Writing a monthly column in a national magazine has to be just about the best gig around. Certainly the pressure is there to come up with clever and reasonably intelligent things to say every month, but the opportunity to stand upon a soapbox and tell the world what you think is more fun than you might imagine. If that soapbox is european car and your entire life has been consumed by cars from across the pond, it would seem to be a job made in heaven.
I have been extremely fortunate to have worked for just three different editors at ec. Greg Brown invited me to write a monthly column for the magazine nearly 15 years ago. His phone call came out of the blue. "Sure," I responded. "How long do you want the column to be?"
"As long as you want," he said.
"What do you want me to write about?"
"Anything you want."
I was struck by my good fortune, but nonetheless asked for further explanation. "I want my magazine to have more personality," Greg explained. "And I want you to give it that." I didn't question his judgment on hiring an engineer to provide personality, but stuck my nose to the grindstone and started cranking out a column a month. We called it "On the Line" and it has had that name ever since.
My first column was about teaching my 13-year-old daughter how to drive in my 1952 MG TD-the better to ensure that her first driving experience would be something memorable. It struck a nerve apparently; when I meet readers at vintage races or car shows, they mention that column more than any other.
Sherri Collins followed Greg Brown at the magazine's helm and put her own signature on the book. Among Sherri's other enviable editorial talents is an ability to find the best titles and subtitles for stories. The woman is a title queen. Her reign was lamentably brief but her departure to other pursuits brought to the top job Les Bidrawn. Under his capable leadership the magazine has continued to hold its own, despite economic downturns and a magazine publishing industry that at times seem destined to spiral down the drain behind the nation's newspapers. Les has kept the magazine interesting and fun, and his photographer's eye has brought a whole new graphic sensibility to its pages.
Most of my columns have something to do with the things that have happened to me as a "car guy." I have to be careful here to remind you that I use the term "guy" in a non-gender-specific sense. As I've said before, I know lots of women who are "car guys." I've written about trips to that great American institution, the rapidly disappearing junkyard. I've written about how drivers from different countries drive. I've written about competing in a 55-day, 15,000-mile rally in South America, a seven-day jaunt through the Pyrenees in an East-German Trabant, and a three-month, multi-part series about my drive around the world in 2000 in a 1959 Mercedes-Benz. I've written about towing trailers, buying motorcycles, running in marathons, and why televised classic car auctions are wrecking the car hobby for "normal" car enthusiasts. Les tells me that I have always received more reader mail than anyone else and I am proud that my voice reaches so many who care enough to write a letter or e-mail.