The first month at my dream job

I woke up rather early the morning of my first day at my dream job. I arrived at the Car and Driver Magazine headquarters, which happens to be in my favorite city, Ann Arbor, MI, at around 8:34 a.m. The doors open at 9 a.m. I was eager to start my summer internship at my favorite automotive magazine. At 8:54 a.m., a blue 2017 Corvette Grand Sport pulled into the parking lot. I thought to myself: I think I might like it here.

On my first day, I met a lot of people (some that have bylines on many stories that I have read), learned my way around the office and drove a Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid. I also took a ride in a Corvette Grand Sport to drop off some keys at the airport parking lot for an incoming editor, where I talked to a coworker about each other’s aspirations in regards to automotive journalism.

As soon as you walk into the Car and Driver headquarters, there is a doormat that has “car nerd” written across it with the red and blue Car and Driver logo stamped next to it. As you look up from the quirky doormat, you will see a mural that has the title of the automotive magazine written in red smoke surrounded by all sorts of classic cars; such as a Porsche 911 and a McLaren F1. Everyone that works at C/D likes cars. I fit in.

I reside in a small cubicle in a far corner of the newsroom. Framed and sitting on my desk is the first automotive story that I ever had published. I also have my Ferrari Enzo model car that I have had since I was a kid resting below my computer monitor. But I don’t spend too much time at my desk. I am usually running around in some pretty cool cars, in the garage prepping cars for testing or performing other test procedures on my own or with coworkers.

When I was informed that I was going to be spending my summer as an intern at one of the biggest automotive publications in the world, I was ecstatic. I instantaneously ran into the living area of my apartment, screamed a few expletives and high-fived all three of my roommates. I later learned about the position that I would be holding for the summer: technical assistant. Here’s the email that I received from deputy online editor, Dave VanderWerp describing the technical assistant role:

“We’ll have you working in a road warrior / technical assistant role, so that means performing some of our testing (weighing cars, prepping for testing, performing our cargo, visibility and other test procedures, dropping cars at the airport for inbound editors, going on photo shoots, taking cars to/picking up from service, etc.). It’s kind-of a catch-all role, one that will both teach you a lot about how Car and Driver works and also keep you close to our test cars.”

When I first read this email, I didn’t even begin to imagine that I would be driving the kinds of cars that I have driven in my first month at Car and Driver. I thought that when I drove places I would either have to use my own car, or take a rather inexpensive press car. I was wrong. Here are some of the few press cars that I have driven:

  • 2018 Mercedes-AMG S63 Coupe – $206,145
  • 2017 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 – $60,520
  • 2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio – $79,195
  • 2017 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport – $72,695
  • 2018 BMW M4 – $67,395
  • 2018 Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo – $210,950

I am also keeping an Excel spreadsheet of all of the cool cars that I have gotten behind the wheel of this summer and will share that at the conclusion of my time with C/D. Currently, that list is at 22 cars totaling over $3 million. Some would surprise you — they sure did surprise me.

I was quite upset when I learned that I would not be doing any writing this summer — but I am changing that. For a course at the Missouri School of Journalism — intermediate writing — I was assigned a 1,500-2,000 word feature story for the final assignment of the course. Typically, this assignment is supposed to be published in the Columbia community magazine, Vox Magazine. However, my professor, Jeniffer Rowe, the head of the magazine faculty at the j-school, was aware of my desire to write about cars. So, I pitched her a story about a certified Bugatti, Lamborghini, Rolls-Royce, and Bentley technician at an exotic car dealership in the St. Louis area. Because this was not a Columbia-related story, I could not publish it in Vox Magazine. So, I came up with another ambitious idea: walk over to the Road & Track Magazine headquarters, which is attached to the C/D headquarters, and pitch the story to Road & Track’s editor-in-chief, Kim Wolfkill. If you’re wondering why I pitched it to R&T instead of C/D, it is because these magazines are slightly different, but I won’t get into that.

I’ll also hopefully be getting some bylines in Car and Driver this summer. I drove Dave VanderWerp, the deputy online editor for C/D, to the airport and spoke with him about writing up some press releases and pitching him some stories. More to come on that later.

Writing aside, I have learned more about cars and how a major automotive publication works than I would have imagined when I learned that I would be interning at one of the largest automotive media outlets in the world. I have changed tires on performance cars, learned how to drive a manual transmission (in a Corvette Grand Sport and Mustang Shelby GT350… yeah), learned how to perform driver visibility tests, sound tests, fill out track sheets and prep cars for track testing, and many more technical duties.

This is the first job that I have ever had where I actually want to be at work. When I am at home I would rather be in the office. After my first day, I told my parents: “I think I know what I want to do for the rest of my life.”

I want to give a quick thank you to everyone that has supported me and taught me along this journalistic journey. I wouldn’t be here without the love and support from my family and the guidance from my two most influential mentors: Elizabeth Brixey, my editor at the Columbia Missourian and Jennifer Rowe, head of the magazine faculty at the Missouri School of Journalism. I’m looking forward to what lies on the road ahead. No pun intended.