By on February 28, 2020

Mercury Grand Marquis Taxis & Sajeev Mehta, Image: Sajeev MehtaI 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.

CVPI with Grand Marquis Interior, Image: Sajeev Mehta

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. Grand marquis interior in a crown Victoria police interceptor, image: Sajeev Mehta

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.

2006 Ford Crown Victoria CVPI Brown, Image: Sajeev MehtaAnd while my lesser projects remain unnoticed on Houston’s mean streets, they still take me to and from work. Anonymously! 1989 Lincoln Continental Signature Series, Image: Sajeev Mehta

(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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