David Zenlea: 2012 Year In Review

Worst drive: 1971 Datsun 240Z in rural Tennessee.

100 degrees, no air conditioning, and black vinyl seats. My iPhone blacked out from the heat. I nearly did, too.

Best drive: Uh, 1971 Datsun 240Z.

Classic styling, amazing Tennessee backroads, and unfiltered steering. Who cares if I got a little sweaty?

Closest call with law enforcement:2012 Dodge Charger Pursuit.

It’s not my fault that Dodge gave us a police-spec Charger with a Hemi and full law enforcement regalia—light bar, black and white paint, siren, etc. Apparently, Ann Arbor’s finest don’t like it when Ann Arbor’s finest auto journalists drive around in real police cars. They like it even less when they field phone calls from concerned citizens reporting that one of their “officers” is, allegedly, doing a burnout on a side street.  That part is probably my fault. Allegedly.

Most interesting interviews: There are still a few real live human beings in the auto industry, people who don’t nervously glance at their public relations representative before spewing canned marketing nonsense.

1. Carroll Shelby: A few colleagues and I spoke with him on the phone just a few months before his passing, at age 89. His memory and tongue were still sharp, and his laugh was still infectious. He shared time worn stories with such warmth and charisma that you’d think you were the first rather than the millionth to hear them.

2. Elon Musk: Someone get this man a frozen yogurt! He requested one from an assistant just as our interview started, and was clearly crestfallen to find out the shop was closed. He’d have to speak to some random journalists without the consolation of a tasty treat. He settled for ice water and stared coolly at us as he talked about saving the world and going to Mars. No, this man is not succeeding on charm. Credit instead the virtues of his ideas and the brilliance of his car, the Tesla Model S.

3. Anders Warming: Mini’s chief designer, who oversaw the creation of the brand’s boldest vehicle yet in the Paceman really likes Austin Powers. That has to count for something, right?

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