I’m Matt Hardigree And I’m Here To Remind You How Lucky You Are To Love Cars Right Now


I’m Matt Hardigree and I love cars. Is that an admission? A brag? A cry for help? I have many feelings and The Autopian seems like a place for people who need to work out their complicated automotive thoughts. To boil it down I will steal an interrogative sentence construction from High Fidelity: Did I tell people to buy E30s because they’re valuable, or are they valuable because I told people to buy them?

To put it another way: I find it super weird that automakers are building the cars I have begged for and that the cars I once said were good and under-appreciated are now super popular and expensive.

[Editor’s Note: Before Matt continues this article of obscure pop culture references and various somewhat car-related musings, allow me to do what he should be doing in this introduction: Everyone, please welcome former Jalopnik boss and Tangent Vector video guru Matt Hardigree. He loves cars, he hired me into this business despite my lack of writing experience, and he’s a little less crazy than Jason and I. And that last point is pretty important given that we’re running a business here. -DT]. 

The line from High Fidelity is, of course: “Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable, or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?” and there are a lot of parallels. Rob, the protagonist of both novel and adaptation, is a thirtysomething record store owner grappling both with relationship drama and a general discomfort with the results of his own personal taste-making.

My marriage is pretty good, but the rest does bother me.

Photo Jun 04, 2 16 19 AmMe at the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year making a movie (I’m on the right) Photo by Sam X. Rojas

For those who do not know me, I’ve been telling automakers what think they should make and people what I think is cool for 15 years. I was a writer and editor at Jalopnik for a number of years and recently have been producing/writing/directing TV shows and internet videos about cars for Top Gear, Road & Track, NBC Sports, MotorTrend, et cetera.

The problem is that I never thought anyone would actually listen.

Before I inflate my own influence on other people I want to be clear that no man is an island, entire of itself and that my opinions were formed, consciously and subconsciously, by what my friends were saying and what I read on The Car Lounge and r/cars. The difference between me and mk2GTI4lyfe is that, while we are both afflicted, my affliction is such that the only way to survive as a human being is to turn said affliction into a career. It’s quite possible that mk2GTI4lyfe is happier as a supply chain analyst for a mid-tier supermarket chain.

Audi Rs 6 AvantPhoto courtesy of Audi, can you believe they really sell this here?

I love cars, just like Rob and his coworkers love music. I love being able to spot a Sterling 827 at 500 yards. As much as I love cars I hate gatekeeping. I hate people who belittle others because they do not know what I know. The only way auto-enthusiasm survives is together, and knowing something is not more valuable because other people do not know it.

Still, I wonder: Do I love sharing that knowledge because I am naturally goodhearted or, honestly, is there a small part of me that likes to be the first to know and first to share something obscure?

I once owned a Merkur XR4Ti. I’m infatuated with European Fords (Taunus, Cossie, Sierra Cossie, whatever) and this was as close as I was likely to get to to owning a Sierra. I loved the car for what it was and what it wasn’t and I’m grateful that David followed me to my buddy’s shop so we could replace the welded diff (that’s another story).

Screen Shot 2022 08 01 At 4.07.01 PmThe ultimate conversation starter

To what degree did I love that car because I knew 85% of the people who saw it were like “What is that weird Honda Accord with two wings?”

Infinite Jest is an enjoyable novel, maybe, but no one can ever make a prestige TV adaptation. Not because like 90% of it is footnotes. Not because adaptations are inherently flawed (I like the High Fidelity film more than the book). You cannot make a movie of Infinite Jest for the same reason that the eBook version is so unappealing. The allure of reading Infinite Jest to many is being seen reading Infinite Jest on the inner loop bus of your state college or on the subway or wherever. Would this enthusiasm wane if there was a six-season HBO miniseries? Perhaps.

I care about car culture, so it ultimately should be heartening to see the following happen:

  • After years of begging for small trucks, two different automakers are making them.
  • After years of telling people that the Volvo 240 wagon is a perfect enthusiast car, they’re now selling for a lot of money.
  • After years of pleading with Volkswagen to just build an EV Microbus, we get the ID Buzz, which is pretty close.
  • It’s a little expensive, but the Audi RS6 Avant being sold here is something I never thought I’d see, and yet…

The list goes on.

We are living in a golden age of cars whether we recognize it or not. We didn’t get everything we asked for, of course. We just got the pony and the Sega CD and the R/C monster truck and the light saber. It would be ungrateful to point out we didn’t get our own, personal gum ball machine. Right?

Ultimately, I think I feel good about this. I don’t want to be the guy in the Don Henley song complaining about the deadhead sticker on the Cadillac. I want to be the guy in the LCD Soundsystem song coping with the democratization of access the Internet brings.

I used to work in the record store.
I had everything before anyone.
I was there in the Paradise Garage DJ booth with Larry Levan.
I was there in Jamaica during the great sound clashes.
I woke up naked on the beach in Ibiza in 1988.
But I’m losing my edge to better-looking people with better ideas and more talent.
And they’re actually really, really nice.

They’re nice. You’re nice. Mercedes and Thomas and Tycho are nice.


What I do not want to be, still via YouTube

I’m the new Publisher of The Autopian. What does that mean? We’re still figuring that out. Mostly, that means I’m here to help David and Jason and Beau and everyone do more of the things that everyone seems to love. This includes making a business of this little operation in a way that’s sustainable and makes the site better, not worse.

I’ll need your help! You are all the people coming up from behind. The smart, connected readers who know things we don’t know. Soon I’ll put out a survey to understand better who you are and why you come here so I can then take that information and find advertisers who might add to the site instead of subtract.

I am also on the search for a specific, very bad idea car and I’m enlisting David’s help in this venture and so I’ll be crowdsourcing for that as well.

Until then, thanks for having me here. I can’t wait to see where this goes.

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88 Responses

  1. “and he’s a little less crazy than Jason and I.”


    “They’re nice. You’re nice. Mercedes and Thomas and Tycho are nice.”

    No, you’re nice. Also, see above re: less crazy than Jason and David.

    Also, don’t crowdsource bad car ideas – come straight to the expert on importing obscure, maddeningly unreliable, weird European cars. I’m thinking… a StreetKa. (Please do not say it in a Boston accent. That is not how you say it. At all.)
    Wait, no.
    Ford Sierra RS Cosworth. No, not the RS500. The RS Cosworth. In LHD.

  2. You’re looking for a very bad car idea? Welcome home. Please contribute to the coffee and donut fund. I’ve got two dollars in small, unmarked bills. It’s yours if you won’t mention politicians you love/hate because they happen to be standing near a motor vehicle.

  3. Holy shit! It’s Hardibro!! I’m overjoyed at this development. Like a lot of others, I have fond memories of Matt’s time at the other joint. I’m super geeked for this place AGAIN.

    10/10, no notes. Well, maybe one quibble Matt, The RS6 isn’t “kinda expensive”, it’s eyewatering in it’s pricing. But yeah, I saw one on the road the other day and was very happy to know it’s here.

  4. Welcome, Matt! Seriously glad to see you here: the more weirder, the more better!

    Infinite Jest is one of the very worst books I’ve ever read. It’s a self-aggrandizing wank-fest that could literally be cut by 80% without harming the ‘plot’. Was trying to find a car to compare it to…. got it: those horrid ‘super cars’ cobbled together by some Brazilian(I think?) guys we saw over at the old place 8 or 10 years back. Or that over-inflated plushie-looking Puma art/concept around the same time. No redeeming qualities is what I’m saying

    But, seriously, I’m glad you’re here: anyone who drove an XR4Ti is worth reading in my book

  5. “I am also on the search for a specific, very bad idea car”

    Look, there are only so many base, early model 986 Porsche Boxsters that were ordered with the Aerokit and a 5-speed, and that if you put a manual ragtop on one and some Ohlins coilovers, you would have a poor man’s Boxster Spyder. So, stop shopping for them and let me have my dream!

    Also, welcome on board. 🙂

  6. Re: you’re 240 comment.
    The car guy’s lament; the one I shoulda bought.
    Spring, 2019, I was helping my son find a vehicle to replace the ’00 Volvo XC70 that sacrificed itself in a fender bender (pre-crazy times, it didn’t take much to total a 19 y/o Volvo).
    I came across a 1992 Volvo 240 wagon with around 140K miles in the awesome Signal Red, and while it wasn’t the right fit for what my son needed, I am realizing more and more that it was the perfect car for me to play with and use regularly.

  7. Back when they were near new my dad briefly had a Sierra XR4i (the Merkur body but with a Cologne 2.8 injected V6 from the Capri). I think he only brought it as he’d been offered an excellent deal to sell his Porsche 928 then and there and the Merc SL he had ordered to replace wasn’t going to be delivered for another three or four months and he wanted something to tide him over. I remember two things about it, it smelt of vomit constantly, not sure if the dealer had cleaned it with some foul smelling cleaning fluid, and even from the passenger seat you could tell it had the road holding of an over excited Labrador on a freshly polished hardwood floor. Still as a 12 year old into cars, I thought the bi plane wing was really cool, and the V6 sounded quite good.

    You rarely see them in the UK and I suspect they might even be rarer than Sierra Cossie’s now?

    As for the Merkur Iwas first introduced to this strange named car as the British Grand Prix of all places, Andy Rouse’s team actually ran them in the British Saloon car Championship (which used to support the GP) before the Cosworth was introduced. They weren’t mega successful but did enough to convince Ford to invest in the Cosworth as a full on group a homolgation special.

    1. My dream is to put a Toppola on a Merkur XR4Ti – while the majority of Toppolas were intended for the Saab 900, a small number were built for the Sierra. I don’t know that there is a single one in the USA, though.

    1. If a greater amount of crazy is required, all they need to do is tap me on the shoulder and go “hey, we’ll pay you money to write an article on how you’d make this car not suck.”

      Not only will you get pure, undiluted madness straight from my mind, all of the editorial staff will have gone completely insane trying to pare down the 5,000 word draft I turned in.

    2. Indeed. I like the random, obscure, and sometimes snarky references that sneak their way into articles about tail lights, getting 60-year-old POS cars up and running, and long-forgotten aftermarket appliances.

      Also, you’re right. The High Fidelity film was better than the book.

  8. “…(A) little less crazy than Jason and I.”

    I am not a professional wordsmith like the crew of The Autopian, but I believe that this phrase is an example of the literary device known as “Damning with faint praise.” 🙂

    “I’m infatuated with European Fords (Taunus, Cossie, Sierra Cossie, whatever) and this was as close as I was likely to get to to owning a Sierra. ”

    Ford has a long history of making such cars. Back in the day I bought a new 1968 Ford Cortina GT, it was a terrific car and fed my Walter Mitty-style racing driver fantasies

  9. I was on the other site in your days (back when one had to earn the right to comment even…took me like a year and half b/c I’m terrible) and this is amazing news.

    But on more important things, is that a stock hood on the XR4ti?

    I don’t recall the louvers, but then again, I’m going after what my teenage brain remembers about them.

    1. As a fun fact (if true*)…
      I heard that the driveshaft used in the Merkur XR4ti was from the Ford Pinto

      I like weird cars the more diversity the better!

      *It would be great if a Merkur fan could confirm this too.

      1. You are correct. There’s two hood types for the XR4Ti. The vented hood came in with the Sierra RS Cosworth in 1986. It was the XR4Ti’s consolation prize for being saddled with the cast iron slag that is the 2.3.

  10. And now we have a Hardigree, too! Damn, boys! (and gals and non-binary and however you choose to identify yourselves) My ADHD brain loves the tangental (and often all too relatable) content you’re allowing yourselves to create and try! Keep it weird, Autopian (first few weeks of the site my brain was convinced it was AutoPAIN, which seemed fitting with DT and Torch at the helm)!

    I’ve been saying the same sentiment about being a great time to be into vehicles for a few years and it keeps getting better. I now drive the diesel 4-door Wrangler (with factory lockers and remote swaybar disconnect) that I wrote Chrysler produce starting in the mid-90s. Not only that, there’s a huge Hemi version of the same vehicle that gets similar mileage to most ’90s SUVs, and a hybrid version, too!

    We will move beyond internal combustion for most transportation within our lifetime. What a great send-off though. Maybe some day I’ll have an RSx Avant in the garage, but there are also so many other awesome vehicles, practical and not, that I could also park there. Electric and not.

  11. Awesome. We have people who actually wrench/appreciate working on things/knowing how things work/dive into the details. It irritated me to hell that it seemed like a good chunk of the submissions from that other site were people who lived in NYC and rode the subway everywhere and never even owned cars. Like wtf.

    Anyway, happy you’re here. That said, I want to touch on gate keeping a bit. Look…. I don’t want to gate keep/keep others out, but there is a pecking order. A person who has a small machine shop and custom built a car of their own design/thoughts, worked out the kinks, and succeeds? That is GOD TIER enthusiast mode. Below that, you have enthusiasts that wrench, and below that you have enthusiasts with ‘cool cars’ that just cut a check to buy the latest greatest sports car with a warranty, or maybe a supercar if they’re really flush. Yeah, I said it. I said ANYONE who wrenches is above those who just walk into a dealership and sign a piece of paper.

    Why? Because that DRIVE FOR KNOWLEDGE is a sign of deeper affliction, seeking DEEPER understanding of what the machine is. I could literally walk into a porsche dealership and sign some paperwork and come out with a new 911 in a few days. But instead I’m busting knuckles fixing an old one, and I don’t even think the type of car matters. I would say the guy who swapped an integra engine into his civic is HIGHER TIER auto enthusiast than someone who just got a new Supra/Z/Stang. They’re more committed. Rationally, when you look at time, resale values, safety, it’s OBVIOUS that the rational choice is just get a newer car with a warranty…. but nah.

    There are reasons for choosing something older, choosing to work on it yourself, understand the ins and outs, fix problems, improve short comings, and build it to your tastes/demands/desires, and those reasons mean something, dammit.

    1. I think I hear where you’re coming from.. but man, a lot of us don’t have that kind of time. I used to have a ’68 Charger that I loved and worked on myself and tinkered with that was in barely-running and drivable (unsafe-ish) shape. Between my family and my job, I had next to no time to work on it, learn the ins and outs, fix problems, improve shortcomings, and build it to my taste. I had it for a few years but it would’ve taken me years and years and YEARS to get anywhere with it. Or a fortune. Or maybe both.

      Point is, I wanted to enjoy driving too, so I sold it to someone who actually had the time and money to restore it, and bought something super fun that I could drive the next day. And that was a *great* move.

      So.. I get it… but some of us don’t have the luxury to spend that kind of time (and/or money) and be in a higher “tier”. And you might get hit by a bus tomorrow, so a little bit of right-here-right-now sometimes doesn’t go amiss. And now I have another job and even less time! To each their own.

      1. This person gets it! Do I _want_ to pull the wheezy D17A1 out of my 03 Civic, swap in a K24, with a six-speed LSD, and giant turbo so it can mate 1K Horsepowers? DESPERATELY; and I could probably manage to get most of that done in my garage.

        Reality though, is a harsh cold fish in the face. I have a full-time job, two kids, and a house to maintain as well; so as soon as I pull ol-wheezy out it probably won’t ever run again. IS that more fun than enjoying it as is?

      2. Right, but it’s all priorities dude. I guarantee you in the sea of people on this planet, there’s someone with a similar family, financials, and garage situation as you, but they CHOSE to make time. Everytime you do something, you’re not doing something else, and those crazies that sacrifice family time, gym time, sleep, and retirement funds to keep building stuff and learning and pushing the limit? They exist, and they’re doing something you chose not to.

        BTW, I also had a POS 68 Charger, and sold it for the same reasons. Good memories tho, it was my first car! Learned a ton on it!

        And to clarify, if you don’t have that luxury, fine, you’re not less of a person, I still respect you, but I’m going to respect the guy swapping motors MORE than the dude with the new Z. Does that make sense?

    2. The old lighting site did this, way way back. When you’d sign up, you could comment, but for the comments to show, they’d have to starred by a member who had gold star power.

      To get that power, a member would have to earn it, put in the time…show they weren’t some troll, brought useful knowledge, or at least made things fun for people in a non-mean way. And stick around. If you did all that, eventually one of the moderators would decide you could be trusted with it.

      They eventually got rid of it for a simple anyone-can-upvote process that I think still stands.

      I get the rationale for the switch, but I always thought the original format was an interesting attempt to balance some reasonable gatekeeping (like you detail) with a desire to promote both participation and democracy.

      Perhaps it was a middle-phase thing, one that wasn’t needed when things were small, and then later jettisoned the site outgrew, I dunno.

      1. I always thought “Comment of the Day” was a good idea as well. By highlighting good comments, it inspired us commenters to do better.
        Especially back when you’d also win a picture from $kaycog

    3. I agree with your assessment that “any idiot can write a check” and it doesn’t make them an enthusiast. But… What happens when one of those idiots comes to you asking the right questions, and honestly wants to learn? That’s where the gatekeeping can start to creep in. Mock them for their lack of knowledge, and you’ve lost them forever. Take them under your wing, and it helps us all.

      1. First off welcome to my reading enjoyment. (-;

        I appreciate your take take on this.

        Enthusiasts evolve, I know I did and still am, we all start somewhere and eventually end up dead.
        I learned by doing and breaking things, I’ve learned from more experienced people who were willing to share, not to forget my own trial and error and listening to, but not taking good advice, I’ve learned and grown by helping others. I am attracted to almost anything with motive power.

        To those who may want a ranking system, I can only say I am not worthy.

      2. I don’t want to mock anyone, but I don’t want to pretend some dipshit who can’t change his own oil but got a new mustang is “just as much of an enthusiast” as someone who’s pulled an engine, rebuilt it, and put things back together. Those people are NOT the same on the enthusiast scale. Thirst for knowledge? Rad. Dive in. But blowing sunshine up everyone’s asses that we’re all special and everyone is on the same level is stupid.

    4. While I agree with the premise that “people who work on their cars as a hobby are more into cars than people who just buy cars,” aren’t you kind of gatekeeping the gatekeeping here?

      Your argument is based on the basic assumption that there needs to be a pecking order…. but does there? The whole point is that we *don’t* need to put enthusiasts into tiers. We don’t need to rank our fellow car nuts like we’re at lunch tables in high school. I’d posit that we should in fact find fulfillment from our own enjoyment, and not use some sort of Commitment X Skill X Ability = WrenchingTier formula. Almost none of us are getting ribbons or awards for doing car work – the only thing 99% of people get is personal satisfaction. It would suck to think that my work, which I’m doing to the best of my ability and knowledge, works out to ‘C tier’. Apparently my enthusiasm wasn’t enough, so I should be looked down on by those of you who are more *gestures vaguely at car*.

      I, like you, have a 911. I do my own oil changes, brakes, etc. I am not rebuilding the engine or replacing the IMS myself (an example – I have a non-serviceable IMS). Does that make my enjoyment of my car any more or less valid than yours? I keep mine in great shape because it retains value and because it will perform better on the autocross track. I derive an incredible amount of pleasure from that. If I had to replace the RMS myself I could, but that wouldn’t be fun for me. Am I less of an enthusiast than you because of it? Do I deserve to be placed in to a tier somewhere between True Gearhead and Poseur?

      This all matters if you care. If you don’t, it’s pretty liberating.


  12. A friend of mine took a copy on Infinite Jest on every airplane ride he took. Not to read it, and not to been seen with it, but to jam it into the seat-back pocket if the person in front of him reclined too far.

    1. Tattooing every square inch of your site with ads is certainly overkill (*stares daggers at the corpse of Jello Picnic*), but ain’t not one under the impression that this whole joint runs on Optima banner ads.

      1. I remember the early days of Queer Eye. One advertiser Disaronno. Every time I see the Optima thing I laugh inside. Here is to hoping Autopian becomes as successful as QE. Finally, my life changed when I was in England in 1971 and saw an Orange Lotus 7 on the street turning into a gas station. I knew they existed, even had a matchbox of one but there it was in the metal and being driven as a daily? So besides the damage my older brother had already done with English Sports Cars to my psyche, I was hooked, line and sinker. And I still lust after a Bugeye Sprite.

  13. Ads pay the bills, I get that. But personally, as somebody with ad-block on all day everyday, I would love a $5/month option via Patreon or something like that.

    Allow us monthly users to post pictures in the comments and give us a little star next to our username and I would be happy as a clam.

    One final note: your main page’s title in the tab is ‘Home – The Autopian’, Drop the ‘Home -‘ as it often obscures what the site really is if you have more than a few tabs open at the same time.

  14. How about obtain some ex-dictator’s armoured limo (Bonus points if it’s a Mercedes Big) then hot rod it as tastelessly as possible? I’m thinking flames, tubs, huge blower, the lot. Then see what a bullet proof gasser will do in the quarter.

  15. I can believe that Audi is selling the RS6 Avant, but 27 years ago I bought a house for less money. would I love it? Yes. Could I afford it? No. I also have the ability to look at a car ( mostly American) and get the model year of it within a year or two.

  16. “I’m the new Publisher of The Autopian.”

    Welcome Matt!

    With your arrival, it affirms my view that this place is the new Real Jalopnik… at least in spirit even if we can’t officially call it that.

  17. Hey, Matt!

    Yeah, I know, I just created my account here minutes ago. But that’s because I’ve been kinda busy lately.

    Glad you’ve signed on here, giving me another very valid reason to do the same, just, you know, as a reader and commenter.

  18. I definitely want this site to stick around. This is really the site for curious car people.

    If we’re thinking about content, one of my big automotive “what ifs?” is if Ford decided to keep the Thunderbird as the competition for the Corvette and we had decades of them being direct competition to each other. Would love to see that thought experiment explored.

  19. Most of the other car sites are sites for the automotive companies. This site is for the automotive enthusiast.

    Welcome Matt. I’m a bit floored you’re here. Can’t say I’m surprised, cause we all know where this thing is going.

    You’ve read previous complaints, no need to rehash those here. But, I will say, there is a lot of blank space on either side of these articles ripe for content and ads. Please fill them up. I like the simplicity, and hope it stays forever, but it almost feels weird not having anything there.

    I saw an article written by Matt Hardigee on the Autopian, stopping me mid anything. Turn to wife, uttered words eluding to the same thing. She kinda stared and slow blinked at me, wondering what any of those words meant, then went on with the rest of her life while I darted to a computer where I can better read!

  20. Something I’ve noticed (at least in my case) is that Google knows I read car articles, and my Google News feed always suggests articles from other car sites (including Jaloopernook) but so far it has NEVER suggested an Autopian article. Does Google think you’re not a news site? Have you failed some sort of algorithm? Does it hate taillights? I don’t know, but it’d be nice to see the Autopian show up in my feed along with the (ahem) lesser sites.

  21. Welcome! You and your cohort are likely the only reason I know what a Merkur is. I just saw one for sale yesterday and honestly thought about buying it. There are actually 5 (!) for sale near me, one guy is selling 4. Two parts cars and two runners (presumably) while someone else is selling a decent daily driver example. Wild.

  22. Half an hour ago I passed my friend’s Sierra RS Cosworth 4×4 on the way back from taking my daughter to summer activities, and thought that was a good sign for the rest of the day. Then I got back home, sat on my desk and got the news that The Utopian hired Matt Hardigree.

    Well played, universe, well played.

  23. First: Glad you’re here to put a hand on the helm with J.T. and D.T.
    Who knows where this boat is heading now, I’m on board.

    Second: Nick Hornby’s books are all great, and the movie adaptations work better than most.

    Third: David Foster Wallace has much better reading to offer than that book that should remain nameless. His non fiction is much more relatable and better written.

    Forth: I demand some sort of Venn diagram of automotive and audio nerdome coupled with types of music typically associated with particular makes and models of vehicles.

    Fifth: I love this place.

    1. A while back a chart was making the internet rounds that graphed bands as if they were different Pokémon types. As I have a kid who is variously *really* in to Pokémon, it resonated. That but for music/cars would be a hoot.

  24. I am honestly happy to hear someone taking a kind of editorial role. When DT and I talked about it I urged him to find someone he could trust to keep the same voice and I think you will do well in letting all your writers fly their freak flags, but seriously JT, no one needs to know you have a different taillight themed flag for each day of the week and special ones for holidays. Welcome aboard and if you love the euro fords I feel like importing one is the way to go. Otherwise it is an svt contour.

  25. Welcome back to the dysfunctional family!!

    As for looking for a good/bad idea car using the resources of DT….you are in for a time taking pointers for a bloke that not only owns two partially complete/dismantled (you pick which) and very, very orphaned Chrysler’s located deepish in another continent but also thinks that he can make them into one car that is considered both road worthy and road legal in just a few weeks…for pennies. Have you learned nothing? GOOD!

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