Rusty Blackwell

Automobile Magazine

Mlove for cars started with a book called The Complete History of Chrysler Corporation, 1924–1985 and a triple-green 1973 Dodge Dart Sport 340. The book -- currently tattered and Kool-Aid stained in my Automobile Magazine office -- fostered my appreciation for automotive history. The car -- currently with 51,000 miles and needing quite a few replacement parts in my dad’s garage -- fostered my appreciation for acceleration and how glorious it is to have at least four senses assaulted by a cool car.

Early vehicular favorites slanted heavily toward vintage Mopars. (I grew up in Chelsea, Michigan, where my dad, like most dads in Chelsea, worked at Chrysler’s proving grounds.) '71 Barracudas and '68 Chargers have been high on the dream list since back then, but I’m much more worldly these days, thanks in large part to having sampled much of New York bureau chief Jamie Kitman’s vintage British fleet, so my dream garage’s old Mopars are now joined by names like Triumph Dolomite Sprint, Ford Lotus Cortina, MGA, Sunbeam Lotus, and Jaguar XK120, which fight vehicles like AMC SC/Ramblers, bay-window Volkswagen Microbus campers, and Buick Skylark Sport Wagons for real estate in my daydream thought bubbles.

Old cars were once new, and my affections steadfastly extend to new cars. Since I started working at Automobile Magazine in 2004, I’ve been fortunate enough to have driven the majority of new cars built. Highlights of the late-model cars that currently vie for position with vintage metal in my automotive daydreams (in neutral alphabetical order): Aston Martin V8 Vantage, Chevrolet Corvette Z06, Dodge Ram (oh, so sorry--Ram 1500), Ferrari 458 Italia, Ford GT, Ford Mustang Boss 302, Lotus Elise, Maserati Quattroporte, Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX, and Porsche Boxster.

Even though I’ve driven just about every new car on the market, from exotics to econoboxes, my personal top speed in a car was established before I had a driver's license, when my dad rocketed me around the Chelsea Proving Grounds’ oval track at 155 mph in a topless Dodge Viper in 1993. Speaking of ovals, an Albion College internship at Michigan International Speedway in 2001 marked my big break into this business, and I’ve attended races at Le Mans, Daytona, Indianapolis, and Eldora, as well as Bandimere Speedway, an awesome drag strip near Denver that I frequented in my previous job as a PR guy for Team Mopar and writer for Mopar Magazine.

The addition of two daughters to my family in the past few years has led me to be much more interested in minivans and family vehicles than with sporty cars, so add a Ford Flex, a Honda Odyssey, and -- keeping the vintage theme alive -- a turbo Plymouth Voyager to the above roll call. Since becoming a father, I've executed more baby-seat installations than the Detroit Tigers have played games. I’ve also learned that a Fiat 500 is not the ideal car in which to take your family of four to a Tigers game, but it will work -- as long as you load the baby through the rear hatch.

If my wife didn’t drive a stick shift (a 2002 Honda Civic coupe) when I first met her, I’d probably be feeding a fleet of old Dodge Omnis and MGBs instead of my family, which formerly included a 1967 MGB/GT Special. Fortunately I have this job to keep me surrounded by cool cars that aren’t also personal money pits. This is better (although I might have a hard time turning down a good deal on a solid Omni or MGB).

Articles by Rusty Blackwell

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