From Spring Break to an Endless Summer?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
from spring break to an endless summer

I was once a disillusioned grad student, endlessly unhappy with my prospects and with a simmering anger within my soul.

I previously ranted for Blue Oval News, after that outlet beat Ford in court. But when that gig ran its course and grad school had me over a barrel, I found TTAC’s august founder and made a modest proposal: let me review something that deserves a fresh perspective over Spring Break and I’ll give you 800 words on it.

No matter, things improved over the course of almost fourteen years, to the point I must now say goodbye to my beloved home.

Robert Farago was a tough editor but the “TTAC House Style” became mine, going into overdrive late one Saturday night when the college library’s 24-hour computer lab turned into an early morning affectation to the yet-to-be-named Panther Love. The Grand Marquis Review cemented my thoughts on giving underdogs the credit they deserve, putting upper management on blast for their beancounting binges and slumlord-like neglect for a loyal breadwinner with a rabid fanbase.

Plus, I loved putting new metal to the test, because Editor Farago actually ratcheted up my arguments. How often does that happen?

Take the clearly cheapened-out 2006 Toyota Camry with polymers that subsequently turned gooey decades before the chassis’ expiration date: how many Automotive Journalists questioned the infallible Toyota Camry back then?

At least one of them didn’t mind getting on the auto-journo blacklist. That’s the genesis of Piston Slap, my alternative to the journosaur press junket and fleet car lifestyle. I also moderated a large (relatively) forum for Lincoln enthusiasts, hence the natural interest in blending forum chatter into a blog.

And when I was knee deep in my Automotive Retail career (road tests are an obvious conflict of interest) I considered styling critiques: logical considering my naturally curious eye for car design, an endlessly infuriating/intoxicating relationship with Industrial Design, and the passing of my dear friend and former CCS classmate. It all came together for the birth of Vellum Venom and people kinda liked it!

If you are noticing a trend of anger being my muse, you aren’t alone: every business student I mentor at my Alma Mater gets a (brief) lecture that anger is an excellent motivator, so don’t be afraid to do something productive with it.

And productivity from anger is the key. I worked hard to (hopefully) get TTAC’s Best and Brightest to:

  • Shun commonplace automotive wisdom of the time.
  • Question journalistic platitudes to PR Departments found elsewhere in the autoblogosphere.
  • Find evidence via photos (Vellum Venom) or a researched concept ( Google links in Piston Slap) to encourage you to draw your own conclusion.

The anger within fueled my automotive passion in real life: like going to the junkyard (above) to pull parts from what could have been my test vehicle back in 2006.

Here’s what I mean: slap used/NOS Grand Marquis interior bits on the shockingly well-sorted dynamics of a Crown Victoria Police Interceptor and the result is more of a legit alternative to the not exactly luxurious confines of the critically acclaimed 2006 Chrysler 300. Plus, its V8 came without the fun of cam failures.

Putting one’s money ($250-ish) where the mouth is, the “Brown Victoria” won’t give Lexus a sleepless night, but it’s kinda pleasant inside with the softer-touch polymers and fake trees.

That’s passion, baby.

I am thrilled with the Brown Victoria’s modest improvement, as with all my chocolate-hued projects: perhaps TTAC’s Sierra might get done this decade, ditto the Continental Valentino.

And while my lesser projects remain unnoticed on Houston’s mean streets, they still take me to and from work. Anonymously!

(Like you’d actually want to drive that antique Jaguar in this swampy bayou city! Turn those cameras around: come on sheeple!!!!)

Perhaps the whole “rolling up to a Fortune 300 Automotive Retailer in a 30-year-old Lincoln Continental” is why I have the honor of making a transition to a new job that embraces my passion. It’s a great opportunity, but saying goodbye to that job and my dear home at TTAC is difficult. But that’s not the point…

As my writing career evolved, I only wanted to use the passion/anger inside me to inform, question conventional wisdom, and provide evidence-based, critical fodder for thought provoking discussions every week. Whether I was successful is for the Best and Brightest to decide, ‘natch.

And personally, I am light years ahead of that angry grad student from 2006. Perhaps now — in the summer of my writing career — I’m actually a happy person!

Please know that it’s been my absolute pleasure to interact with you via email, in the comments and occasionally in person. I wish you all the best in your life’s pursuits.

Thank you for reading.

(And I did it in under 800 words, Robert!)

[Images: Sajeev Mehta]

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4 of 56 comments
  • Dukeisduke Dukeisduke on Mar 02, 2020

    Blue Oval News - I used to be a steady reader of that site. Are they still around?

  • Cprescott Cprescott on Mar 02, 2020

    I have often wondered what truth about cars was being posted. There is precious little in actual factual content here to be honest. It is nice to dip in here for a quick visit, but honestly there are amateur youtube channels that give me more meat and substance than here - often news is late here. To me the best thing here was the junkyard photos and words. But that was diluted and even the rancid autoblog has it. I am glad someone appreciates panthers. But I'm not taking the time to google someone to find where he has now gone.

  • Lou_BC You'd think cops would have an understanding of the laws they are supposed to enforce.
  • Merlyn I’m on my second Spark and love it! I can pass any car I’ve never had a problem going up a hill it does just fine. As for cargo I can fit three suitcases, two book bags and still have the front seat for a passenger. Not sure what point this guy is trying to make. I have hand free phone service and Sirius radio plug in my phone and have navigation. I would buy another spark in a heartbeat.
  • Buickman I won't own one and I'll be happy!
  • Jeanbaptiste Ever since y’all started sending your damn geese down here we’re just been waiting for one of you to show up.
  • 3SpeedAutomatic Drove a rental Cherokee for several days at the beginning of this year. Since the inventory of rental cars is still low, this was a 2020 model with 48k miles and V6. Ran fine, no gremlins, graphics display was easy to work, plenty of power, & very comfortable. Someone must of disarmed the lane assistance feature for the steering wheel never shook (YES!!!!!!!!). However, this woman's voice kept nagging me about the speed limit (what's new!?!?!?!).I was impressed enough to consider this a prime candidate to replace my 11 yr old Ford Escape. Might get a good deal with the close out of the model. Time will tell. 🚗🚗🚗