Tell The Truth And Shame The Devil

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I am very proud to be a Contributing Editor for Road&Track magazine today. It’s not because I’ve written our Performance Car Of The Year feature for each of the four years we’ve done it, although that is one of the things that, as Belle&Sebastian sings, they can write on my grave or when they scatter my ashes. It’s how we handled a situation that was deeply upsetting and embarrassing for all of us at R&T — and how we broke the rules of the business in doing so.


During PCOTY testing, my boss, Joe DeMatio, wiped the front end off a McLaren 570S. It’s not something he’s ever done before. But it is something that happens all the time in this business. I’m aware of another major publication, and one rather despicable fellow at that publication in particular, that has accounted for maybe five or six totaled cars in the past half-decade. Even if half of the things I hear at press events and over dinner tables are true, there have been maybe twenty vehicles absolutely shit-canned by print and large web outlets since I started my “career” in the autojourno game.

This is how these things are usually handled: The car is quietly taken away, it is quietly replaced, and nobody ever says anything to somebody who isn’t part of “the club”. There are writers who have crashed so many cars on racetracks that they are no longer allowed to drive on racetracks as a condition of their employment — but you won’t see that in the YouTube videos where they stand in front of a paddock and talk about how a car understeers at the limit.

We could have done that with the McLaren. Nobody saw the crash but our writers and the tow-truck driver who took it away. The cops didn’t even bother to show up. It was the perfect crime. But after some soul-searching and a discussion among all of us, the decision was made to disclose what had happened to the readers.

I am proud of Joe DeMatio for writing this up. I’m proud of Kim Wolfkill and the rest of the Hearst management team for signing off on it. And I’m proud to be associated with a group of men and women who thought that the reader should know the truth about what happened to the McLaren. Having character doesn’t mean you don’t make mistakes. It means that you do the right thing after you’ve made that mistake. I hope that after reading this year’s PCOTY article, you will agree that we did the right thing.

45 Replies to “Tell The Truth And Shame The Devil”

    • bigtruckseriesreview

      Comey should have indicted her ass months ago.

      Now he’s going to pay the price for having waited – Weiner’s going to have his pervert ass put in the booty house – and Hillary’s going to lose (at best) and possibly be impeached the moment she swears in (at worst).

      Reply
      • Rod Jones

        Stop it BTSR! We all; know how you feel about the orange haired, draft dodging, pathological liar, sexual predator who doesnt pay taxes, has been involved in 3000+ lawsuits, and who routinely does not pay people who have worked for him. If that is the kind of person you want to be POTUS go vote for him. Let talk about cars here.

        Reply
  1. Tomko

    Better to disclose on your terms than have it revealed under somebody else’s timing and interpretation, i.e. October Surprise.

    I remember three or more decades ago reading Rich Ceppos tale of how he wrecked an Audi with his wife in the passenger seat. I always liked Ceppos. And did even more after reading his mia culpa.

    Making mistakes and owning up to it builds character. Making mistakes and dodging responsibility (George – Cherry Tree – Washington, for example) makes you an aspiring candidate for elected office.

    Well done DeMatio. You are a great American, not in the Hannity mould.

    Reply
    • Dean

      I remember that story. Wasn’t it Csaba Csere? Found some black ice and couldn’t bring himself to put it into the wall?

      Well done by DMatio and R&T. One more reason why I keep my print subscription.

      Reply
      • Tomko

        Yeah that’s the story. Black ice approaching a border crossing. First time I remember reading about ABS not being much help on glare ice.

        Definitely CandD. Thought it was Ceppos. Could have been Caaba. A solid 30 years ago.

        Reply
        • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

          Both Ceppos and Csere had pretty big crashes.

          As I understand it, one of them was more avoidable than the other.

          Reply
      • Tomko

        Found it!

        Correct: It was Csaba Cere in an Audi 5000 with his wife on glare ice into the back of a semi at 40 MPH. Seat belts but no airbags = broken nose and vertebrae, collapsed lung, etc. Occurred on December 4, 1986, and was the subject of his July 1987 column.

        Reply
  2. bigtruckseriesreview

    #1 I honestly have no idea who any of these authors responsible are.

    #2 Visuals of wrecked cars speak louder than diatribes.

    #3 LIMITS?

    Testing AWD cars with automatic transmissions and computerized torque vectoring?

    I’m amazed that you CAN actually crash one of those and it only goes to reinforce my displeasure with track driving.

    There are no tracks long enough for me to get what I want out of my cars so my own opportunity is those long, isolated, lonely, straight highways where the townships are too poor to afford Highway patrols.

    All of this, however, could be solved if some generous billionaire would build a 10 mile straight so we could test the maximum acceleration and braking distance of performance cars.

    I could give a damn how well it turns.

    Reply
  3. jz78817

    1) I appreciate the honesty of R & T and its publisher. TTAC and R&T are basically the only two car publications (I’m a R&T subscriber but still visit the site regularly) I spend most of my time on. Autoblog is worthless and I’ve lost interest in Jalopnik. Plus it’s topical; as much as you and Mark deride the typical automotive “journalist,” Pete DeLorenzo also decided to pile on a bit today.

    2) when something like this happens, who pays? Does Hearst insure test cars, or is it something the manufacturer’s insurance covers? I know when we send out test vehicles to anyone (suppliers, media, etc.) they’re covered under “bailment” which means the borrower has to have a liability/property damage policy of a certain amount, and is responsible for damages to the bailed property.

    Reply
    • Economist

      I always figured that the manufacturer shrugs their shoulders and accepts it as a cost of doing business. Do they even sell the cars they let the journalists abuse? Would it be cost-effective to insure a product that would never be sold?

      Reply
  4. Ronnie Schreiber

    The worst I’ve done is scrape an aluminum wheel on a Fiat Abarth. Coincidentally it happened just after Jack made it TTAC policy to report such things. Maybe he jinxed me. I called up the nice lady at the fleet mgmt company and suggested she order a rim if someone else was scheduled for the car the next week. I did disclose it to readers.

    Does something that just needs touch-up paint need to be disclosed?

    Reply
  5. Dirty Dingus McGee

    If you screw up, man up. It’s pretty simple.
    Besides, in this day where there is a camera EVERYWHERE, you can’t get away with squat.

    Reply
  6. Hogie roll

    I’m really suprised the vette was second fastest on the track. The lotus and the vette were the cheapest too. I suspect manual cars will stomp the flappy paddles for collectibility.

    Reply
  7. Flatplane

    Kudos to you guys for writing about the crash. Super rare in this industry. Shame you couldn’t include the 570S.

    But Acura NSX? Really?!? Where was the GT350? Nothing else was better? Sorry Jack, but y’all are the only one to say anything nice about this car so far. Smells fishy.

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      GT350 won last year!

      The NSX has been a work in progress. They’ve spent an extra year tuning the product and it’s paid off.

      Reply
  8. rwb

    I find it slightly funny that, when it’s press car, crashing and publicly owning up to it with big boy pants on is arguably more endearing than never crashing at all.

    Of course, it’s not my insurance policy so Hearst may have a different perspective. Glad the dude is OK either way.

    That said, though I’m generally more interested in more easily attainable, practical quick cars, I have a real fetish for the 570 series; something about purity of intent I think. I would have loved to see how it fared against its peers, and hope they find another one to send you for an extended review. I’ll read the shit out of that.

    Reply
    • rwb

      Also I should say, your writing in these PCOTY articles started out great and is only getting better. This one is undeniably excellent. Don’t care if it looks like I’m pumpin’ tires here, it’s good stuff.

      Reply
  9. English Teacher

    Somewhat unrelated thoughts from a long-time reader/lurker….
    First, I have always admired your honesty. Sometimes there even seems to be a little Bukowski in there, as you are not afraid to admit your own failings.
    Second, (and connected to #1) I admire your desire to move automotive writing beyond press releases. I want to read things that make me question, think, or feel. Whether it’s soul-searching, pop-culture references, or allusions to Thoreau, your writing often does this.
    Third, a question. How much better is a ’99 Boxster than a ’99 Miata? Is the extra cost of purchase, maintenance, insurance, etc., worth it in smiles per gallon? Is the Boxster chassis notably better? I’ve read some of your glowing reviews of the ND Miata, but you are Boxster owner… thoughts?

    Reply
  10. Rambo Furum

    Wow, he unequivacobly publicly apologized for an accident. That was going above and beyond and takes cajones. Such integrity should pay dividends.

    Reply
  11. michal

    so was the smoking brakes part just story telling or actually true.

    If true and on public roads, where are these roads you can take cars so fast, with so many turns that you can heat brakes up so much? Never have I come across such a road with so little traffic or so few 5-0

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      I took a cameraphone photo of it… that looks like nothing in particular.

      There are roads in rural Kentucky where you can drive half an hour without seeing another human being.

      Reply
  12. 98horn

    “You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” I read (and subscribe) to R&T, and am glad that all of you decided to be honest with the readers. Character matters!

    Reply
  13. Bruno Jácomo Balestra Simões de Lima

    I just read both pieces and your writing, Jack, is absolutelly stellar. As it usually is. Started reading you in TTAC and was hooked on your work ever since. You paint a pretty good picture for us mere mortals who likely will never get to have any opportunity to drive a dream car, let alone 10 at a time. Such dreams seem a million miles away here in my hick corner of Brazil. The result surprised me because of all the other NSX reviews I´ve read and watched so far, but who am I to disagree? Congrats on the mea culpa (pass it along, will ya?) – it´s not what we are used to see.

    Lastly, why do you suppose all the British reviews and videos’ titles are actually questions about the cars? Bugs me to no end and I can’t fathom why they are so averse to actual titles. I mean, even as children we had to have them for our stories in school. What say you, my favorite scribe?

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      It’s that weird British passive aggression. They’re like that in person. Anything they say that they think you’ll dislike, they phrase as a question.

      I’d like to come to Brazil some day. You’re living my dream you know. Those beaches in Rio…

      Reply
      • Bruno Jácomo Balestra Simões de Lima

        Could say the same about you living my dream! Ha ha! I so would love to live in the States again…
        Those beaches are indeed beautiful, but no one is quite ready for the heat levels there, not even the devil. And He lives in quite a warm place. Also, the city of Rio is not doing so well right now: health and crime issues that are getting worse by the day.
        Should you ever commit to flying down, I’d be honored to host you. We have a pretty decent circuit: Autódromo Internacional Ayrton Senna, are about 140 miles from Brasília, the capital designed by Oscar Niemeyer and plenty of nice places beyond Rio (not that Ipanema should be forfeit).

        Reply
  14. Rock36

    I cut my teeth at the NCM Motorsports park. I miss it dearly, you never forget your first I suppose.

    It’s great to finally be able to read a track review of a car, and personally know what it is like to drive the track yourself.

    Reply
  15. Jeff Zekas

    Hey Jack, have you ever met or heard of the woman who runs the site “Girls Drive Fast Too”? She does promo work for Porsche and has an impressive sounding resume. Just curious if she is real, or a poser.

    Reply
  16. Jeff Zekas

    Wow, and here i thought you knew all the women (and men) in automotive journalism! Her name is Toni Avery, and I am guessing she is in her early 20’s– seems that her dad was involved in motorsports, and she has attended over half a dozen racing schools– why not do an interview of her? I always enjoy reading your take on people and ideas!

    Reply

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