I don’t write mainstream automotive content. I’m technical, confrontational, and have no allegiances to manufacturers, organizations, or anyone in the motorsports industry. I drop the occasional Fuck-Bomb, and when I’m feeling really spicy, I might threaten my readers with a dick punch. This doesn’t make me particularly attractive as an automotive journalist. Which is fine because I’m not really a journalist, and writing about car aerodynamics is a fucking hobby.
Why am I telling you this? Because 18 months ago I had an agreement with Hagerty, who said they would syndicate the articles on my Occam’s Racer website. Hagerty wants to sell track insurance and promote events on motorsportsreg.com, so they created a new website aimed at track enthusiasts, and they recruited me to be an integral part of that.
My role was to tighten up the content I’d already written on racing, testing, and aerodynamics, and to create net new material of the same. (TBH, I was once a motorcycle journalist and I was secretly hoping they’d get me back in that game, as well.) I’d be paid handsomely, and get to expense things like tires, fuel, and track days. In preparation for that, I locked down a lot of my website so they could publish my articles as if they were new.
After a year and a half of rewriting and waiting patiently, Hagerty has pulled the plug. They published one of my articles in a “soft launch,” but won’t be syndicating the rest of content.
I didn’t pester them during that year and a half, so I don’t know all of the details on why the deal fell through, but reading between the lines, it seems like upper management regularly fucked with the website team. As they do. This delayed the launch by over a year, during that time there were significant changes in design, strategy, and staffing.
The end result was me without the deal I was promised. I have a signed contract, and a litigious person might go after compensation, but I’m not that guy. I can go right back to doing what I was doing before and be happy with that. And honestly, it was nice to be noticed and appreciated by a real journalist, so I’m thankful.
Which brings me to the other reason the Hagerty deal fell apart, which is that I was recruited by Jack Baruth. In the small pack of automotive journalist who are worth following, he’s my alpha dog. To other automotive journalists he’s not so much pack leader as lone wolf. Jack is an iconoclast. A shit disturber. A ruffian. Obviously he’s my people. Or vice versa?
I was gobsmacked that Jack wrote for Hagerty to begin with. Hagerty’s readership is geriatric white guys buying vintage cars at ridiculous prices; auctions and concourse are their bread and oleo. That Hagerty kept Jack on for so long is surprising, considering that when Jack wrote about air-cooled Porsches, his primary appeal was nailing chicks on the hood of the car.
It wasn’t all raunchy, most of Jack’s writing was spot-on, unbiased automotive journalism. But after too many years of dropping truth bombs on the automotive industry, Hagerty fired Jack. And if I believe what he’s saying in his sig, he’s been blackballed by most of the automotive industry.
When I’d heard about this, I had immediate feelings of solidarity on the order of, “fuck this, I’m going with Jack.” But Jack isn’t bringing me anywhere. In fact I’ve heard nothing from him. Which is not unexpected, he’s got problems of his own.
And when it comes right down to it, I have to look out for myself. I’d like to get paid more than a cup of coffee for an article. A byline writing for an online magazine is still a feather in a cap lacking plumage. And damnit, some of my articles are worth syndicating! But that’s out of my hands.
Which is good news for you, reader, as I have now unlocked the articles on my site. Some of the content will remain password protected because it cost me time and effort to obtain the information. Moreover, some people in the past year and a half have decided that my articles are worth paying for, and so I’ll continue to give them some exclusivity.
You can get the password to all the articles for five bucks, by buying me a cup of coffee virtually, or buying me a beer in person (something hoppy, nothing Belgian). I also take donations if you appreciate highly independent “journalism”, or are just feeling generous.
Even though I’m feeling snubbed, I want to wish Hagerty good luck with their new Imola website, which is aimed squarely at the club-level racers and track enthusiasts I call friends. The website could turn out to be a great resource, even without my involvement. And I have to thank them for the article they printed, and buying me the equivalent of a thousand coffees; it pays for a lot of gas and tires.
I don’t know if Hagerty will print another article of mine in the future, but I’m not waiting on that any longer. I have some great content I’ve been sitting on, including another DIY wing, a bizarre opera coupe top, and several hours of consultations with Mercedes F1 aero engineer Kyle Forster. You can also look forward to more real-world testing in 2023, and now that I seem to have kicked Lyme disease, maybe some race reports.
Lastly, if you’re a Jack Baruth fan, you can help him out by subscribing to Avoidable Contact Forever, which contains everything he wrote for Hagerty, plus lots of new content without fetters. Or filters. I’m going to warn you straight up about the Rodney stories… they are not for everyone.
Addendum: After reading this post, Jack wrote a public apology on his site, and even better, invited me to try his Radical. What he said about the one article of mine that Hagerty printed, I’m hanging onto forever: “It’s brilliant, and it contains more intelligent thought about how to go faster via aero mods than pretty much all of the rest of motoring journalism combined.” So, yeah, that felt pretty fucking good.