Home » The Autopian Is Two Years Old. Here’s A Look Back At Some Of Our Best Stories From Our First 6 Months

The Autopian Is Two Years Old. Here’s A Look Back At Some Of Our Best Stories From Our First 6 Months

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It has now been two years (and two days) since The Autopian launched on March 32, 2022, and wow it’s been a heck of a ride. We’ve grown, both in readership and staff-count, and we’ve produced lots of content that we’re really proud of. So, after announcing yesterday that I will live in a Pontiac Aztek for a week The Autopian gets 200 members this month, I’m going to — for the next four days — post a roundup of the best articles from the four chapters of The Autopian’s existence. This first chapter will be March 32nd through September, 2022. And my main takeaway is: Damn we came out of the gate hot!

I remember Day 1 of The Autopian. Jason and I had spent a month gathering articles from freelancers. Most weren’t regular car-writers, but rather just people with cool stories to tell — many of them experts in some area of the automotive world. On Launch Day, I had a nasty case of COVID-19, and I just remember us turning the site LIVE. This, both Jason and I understood, could go one of two ways.

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Maybe nobody was going to read the site. That was a very real possibility. You can’t just build a website by sketching a design onto an iPad and showing it to a web development team that makes dealer websites and then BOOM, lots of people read it and all works well. Right? The other possibility was that somehow, miraculously, the hand-sketched and dealership website team-built site actually does work, and that somehow, some way, a significant number folks show up on day one and read, and the moment marks the creation of an incredible community but also a beast that we’d have to feed new content every single day for years to come.

With no clue what was going to happen, Jason and I launched, we hired, we edited, and we blogged. We blogged like the wind. With Thomas Hundal at our side, and a slew of great freelancers like Huibert Mees and Adrian Clarke and Stephen Walter Gossin, we created content not knowing if anyone was really even reading it. There were some comments, but were there 100 readers? A thousand?

Then we looked at the data, and we saw about 35,000 pageviews daily. We didn’t know what to make of that. By the time our first month of April, 2022 was over, we’d seen 1 Million pageviews, and we definitely knew what to make of that: It was epic!

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Anyway, as you can see, that first six-month period was a period of growth. You can see substantial growth when Mercedes joined the team in June. Matt joined in August (and you’ll see in tomorrow’s story how much growth we had when he started writing more in the fall).

The first six months was a wild and unpredictable time, and one filled with all sorts of responsibilities, as we had to set up the site, figure out invoicing, figure out hiring — it was exciting, but busy, and it was during this time that Jason and I really benefited from having established one rule early in The Autopian’s timeline: Keep The Main Thing The Main Thing.

And the main thing is great stories. Here, let’s read a few of the OGs.

(Click the subheadings to reach each story):

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How I Got My Navy Callsign By Shitting Myself In An F/A-18 Fighter Jet. Twice. (CLICK HERE)

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My friend Bobby stepped up to the plate to help me start The Autopian, penning what may be my favorite story on the site. It’s an absolute riot about how he, a young pilot, desecrated his Calvin Klein underwear and ended up with a hilarious callsign as a result. Here’s one of my favorite quotes from the piece:

This is the point where I’d like to extend a firm thank you to Mr. Calvin Klein. Shockingly, as I peeled off my flight gear (g-suit, vest, flight suit) I noticed that there wasn’t anything there. The high thread count and durable construction of your Cotton-Stretch underwear is incomparable. I will wear your underwear for the rest of my life. It kept pounds of brownie batter completely contained through high-g maneuvers and an aircraft carrier arrestment. Your underwear is tested, sir. Thank you.

I get that the story is a bit crude, but Bobby’s ability to make light of a rather serious situation involving a $1 billion+ machine is what really makes this piece special.

The 2022 Ford Lightning Is Just A Standard F-150 With An Electric Powertrain And That’s Why It’s Going To Change The World (CLICK TO READ)

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A few months back, someone who works as an automotive media data analyst told me that my Ford F-150 Lightning review — a deep-dive into an electric version of America’s best selling vehicle, and a huge step for the U.S.’s transition towards electromobility — may be the longest automotive review ever written. I believe it; the thing comes to a total of 6,300 words, and features lots of photos and videos.

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I wrote the whole thing in about a day, maybe a day and a half, and I just remember being exhausted afterwards. At the same time I was excited, because this new website Jason and I had created alongside our partner Beau was now seeing over 150 comments on a single article! That was a big deal, and as this Lightning review gained more traction among folks in the automotive industry, and as more and more folks became aware of our fledgeling operation, Jason and I became more and more motivated to keep building this site into a site that car enthusiasts love.

It’s A Crime That Modern In-Car Hot Dog Sizzling Solutions Are Not More Common (CLICK TO READ)

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Autopian cofounder Jason Torchinsky is an American hero, not just because he’s one of the only true comedian-auto journalists on earth who can actually consistently make people laugh while writing about cars, but also because he finds the most amazing things in brochures and online. He reintroduced the world to the in-car hotdog sizzler, and we’re all better for it.

I always love letting people write about their passions, and Thomas Hundal is a total modern-car geek, especially when it comes to in-car electronics and audio systems (and also ECU coding; he, more than anyone, has been advising me to buy Bimmercode. As a result, I’ve already coded my new BMW i3 so that it can run on the gasoline engine on the highway even before the battery has depleted). So when he said he wanted to write about how many of the car world’s premium audio systems come from the same supplier, there really was nobody who could stop him.

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RV Quality Has Gotten So Bad That $62,800 Buys You A Camper With Broken Safety Equipment (CLICK TO READ)

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Mercedes Streeter is a woman of many talents; she owns an awesome collection of cars, she rides motorcycles when it’s cold, she drives old junkers off-road, and she’s the most knowledgeable person I know when it comes to RVs/campers. Her coverage of that segment of the vehicle world has been awesome for our site, and among the big hits that I enjoyed was the above article about the current state of RV quality. It’s bad.

Mercedes walks us through her parents’ RV, which isn’t that old, but is plagued with all sorts of issues. She expertly wraps that specific example into the context of a wider problem that has gotten worse as RV demand spiked post-COVID. It’s such a well-written and interesting article, and a showcase of Mercedes’ immense talent.

Adrian’s Design Breakdowns (CLICK TO READ)

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Who does better design breakdowns than Adrian Clarke? Answer: Absolutely nobody. This is just a product of Adrian knowing his shit. His pieces are well written, hilarious, and highly educational. Adrian has been with use from Day 1, and we appreciate him dearly, even if the first version of this draft somehow forgot to link his articles (but we did mention him!). We love you, Adrian!

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More Amazing Camper Content From Mercedes (CLICK TO READ)

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I never realized how cool campers could be until I started editing Mercedes’ blogs. When she first started writing about campers, I wasn’t 100 percent sure; I mean, this is a car website, after all. But I don’t yuck yums, and I realize that a writer’s voice is just as much about what they write as it is about how they write. And so I was happy to see Mercedes write about her passion, and even happier when I found myself sucked in.

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The truth is: Campers are a whole new world for many, including me. They are fascinating, with rich histories, wild construction, and incredible stories of adventure. Mercedes’ camper stories have been a huge part of The Autopian since she joined the team in June of 2022.

Here’s Why So Many Honda Odyssey Owners Are Running BMW Wheels On Their Vans (CLICK TO READ)

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Thomas is one of my favorite people to talk to at work, in part because of his encyclopedic knowledge of car mods. He and I are talking about modifying my i3 right now with Apple Carplay and a bigger high-voltage battery.

The Honda PAX-system story is just one of the first of his many stories about cool automotive technical failures. More to come in the next six-month roundup.

 

How My Teenage Girlfriend’s Anti-Semitic Mother Made Me Learn Why VW Beetles Sound Like They Do (CLICK TO READ)

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This is a story Jason has been telling me for years. It’s a sad one, but one Jason laughs about; he has an amazing way of finding joy in everything, and the way he communicates that joy through his writing is what makes him in my opinion one of the greatest automotive journalists in history.

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This story is about how he used to shut off his VW Beetle and coast down a hill so he could pick up and drop off his girlfriend, whose mother was apparently antisemitic — someone who would be displeased to know that her daughter was dating Jason. Jason talks about how he had to shut off his car because it had such a unique sound that his girlfriend’s mother would recognize as coming from a Beetle.

Jason delves into why the Beetle sounds the way it does, beautifully blending humor, human sociology, engineering, and history all into one. It’s beautifully done.

I Made a Huge Engineering Mistake on the 2005 Ford GT (CLICK TO READ)

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Huibert Mees was a key player in the design of the 2005 Ford GT’s rear suspension, and he was responsible for the vehicle’s most significant recall — one that required all owners to stop driving their cars immediately. Huibert walks us through how this happened, discusses how Ford rallied to find a repair, and ultimately shows how this type of thing isn’t uncommon in the industry. His lede is captivating:

At the beginning of the 2005 Ford GT program, I made a decision that turned out to be the biggest mistake of my career. It led to a recall of all cars produced up to that time, a stop-build order, a stop-sales order, and a stop-drive order. In fact, a man who bought one of the first production cars for a very large sum of money was at a track day, and we had to call him to tell him to stop driving the car immediately. Talk about embarrassing!

It’s a truly enlightening article that provides a look into how automotive engineering happens at a major OEM, and also a look into material science, manufacturing, and so many more elements of the car world. It was one of The Autopian’s most popular stories in the early days, and a key part of putting this publication on the map.

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I’m A Former Tesla Suspension Engineer And I Need To Tell You Why The ‘Double Ball Joint’ Suspension Is So Incredible (CLICK TO READ)

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Huibert Mees was the lead designer for the Tesla Model S’s rear suspension, and between that, his work on the Ford GT, and just his decades working on vehicle dynamics, he’s amassed a wealth of knowledge that amazes me. He’ll sometimes talk about why certain suspensions offer certain advantages, and I don’t think he fully realizes just how amazing his mind is. Take the article above, for example; it’s about a Double-Balljoint suspension setup historically found mostly on European cars, but also on Chryslers, Teslas, and more.

It seems like a nerdy, niche topic, but the way Huibert breaks it down — along with my photos and video from my local junkyard — just brings it all together into something palatable and cohesive and, to the weird among us, fun. 

Tycho’s Coverage Of Chinese Car Culture (CLICK TO READ)

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The Autopian is lucky to be able to share the talents of one of the world’s foremost experts on car culture in China. Tycho de Feijter is currently based in Europe, but spent many years living in China covering the country’s incredibly varied and unique car culture. He’s written about the Chinese EV sports cars you’ve never heard of, he’s written about how China builds special “parade cars” for dignitaries and military leaders, about how China’s EV battery-swap program works, why China still believes in hydrogen-powered cars, and my personal favorite: “A Deep-Dive Into The History Of China’s Bizarre Jeep Cherokee XJ Clones.”

Meet The Adults Who Build Miniature Worlds So Their Meticulously-Crafted Toy Cars Will Look Real. I’m One Of Them (CLICK TO READ)

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Mark Tucker is a diehard remote control car fan, and also our daily Shitbox Showdown writer. He does a great job with that, though my favorite piece from him was this enrapturing look into a community of people who create miniature, life-like worlds so that their miniature, lifelike vehicles appear real. The truck above is a tiny toy; pretty wild!

The Bishop’s Wild Ideas (CLICK TO READ)

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‘Who is The Bishop?’ you might wonder. Well, he’s a trained industrial designer who loves cars so much he’s volunteered to use his skills to draw up custom, extremely wild car ideas. Many of those ideas are vehicles from an alternate universe, like the 1980s Saab Sonett above (the Sonett went away in 1974) or the 1985 Jeep Forward Control (the Forward Control died in the mid-1960s), and then there was: “A Look At An Alternate Universe Where The Cadillac Allanté Got The Respect It Deserved.”

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The Bishop is a genius, and possibly also a little bit mad. I hope he changes nothing, because his work is gold.

Kias And Hyundais All Over The Country Are Getting Stolen By People With USB Cables (CLICK TO READ)

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Mercedes did a great job covering the Hyundai/Kia USB-theft saga, which involved thieves using a USB cable and a few basic tools to drive away in Kias that lack immobilizers. It’s been a big story in the U.S., and Mercedes has done a great job digging into it and breaking down what’s going on.

The Wrenching Tales Of Stephen Walter Gossin (CLICK TO READ)

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The Autopian is lucky to have Stephen Walter Gossin. I’m currently unable to wrench as much as I could when I wasn’t a manager, but luckily, in Stephen we have another car hoarder who loves nothing more than Saturdays at junkyards. He buys cheap cars, fixes them, sells some, keeps some, but always stays covered in grease and always keeps us all apprised of his shenanigans.

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The Sterling Dispatch (CLICK TO READ)

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Back in the early days of The Autopian, a man named David Wilson reached out to us from his small town of Sterling, Kansas — a town with a population of under 2,300 people. “Hey, we’d love to read about small-town car culture,” both Jason and I thought, so we hired David, and he wrote some awesome pieces about the people of his small town, and their relationship with cars. Click on the subheading above to read his three pieces.

The Time I Sold My Jeep XJ And Then It Immediately Blew Up (CLICK TO READ)

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I really could write a book about the absurd transitions that have occurred in my life this past year, but before that — during the Autopian’s first six months — was the period when I was preparing for the move to LA, and this preparation involved selling off my fleet of vehicles.

Unfortunately, I’m so cheap that I can’t sell broken cars for a loss, so I have to fix them all. That’s what I did with the 1991 Jeep Cherokee XJ you see above. I did more work to that thing than I want to even discuss (I replaced the front axle, I replaced a fender, I replaced both bumpers, and on and on), but after years of ownership I finally sold it back to the family that had originally bought it from Jeep back in 1990.

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Of course, when Tracy from Chicago came to pick the car up, the thing blew up just a few minutes later on her way back home. The vehicle had traveled maybe 15 miles. Anyway, since I felt bad, I fixed the car that I had just sold for free, and it was all just a big nightmare. Here are the articles on that saga.

I’m An MIT Enginerd And Battlebots Geek And This Is My Weird Van Collection (CLICK TO READ)

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You can’t tell me that this story about Charles Guan, a fascinating former MIT engineering student, and his rare vans isn’t just great.

That’s the thing I loved about the early days: We had so many voices on the site. We had to! We didn’t have many staffers, and the train had to keep moving! It was a fun time, but I, for one, am glad we have a reliable staff now, even though folks like Charles are awesome and I’d love more stories from him.

 

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Great Motorcycle Content From Mercedes (CLICK TO READ)

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Mercedes can do it all, from camper content to motorcycle content to aircraft content to even train content. She just loves vehicles, and it shows in her coverage

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Do I care about electric motorcycles? I didn’t think I did, but then I read Mercedes’ stories, and I guess the answer is: “Yes, apparently I do.”

Mercedes Airplane Coverage

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Mercedes brings us the best Oshkosh Air Show coverage on the web because she actually attends the event. She shows up! That’s just awesome. Also awesome? This story about the Lockheed L-1011:

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Again, I didn’t know I cared, but apparently I do. Ditto for the the story: “Here’s How A Pilot Flew A Little Cessna 172 Over 18 Hours Nonstop From California To Hawaii.”

Today I Learned The Original Paddington Bear Was Made For Jeremy Clarkson (CLICK TO READ)

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I’m not sure why I’m including this one, but it was a fun story and people read it. And Jason is a wackjob.

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Thank You!

Especially those of you who were here in the early days, supporting a brand new site run by two dipshits: Thank you so much!

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67 Oldsmobile
67 Oldsmobile
17 days ago

Hey,how is that AMC documentary going by the way? Does anybody know where to find it,if it’s finished yet?

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