Dear Automotive Engineers (Especially Retirees): We Want To Hire You To Write Cool Stuff About Cars

Unclenerd

Are you sitting at home after having worked 30 joyful years for a major automaker or supplier, looking for a new hobby/job? Have you given up trying to get your children and grandchildren to give a damn about your endlessly nerdy car thoughts, leaving you on the hunt for someone — anyone — to impart your car-wisdom upon? Are you tired of reading erroneous technical stuff on car websites? Are you a decent writer? If so, you should write for The Autopian. It will be awesome.

It makes no sense to me how few engineers there are in the automotive media space, but it’s something I’m actively working to change. Cars are inherently technical, so shouldn’t the people who teach you about them also be technically adept?

I’m going to sound a bit mean here, but I’m just having some fun: Just look at this sentence I edited from Jason Torchinsky. He’s easily one of the best car journalists on this planet, and generally a fairly technically-smart man. But he is no engineer, as you can tell by the fact that he thought the motor in question was named “Switched Reluctance,” not that this was a type of motor. Every time I have to edit a mistake like this a part of my soul dies, and I find myself rushing to my nearest textbook to solve as many Laplace Transform-related problem sets as possible.

Screen Shot 2022 08 04 At 12.15.26 Pm

(Again, for the record, I love JT. He told me I could make fun of him).

[Editor’s Note: I still think “reluctance” is a hilarious descriptor for a motor, real term or not. – JT]

So of course, we need more technical folks in automotive media. You can see why when you read Huibert Mees’s stories. He’s a retired Ford/Tesla engineer (he technically still consults) who impressed me with a comment he wrote on one of my articles, describing in detail how solid axles’ geometry helps them articulate so well. Naturally, I reached out to see if he’d like to write for The Autopian, and now — like a solid axle — he’s doing a great job articulating — specifically, articulating thoughts on how suspension design differs on electric vehicles versus ICE ones; the factors that play into a car’s turning radius; how he screwed up the lower control arms on the Ford GT; why the Double Ball-Joint suspension allows for bigger brakes and better steering feel; how bolts work; why the spring and damper on a MacPherson strut are just barely out of alignment, and so much more. It’s true insight from a true expert.

The world needs more of this. LOTS more.

Normally, I’d be writing technical stories myself, calling up engineers, reading SAE papers, and putting it all together into some serious geekery, but I no longer have time to write as much because I’m now a sad, sad manager. (Many of you engineers know how this goes). The good news is that my brain keeps coming up with article ideas by the hundred; the bad news is that I don’t have enough engineers to write them. And it’s genuinely driving me crazy. There’s so much cool stuff we need to talk about!

So, my TI-89-wielding friends, let’s work together and get paid to nerd out.

Veteran Engineers

The great thing about retirees is that they’ve got enough perspective and enough contacts to really describe how things work in a comprehensive way. An engineer with a year or two of experience isn’t necessarily going to be able to quickly tell stories about how things work, because they just haven’t learned from enough vehicle programs to build the knowledge base yet. But to veterans, questions about how certain aspects of the car world work tend to be trivial, and easily answered. And if not, usually just a phone call away.

Plus, the industry-insider-y stories veteran engineers can tell are usually awesome.

So if you’ve worked in the car industry a while, and would like to be paid to write about how cars work and hang out with car geeks like Torch and me, email me at david@autopian.com. 

Less Experienced Engineers

We’re also always keeping an eye out for an engineer who can write in higher volumes than a retiree might be willing to. Someone who can join the full time staff, and write news and reviews through the lens of someone who’s actually been there. And someone who can write deep-dives like a boss.

So if you’re an intellectually curious engineer (even if not in the auto industry, really) who enjoys writing, and you have experience working in the automotive industry, please email me at david@autopian.com. I want readers here at The Autopian to get the highest-quality car geekery pumped into their veins. I will work with you to develop your writing skills, I’ll get you press cars, and we’ll just fill the website with equations and labeled underbody photos. Because that’s all anyone wants in a car blog, right?

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41 Responses

  1. I’ve noticed that articles about environmental tech in the automotive space can be a bit…credulous, at times. Not here specifically, just in general. It would be nice to have someone on staff with the chops to pick apart the press releases on the latest carbon-reduction scheme of the day, and apply a critical eye to the claims being made. A lot of that stuff is super hard to effectively quantify, which leaves the door wide open for all kinds of spin. Someone who can sort the wheat from the chaff and explain which is which would be a refreshing thing to see. I’d love to see a dive into why carbon footprints are hard to calculate but easy to manipulate, for instance—there should be plenty of examples from within the automotive world to pull from.

  2. I’m not an Engineer, but I play one on the internet.

    On a serious note – As much as I love the deep dives (and you know I do) I think the site is starting to get a little unbalanced in that favor. I think the staff here is more than top notch but there doesn’t seem to be much diversity in styles. You got your hardcore VW and taillight enthusiast (and researcher of obscure), you got your hardcore Jeep and engineering enthusiast (and deep divemaster), you got your hardcore suspension engineer…your hardcore design guy…your hardcore SMART/UHaul/bike gal…etc.

    Again, you know how much I love pouring over the numbers, but sometimes I just need a story about some wacko who uses their transit to rallycross, or took their Ferrari to Tuktoyaktuk, or about X motorcycle being a great starter bike, or some story that can only be told thanks to the statute of limitations…as a cold drink to wash down the meat and potatoes.

    This is just my opinion, so take it how you like, but instead of more staff writers, I would spend my money on finding stories and paying for those, maybe finding and bringing up new upcoming talent. It’s going to be WAY easier to source a diversity of content ad-hoc than it is to find the perfect writer who hits all the high notes.

    On a semi-related note – have you guys thought about a site feedback mechanism? Either an Autopian advisory council you meet with or some kind of site section or feature? I know you have a lot to do bringing everything up to the place you want it to be, but it’s something to consider – It helps make sure you are staying on course with your audience and it invests us more into sticking around.

    My 2 cents.

    1. Create a slushpile by soliciting stories from the readers. How to Teach People to Drive a Stick, My Best Ziptie Fix, My First AutoX, Road Trip From Hell kinda thing. Have each writer read maybe 2 per day, and pass on the worthy ones for editing and eventual publishing. There’s going to be multiple people in this audience who have both good stories and the ability to tell them. Award a shirt for a published story, then negotiate for further copy?

    2. Something you won’t get from a current or ex-automotive engineer is a better-informed deep-dive into automotive culture, particularly at the grassroots level. That kind of thing should absolutely be in the wheelhouse of a publication calling itself The Autopian.

      The other issue I have with filling the site with engineering deep dives is that they walk an impossible tightrope. Keep it too general or basic, and it’s either uninformative or condescending to your audience. Keep it technical, and the only people who either care or fully understand are actual engineers like me. You do not want your entire reader base to be engineers. And god forbid any of us make it into the comments section.

      Looking specifically for automotive engineers is also casting the net too narrow. As a mechanical engineer outside the automotive industry, I’m emphatic about this last point: you DO NOT need to be an engineer in specifically the automotive industry to write damn good technical content about the automotive industry. Any engineer worth their salt should be able to:

      a) have the technical spidey sense to sniff bullshit when they see it
      b) have the technical curiosity to ask good questions, and
      c) have the technical writing skill to explain these things to a lay audience.

      If anything, some much-needed perspective could be brought by folks outside the automotive OEMs’ ecosystems. Get engineers who have worked on standards or legislation. Get economists who have done transportation modelling. Get scientists who have worked on auto-relevant materials. Get legislators who have grappled with transportation policy.

      1. We’re looking for all sorts of experts! And we know some with legal and economics backgrounds. Those could really yield some awesome stories.

        But right now, I’m focusing on finding some good engineering talent. Though your point stands! The car world is far from just about the tech.

    3. Agreed. While I thoroughly enjoy Huibert’s articles, I have to imagine content that technical has a very limited audience. Much like I have little interest in the design articles, and was in the camp that read both of Adrian’s “big wheels” articles and came out thinking “okay but why are they so big? This design speak is blowing my engineer mind”. Also David, tread carefully on the “look at the dumb non-engineer” snark, whether it’s mutual joking at your good friends’ expense or not, the “arrogant engineer” stereotype exists for a reason, and it ain’t a good look

      1. Also, sorry. I now realize that the post did sound a little arrogant there in the beginning. Sorry about that!

        Plus I realize that the narrow nature of my request likely feels a little exclusive. I didn’t mean that; really, we want to hire the best people regardless of background. This is just one specific hole I’m trying to fill first.

      2. We’re definitely looking to expand in other areas, especially human-interest stories.

        I do agree that engineers don’t necessarily need to have worked in the auto industry to be good at writing explainers. Honestly, just a technically curious mind and some engineering experience is needed.

        As for the audience limitations of deep-dives: In reality, the number of people who want to know how things work is humongous. That’s partly why I’m looking for an engineer.

        But mostly, I want someone to look at cars – not just the technical side of cars, but also the culture – through an engineering lens.

        We’re definitely looking to bring in other talent! But I do just want ONE person on staff other than me with OEM/supplier experience, just because I know the dividends it will pay.

  3. I’ve always wondered if David is the only one at press events asking extremely technical questions or the only one to ask to crawl under the vehicles.

    But I always enjoy the deep dives into the engineering and technical side of how cars work. Definitely want to see more!

  4. I’m not an automotive engineer, although I am an electrical engineer. I have a lot of input I could offer on electric vehicles and their technology. Not retired though, or even close. I do know how to design/build vehicles from scratch, but my efforts are rather amateur compared to those who have been in industry for years.

    1. You see Toecutter here, David? At the very least, get (& pay) him to write an article on his home built microcar: I’d damn sure read that!

      Then again, I’m just a gearhead nerd who reads compulsively, so maybe not representative of your target audience

      1. “Then again, I’m just a gearhead nerd who reads compulsively, so maybe not representative of your target audience”

        I feel like the venn diagram of Autopian readers and gearhead nerds who read compulsively is a circle. 😛

      2. I just sent an email off to David. I’m not sure what exactly he’s looking for, and I’m definitely not in a position to write full time, but if there’s something he wants from me that I can add to this site, I’m willing. If not, I’ll always offer my opinion in the comments section anyhow. Love this site.

    2. I’d love a deep dive on the motor controls used on modern EV. All that stuff between the battery terminals and and motor that control speed and power.

      I know the very basics from industry but love a detailed look at the automotive applications

  5. “Cars are inherently technical, so shouldn’t the people who teach you about them also be technically adept?”

    Yes, and so should the people who sell them, service them, market them, and so on.

    As for the pitch itself, I have spent time at both a Tier 1 supplier and at an aftermarket customizer of vehicles as a design and manufacturing engineer, but never at an OEM. I don’t think my knowledge translates directly enough, but I do look forward to reading more deep dives from whoever you do hire. Besides, my half-baked takes are usually better consumed for free in the comments.

    1. I’ll settle for people who sell them knowing what models exist.

      Looking at you, Ford salesman from 5 years ago who “specialized in the Focus” who didn’t know you could buy them with a manual.

  6. I hope you find some good applicants. I am an engineer (though not an automotive engineer), and some of the best parts of my day are when I have the opportunity to talk with my experienced colleagues discuss something highly technical.

    It also sounds like a super fun retirement gig. An opportunity to geek out with an audience who appreciates the geekery? It’s why so many retired engineers enjoy volunteering at their local science and technology museums. I’m not there yet, but… call me in about 15 years?

  7. Don’t forget Manufacturing Engineers ( I was one at one time). Developing and designing those pieces of equipment that are used to make the parts and assemblies. Another offshoot is the Technical Writers ( I are one now) who write the manuals you all finally pick up when all else fails. Yes, RTFM.

    At our makerspace (The Curious Forge) we value passion. We invite people with a passion for something, even odd somethings, to come and talk to us about their passion. We had a collector of oscilloscopes come give a presentation. Talked about why and when they were invented, along with bringing a functioning one, and one partially disassembled so we could see the guts. Fascinating stuff!

  8. In electrical physics (ok, “fizzicks” if you’re British and living on the 1600s) (and fictional, as I made that all up) most of the fundamental concepts and parameters are either metaphors, or dead old white guys names.

    Reluctance, resistance, impedance, (ok capacitance makes no sense), reactance, … are metaphors. Resistors resist! Inductors (coiled wire) “has” reluctance and impedes, etc.

    Ohm, amp(ere), oerstead, Henry, farad(ay), all old dead white guys.

    Then there’s really clever units like the mho, the reciprocal of the ohm, used mostly in ye olden dayes of electron tubes.

    Fizzicks are fun. The unit of measure for the probability of a particle striking the nucleus of an atom is the barn. As in, can’t hit a barn door, as in fkn unlikely. Atoms are mostly empty space, etc. Yeah it was funny, you had to be there.

      1. You do? I spent 9 years in the industry, from designing helicopter engines to making machines that build aircrafts.

        I’d have a shit ton of stories to tell and I’ll be unemployed in November. Can you hire someone abroad? I’m French.

    1. Yes! Blimps, airplane camping, pitot-static systems, air dissociation from friction, how awesome it is you can have -297° F (or colder) a few inches from 5,500+° F, film canisters falling from space, and more!

  9. Working in the auto industry for almost 10 years, all my life related to wire harness engineering. OEM and Tier 1 supplier side. How the OEM manage their information, everything is managed by the supplier, how the harnesses are manufactured (Really manual labor, its almost an art), crimping technology, testing, etc. Maybe is not as exciting as other areas but those parts are critical and involve a lot of brains around, not a lot has changed during the years, not even with EVs (You wonder why EVs they still use 12V batteries). The only new things are related to High Voltage (those orange cables). Reply to my message if interested

    1. I would DEVOUR a deep engineering dive into crimping technology. I bet a lot of people would; there’s a standing Holy War in the DIY community regarding crimping vs soldering. Personally I’m pretty firmly on Team Crimp, on the basis that if soldering were the way to go, you might see factory-soldered connectors or splices in cars, like, ever.

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