By on January 21, 2013


It’s TTAC Future Writers Week where YOU decide who will write at TTAC in the future. This could be their first (or last) step on the way to their eventual Pulitzer or Wurlitzer Prize. Please choose wisely, carefully, and fairly. It’s your, the future of several nations, and most of all, the auto industry that is at stake.

Ever since we signaled our readiness to accept a fresh crowd of eager and unpaid writers into the ranks of the TTAC annoited, the applications keep pouring in. I had to solicit the help of a spreadsheet to manage the entries, and I had to ask your help to choose.

This is how it will go down: Each and every day of the week, I will present you a set of seven writing examples. Their authors haven been carefully anonymized. They have a number instead. Each and every day of the week, you can and should cast your vote.

The top three out of each set of seven receive an entry permit into the rarified world of TTAC writers. Those who don’t make the grade and who fail in front of our jury will be sold into white slavery, or worse, recommended for the morning shift at Jalopnik.

The snippets come in no particular order. Actually, they do. They come in the exact order they landed in my mailbox.

The snippets have been chosen by me, in a very subjective way: By looking quickly at the story, and by picking what stands out. A regular reader gives a story even hastier attention. We need to grab the reader and pull him or her in.

You have two votes for each day. Both votes have equal weight. You may not vote more than once per day set of contestants.

The vote for each set runs until the second set appears. That’s typically for around 24 hours. Vote now, do not procrastinate. Voting for the last set stops when I say so, also typically 24 hours after the last set goes up.

Lastly, we have enough contestants to last us all week through Friday. If more submissions appear, we will run the TTAC elections into the weekend. Submission rules are here.

And now, drumroll please, here are …

The TTAC Future Writers – Monday Contestants


Contestant 1 writes:

“One car I keep coming back to, however, is the ’92-’97 Ford Crown Victoria interceptor. I can’t explain my attraction to these cars – they were frequently purchased by white trash after they were decommissioned, and most were subsequently beaten to hell. They’re minimally optioned, and guzzle gas inordinately. The memories and smells of criminals still permeate the backseats, putting a damper on the mood when having car-sex. Yet this is where my Panther platform love begins. In complex times, simple cars like the Crown Vic possess a nostalgic allure. It’s an understated jalopy – it has all the muscle of the great cars of yore, masked by unassuming sheet metal.“


 Contestant 2 writes:

“This quaint roadster’s charm is bolstered by its small, but eager engine. Try prodding a lazier power plant and the resulting sound can be akin to a groan, as if the car is complaining,”Aw, do I have to?” Mash the Miata’s accelerator and the response you’ll hear all the way to its 7,000 rpm redline is,”Oh, hell yes!” That’s not to say that the Miata is a speed demon; it’s not.”


Contestant 3 writes:

“I wouldn’t say that an automatic transmission is necessarily objectively bad in some quantifiable way. Many car enthusiasts prefer manuals for the reasons listed above, and will tell you (because they prefer manuals) that automatics are objectively worse in some way. This isn’t true anymore: modern dual clutch gearboxes and even standard torque converter automatics can shift far more quickly than a human, and the software that they use to predict when to change gear is getting better and better.”


Contestant 4 writes:

“It really is a horrible car, and was from the factory. It was always slow, and 28 years has not been kind to the original engine, transmission, suspension, rear end, body, or interior. I was able to repair the rust, replace the tires, and put a new top on the car before I ran out of money. On the rare occasion I have time to drive it, it flexes and bends, rattles and groans. It’ll do 0-60 in… well.. whenever it damn well feels like it. But it’ll eventually get to 75 and stay there for as long as my intestinal fortitude will allow. It feels like a collision with a Schwinn bicycle will send me to the hospital.”


Contestant 5 writes:

“My automotive purchasing history would suggest that I am biased towards the Japanese brands. I was scarred early in life by a terribly unreliable Renault Fuego Turbo, a K car and a diesel Delta 88. I have not been able to get myself to purchase a Domestic or European vehicle since. I have owned a Mazda 3, Miata, MR2, Maxima, Accord, Civic, G35x, CRV, 4runner(2) and Odyssey. (Not a real popular guy here in Metro Detroit.)”


Contestant 6 writes:

“What happens to a dream deferred? That question, asked by the great poet Langston Hughes, was meant to reflect on the experiences of African Americans in early twentieth century America. But it applies to our featured vehicle today, and the company that created it.“Maybe it just sags like a heavy load. Or does it explode?” The last lines of Hughes work speaks to the odd case of the C-350. At least one person involved with this particular conversion company saw the Ford lineup of the late 80′s and yearned for something more. Something much more, in fact.”


Contestant 7 writes:

“It’s November on the California coast, between the rains. Pismo Beach is far behind us; Monterey still far ahead. The road is HERE, the Pacific Ocean is THERE, right across the southbound lanes, over that little 6-inch-tall rock”barrier” that would give you a good launch before you fell the 400 feet to your crunchy doom. Left-foot-braking, you trail brake into the corner, wide then tightening and then wide onto the gas. And the DSC kicks in, up front, and the line out of the corner isn’t quite what you wanted it to be.”

And now, let’s go to the polls! 

(No hanging chads. Don’t mail or phone it in.  Read snippets before voting. Vote now.)

This poll has been removed.


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71 Comments on “TTAC Future Writers Week: Round One Of Voting Is Today...”

  • avatar

    I voted #7 and #5. The latter only because I needed two. I suspect that #6, in particular, is just trying to yank our chain.

    TTAC doesn’t need writers, you need editors. Spell checkers appear to have been used, but there are plenty of errors, both grammar and style. Even more so than TTAC’s regular articles…

    Here’s my submission:

    “The stifling atmosphere inside the Pink Dolphin Bar in the upper Amazon Basin carried barely enough oxygen for a man to survive – humid and thick the air was and full of little flying bugs, making the simple act of breathing like trying to suck hot Campbell’s Bean with Bacon soup through a paper straw.”

    Just kidding. It’s not mine, it’s from the Bulwer-Lytton Bad Writing award.
    “It’s hard to write good.” ™

    • 0 avatar

      The snippets intentionally have been printed as-is. If you want even more typos than usual, vote for them. If not, vote for the guys who can write. One of the “democratizing influences of the web” is that we are on our own, more and more, and that there is nobody who cleans up after us.

      • 0 avatar

        This is exactly why I can’t vote for any of these. A certain amount of self-editing (attention to comma placement included) is required for real clarity of expression, whatever one’s distinctive style may be. Because these were the earliest submissions, they’d be less likely to have gone through that step.

      • 0 avatar

        Regardless of my poor choice of label, the upside audience potential is beneficial to all of us, yes? Imagine TTAC or Ate Up with Motor attempting to form a business model in 1963. I think we can all get past a few typographical errors in return for the uninhibited content we are fortunate enough to get with just a wifi hookup. This is great fun, as it appeals to the voyeur in me. Hell, maybe the next Brock Yates is about to emerge. Love him or hate him he always elicited an opinion. I see nascent similarities with your J. Baruth, so you’ve proven your bona fides as talent scouts. On second thought, Baruth probably thinks of Brock as a dilettante. Good luck.

    • 0 avatar

      I could TOTALLY win that award! An award’s an award, right?

    • 0 avatar

      #2 sounds like s/he could do some very nice reviews. #4 has real promise as a writer. The rest are really meh, and some are worthy of Bulwer-Lytton bad writing awards.

    • 0 avatar

      An editor would definitely do more to improve this site than another writer. Half of the articles don’t even make it to the jump without an error jumping off the screen at me, and I’m not reading very closely. One author even has a habit of adding two spaces after periods. I understand you have to produce content quickly to compete, but letting that go is absurd.

      I’m not trying to take a cheap shot with this. I wouldn’t do any better writing under the same deadlines. It’s difficult, which is why I think TTAC needs a dedicated editor. Reducing the obvious mistakes would make this site look much more professional.

      • 0 avatar

        @burgersandbeer — I whole heartedly agree. Quality still matters, even in the internet age.

        And I don’t think the applicants realize that journalists of any kind write not only about what they know, but about what they don’t know. That is, they go out, pound the pavement, and find the story. It’s a job that can suck you dry, so I hope the winners can pace themselves.

        What would be better is a well edited guest column which taps the creativity of the readership. The writers would last longer and wouldn’t necessarily grow cynical. Besides, we have the pros for that.

        BTW, two spaces after periods were standard in the days of mechanical typewriters. They’re no longer needed with computers and proportionately spaced fonts.

  • avatar

    If anyone still doubts the democratizing influence of the web, see above. All entrants are to be congratulated as well as encouraged to keep writing. Treat it like a job – complete with regular schedules and routine. More power to TTAC. Since I am quick to criticize, let me be equally prompt in my praise for your contest.

  • avatar
    Austin Greene

    Thanks to all for contributing their written submissions.

  • avatar
    johnny ro

    +1 to each but,

    References to social underclasses, and use of the word “bolstered” were easy strikeouts.

    Dropped 3 on topic content – apologizing for automatics. This writer implies that he may not appreciate being more closely connected to an engine. And thatnot all manuals are fun.

    Whereas 4 and 7 presume you know cars, and have a visceral quality to them that permitted me to slow down and read the words, not skim.

  • avatar

    I voted for #4 since he/she seemed to be the only one to write about the car and not him or herself or the landscape, which is meaningless to me when I want to know about cars.

    when I read about cars, I don’t care how good the mountains look, or what car you had in highscool. No offense to Panther lovers, but #1 doesn’t seem objective and follows an old dream.

  • avatar

    I’m pretty sure #4 has been borrowing my Jeep. The rust is back though, so you can borrow it again..

  • avatar
    Darth Lefty

    These seem strangely homogenized. I was looking for something new and didn’t see it.

    • 0 avatar

      There still are a few slots open for next Saturday. Why don’t you write something new? We like writers with high standards and who demand the best from themselves.

      • 0 avatar
        Darth Lefty

        ‘Cause I’ve got a good job and I’m not a writer!

        Besides, your examples thus far seem chosen to appeal to the sycophants. I don’t think the sort of thing I want to see is likely to win a popularity contest when framed that way. Most of the things I enjoy most here come from experience – yours with advertising, Baruth with racing, Lang with sales, Sajeev with design, etc.

  • avatar
    Polar Bear

    What makes people so eager to write about cars? Is it for the love of the art, for web glory or for the huge payment they get from you?

    • 0 avatar

      It’s a dream, really. One that often doesn’t pay well and has horrible hours. I’d look forward to it because I’d still be able to drive anything I could get my hands on without annoying a salesman.

      It doesn’t feel right to lie to the guys and gals at the dealers, as they are just trying to make ends meet. Some have been cooler for test drives than others. Lets just say I’ve drive more BMW’s off the dealership than Honda’s.

  • avatar

    Those who don’t make the grade and who fail in front of our jury will be sold into white slavery…

    What if the unqualified writer wasn’t white? It’ll be like an ex-cop or ex-taxi Panther at a Barrett-Jackson auction.

  • avatar

    1 and 6

  • avatar

    Don’t like door number four (at all). TTAC doesn’t need to marginalize
    bicyclists by having a writer who suggests that the chief outcome of a car/bike collision would be damage to the car. Why did you even include
    that brilliant entry?

  • avatar

    I detect a bias here against the auto tranny author, strictly based on the topic. The name of the place is The TRUTH About Cars, and the truth is, not all people like to shift, especially people who commute in heavy traffic. We have the example of the Dodge Dart’s early non-sales (because no automatic was available) staring us in the face. The contest is for writing quality, not a critique of the topic the writer chose. Please remember that.

    • 0 avatar

      It felt very hard for me to ignore the topic when reviewing the entries. For example, for number one I had the immediate knee jerk reaction of thinking “do we really need another panther lover at TTAC?”. I hope I and most of us were able to separate writing quality from topic when voting, though.

      • 0 avatar

        I thought this too- but then I realized do I really want another writer writing about Panthers here on TTAC, regardless of their writing chops? Choice of topic is part of writing.

        I’d rather read something competently written with unique content than someone going over the same tropes again, no matter how deft the pen.

    • 0 avatar

      Perhaps the rest of the submission did this, but the author doesn’t need to justify automatic transmissions. A more interesting submission might have been about why some people still prefer manuals when so many prefer automatics.

      I made my own submission to the lottery… if I succeed I just might make that my first article.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes. I have a manual, and a like to shift a whole lot… about 10% of the time I’m driving. Then about 5% of the time, in stop & go, I think I was crazy to get a manual.

  • avatar

    I found it hard to vote based on what’s presented.

    I think a format where the TTAC editorial teams chose 1 or 2 full length pieces to run per day, and then had us vote on the ten at the end of the week would be easier/more productive.

    Snippets just don’t tell me how good the author is at setting up a point, fleshing out a topic, and arriving at a conclusion.

    Just my 2 unsolicited cents.

    Still alooking forward to the results though.

  • avatar

    #4 gets my vote for best content and fit to the spirit of the site. I like #5’s self aware admission of bias, which works for me, too.

    Normally I wouldn’t discount #3, but the discussion about automatic transmissions vs. manuals, while accurate at face value, still smacks of someone talking out the posterior. The author also nested two adverbs in the very first sentance, and I can’t abide that.

  • avatar

    To all the courageos, the brave, the writers, the riders, the drivers, the driven, the inspired, the car lovers, the self lovers, the winners, the second placers:
    Two words by wise (m)(ad) men.

    Fail Harder. ;)

    (great contest, I wait for pt 2 before voting)

  • avatar

    I would say it’s a tie between 4 and 5. Number 1-3 invoke too many automotive cliches.

  • avatar

    I don’t know if there’s room in the TTAC kitchen for another Panther lover. Mister Mehta and this other unmentioned writer might meet and wind up engaging in fisticuffs…

  • avatar

    I voted, but I didn’t find any of the writers objectionable. I think I would be able to read an article from each writer (at least once) and not feel distressed.

    Writing is hard! Creative writing is easier than Constructive or Instructive writing where accuracy in conveying the message is crucial.

    And who’s to say that writer’s block will not cripple any of these prospective writers. Each could be a real Don Juan – just one and they’re done. It’s really tough to consistently write engaging articles that will keep the readers spellbound.

    So here’s a suggestion. Maybe Bertel should weigh letting each writer present at least one article on ttac over a period of, let’s say, one year, and then let the ttac readership judge how well the writer is received by the hits the article gets and the number of comments the article elicits.

    Of course, Bertel would have the final say-so as to which articles are simply too atrocious to let loose in the blogosphere, and which writers have earned a second opportunity to entertain the ttac readerships with their writing prowess.

  • avatar

    I know I’m a little off subject here, but since we are talking about voting, what happened to the TWAT vote? Did that already get posted?

  • avatar

    I thought about throwing my hat into the ring, but decided it’s a bad idea.

    Twice upon a time, TTAC was kind enough to publish my Piston Slap “how to sell a Buick” question and its thrilling conclusion. Those pieces were partially real requests for help, but also partially stories that I was itching to tell. A columnist who only has something to say about their topic once every 5 years is not a great candidate.

    I look forward to reading more from the winners!

  • avatar

    How to make money in Automotive Journalism:

    Be first

    Be Smarter

  • avatar

    #3. I would like to read the entire story the sample was lifted from, because it seemed to be the one with the least drift.

  • avatar

    I put my votes towards contestant’s 1 and 4. Both were engaging and had me wanting to read the rest of the article. Contestant 6 was a close third as I liked his use of poetry to describe the car.

    Least liked piece was from contestant 3, not a great topic and too many big words.

  • avatar

    Okay, number 1 was posted by Sajeev, so I voted for it, along with number 7, written by Jack.

  • avatar

    If you’re trying to winnow down a big group of applicants, giving them all the same test usually works.

    In this case it could take the form of asking applicants to write about an adventure with (or in) their first car, for example.

    Otherwise it’s apples versus oranges, or Maggie Smith versus Sofia Vergara (as occurred in one category at the recent Golden Globe Awards).

    Speaking of whom, couldn’t you do more to try to attract female applicants? Where is the next Denise McCluggage going to learn her trade if not at TTAC?

    • 0 avatar

      That’s both an admirable idea, and fallible. While it may level the field for topic, the matter of uneven first-cars could still sway results out of personal interests.

      Someone with a Mitsubishi-2.6L powered Plymouth Voyager against someone with a Dodge Challenger will have two very different tales, with varying degrees of interest from readers.

      Some may like the aw-shucks charm of the putt-putting minivan that still got the ladies. Others will prefer romanticizing about the American coupe pulling in to a biker bar asking for change, and ending up getting a round of Flat Tire straight from the tap before the young driver is even legal to have any.

      • 0 avatar

        I don’t agree. The ideal candidate, if one exists, should be able to write entertainingly about ANY past or present driving experience, irrespective of the specific vehicle. The best writers at this site over the years have approached that level of versatility.

      • 0 avatar

        Flat Tire? Pun intended? The beer snob in me must question if you meant *Fat* Tire.

  • avatar

    #5 gets my vote on philosophical reasons. My expectation is #5’s dream car:

    1) Must require no repair above planned maintenance for several hundred thousand miles;
    2) Must deliver maximum resale value.

    Such a litmus test is called a “bias against domestics” by those associated with Detroit. However, this opinion needs to be aired since the above criteria drive Asian sales.

  • avatar
    Greg Locock

    The idea of having a competition like this is interesting.

    here’s my opinions

    1 Panther love – obvious attempt to appeal to the authorities. Out. Also uses jargon – jalopy
    2 Silly
    3 Dull but bearable
    4 That may be so, but frankly I don’t care
    5 That’s a list not an essay
    6 This is what the lovechild of Baruch and Setright would write if it had a poker up its orifice.
    7 Wannabe, probably plays racing games on a Playstation and drives a Cruze.

    I’m not voting for any of them.

    • 0 avatar

      ^ I tried to post something to this effect earlier, but it wouldn’t post.

      Most of these are forced, hollow attempts of Baruthian mimicry.

      1, 2, 4, 6 and 7 just annoyed me more than anything – obvious attempts to sound overly enlightened/wry/snarky. A little snark goes a long way, folks.

  • avatar

    I voted for 1 and 7.
    Congratulations to all that gave it a try.

  • avatar
    A Caving Ape

    These are not long enough for a proper assessment.

  • avatar

    The two people I voted for don’t appear to be in the top three as of this writing. Still, this has been a good first day and like others, I too appreciate all the authors’ efforts.

    It takes a lot of guts to put yourself and your work out there in front of everyone. It’s exciting to watch. I’m following this more closely than my wife follows American Idol.

  • avatar

    They wrote.
    I vote.
    Iam unqualifed to judge.
    But the sub zero wind chill has me sludge.
    So I read TTAC.
    Better than TV.

  • avatar

    I voted for 4,its the only article thats actually about cars.

  • avatar

    #1, #4, #7 were entertaining. I particularly like the deadpan delivery of #1.

    #2,#3,#5 felt like old-media professionalism. Not necessarily my cup of tea, but you got to have a well-rounded crew, I suppose.

    #6 was the x-factor. I like the perspective, even if it’s just absurdist intellectual rambling. You can’t possibly go wrong by dropping a bit of culture and art into an engineering industry. The style of #6 is a nice foil against the comedic prose and mechanical professionalism of most auto writers.

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