made me feel better about the FWD sport compact that I drive daily and genuinely enjoy driving. As an auto enthusiast it can be difficult to explain to other auto enthusiasts that FWD is still fun and relevant, especially with this generation of drifting and Toyobarus.

    I’m also curious, the guy standing next to you, hit or miss?

  • avatar

    ALL your posts can be hits, Jack. Just borrow a few Japanese-Girls-In-Bondage pics from Bertel.

  • avatar

    The Lamborghini one was amazing. I’m not a big fan of the fiction. And I applaud GM for keeping the ATS light.

  • avatar

    That article was a miss because Lamborghini lost it’s man card *with* the Murch, not after it. Yeah, “Murch” not “Merce” nor “Murthf”. Because “merch” is all that car ever was.

    The final properly designed by Gandini, rough around the edges, not-all-that-great-but-thrilling-to-drive-because-half-the-time-it-wanted-to-kill-you-but-that’s-ok-because-you’d-have-an-envious-audience-while-it-did Lamborghini was the Diablo. It wasn’t terribly quick, nor fast, nor did it brake well, nor did it handle well. But when you wrestled, err, drove it, you knew it was a Lambo. And so did everyone else within eyesight or earshot.

    Those of us who grew up drooling over (and on lucky occasions driving) 400GTs, Miuras, Urracos, Jalpas, Jaramas, Isleros, Silhouettes, and Espadas, not to mention the Countach, consider the Diablo the last Lambo.

    Murches have AWD, can’t swap door handles with an X1/9, and were penned by a Peruvian-born Belgian. Mussolini had his name on the office door, but we know who ran the building. They shoulda just stuck rings on the front and been honest about it.

    With the Murch, it was obvious that the conquering Germans were there to make the trains run on time and the ride wasn’t going to be nearly as gloriously needlessly adventuresome as we had come to seek. Sure, there was still a little Italian man collecting the tickets, but the coaches were cleaner, and the food was more consistent, if more bland, in the dining car.

  • avatar

    I enjoyed our piece about the Iron Giant and following write up about the Delphi diesel, not to mention your TTAG piece. I hope you don’t stray too far from TTAC for 2013.

  • avatar

    Hard to find fault with any of those… even the “misses”.

    Who else has that album?

  • avatar

    I enjoyed them all.

  • avatar

    I missed “Trackday Diaries: Consider Phlebas” when it was published as I was travelling that month. I just read the article and thoroughly enjoyed it. I had no idea the TrackDAZE events were so reasonable, close and included some instruction. My only open question is which of the tracks have diesel available?

  • avatar

    Best automotive writer ever.

  • avatar

    “Avoidable Contact: Color my world, the case for front wheel drive.” is probably my favorite blog entry every posted on TTAC. Perhaps it’s not unexpected on a site where bloggers and readers alike go weak-kneed for a Grand Marquis, but it’s nice to see acknowledgement that automotive joy comes in something other than a blue and white roundel.

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