Car chats I’ve had

Over the years as an auto journalist, I’ve had some pretty cool opportunities and I’ve had the chance to speak to some pretty awesome people in the auto industry. From dining with Nick Heidfeld when he was with William’s, to chilling with Kyle Busch at Pocano, I’m the first to admit, I’ve chatted with a few of the bigwigs.

And so, oh faithful reader, I’d like to share with you a select few quotes and excerpts from my favourite interviews. These all took place while I was an in-house editor for a well-known men’s lifestyle magazine.

When I caught up with NASCAR driver, Kyle Busch on race weekend in Pocono, we chatted about his diet, the cars he owns and even what laws he wished existed on the road today. Here’s a little snippet:

Are the crashes in NASCAR as horrible as they look?
Sometimes, yeah. I mean, not all the time. Sometimes you see somebody really hit hard and you’re like: “Man, that guy’s dead.” And five seconds later, he’s gettin’ out. It can sometimes look a lot heavier than what it is. Sometimes people see on TV somebody just barely backing in or barely hitting the wall or whatever and to be honest with you, that’s a really big hit. Unfortunately, Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s death didn’t look like that big a deal, cause we’d seen him wreck so much harder, but in turn it ended up taking his life. Sometimes, man, it looks really heavy and the guy’s OK — then, man, it looks really light but he’s really hurt.

What driving law do you wish was in place on the roads today?
Probably a faster speed limit for the left lane (laughs). Like, 10 over is OK.
– From

Busch was a really great interview. And to speak to him while the cars prepped for race day behind me and went out for practice runs just a few feet from us on the track was just amazing. The atmosphere of a NASCAR race is unlike any other I’ve been to. The people who watch NASCAR are there for a great time and to cheer on their favourite drivers; oh and to outdo each other with the coolest tailgate party devices and RV attachments as well. I fit in quite well with my souped up golf cart provided by the Busch team for the weekend:

Lately, for my interviews have been captured on film (which isn’t always a good thing I might add), and I’ve had the chance to speak with Quebec superstar Alex Tagliani, US legend Bobby Rahal and a few riders from Superbike Amy Szoke and her husband Jason Szoke.

And about a year ago, I had the esteemed pleasure to speak to Andrew Farah, the chief engineer on the Chevy Volt. Now, I was skeptical at first about how this interview would go. I wasn’t sold on the idea of the Volt and was discouraged at the fact that Chevy had been promising the car for nearly 2 1/2 years and still had no intentions of putting it on the road for the public. I pulled a classic rookie interview move and asked the hard question first, at which point Farah shut down:

There seems to have been a bit of a delay with the Volt, do you think the state of the American auto industry over the past year will influence the eventual launch of the Volt at all?
Well, I think it’s interesting that you say there’s been a delay with the Volt — there’s been no delay. Everything is exactly where it’s supposed to be at this point in the development process. We’re currently going through weather testing, being the summer, with the preproduction vehicles which started to be built a number of months ago and are still in the process of being built, but everything is pretty much on schedule.

As a matter of fact, we actually built the first preproduction vehicles a few days early and got them out to what we call the “customer,” which is not the general customer in this case but is the different engineer factions who use those vehicles to finish the work.
– From

The interview kind of spiraled out of control after that and I basically got a bunch of stats and speculative numbers from him and that’s it.

And nearly a year after I did that interview, I still haven’t seen a Volt on the road. Strange…

The crowning glory of my auto interviews is, most definitely, my interview with my hero, Richard Hammond. For those of you who don’t know who he is, shame on you. Hammond is my auto journalist crush and my career idol. While I am an avid Clarkson follower and love his work and reviews, I have more of an attachment to Hammond, and perhaps that’s because I had the chance to speak with him.

I still have his mobile phone number, and I look at it longingly — more than I’d like to admit.

The day I was set to do the interview over the phone I was so nervous I didn’t think I’d be able to go through with it. I’d run scenarios through my head countless times, and every time I wound up sounding like a complete idiot. It seemed doomed from the start.

When the time came to call Hammond, I scurried into a quiet conference room, locked the door and dialed his mobile number. Only to be greeted by his voicemail. I didn’t leave a message, but I did listen to his voice in awe until the beep at which point I hung up abruptly leaving him one of those strange stalkerish calls where you just hear breathing before the click. Great.

I waited a few minutes before trying his number again. This time I left a rather breathless and high-pitched message apologizing for disturbing him (even though he knew we were scheduled to talk), leaving him my office number (which I think I said wrong).

I waited nearly 20 more minutes before I decided to try his number again.

And this time I got through.

He was on the phone, talking to me. I was like a kid on Christmas, like a fly in shit, a pig in mud — I was in heaven. But I didn’t get to have my lengthy chat just yet.

Hammond was driving through the hills in is Aero Morgan. He’d just come from the factory (he was ordering a new Morgan to his specifications) and he was heading home. Hammond then said he’d give me a ring back when he was settled in front of the fire at home with a nice cup of tea, and did I mind terribly if he called me back in a bit?

I felt like an old friend.

No, of course I didn’t mind a lick and he could call me whenever it suited him!

I figured I had time to settle in and grab myself a cup of tea (brilliant idea Hammond), and then I waited for the call back.

True to his word, Hammond called me back as soon as he was settled at home with a nice cup of tea. You, oh faithful reader, can read the entire piece here, but here are a select few excerpts from that faithful interview:

A lot of employees want to know: Is it as difficult to work with Jeremy Clarkson as it seems?
Yes, it is [laughs]. Well, yes, I’m not going to say no, of course. He’s a lunatic. It’s tremendously difficult, but great fun. It’s hugely rewarding and I enjoy it immensely.

What quality in a car will make you say, “OK, right, that one’s great”?
Well, the job of writing and talking about cars has changed so immensely that no longer is it… you can’t really be looking at cars and thinking, “Hmm, crikey, that’s dangerous or unreliable,” and advise people not to buy it because all cars work, pretty much. It’s very rare that you find something that you can just hold your hand up to and say, “This is poorly and shouldn’t be sold.” So it’s whatever, therefore, moves people as people.

Now, personally, I like a car with some sort of character. It might be anything from a distinctive engine note to a quirky way in which it’s built, or something interesting about it beyond the simple ability of its nav comp system — it can move from one place to another reliably and efficiently, which all cars can.

Do you guys ever get slag from the manufacturers for harsh, or negative reviews on specific cars?
Um, I think they’ve given up on us [laughs]. They realize that that’s one of the founding stones of the program is that we speak our mind on cars, and therefore we have to continue to do that and they appreciate that. And they also know, and most manufacturers know, and you’ll now this full well, if they’ve made a duffer they know… they know. And as long as what we say is true, then fair enough.

Why do you have such a love of Porsche vehicles?
Because I like anything that’s fit for purpose, that’s engineered to do something. The other cars I also love are Land Rover. Anything that’s engineered to do a job at all costs, and I think Porsche do.
– From

For everything I’ve done over the years, this has been the highlight of my career, in all honesty. So, how can I top that? Meeting him in person, of course.

And as a bonus, oh faithful reader, here is my video review of the Porsche Panamera:

Drive on,
– M.

~ by drivingmsmiranda on August 1, 2010.

5 Responses to “Car chats I’ve had”

  1. Great interview excerpt from Kyle. That crash today looked like a real killer at first, just like he said.

  2. […] I interviewed Richard Hammond a few years ago, I remember asking him why he loved Land Rover so much, and he gave me an answer […]

  3. […] When I interviewed Richard Hammond a few years ago, I remember asking him why he loved Land Rover so much, and he gave me an answer I’ve never forgotten and one that I think of often when I drive new vehicles: Land Rovers are built to serve a purpose and they do just that. […]

  4. […] do with the U.S. version). Not only am I slightly obsessed with the show (especially since I got to speak to my idol the Hamster a few years ago for an interview), but I’m also currently making my way through […]

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