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Opinion: Motoring journalists should own cars

26 May 2017 Features


Because you probably wouldn’t listen to a Chef who doesn’t have a kitchen.

You might find this difficult to believe, but not everybody is particularly good at their jobs.

No really. The bloke who originally plumbed my house, for instance, should be lined up against a wall and beaten with a length of the same dodgy galvanised water pipe he managed to scatter haphazardly under the dump at 13 Struggle Street. Ditto for the genius that `fixed’ my roof gutters a while back. Fixed so they all fell off within two years of him disappearing with my cash.

And this’ll kill you, but not all motoring journos have the faintest idea of what they’re talking about. I’m not going to tip the bucket on individuals, but it’s fair to say that within the corps of motoring scribblers (globally, not just here, I should add) there is a percentage of no-hopers, dills, drop-kicks and con-artists. Many of them have not the first clue of assessing a car new or old, and many of them aren’t even real journos.

Honda Integra
I’ve always been of the belief that in order to explain the pros and cons of a particular piece of equipment to a third party, you first need to know yourself how it works. You probably won’t find a blacksmith lecturing in 17th century French literature. Neither will it be likely that you’ll run into a sous chef running an Olympic-standard gymnastics camp.

For this reason, I’ve always been suspicious of motoring journos who don’t own their own cars. There are two main reasons for this. The first is that many of them choose to rely on press-test vehicles purely because they can’t afford to run their own wheels. My response to this is that they must be fairly hopeless scribblers to be in a position where they can’t afford the basic transport requirements that the rest of the first world seems to be able to cover.

Opinion: Don’t just buy the same car

Secondly – and more importantly – if they really do possess the passion they all profess to be consumed by, wouldn’t they want even a humble slice of it for themselves? Do you reckon there’s a single gardening journo out there who doesn’t at least own a potted plant? Or a tech journo who doesn’t have a house full of gadgets?

Nissan r31 skyline sedan
Which brings me to the staffers on this fine, family magazine. Young Louis has just bought himself a go-kart to race. He’s already a competent steerer, but a kart will make a huge difference. He tows it behind the only Integra Type R in the world with a tow-bar, the craziness of which appeals to me enormously. He gets it.

Scotty spent last year flogging a rally-prepped Hyundai Excel through the forests of Victoria. As anybody will tell you, rallying is a great way of rolling a Hyundai into a ball, but Scotty managed to keep himself nice and had a ball doing it. His road car is an ageing, stolen-and-recovered, R31 Skyline. It’s 50 shades of red and has a vintage whine in the diff, but Scotty loves it.

1996 HSV GTS-R vs Nissan R33 Skyline GT-R

And then there’s the boss-cocky, the almost impossibly youthful Dylan. I’m always chuffed when a young fella `gets’ the concept of a car worth preserving and, after a series of things like Daihatsu Charades (the classic gets-me-to-uni car) Dylan recently bought a grey-import Toyota Sprinter.

toyota sprinter
It’s the JDM model with the 4A-GE twin-cam as standard and the digital dash, and although it’s a tiny bit scruffy in the body, underneath, it’s solid gold. And we know that, because he turned up at the Melbourne Bloke Centre in it recently and we stuck it on the hoist to replace a few suspension bushes so it could be roadworthied and registered. It’s a good `un.

All these staff-owned cars combined would probably still get you change from $20K, but they’re absolutely crucial to the way this magazine works and reads, because they’re a function of the passion and commitment among the blokes who put the mag together in the first place. And the lads who own them regularly get their own mitts dirty spannering them up. Just bear that in mind next time you’re reading a road test.