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5th Birthday Week--Cookie the Dog's Owner's Greatest Hits

As much fun as I've had over the last five years writing and reading about interesting cars and the irrational emotions they inspire, the even greater joy has come from getting to know the contributors and commenters who make these stories personal. Today I'm highlighting my favorite posts from Cookie the Dog's Owner, who aside from being a fantastically nice person, has been absolutely critical in keeping this blog running and lifting the quality of its writing. I have been fortunate enough to spend parts of my career among some of the world's best motorsports journalists and editors, and I can say that without question CTDO is one of the very best writers I've encountered, and has written an outsized proportion of this blog's very best content. His work is liberally sprinkled with dry wit, interesting research, and little jokes and comments that become apparent only when you hover your mouse over his hyperlinks.

It was too difficult to narrow down CTDO's best posts down to the top 10, so I made it (Alarm fur Cobra) 11.

#11 -- Alarm fur Cobra 11 and The Most Dangerous Road in Germany (Jan. 12, 2009 and Dec. 11, 2009)

These posts deserve to be farther up the list, but ultimately I had to place them at No. 11. We have Cookie the Dog's Owner to thank for bringing the over-the-top Teutonic genius of Alarm fur Cobra 11 to the calming shores of Car Lust. As he says:

 
"The show is best known for its spectacular stunts. There are at least two or three overblown high-testosterone action sequences in each episode, with a generous helping of explosions, corkscrew jumps, vehicles plowing through trailers, flying debris, mangled sheet metal, and (this being the safety-conscious EU) airbag deployments. There are so many spectacular crashes that the show's fans have taken to keeping detailed statistics on the number of vehicles destroyed in each show and season, and to assembling the show's greatest "hits" into fan-edited videos."

It's fantastic, and Cookie the Dog's Owner captures the madness with a delicious combination of appreciation and tongue-in-cheek deadpan humor that captures the imagination.

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#10 -- Our Cars--Volkswagen GTI Mk. V (Aug. 31, 2009)

Cookie the Dog's Owner can write as informative and educational a post as anybody I've read, but he really lights up when he writes about the cars that he owns and truly loves. I absolutely love his tribute to his VW GTI, and the opening is beautiful:

 
"It's a quarter after seven on a late August morning. There's a light fog with the promise of a sunny day later. Tom Petty's "Refugee" is playing on the car stereo, and all is right with the world. 

I brake the GTI to a stop at the intersection. There's no traffic coming from the left, and nothing but open two-lane road to the right.

Let's turn it loose.

Ease off the clutch, make the turn, and then hammer the gas pedal.

Yeah, but, it don't really matter to me, baby . . . 

The turbo sings high harmony to the race-car melody coming from under the hood. We're up over five grand on the tach almost before I know it; clutch in, second gear.

Everybody has to fight to be free . . . 

Up to third gear now.

You see you don't! Have!

Fourth gear. Yee-haw!

To live like a refugee!

At this point I'm howling along at a speed that's a bit north of prudent for this road, and there's some traffic ahead. Best exercise some restraint. Put it in sixth, back off the throttle, and let the speed bleed off. 

(Don't have to live like a refugee)

Do I like my GTI? Oh, yeah. I like it. A lot."

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100_0744#9 -- Our Cars--A Dog's Eye View (April 1, 2011)

After hearing so frequently from Cookie the Dog's Owner, it's refreshing to hear from Cookie the Dog herself. She learned well from her master--she's a good writer and appears to have an almost human case of Car Lust, albeit with a slightly different viewpoint. Cookie certainly seems to like interesting cars more than my cat does.

Personally, I think the mainstream car magazines could benefit from bringing on board a canine correspondent or two. Excerpted from Cookie's review of the Mazda 5:

"Whoever put those big air vents on the dashboard must either be a dog or have a dog, because those vents give a dog a convenient way to sniff the world around her without rolling down the windows or getting out of the car. (I told you, sniffing is important!)"

See? You don't get this kind of insight from Motor Trend.

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#8 -- Sure as the Sunrise (Dec. 9, 2010)

"My Scotstoun Lass" is a 1965 4-cylinder 6-speed Albion Chieftain brewery lorry owned by Keiran Jeffriess.An underpowered, decades-old semi truck from another continent--how interesting could it be? Thanks to Cookie the Dog's Owner's obsessive research and writing skill, the answer is very ... very interesting.

We learned about the vehicle, its impact on the culture, and the subculture of fans and truckers in the UK. This was a difficult assignment that turned into an absolute tour de force from Cookie the Dog's Owner; I learned from this post, and I enjoyed the learning.

 

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Stutzes_graceland#7 -- Stutz Cars of the 1970s and More on 1970s Stutz (Sept. 10 and Sept. 25, 2008)

Lesser writers stage snarky takedowns of reviled cars. Cookie the Dog's Owner started with the 1970s Stutz, a car that he (and, honestly, much of the civilized world) found tacky and confusing, and he explained why he felt that way. But rather than indulge in a hacky takedown, CTDO explored the car's history and context with respect and honor for those who lust for it. It would have been a strong piece had it ended there, but it didn't.

After receiving feedback from Stutz owners, CTDO engaged with those owners to write a follow-up that explained yet more about the car, explained the car's appeal in their words, and eventually helped add the legendary Virgil Exner Jr. as one of our contributors.

Snark and sarcasm might make for an easy chuckle, but CTDO showed that respect, good humor and open-mindedness help create something much more substantial.

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#6 -- Rise of the Minivan (May 6, 2010)

Not many car enthusiasts can stir up much interest in minivans, let alone the distant, cobwebby history of minivans, but yet again Cookie the Dog's Owner turned what could have been a dull subject into captivating reading and, in my opinion, the definitive history of minivans and people-carriers.

How different would automotive history have been had Lee Iacocca been able to introduce the modern minivan at Ford in 1973 rather than at Chrysler in the 1980s? We can only wonder.

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#5 -- Lark Wagonaire and Great Commercials--1963 Studebaker Lark and Avanti (Aug. 18, 2008 and Aug. 8, 2008)

Start with the awesomeness of Studebaker, add a wagon body with an innovative roof, slather on an available fire-breathing, supercharged V-8, and finish up with a fantastic commercial analysis--that's the recipe for a pair of posts that are the very epitome of what Car Lust is all about.

Cub_scout_frenzyCookie the Dog's Owner gets evocative again here:

"Imagine a sunny day in 1963. Dad and Mom load the kids and the dog up in the Lark Daytona Wagonaire for a trip to Montgomery Ward or Woolworth's to get the new swing set. On the way home, the family finds itself at a stoplight, kids and dog in the back, pre-assembled slide sticking out through the open roof, next to some boy racer in his tricked-out hot rod. Dad checks the mirrors and looks up and down the cross-street--no cops. When the light turns green, Dad pops the clutch and unleashes the supercharged R3, giving the kids a thrill, giving Mom a scare, and giving Johnny Dragstrip the surprise of his young life. Now that would be something to see."

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#4 -- 1978 Chevrolet Monza Wagon (July 30, 2008)

MonzawagonCookie the Dog's owner distinguishes himself at fair, even-handed, incredibly researched pieces of writing, but that's not to say he's not capable of ripping apart a deserved target. In this post, CTDO engaged in a smart, clever, deftly humorous takedown of an awful car ... and it was awesome.

Here's part of the warm-up:

"To point out these virtues is not to damn the Monza Wagon with faint praise. That would be letting it off easy. The Monza Wagon deserves nothing less than full-throated condemnation--or perhaps excommunication would be more appropriate. The car was a gasoline-powered mortal sin.

"Let's start with build quality. Well, actually, it would have been nice if someone at GM had started with build quality. Rather early on, I noticed that every time the car hit a pothole or rough patch of pavement the dashboard rattled and shuddered like it was falling off. This was Northeast Ohio, circa 1980-81, and rough pavement was the only kind we had. This made for a lot of rattles.

"The panel covering the Monza's wide-screen horizontal speedometer was held on with either six or  eight small screws, I forget the exact number. To be more precise, it was supposed to be held on with six or eight screws. This one was held on with two; the holes for the others still had some plastic "flash" which gave mute testimony that the screws had never been installed."

As the kids say, pwned.

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 #3 -- 1985 Honda Civic CRX (Dec. 4, 2008)

1985_crxThis post was the polar opposite of the Monza Wagon piece. Instead of damning an evil car, Cookie the Dog's Owner sings a song of love and perfection. I can't say it better than he did, so here goes:

"Perfect.

"If I had to describe my blue 1985 Civic CRX in one word, that would be it.

"I bought it sight-unseen from a dealer my father knew. I took delivery one Saturday morning and drove to my parents' house to show it to Mom and my sister, taking the shortcut through the park so I could play with my new toy on the twisty part in the gorge between the old mill and the goldfish pond.

"By the time I got to the house, I was thinking to myself, "This is perfect!  It's like Honda read my mind. Someone finally built the car I've always wanted!"

"That CRX was perfect. Completely, absolutely perfect. The most perfect car I had ever owned, driven, ridden in, or even looked at from ten yards away."

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Moms_manhattanrev01#2 -- Mom and the Jaguar (May 6, 2011)

I'm a sucker for stories that paint the ways that cars intersect with the larger context of our lives, so it's no surprise that the story of how Cookie the Dog's Owner's mother helped a stranger with his Jaguar XJ6 has stuck in my head since I read it.

I don't want to spoil the story, so just go read it through--and don't stop until you finish the surprisingly touching final paragraph.

This type of story is exactly why this blog exists.

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Rusty Vega 3#1 -- The Cherolet Vega--What Went Wrong? (Dec. 1, 2010)

The simplest answer to the question posed in this post's title is really, what didn't go wrong for the Chevrolet Vega? Cookie the Dog's Owner put together an astonishingly thorough, entertaining, and meticulously even-handed deconstruction of one of the automotive world's most famous disasters, while offering up commentary on the slow decline of the American automotive industry from its unassailable competitive position at the beginning of the 1970s. This post is long, but it's amazingly good.
During that week of Vega coverage, CTDO and I agreed that he would handle the prosecution of the Vega, and I would take on the defense. But after reading his thoroughly damning (but somehow poignantly, grimly entertaining) post, I knew that I was beaten. I wrote my defense, but even I wasn't convinced, because his post was what I still consider the final, definitive word on the Vega saga. That post should be printed, bound, and given to every CEO of a major American company as a cautionary tale for how even the mighty can occasionally fail. It's that good.

--Chris H.

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When you described your experience with Honda CRX I had a smile on my face, because for me it was Honda Accord 1988 2.0 aerodeck that won my heart. I think this:

"Completely, absolutely perfect. The most perfect car I had ever owned, driven, ridden in, or even looked at from ten yards away."

pefrectly describes my feelings about my Honda too :)

PS. And my dog loved it too! :)

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Pictured above: This is a forlorn Chevy Vega photographed by reader Gary Sinar. (Share yours)

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