My Automotive Influences

My automotive viewpoint and writing “style,” if you can call it that, owes an equal debt to former Car Craft and current Hot Rod editor David Freiburger and internet car-junkie superhero Murilee Martin.  Both lean heavily toward the greasy-fingernail, swap meet and junkyard side of the spectrum (as opposed to the wine and caviar Pebble Beach set), which tickles all the right parts of my cerebrum.

Freiburger was the editor at Car Craft right around the time I was old enough to start wrenching on my own crap, so he had a distinct impression on me.  His hare-brained tales of back-alley wheeling and dealing for old cars and crazed attempts at going fast – like the article in which he took a beater 1968 Plymouth to the drag strip and proceeded to shave 4 seconds off it’s elapsed time by shedding “unnecessary” parts and cranking the timing to seriously unsafe levels – allowed an inexperienced gearhead like me to live vicariously through his four-wheeled insanity.

More recently, Murilee Martin (a strangely popular nom de plume) has come to represent the best kind of busted-knuckle writing.  He (yes, he) has a knack for expressing the love-hate relationship that many people have with their cars and the automotive industry.  Anybody who has ever turned a wrench has wondered “why couldn’t this have been made differently” or “why did this fastener decide to fail NOW?”  But Murilee captures that combination of awe and frustration better than anyone.  For an example of why I’ll never be as good as he is, I point you to this passage from a recent blog post about a gas pedal repair on his Dodge A100 van project:

“The A100 has a throttle-linkage mechanism that appears to have been designed, on cocktail napkins, over shots of happy-hour well bourbon at some Keego Harbor dive. I’m picturing a trio of junior Dodge Truck Division engineers, all decked out in cheap 1962 suits and chaining unfiltered Pall Malls, looking down the barrel of a tomorrow deadline. ‘If I don’t have a throttle linkage design to bring to the meeting tomorrow morning,’ thundered their boss, a bullneck who ground out his cigars in an ashtray made from the skull of a Japanese Navy cook he offed with his teeth on Tarawa, ‘You’ll be lucky to find jobs scraping the calcium deposits off the urinals at the Greyhound station!'”

After finding a replacement pedal at the junkyard, he goes on:

“I said similar, because while the overall shape and all-important metal-backed rubber hinge at the pedal’s bottom was identical to the A100′s pedal, the newer van used a Stone Age lever-sliding-on-plastic-backing-plate connection to the throttle linkage, while the A100 used a ball-and-socket/down-through-the-floor connector that must have cost 11 cents more per unit. The whole mess, in both cases, involves a Soviet-grade crude-yet-sturdy rubber-molded-around-steel construction method, no doubt stamped on a press in Indiana that stood five stories tall, shook the earth, and polluted the groundwater for generations to come.”

I don’t think anyone has ever described a busted accelerator pedal in such lurid, perfect detail.  Heck, just read the whole thing already.

So while I may not be as nuts as David Freiburger or have Murilee’s writing chops, I hope the fine people who visit my blog are half as entertained by reading it as I am by writing it.

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