How I Drove Lots Of Awesome Cars Without Being A Notable Auto Journalist
I started my blog, Torque Affair, kind of on a whim. I didn’t have any grand plans other than getting a few of us together to go driving, take some videos and pictures along the way and then put them up on my site. That was it. But after doing that a few times, I quickly realized that all I was doing was adding the gazillionth car video and picture gallery on the interwebs that was exactly the same as all the others. What a waste of time.
That’s when I started delving into writing. At least with writing, I could differentiate myself. Instead of writing the gazillionth article that would be exactly the same as all the others, it would be almost the same.
To find cars to write about, I started asking for introductions to people that owned cool cars, or find them at car events. Being the novice writer that I was, my first few articles went something like this: “Me like AMG. AMG so good. The end.” You know–really beginner’s type stuff.
People agreed to have their cars featured on my site even though no one knew about its existence. For me, it proved to be a great way to be around cars like the Audi R8, Camaro ZL1, Lamborghini Gallardo, the rare Fisker, Ferrari 458, 360 Stradale and so on.
Then one day, I was hanging out with Leslie, who owned an Aston Martin Vantage S and just when I thought we were wrapping up, she offered me the unthinkable: $5000 for the writeup.
Not a chance. That scenario would have been about as likely as Panda Express serving good Chinese food. But…it was the next best thing. She asked me if I wanted to test drive the Vantage.
She said, “Well, since you’re going through the trouble of writing about the car, you should at least get to drive it.”
I was stunned. I couldn’t believe that she would let me have a go at a $100K+ vehicle that she just purchased.
Admittedly, I was nervous about driving a car this expensive. I had only driven a handful of much cheaper cars up until that point, so I was scared of even touching the car. I knew that fixing a scratch on an Aston would mean that I would have to sell one of my kidneys.
Just like anything else, doing something for the first time is something that tends to stick–like running your first marathon, buying your first home, or crashing your Mustang leaving Cars & Coffee. Some things you never forget.
Being able to drive the Aston changed how I did things. I didn’t think anyone would even consider me letting them drive their car but since Leslie offered, I thought that maybe others would feel the same way. Even though I had zero clout in the world of automotive journalism with only 1.25 daily visitors to my site, perhaps I had uncovered an opportunity here for me to drive some fun cars. It seemed unlikely that anyone would let me drive their car without me begging, but that was ok.
I decided that from then on, I would just ask other people to drive their car.
Wow, what a simple and obvious concept. Why didn’t I do this before? Maybe I was worried about getting brutally shot down. “Hell no, you can’t touch my car!”
But I had to get over my fears and soon became less stressed out about asking folks if I could drive their cars in exchange for an article that was never asked for by anyone.
Most people were nice except for one person who was worried about me sitting in the driver’s seat and asked me if I had insurance. That one question ruined everything. I felt so uncomfortable about driving the stupid car that I couldn’t relax and it made the whole experience unenjoyable. However, driving all the other cars were tons of fun and over the last couple of years, I have driven over 50 of them.
The best individual-owned car I’ve had the good fortune of driving thus far has been the SLS AMG. The owner encouraged me to drive aggressively which I did and loved every minute of it. We pulled up next to a school bus full of kids at a stoplight and they immediately started shrieking in excitement and start pointing and waving. I knew what they were feeling. I felt those same emotions but was too embarrassed to display them sitting next to the owner of the car.
And, of course, who could forget driving a 6000 lb Tesla Model X that can do 0–60 mph in 3.2 seconds. Wow.
Other Ways Of Finding Exciting Cars To Drive
I was enjoying driving all these cars so much that my car blog became an adventure in getting my hands on as many cars as I could find. I was hungry like a dog desperate to eat more food, even though he just ate a whole bag of Doritos, including the bag.
I went to specialty car dealers like Mosing Motorcars and slowly built up trust. I needed to prove that I wasn’t going to destroy their cars and that in fact, I was going to provide them with something in return. An article that no one would read. So, I accomplished this by lots of loitering around like a homeless person and coming around as much as I could. The result of my persistence in being the most annoying human alive was finding myself behind the wheel of the amazing twin turbo V8 Lotus Esprit.
Mosing Motorcars is also where I first got the opportunity to drive older classic muscle cars and learned immediately that I hate driving these ancient automobiles. They are impossible to enjoy because driving them takes the same amount of physical effort as pushing a piano up a flight of stairs.
I also went over to Longhorn Racing Academy and drove several of their cars, like the Viper TA, Cayman R and the GTR. Among all their cars, the Viper is the one that stands out the most. I was so afraid of driving the Viper on the track that I stuck to 3rd gear the whole time, but the raging 8.4L V10 pumping out 640 horses provided more than enough excitement to keep me giggling like a 5-year old the entire time.
Even with building these relationships allowing me access to all kinds of amazing cars, I wasn’t satisfied. I needed more.
Tagging Along With People Who Are About To Buy A Car
One of my favorite things to do in life is to find people who are in the market for a car and attach myself to their hip. There are three reasons why I like doing this. First, I’m lonely and have no friends, so this way I can have someone to hang out with. Second, you can test drive other cars along with the buyer without having to put up with any of the hassles, like actually talking to the sales people. Let the buyer do all that, while you simply go along for the ride, or in my case, the drive.
The third reason is that you could potentially influence what car they end up purchasing. This may or may not work depending on how much, if any, auto enthusiasm exists inside the buyer. Most people are probably going to do the reasonable thing of buying a 2-year old $15K Civic, but if the person likes cars–even a tiny bit–there’s a glimmer of hope.
I capitalized on that glimmer of hope, once, when I was able to persuade a friend of mine to buy a CL65 AMG. Sure, it was an insane purchase, but I was able to light the “must buy a fast car” fire in him. Soon after the purchase, we took the V12 AMG to the drag strip, which is where a car with 738 lb-ft of torque obviously belongs. It was a scary time because there wasn’t much safety to speak of, and we could’ve easily died in a fiery V12 ball of explosion in those narrow lanes by crashing into the rental Nissan Sentra that decided to take us on. Fortunately, we survived.
That CL65 is now long gone, since only about a month after the purchase, a $1200 repair was required.
Approaching People On Craigslist
Just like you might brush your teeth everyday, or go running, I have a similarly important daily activity–browsing the Craigslist “cars for sale” section. Most of the cars listed are $500 stolen Chevys or Pontiacs, but periodically I’ll spot a $160,000 Porsche Turbo S.
A while back, I came across a mint condition DeLorean that looked so great, I had to check it out. So, I sent off an email asking the owner if I could write about his car for my blog to which, he surprisingly agreed! What a car the DeLorean was–incredibly slow but incredibly cool.
Since then, I’ve tried this technique on Craigslist a few more times which mostly haven’t worked out. The rejection emails are rough. But, I know I’m not working hard enough if I don’t get rejected often and shed a tear with each rejection. But my soul has hardened and I tend to cry less these days.
Now, I’m to the point where I just shamelessly ask people if I can drive their cars–friends of friends of friends, acquaintances I barely know–whoever really.
Perhaps some day people will voluntarily offer me their cars to drive. But until that happens, I will be ruthless in my quest to drive more vehicles. If you have a cool car, watch out, because I might be coming after you!