Nonfiction

 

Nonfiction

Reportage, profiles, travelogues, feature stories. Excerpts from a life firmly entrenched in automotive distractions. 

 
 

Petrolicious, May 12, 2017

McQueen wanted an “art pseudo-documentary,” more emotion than Hollywood, a personal love letter. Director John Sturges fought him nearly every day on that ideal. “Some film sets are light and happy,” says Nunley, “Not on Le Mans.” Meanwhile, accidents began happening. McQueen missed a shift and blew an engine, a radio-controlled Ferrari 512 nearly ran over the crew, Derek Bell crashed and suffered burns to his face. In addition, former F1 driver David Piper lost control of a 917 at 170mph, launching over a guardrail into a ditch: “I suddenly found myself sitting in only half a car, surrounded by smoke and dust,” he’d recall later, “and I thought, Good Lord, that is my shoe over there, and my foot is still in it.”

‘Steve McQueen: Le Mans In The Rearview Mirror’ Is The True Story Of The Most Beloved And Doomed Movie In Motorsports


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worn & wound, March 10, 2017

On the night of July 15, 1977, CIA agent Martha Peterson walked along Krasnoluzhskiy Bridge over the Moscow River. She had spent the last four hours on a surveillance detection run, evading any KGB teams. Night fell. It was half past ten. She approached one of the bridge’s stone towers. She was focused and confident; on this night she had no reason to think anything would go wrong.

For Your Eyes Only: the Secret Microphone Wristwatch Worn by Cold War Spies


Town & Country, February 28, 2017

Stereotypes are fun, sometimes, as any 80s movie will tell you. And yes, if you want to talk stereotypes, nothing reflects the East Coast, Mid-Atlantic, New England nuclear family more than a Volvo in the driveway—the official car of argyle sweaters and two-story Colonials with manicured front lawns; of golden labs but not Rottweilers, of tenure tracks and NPR tote bags and dog-eared copies of boring global affairs magazines along with the resulting political opinions too polite to share in public.

A Love Letter to Vintage Volvos

 


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Road & Track for Toyota, February 6, 2017

The funny thing about future tech, it turns out, is how remarkable it looks to present tech. Drive into a hydrogen filling station, and you'll be forgiven for noting just how normal it looks. Fuel pump. Nozzle. Overhead lights under a canopy. The only thing that's missing is a guy selling cigarillos and bottles of Mountain Dew Baja Blast. 

How A Hydrogen Filling Station Works


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Road & Track, January 23, 2017

Who knows what the crowd must have thought. Dear God! Can-Am was famous for having no-holds-barred technical expertise, but this was something else: every other car looked like phallic fantasy, all elongated curves and swoops and short, stubby wedges, but here the Chaparral 2J was square, bulky, straight-paneled and utterly, breathtakingly, rational. The crowd had seen nothing like it.

Jim Hall and the Chaparral 2J: The Story of America's Most Extreme Race Car


Popular Mechanics for Genesis, November 23, 2016

At first, all the cars drive at the same speed. But humans are imperfect creatures, and some drivers start slowing down or speeding up, losing their ability to maintain the same speed. Cars began to slow down. Because the track was a perfect circle, one can easily see cars that had once progressed steadily slow down, speed up again and then slow down again, then speed up, then slow down... you get the picture. The most incremental change in speed eventually spread across all the cars, like a shockwave.

The Weird Economics of the Traffic Jam


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Road & Track, October 31, 2016

He called himself "Slave-O-Matic," uncouthly in reference to how hard he worked, and how much of a solo operation it was. He claimed racism from Caucasians, which was unusual, as he was a Caucasian himself. He was paranoid about people ripping him off, finding his stash of parts. "His anti-Semitic comments were getting out of hand."

The Strange, Lost History of FAZA, the World's Most Bizarre Abarth Tuner


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Jalopnik, August 21, 2016

On Aug. 13, in the Eifel Mountains of Germany, while rounding the Südkehre at the Nürburgring Nordschleife with seven giddy Europeans riding along, Lucille found herself a long way from home. “The not-crazy-at-all idea,” Knesebeck told Jalopnik recently, “was to remote-buy a car, take delivery in Chicago, drive it down to Memphis and then back up to New York City, from where it’ll be shipped to Germany. Totally sensible, right?”

What It's Like To Drive The World's Most Dangerous Track In A Giant 1972 Ford Wagon


Jalopnik, July 29, 2016

“Some women refuse to be a slave of routine,” said Pathé News in 1962, the year Beryl Swain entered the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy race. “Mrs. Beryl Swain has an unlikely hobby—motorcycle racing. And,” says the announcer, with some muted astonishment, “she’s good at it!” As good as she was, she was only allowed to do it once. “Women, the weaker sex, are muscling in on man’s domain, practically no sport is sacred,” said one reporter at the time.

Why This Barrier-Breaking Woman Was Banned From The World’s Deadliest Race


Road & Track, June 3, 2016

"We were maybe going up 45, 50 mph when we hit dirt," Fred says, recalling their journey to the Northwest Angle. "We drove through 16 miles of dirt. Really, really, really slowly." The NSX can reach 60 miles per hour in 5.2 seconds and brake from that distance in 134 feet. When Fred saw dirt, he knew he had to bring the car nearly to a stop.  "Fred almost had a heart-attack," Maile says.

Have Supercar, Will Travel

 


Road & Track for Our Modest Car Collection, April 23, 2016

Take a look at this 1989 Yamazaki Kizashi TRA-T, this modest little SUV from the late Eighties, a car that arguably changed the automotive landscape forever. Did you know? "TRA-T" actually stands for "Tri-Renaissance Alcyone Trail-Roadster!" Parent company Watanabe Heavy Industries began secretly developing the Kizashi as Project K1, which derived its name from the Japanese word karaage, which roughly translates to "driver and car as one unified soul which whispers in the cool midsummer breeze of Ishikari Bay." 

Our Modest Car Collection: 1989 Yamazaki Kizashi TRA-T


Esquire, March 29, 2016

Heuer would sponsor Scuderia Ferrari and become the team's official timekeeper, and Ferrari would place a Heuer logo underneath the windshield of its 312B race car. Heuer would be F1 and F1 would be Heuer. Enzo even signed the deal with his signature violet pen. Four years later, Niki Lauda, driving a 312T, ended Ferrari's Driver's Championship drought. It was Lauda's "unbelievable year." Heuer celebrated the occasion. The special, brand new watch, carried a very appropriate name: Monza. 

This Heuer Watch Celebrates Ferrari's Greatest Comeback


Jalopnik, December 14, 2015

Since it closed in October 2014 they said they’d finish this place by early December. And by God, the bastards pulled it off: precious few believed that in 14 months the fine folks of the Petersen Automotive Museum could gut the bones of the Seibu Department Store and kick out the Fifties chrome dreamboats parked in front of a speed shop to the dulcet tones of Buddy Holly, all yours to behold for $20 a pop.

The Rebirth Of America's Greatest Car Museum, And What It's Like To Work There


Jalopnik, July 9, 2015

My name is Rick Beretta. This is my partner, Colt Torsen. We’ve walked this beat for 13 years. He’s the toughest sum-bitch ever to walk these streets. Well, the second toughest. Behind me. We’re gonna need all the toughness we can muster. Cuz we’re deep undercover in the biggest European drug smuggling operation of the century. Chief says this could be big. Then he took us off the case. But he knows we don’t play by the rules. This is…VICE SQUAD: ‘72.

We Crashed A Rally For Old Alfas And Porsches In This Bigass '72 Pontiac


Autoweek, November 11, 2014

It took rescuers nearly an hour to extricate Millen from the wrecked race car. The impact, and the ride to the hospital, remain blanks in Millen's mind. He had fractured his skull in two places; he had broken his jaw, five ribs and his upper arm. He couldn't smile or shut his eyes. His jaw was wired shut. For six weeks, he consumed food from a straw. But a month after the operation, he insisted on testing with Nissan, with the slight hope of rejoining the 1993 season.

Steve Millen's IMSA 300ZX and the Dream Season of 1994


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Autoweek, October 28, 2014

Across Arizona, the speed limit is 75 mph. Every truck driver worth the salt of his earth matched that. Our chosen speed was now downright dangerous. I looked for a truck to draft. A fool's errand. We found ourselves trapped in front of a speeding truck and up against another speeding truck. Our mileage dropped by an entire mile per gallon, falling to 50 mpg. Inside the car, the atmosphere grew tense.

See America Right: Albuquerque to San Diego on one tank of diesel


Autoweek, August 22, 2014

Riding a motorcycle around the Monterey Peninsula on Pebble Beach week is like having a VIP pass at all times. You can blow through the gate at 17 Mile Drive with nothing more than a hand wave. You can roll up to LouLou's Griddle in the Middle and stash your bike right on the dock. I lane-split across Carmel Valley Road for 15 minutes straight, past grumbling 911s and frustrated Aston Martins. Never again will you have to pay, or wait, for a valet to fumble with your keys while you sweat about how much to tip. "You can park that anywhere," said the valets at the BMW Villa when I arrived just in time for dinner—bloodshot, delirious, smelling like a Boy Scout camping backpack—"and that thing's sweet, man!"

Conquering Pebble Beach on two wheels


Autoweek, August 12, 2014

When you first hit the car, you don't feel it at all. The hood caving in, the engine falling through its mounts, the front suspension exploding, it's all happening beneath you. Then, the Chieftain's nose rose, and the popping and cracking sounded—crack-piiiing-fwoosh, punctuated by the occasional bang! of, at this point, the entire firewall crumbling. If the crowd cheered, I couldn't hear it. Every stomp of the throttle produced a plume of white smoke, blanketing a trail behind me like a German smokescreen. Needless to say, it's all very satisfying.

Drive A Tank provides mud-slinging, car-crushing adventure for the masses


Autoweek, August 5, 2014

I'll tell you what my dream car is. It's a Nissan 300ZX Twin Turbo, built from 1989 to 1996 (and for two more years in Japan). A car that landed on this planet with a wallop. Wide-eyed headlights, unmistakable and large, a soft and curvy wedge: commanding, but never aggressive. Skinny, but still a bruiser. Modest, but stealthy. A car that appeals to those who know what it is. Can a car speak to you, even if you've never driven it? If you've never driven anything?

25 years later, the Nissan 300ZX Twin Turbo is still dreamworthy


Autoweek, May 13, 2014

They sat there and watched the sun rise over La Paz—streaks of clouds emanating from the horizon, lit pink and purple over the Gulf of California. Eventually, the chase cars rushed over from the staging area and dug them out. Meyers, then 78, felt rather terrible about the whole situation. When they found him, they rushed him to a hospital so the doctors could understand what equal parts desert prowess and insanity could do to a person at that age. The next morning, the chase cars towed the little dune buggy across the finish line. The crowd cheered. Bollman was just happy they made it.

Bruce Meyers, the Meyers Manx and 50 years of unfinished business


Autoweek, May 1, 2014

A few days later at Laguna Seca, the press took a break from driving the NSX. Antonius asked if he could take the car for a quick lap. "I wasn't used to rear-wheel drive. And in front of the president of Honda, and in front of the president of Honda R&D, I spun out the NSX and I missed the wall by a foot." Antonius spun a full 360 degrees. "I saw [my career] going down in flames," he said. "And I had to go around again because I missed the pit entrance, and drove around the next lap about 30 mph. Came into the pits with my head down, and I got out of the car—and they all surrounded me clapping and laughing. I was so embarrassed."

The Acura NSX at 25