Mille Bloglia: Car Lust Turns 1,000
(Before we get started, I want to give a big thank you to That Car Guy and Cookie the Dog's Owner for doing the majority of the work putting this 1,000-post anniversary piece together.)
I know that referencing the famous pre-1960s Mille Miglia (Thousand Miles) road race in the title of Car Lust's 1,000th post might seem a little bit over the top, but for me the title is apt. The last four years and 1,000 posts have represented an amazing journey from a quirky series of e-mails to an audience of my co-workers, to a blog that has attracted a great set of contributors, commenters, and readers. That transition obviously can't challenge Sir Stirling Moss' exploits in the Mille Miglia, but I'm as proud of what this blog has become over its last 1,000 posts as I am of anything I've done in my life.
When I came to work at Amazon's new Auto Parts & Accessories store in 2005, I began sending out daily e-mails to my co-workers about various odd and interesting cars. The e-mails were very clunkily titled "Chris' Objects of Automotive Desire," but my co-workers quickly (and, I hope, affectionately) renamed them "Chris' Heaps of the Day."
After a false start in 2006, I began publishing that content as the Car Lust blog on the Amazon Daily blog platform in 2007, and we launched this Typepad site in 2008. Somewhere along the line, thanks in part to link-off love from Professor Glenn Reynolds of the popular Instapundit blog, Car Lust attracted a community of intelligent, passionate, like-minded readers. As they began to get more involved as contributors and active commenters, this site became much bigger, more complex, and more interesting than it had been when I was the sole contributor musing about weird cars that I like.
I'm also convinced we have one of the best groups of commenters on the web. We don't get any of the "First!" comments, ad hominem insults, or the illiterate irrationality that often characterizes Internet discourse. Instead, we have readers who know what they're talking about and care about interacting with each other in a civil way. I've always believed that knowledgeable, civilized communication is possible in the blogosphere, and it happens at this blog every day.
It's difficult to express just how immensely satisfying this has all been. I grew up living with, palling around with, and reading articles written by car enthusiasts, so I haven't been short on car-loving companionship in my life. But most of those people thought chiefly about the newest, the fastest, and the flashiest cars--what I think of as car magazine disease. Ordinary cars and yesterday's cars are too easily forgotten.
Despite what you may think, I like new, fast cars just as much as the next guy. I'm totally aware that a modern minivan could smoke even the best classic cars, and I would love to own a brand new Cadillac CTS-V Wagon.
But I think we lose something by so quickly and easily letting tomorrow's cars overshadow today's and yesterday's cars. These are the cars that that we coveted and loved when they were new, and that have become a part of our culture. These cars have lived through love, lust, disinterest, and abuse, and just looking at an older car tells the story of what the world was like when they were designed, produced, and owned--usually with some element of that particular car's ownership history layered on as well. And to be honest, I think this is at least as true of an almost-forgotten Isuzu Impulse as a much-coveted Chevrolet Chevelle SS454. Both are part of our shared experience in a way that today's brand new cars are not.
When I started this blog, I assumed that any readers who discovered it would sneer at the Impulse and its quirky peers and demand more posts about the Chevelles of the world. It was genuinely eye-opening to discover that the opposite was in fact true, and that I wasn't alone. I have found a group of kindred spirits who I'm proud to call friends, and I'm pleased that this blog has evolved into a destination for people who love all cars.
Beyond that online comaraderie, I'm happy to say that this blog has helped inspire me connect personally with some of my favorite cars. Since starting Car Lust, I've purchased two of my childhood favorites, a 1986 Audi Coupe GT and a 1973 Ford Gran Torino Wagon, had a summer fling with a 1992 Saab 900 Turbo Convertible, and am now in final negotiations to purchase a 2002 Audi S6 Avant--a slightly slower cousin to the very first car I profiled on Car Lust and my choice for the perfect sub-$20K do-it-all car.
Before I wrap this up, I want to thank Amazon for giving us the platform and the freedom to publish a blog with such unique content. It would have been the easiest thing in the world for a company to mandate that its car blog simply post positive reviews of the products that it sells, but Amazon instead has taken the remarkably long view and understood that creating something genuine, passionate, and heartfelt would do a far better job at spreading the word that we really care about cars and trucks and, by extension, care deeply about our business selling car and truck parts.
My job responsibilities have changed over the past six months, and so I haven't been nearly as involved as I have historically been. Please know that this isn't because I don't want to be involved; it's because if I began writing posts again, I wouldn't be able to stop. After all, I do need to finish the Star Trek cars series from a few years ago, and the Project AMC series from earlier this year ...
I'll leave you with my favorite posts among the first 1,000 and perhaps the two most Car Lust-infused videos ever:
My 10 Favorite Posts to Read (for no particular reason, in no particular order):
- Our Cars: Tyler's Fiero
- More on the 1970s Stutz
- Oldsmobile 350 Diesel
- Our Cars: 1991 Honda Civic Si
- Lark Wagonaire
- "The Chariot" from Lost In Space
- 1992 Mercury Grand Marquis, Take Two
- What's in a name?
- Mom and the Jaguar
- The Chevrolet Vega--What Went Wrong?
My 10 Favorite Posts to Write (for no particular reason, in no particular order):
- Thoughts on terrible 1970s American cars ...
- Honda Odyssey (should have been titled "In Defense of Minivans")
- Our Cars--1983 Chevrolet Malibu Classic Wagon
- The Greatest Car Commercial Ever
- Ford Mustang II Cobra II
- Best Road Snacks
- In Defense of the Internal Combustion Engine/In Defense of the Electric Car
- $25,000 Challenge Results
- Inappropriately Named Chrysler Products--Dodge Rampage
- Challenge--A car for all jobs? Or a car for each job?
That Car Guy (Chuck):
Wow, what a difference Car Lust has made in my life. My first submission about the Miata SE here on the right, was posted on Nov. 6, 2008. So for about three years now, I've tried to crank something out at least every week or two, when time and brain matter are willing.
But like a pyramid, Car Lust has done more than allow a place for me to babble on about old (and new) vehicles. It has expanded my little corner of the world, opened many new doors, and offered chances to meet many new and fascinating people. Here are a couple of examples:
First, one of my earliest submissions to Car Lust was the Ferrari 365 GTC4 post, written both in rememberance of the car and of my friend, the late gentleman that owned it, Mr. George Arents (here on the right). He was business partners with Luigi Chinetti and Enzo Ferrari in getting the marque to America, and he raced a Ferrari in the 24 Hours of Le Mans at least two years, finishing second in his class in 1959, I'm told.
About two months after the post went up, I received an email and comment from his granddaughter, Leilani. Without going into drawn-out specifics, we have crossed paths several times through prior years, and I think our connection has been somewhat "charmed." We knew the same people (the gentleman on the left, the late Walter Bunn Gray, taught her to draw), we've ridden or driven in the same cars, even have the same vanity plates (different states, of course). But we haven't met in person ... yet. And when she and I finally meet, I'm sure there will be a Part Two of this story.
Second, on Sept. 16, 2009, I got an email through Car Lust that changed my life. It said in part, "I’m looking for DIY automotive writers (or more broadly, content creators) and came across your work on Car Lust [Link added by me]. Your perspective and approach seem to be in line with a project I am putting together to create creative content for a client. For this project, I’m putting together a creative team for a two-and-a-half day project in San Francisco, focused on automobiles and ... well, if not DIY, then at least FIY (fix it yourself)."
That seemed almost too good to be true. A couple of my friends said to ignore the email, that it was a scam. But the folks hadn't asked for money yet, so I decided to let out a little line to them. And I'm so glad I did.
The offer turned out to be quite legitimate. They flew me out to the West Coast, put me up in a swanky hotel, paid for meals and transportation, and we even had a "Happy Hour" in the office the second night. I helped them with the STP "Don't Be That Guy" campaign for a few days, then stayed over that weekend on my dime (It just happened to be "Fleet Week") to sightsee, ride cable cars and streetcars, and visit Alcatraz.
While in The City By The Bay I made some great friends. I've made four more trips to the area since the STP campaign and helped them a bit more, and I hope to return again soon.
I'd like to echo the sentiment that Car Lust has the best commenters in the world. I think most are genuinely interested in vehicles, have expert opinions, and are very respectful of others' opinions as well.
So I've tried to relate some experiences, tried to relive some personal memories, maybe taken the unpopular side a time or two, and even attempted to be a little funny, maybe in a somewhat dry way. At least I hope they got a chuckle or two.
Here's to Car Lust's first 1,000 posts. I'm sure there will be many more, and I feel privileged to have been involved in at least a few of them.
Cookie The Dog's Owner:
As I've previously written here, I am grateful to our "founding father" Chris, and Amazon, for giving me a place where I can write in a language other than Legalese, and for an audience of (relatively) normal people. I've tried to write one post a week, partly to honor the opportunity I've been given, and partly because these posts are "recreational writing" that helps me relax after a long workday devoted to Treasury Regulations and the Uniform Trust Code. My posts generally come out a bit longer than I think they're going to when I start writing them, and my research often leads me into "side quests" where I learn all sorts of fascinating (and useless) trivia about Scottish cattle rustlers, Maritime Canadian political history, now-fogotten pop music standards, the origins of modern "image advertising", and the finer points of diplomatic and consular immunity.
Thanks to my Car Lust activities, I've gotten to meet (both physically and virtually) some amazing people, including Virgil Exner, Jr., Stutz owner Jim Milliken, fellow Bearcats! enthusiast John Boyle, our many other regular commenters, and of course all of my other brother Car Lust contributors. After having the rare privilege of going through the Studebaker museum with Mr. Exner, my youngest son is seriously considering a career in industrial design or mechanical engineering. If someday I get to drive a car that Alex styled or engineered, I'll have Car Lust to thank for it!
“I'm afraid I don't do impressions; my training is in archaeology.”
And so it started (actually, the first post I was moved to comment on was on Feb 7 2008 for the Triumph TR8). True, the Laguna post linked above isn't exactly glowing, and in fact it's listed as a Car Disgust, its sole noteworthy positive declaration: “Nevertheless, I still want one--the idea of a 454 muscle car that can only manage to wheeze along in stride with a Kia is irresistible.” Which is more or less consistent with my own feelings towards many of the cars featured 'round these parts, what I like to call a BLOARC (Bizarre Love of a Random Car): I don't know why I like them, I just do.
Unlike many, if not most, car-related publications, Car Lust so very often celebrates the long-forgotten everyman cars that many of us simple folk out here in the farfreluches drove. We learned to drive in them, went on our first dates in them, probably made several sporadic and clumsy attempts to get past first base in them, drove them to college, to our first job, bought them, sold them, loved them, hated them, and basically made them part of our daily lives for some period of time. Very few of us have ever seen, let alone owned a Yenko Camaro, but everyone and their brother owned or knew someone who owned a Pinto or a Vega. Most of what you'll read about a lot of these cars elsewhere is a short blurb on their unworthiness in the pantheon of Fine Automobiles or a quick paragraph in someone's Worst Cars of All Time lists or, in the case of the Pinto or Corvair, a quick, snarky comment on some standard, often mythical, characteristic.
In contrast, even when we're Disgusting a car we're celebrating it at the same time. It's easy to look back and sneer at some perceived styling faux pas or performance shortcoming, but all of these occurred in a cultural milieu that (usually) made some kind of sense at the time. I think we try to put these cars in their proper context and appreciate them for what they were. Yeah, we do the occasional supercar, but mostly you'll find stuff that found its way into many an American driveway at some point. And that's good: Most history is written by and for a tiny slice of the (usually well-off) population; here we have indeed a people's history of cars. Which makes up, I think, a large part of Car Lust's appeal. As both Hafner and I put it once:
Although they're incredibly neat, I get a bit tired of all the attention paid to supercars and such. 99.999% of the public will never drive a Bugatti Veyron or a Countach or a Deusenberg, but nearly everyone has had or known someone who had a Pinto or a Chevelle or a Falcon, which helped the bulk of the population carry out their daily business. ... Cars are like people--beautiful, perfect people are interesting from time to time, but if that's your entire world, they get very dull. That's one failure of some car magazines, I think--they overdo the exotics to the point where they become mundane and commonplace. There is beauty and wonder in all levels of the automotive world.
I'm just happy to be part of the rolling, creaking, clanking homage to funky cars. My main blogging gig is archaeology (which probably gets a tiny fraction of the traffic Car Lust does, so one might question my use of the term “main”) but this place lets me get out of the lab and out into the wider culture. And for that I thank Hafner and Amazon for letting me explore the exotic, odd, off-beat, and sometimes downright creepy side of automotive culture.
My first post: The 1963 Chrysler Turbine
Post I learned the most writing: The Ford Model T
Favorite post of mine: Living the Car Lust Lifestyle: Owning One
Favorite post overall: RAMPAGE! (Let's say it again. . RAMPAGE!)
Favorite commercial highlighted in a post: In Cordoba, I have what I need
Post that made it into my daily (sorta) lexicon: INCP! (e.g., "Hey, there's an Inappropriately Named Chrysler Product!")
Post that changed my mind about an entire class of cars: 1985 Honda CRX
Post that probably best typifies this entire undertaking: Dad's AMC Matador Oleg Casini
Big Chris: – My Car Lust journey:
I suspect that I am pretty unique in how I became part of Car Lust as a contributor. Even though I grew up in South Dakota, I have been a lifelong Seattle Supersonics fan (no, Oklahoma City does not count). Many moons ago, shortly after the dawn of the Internet (thanks Al Gore!) I connected with Chris Hafner via Usenet over our shared passion for the Sonics. Over the years, our online friendship grew as we rode the roller coaster of NBA fandom.
So when I was heading to Seattle for a wedding in early July 2005 I made arrangements to meet Mr. Hafner in person. It was the 4th of July, and it was actually hot and sunny--which I’m told is impossible in Seattle. This was Hafner before he joined Amazon, and at the time he was test driving a stunning Mercedes E-class which he and his lovely wife picked up my fiancé (now wife) and I in.
Within moments as we plowed through the Seattle streets it was clear that a) this was a fine machine we were sitting in, and b) Hafner was comfortable getting his money’s worth out of it. We made our way from downtown Seattle out to the Alki Beach area of West Seattle and grabbed lunch. Initially our conversation was basketball-related, but as chance would have i, a sweet muscle car passed by on the street and turned our conversation to cars. Come to find out, we shared a passion for cars too, and even for some of our more strange lusts. It was good to know that I wasn’t the only guy in the world lusting after an AMC Javelin or an early Jeep Wagoneer, though I am less of a proponent of Saabs and Audis than he is.
We spent the next 45 minutes comparing mental notes on our favorite cars, which I’m sure was just short of torture to our ladies. Just a few years later, I became a contributor here at Car Lust.
August 29, 2007--The day everything changed ... a little bump of happiness that shifted the earth on its axis. That was the day that Chris Hafner posted "Volkswagen Squareback." I've been following, commenting, and occasionally writing for this wonderful blog (and with its brilliant consort of contributors) ever since. It remains a delight and an oasis for writing, ideas, and conversations about automotive curiosities and other side-show attractions.
The 1K-posting mark for CarLust has caused me to return to the archives and remind myself about the wonderful topics we've covered over in more than four years of publishing. Starting over, walking from article to article, brings something critical to mind; just how hard Chris Hafner has worked over these years. From the beginning, the quality of post topics, writing, and thinking has been really solid.
There is a wonderful community which has grown up around CarLust ... things like this don't happen overnight and without the concerted effort of contributors and commenters alike who really care. As participants, we've been through a lot. The Great SUV Throw-Down, for instance which spiraled out of a conversation about a completely unrelated topic. In the end, the conscious efforts of all participants to keep Car Lust the intelligent and respectful place it is, attests to a communal commitment and maturity of thinking. This is rare in the online space.
I've really enjoyed having the opportunity to write and think about things I find interesting and about which I am truly passionate--my '91 Civic Si, for instance. While Car Lust is full of greatness, my favorite post of Car Lust remains the first I ever commented on, way back in 2007: the Volkswagen Squareback ("God was smiling when the Squareback was created - an amazing and quirky car - I loved mine so dearly."). The Squareback was a happy smiling-inducing automotive oddity. Coming into contact with so may other oddities has made me understand that the cars I truly love are the cars that make me smile.
Thanks Chris, for Car Lust, and all the work you put into building it. Thanks to the readers and the contributors who have joined in the cause. 1,000 posts is just a number, but it's a milestone and a significant one.
Regards, Mochi ;)
Virgil Exner, Jr.:
I have enjoyed the privilege of being part of Car Lust and love all of your enthusiasm for automobiles. That enthusiasm has spilled over into the designs I do for my own edification.
I started out this year with a 'retro' version of my dad's 1941 Studebaker . . .
I've been hooked on Cyclekart developments for some time and hope to build one right after I build the full size Roadster. Of course, I'm rapidly becoming an 'Antique' myself at age 78 and have more to prove in the modern design world, but I need another shot at building a car before I turn 80. It's much more simple to take the antique route.
Keep up the good works and commentary, and "Look Forward" to the 2,000th post, which will come sooner than you think.
And now, thanks to That Car Guy, here are some quick vignettes of life at Car Lust over the years, with links to some of our higher and lower points:
There was lots of fun last year bashing our leftover turkeys, also known as "Viva Las Vega Week"
...and 1974 was a very bad year.
Chuck's favorite Car Lust comment(s):
Jed on February 23, 2009 at 08:36 AM: "...The worst car of 1958 is kind of like Michelangelo's worst work of art. You would still want it because it is a product of the Renaissance."
Henny Youngman (the Late) on February 24, 2009 at 02:52 PM: "From Jed...'You would still want it because it is a product of the Renaissance'. So is my mother-in-law. But you wouldn't want her! (ba-dump...) Thanks, I'll be here all week."
Another Car Lust "Theme Week," which actually ran sporadically for about a month, was our "Star Trek" cars composium. We covered most of the original casts' movies, found present-era cars, and somehow linked them to the films. Before long, we were all yelling, "KHAAAN!!!"
We all had the chance to give homage in Anthony Cagle's 2009 "Father's Day Round Table"
Thanks to all of you for making Car Lust special and supporting us for our first 1,000 posts. Here's hoping we can make the next thousand posts even better.