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Staff

meet the editors

Mike Floyd

Mike Floyd

Editor-in-Chief, Automobile

One of my seminal memories was the few months I spent helping my cousin Steve literally build me from the frame up a super sick 1970 Chevy Nova in his garage just off of 8 Mile (yes, that 8 Mile). Black with white SS stripes. 350 V-8. Blackjack headers. Ladder bars. Four on the floor. Drum brakes all around. Mainly I helped hand him the wrenches, the bondo, the buffing wheel, the beer. When it was finally done and I blistered the tires for the first time, plumes of smoke filling up my rear view, I felt like a true American Bad Ass (pre Kid Rock).

That's what it was like for so many of us who grew up in The D back in the day. It was about muscle. Detroit Iron. I remember my friends literally getting into fistfights that started out as an innocent discussion about the merits of the Mustang vs. the Camaro. I remember the first Woodward Dream Cruise, loping along in my 1967 Ford Thunderbird (suicide doors!) and pouring bleach on the street so fellow cruisers could spin 'em better and smoke 'em longer. The cops put a stop to those shenanigans in the years to follow. Buzzkills.

So when I had an opportunity to get into this crazy business, you best believe I leapt like a bionic cheetah at the chance. Over the past 20 years or so (carbon dating myself), I've been honored and privileged to be a part of four outstanding publications in Motor Trend, AutoWeek, where I started as a cub journalist at the Detroit Free Press, and now as the editor-in-chief of Automobile, a position I am extremely humbled to take on. I live out on the Left Coast now, and I've traveled the world several times over to bring hungry readers the latest and greatest news, photos, reviews, interviews, and more on all things cars. Talk about broadening your horizons. And while the salad days back in my cousin's garage seem a million miles away now, my love for cars -- and my hometown -- have never wavered. Neither has my commitment to delivering the best possible experience to the readers I’ve served and will continue to serve now and in the future in my role with Automobile.
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Georg Kacher

Georg Kacher

European Bureau Chief

One of the most influential automotive journalists in the world, Georg Kacher is Automobile Magazine's longtime European Bureau Chief. He has provided Automobile Magazine readers with a steady supply of car previews, industry scoops, and epic drives since the magazine was founded in 1986. A keen driver and car evaluator, he cares equally about automotive performance and the auto business, and automotive engineers, product planners, and executives eagerly seek his opinions. A native of Austria, Kacher lives outside Munich at the nexus of the German automotive industry. For more information on the man whose name is synonymous with Automobile Magazine, please read this profile which appeared in the March 2013 issue of Automobile Magazine http://www.automobilemag.com/features/news/1303_big_man_on_the_continent/
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Robert Cumberford

Robert Cumberford

Automotive Design Editor

Robert Cumberford is a designer who became a writer by accident. His race report on the 12 Hours of Sebring was published when he was an eighteen-year-old Art Center student in 1954. Subsequently he has published thousands of articles on cars and airplanes, in American, Asian, English, European, and South American magazines. He contributed to several books, including the entire text of the well-reviewed Auto Legends, now available in five translated editions -- French, German, Spanish, Italian, and Polish in addition to the original English version. In 1985, Automobile Magazine founder David E. Davis, Jr., invited him to be one of two executive editors when Automobile was in the planning stages. Cumberford demurred, saying he knew nothing about magazine production and claims he still doesn’t, except that it’s important to meet deadlines. He contributed features from the beginning and began his popular “By Design” column in the sixth issue, September 1986.

In car design, Cumberford was even more a youthful prodigy. He sketched the body for the first car ever built to his designs when he was a fifteen-year-old Los Angeles high-school student. That car, the Parkinson Jaguar Special, is still active in historic racing sixty years after it was created. Hired directly by General Motors’ legendary Vice President of Design, Harley J. Earl, Cumberford became a professional car designer at nineteen. Leaving Detroit, he returned to California to attend UCLA to study philosophy. He rejoined the automotive world in the early 1960s and has continued to create new automotive shapes since then, always as an independent design consultant. He has lived and worked in six of the fifty United States and in France, Mexico, and Switzerland. The range of his design projects includes both racing and touring cars, trucks, aircraft, boats, hovercraft, and even ecological architecture.

He is known worldwide for strong opinions but is well-respected in the design world because it is known that he is always completely honest in his views, with no agenda other than respect for good design and good designers. “There’s no ad hominem,” he says, “I judge the design, not the designers. There are designers I really like personally who’ve been credited with designs I heartily dislike -- for reasons I always state very clearly -- and designs I love done by people with whom I have absolutely no affinity. Except that we both like their work.”
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Jamie Kitman

Jamie Kitman

New York Bureau Chief

Jamie Kitman, a lawyer and rock band manager, contributed to Automobile Magazine in its first year, when its editor bought a story he'd swritten while in law school, about attending a Volvo market research session in Boston. "Earn $75 if you thought about buying a Volvo and didn't" the classified ad that changed his life read. After several years freelancing, he became a columnist for Automobile Magazine in 1991 and has now written more than 200 columns as well as numerous features for the periodical, in the process becoming its New York Bureau Chief. In 2009, Kitman won a National Magazine Award, the "Ellie," for three columns on the collapse of Detroit, marking the first time a car magazine had ever won an NMA. Earlier, he won the IRE Medal for Investigative Magazine Reporting for his in-depth review of the history of leaded gasoline for The Nation, a subject about which he is writing a book for Simon & Schuster, as well as several other IAMA awards. A frequent contributor to GQ, The New York Times, Foreign Affairs and other publications, he writes blogs for NPR's Car Talk and Yahoo! The father of three children, (one of whom is named Ellie,) Kitman's musical clients, as president of The Hornblow Group USA, include OK Go, They Might Be Giants, Mike Doughty, Mike Viola, Moon Hooch and Vandaveer. Former clients have included Violent Femmes, The La's, Meat Puppets, Pere Ubu, Edwyn Collins, Beautiful South, Trashcan Sinatras and Yo La Tengo. He lives in a rivertown not far from Manhattan, where he keeps company with, yes, you read it right, thirty old cars.
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Ronald Ahrens

Ronald Ahrens

Contributing Writer

When Automobile launched in 1986, my byline appeared with a sidebar to the cover story written by our founding editor David E. Davis, Jr. What had led me to the magazine was a heavily automobile-flavored childhood: my father raced a modified coupe and late-model stocks on the oval tracks around Omaha, Nebraska, where we lived. My favorite uncle preferred drag racing and hot rods.

After earning a B.A. in English from the University of Nebraska, I moved to Los Angeles to become a screenwriter. Instead, I ended up holding cue cards on TV shows, including the soap opera Days of Our Lives. My first magazine story, the inside scoop on how we prepared those cue cards, appeared with my own photos in Soap Opera Digest.

In my freelance career, I’ve now written for the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, among others. My stories of Detroit history for DBusiness (“Detroit’s Premier Business Journal”) have been running since 2006. I’ve even compiled a couple of reports for Bon Appétit. But while a food-and-wine tour gets boring after a couple of days, nothing beats a call from Automobile. I’ve been behind the wheel of everything from a Ferrari 458 Italia (“Blood Red to Goodwood”) to the Fiat 500 Abarth and aboard a Ducati (“The Tempest and the Teapot”). On assignment for “Three Zero Heroes,” I co-drove the winning BMW X3 in the 2004 Alcan Winter Rally. Teaming again with navigator Peter Schneider, we won the 2006 Carolina Trophy, bulldogging a 1951 Chrysler Saratoga to the finish for “Substance over Style.”

Other assignments have placed me not only in the driver’s seat of a Porsche 911 Targa for the 2002 Targa Newfoundland, a plummy nod that seemed to indicate my editors’ favor, but also in the co-driver’s seat of a Class 1 buggy for the 2003 Baja 1000, suggesting they wanted me dead. At any rate, as you might guess, there’s no regret about abandoning show biz.
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Preston Lerner

Preston Lerner

Contributing Writer

According to family lore, “car” was the first non-essential word in my vocabulary, and I was able to identify every automobile on the road by the time I was 5. Of course, this is the standard backstory for virtually every car guy I know. What was unusual about my case was that my infatuation with cars came out of nowhere. There were no car guys in my family, no race fans, nobody in the automobile industry, and growing up in New York City, none of my friends shared my passion. But something about cars in general, and racing in particular, captured me as a kid and continues to energize me to this day.

Back in the ’60s, racing wasn’t covered in the newspaper, much less on TV. So I learned about the sport through books. The first was Phil Hill: Yankee Champion. Much later, Phil Hill himself confided to me that he hated the admittedly simplistic biography, but I was so taken with the romantic tales of Masers and D-Jags that I stole the book from an elementary school classmate. (Belated apologies, Lee Odden!) This led to Jim Clark at the Wheel, Daredevils of the Speedway and, best of all, Parnelli. Before long, I was reading Rob Walker’s Grand Prix reports in Road & Track, Pete Lyons’ Formula 1 coverage in AutoWeek and, after discovering a bookstore on East 56th Street in midtown Manhattan that carried British racing magazines, Denis Jenkinson’s idiosyncratic columns in Motor Sport.

My interest in cars waned when I went to college and began working as a newspaper reporter. But in 1984, I happened to be at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram when the Dallas Grand Prix brought F1 to Texas. The sports department wasn’t interested in the event, so I volunteered to do all the advance coverage. Carroll Shelby was serving as the honorary race director. I met him just before winning a media race at the local outpost of Malibu Grand Prix. (Thereafter, Shelby always told me, not very convincingly, “Preston, you should have been a race car driver.”) Shelby later introduced me to his friend, artist Bill Neale, and Neale was kind enough to introduce me to David E. Davis. Eventually, David E. persuaded Jean Jennings to assign me a story, and I’ve been working for the magazine ever since.
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Todd Lassa

Todd Lassa

Executive Editor

My return to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee during the Reagan era for a second bachelor’s degree accomplished two things: I made writing for a car magazine a career goal, and I met my future wife, though it took Donna two decades to come around to the latter idea. Over that quarter-century, I went on to write general assignment stories for the Milwaukee Sentinel, became a cop reporter, then schools reporter and film critic for the Quad-City Times, where I also covered Cary Grant’s death in Davenport, Iowa, and then I worked for the San Diego Business Journal, where I became an expert on the arcane America’s Cup Deed of Gift. When I moved to Washington, D.C., where I wrote about the Clinton health care reform plan and other Capitol Hill issues for an inside-the-beltway newsletter publisher, I thought I had found my true calling. Matt DeLorenzo convinced me otherwise, and I moved to Detroit in 1996 to work for AutoWeek. Four years later, Jack Keebler lured me to Motor Trend, where I wrote news and rumors about future cars, voted in a dozen (each) Car of the Year and Sport/Utility of the Year competitions, and blogged as the Motor City Blogman. Detroit is to the global auto industry what Washington is to national politics. It’s easily more fascinating and as frustrating to cover as a journalist. The commute is far more interesting.

My years at Motor Trend, working side-by-side with Technical Director Frank Markus, have been enormously fulfilling. I’ve become fully immersed in the nuts and bolts of cars, and the industry. You have to keep a love for cars and driving in perspective. For me, Donna, our two collies, and my family back in Wisconsin come first. I can be nearly as passionate about politics, movies and art, and the Green Bay Packers, of which I’m a shareholder. My favorite sport is still Formula 1, though.

Automobile is about living with cars, both the good ones and the bad ones, but most importantly, the most interesting ones. With autonomous cars on the near horizon, we face the greatest threat to our enthusiasm since the malaise and oil embargoes of the ‘70s, the era when I earned my driver’s license. With Jean, Joe and their crew, Automobile already has the best, most interesting writers to explain why you should put down that mobile phone and grab the steering wheel. I’m thrilled to become part of this team and I look forward to helping place the cars and the way we drive them in context.
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Joe Lorio

Joe Lorio

Senior Editor

Let’s talk about me -- 300 words, all about me. Why not? After all, it’s one of my favorite topics. One thing I’ve discovered about myself is that I’m the kind of person who likes to share. I will share Tic Tacs (if I’m offering, please do take some), and I like to share stuff about myself with strangers on the Internet.

But you all aren’t strangers, of course. You’re friends. Not the old-fashioned kind of friends -- the ones you spoke to in person and did stuff with -- but the better, modern kind of friends, the kind you have online.

If you’re reading this, you already know that I work at Automobile Magazine. I’ve worked there a long time. People sometimes ask, “How did you get your job?” Predictably, the answer is that I was in the right place at the right time. David E. Davis, Jr., the founding editor of Automobile Magazine, decided to take a flier on me. That’s the kind of guy he was -- he liked to hire people, almost as much as he like to fire people. Surprisingly, he did not fire me.

What else might you want to know? I’m from the United States, originally. I went to a four-year college. I follow some sports teams, but not closely -- mostly towards the end of the season. I have a family and I like them.

Perhaps you’re curious about my upbringing. Have I always been into cars? I have. First it was Matchboxes, but for some reason I smashed a lot of them with a hammer. Then it was building model cars, although many of them remained half-finished after I was stymied by some particularly difficult step.

We did not have a lot of cool cars in my family when I was a kid. Well, except for an Austin Marina. Now, however, I drive lots of cars, some of which are even cooler. That’s the fun part of my job. There are other parts, though, like writing this. And you know what? This has been the best part of all.
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David Zenlea

David Zenlea

Senior Editor

Vanity would have me believe you’re reading this because you’re a devoted fan of my writing. In that case, you may want to know that I also edit the magazine’s Ignition section, read lots of Kurt Vonnegut, and would eat sushi at every meal if it were socially acceptable. Reality tells me you just want to know how I landed this amazing job. Fine. Based on my experience, here’s some advice.

1) Major in journalism. Most of us here aren’t racecar drivers -- we’re writers and reporters. It probably helps if you’ve attended journalism school, as I did at the University of Maryland, or worked for some periodical. That said, deputy editor Joe DeMatio now claims he was more intrigued by my second degree in Jewish studies, even though he’s never once asked me to write about the exploits of Simon bar Kochba.
2) Know how to operate a manual transmission. Seems obvious, but I actually did not upon being hired. I taught myself during my first month on the job by visiting six Ann Arbor dealerships to test drive stick-shift economy cars. My sincere apologies to whoever ended up buying that Ford Focus.
3) Learn everything you can about cars. I grew up pouring over car magazines and memorizing zero-to-sixty times as if they were catechism. People have been asking me for car-buying advice since before I could drive.
4) Realize you actually know nothing about cars. A brief conversation with design editor Robert Cumberford, editor-in-chief Jean Jennings, or any other of the veterans here leaves you humbled and astounded by their wealth of automotive knowledge. It’s truly one of the best parts of working here.
5) Be persistent. I wrote to Automobile’s editors. And called. And wrote them some more.
6) Be lucky. I really have no idea why then deputy editor Joe DeMatio answered my unsolicited voicemail. I hadn’t even pronounced his name correctly (it’s De-MAY-shee-oh, not De-MAH-tee-oh). But he did, and here I am, driving cars and writing about them for my devoted fans.
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Jake Holmes

Jake Holmes

Associate Web Editor

It was clear from an early age that I had an affinity for cars. As a child I would spend hours arranging toy cars in elaborate races on the living room floor, and once spent time on a vacation in France reading the owner's manual to my parents' Ford Mondeo. The first auto show I attended was in Birmingham; after moving to Michigan I began attending the Detroit auto show almost every year. I couldn't wait to take driver's ed., get my driver's license at age 16, and tirelessly polish my slightly rusty first car.

By the time I entered the University of Michigan, I had decided I wanted to pursue journalism and began writing for the student paper. But I also had an internship at Car and Driver, and quickly realized that cars were the only thing I was truly interested in reporting on. After all, countless teachers and professors had passed on the wisdom that you should, "Write what you know." I pursued that interest after graduation and managed to land a job at Automobile Magazine, just down the street from where I'd studied for the prior four years.

Fast forward to today, and I've been fortunate enough to attend auto shows on three different continents. I've learned to drive sports cars like a Fiat 500 Abarth on a race track, and spent a week eking mileage out of a Nissan Leaf electric car.

Although I love driving new cars, one of my favorite parts of this job is having the opportunity to meet the people responsible for those cars. Whether it's the executives speaking at launches or engineers revealing tech secrets at auto shows, I love being able to get a feel for how things work behind the scenes.

The most surprising part about this job is that I've become the de facto go-to for friends or family members who have questions or want advice about cars. Surprisingly enough, not everybody I talk to wants to buy a two-seat sports car.
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Joseph Capparella

Joseph Capparella

Associate Web Editor

My worst automotive confession: I learned to drive in a Prius. Instead of failed burnouts and stoplight drag races, my first encounters with the joy of driving consisted of hypermiling in EV mode and maximizing regenerative braking. So how can I possibly call myself an automotive enthusiast, and how did I end up at Automobile?

No one really knows where my fascination with cars came from, but it was there long before I started driving. My mom loves to recount the tale of a 3-year-old me, swinging on the swing set at daycare. When I reached the summit of the swing’s arc and could barely see over the fence onto the street beyond, I would scream out the name of whatever car was passing by at the time. “Mitsubishi Eclipse!…Toyota Tercel!”

Growing up in Nashville, TN, I voraciously read Car & Driver, Motor Trend, and Automobile Magazine. But coming from a family where cars served as simple A-to-B transportation, driving any of the cars in those magazines seemed unattainable. Even piloting our Prius was exotic to me compared to the Corolla that had preceded it. I kept reading about cars, but in high school I got serious about another passion of mine—classical piano—and resigned myself to the fact that any kind of career in the automotive industry was just a pipe dream.

It was during my freshman year in college that I discovered my interest in journalism by writing for the school newspaper. I changed my major from Piano Performance to English and realized that my pipe dream might have a shot at materializing. Contributing to a local alt weekly helped me hone my writing skills, and internships at Jalopnik and Nissan PR gave me glimpses of the inner workings of the automotive industry. A few years later, here I am, living out my dream that I never thought possible.
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Eric Weiner

Eric Weiner

Associate Web Editor

It was a bit of a random whirlwind that landed me here at Automobile. When people ask me, it goes more or less along these lines.

How did you get into cars?
I grew up in Philadelphia, constantly begging my dad to take me for rides in his 1962 Morgan 4/4. He bought the car right around the time I was born, so I’ve witnessed the Mog’s various growth, transformation and setbacks as I went through my own mirrored experiences. My dad took me along to British car meetups and drives as well as Morgan Club events. I was hooked. I voraciously consumed everything from Automobile to Autoweek and Hemmings Motor News. My sense of direction even around my own neighborhood was pretty terrible, since every second spent on the road was devoted to proudly identifying the year, make, and model of every passing vehicle.

Did you study journalism in college?
Nope. I majored in Art History and Russian Studies. As totally out of left field as that seems, I was always looking for ways to tie in my love for cars. I spent hours in the art library voluntarily reading up on the BMW art cars, and I wrote an entire term paper for a history course on the role of the international auto industry during World War II. I even submitted that paper as my writing sample when I first applied to Automobile.

How did you end up at Automobile?
I’d say the answer to that question is a cocktail of luck, timing, and patience. Out of college I had no particular prospects, and emailed Jean Jennings feeling like I had nothing to lose. Jean responded with a friendly “I’ll deal with you later if you don’t stalk me.” My resume was eventually pawned off on a begrudged Joe DeMatio, who despite professing to be unimpressed with pedigreed alma maters from places like Vassar, conceded that some of his best hires had come from similar cold contacts.

After a year in New York spent both interning in the curatorial department the Guggenheim Museum and waiting tables in a neighborhood Brooklyn pub, DeMatio emailed me. A month or so later I was moving to Ann Arbor, in perpetual fear of the call back that would inform me there had been some terrible misunderstanding and I could kindly stop packing.

What are some of your favorite cars, classic and modern?
As incredibly frustrating as that question is, I’d have to settle on a Mk II Mini Cooper S and a late-model BMW Z3. It’s nigh impossible to withhold a smile when a classic Mini zips by on 10-inchers, and while most people here would rather have a Miata for a roadster (and they do), I dig the Z3’s retro styling.
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Lawrence Ulrich

Lawrence Ulrich

Contributing writer

Born and forged in Detroit, Lawrence Ulrich is an award-winning auto journalist and chief auto critic at The New York Times. A former garage rock keyboardist and late-blooming writer, Ulrich lives in Brooklyn with a territorial cat and a fast-but-frustrating 1993 Mazda RX-7 twin-turbo R1.
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Marc Noordeloos

Marc Noordeloos

Contributing Writer

My grandfather worked for Marathon Oil in Western Michigan. He tested gasoline. He’d connect small glass jars of fuel to the 390 cubic inch V8 in his Ford Galaxie, checking if the refined dead dinosaurs were up to snuff. Sounds safe. My father helped my grandfather build a La Darwi Coachcraft kit car. My father later outran a tornado with that La Darwi. When I was nine years old, I convinced my dad to buy a Volkswagen Rabbit GTI instead of an ex-driver’s training Ford Tempo. I don’t think he fully appreciates how important that decision was.

Every job I’ve ever had intertwines with the automobile. Working at a car wash transitioned into odd jobs for a car collector. Sweeping the shop floors and detailing his eccentric mix of vehicles transitioned into something more. When I graduated from college, I went career hunting but a conventional job reminded me of someone who drives a Ford Tempo. Instead, my car-collecting boss asked me to go racing with him. That developed into a position that sent me all over the world managing (and co-driving) a fleet of historic rally cars and IMSA GTP/Group C prototypes.

After eight years of wonderful adventures in auto racing, I married a lovely lady I met while living in England and had a daughter on the way, which led me to drop Jean Jennings an email about a job at Automobile Magazine. I was looking for something that kept me home a bit more yet still utilized my passion for cars. We met for lunch at Old Town Tavern in Ann Arbor and Jean told me I was stupid to want to work for a car magazine. Luckily, Jean—and a cut in pay—didn’t scare me away and I became the magazine’s road test editor.

Four years later, an opportunity arose where I could move back to my hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan, and continue to write for Automobile Magazine. I took it.
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Christopher Nelson

Christopher Nelson

Road Test Editor

I spent most of high school bailing on class to wrench in the auto lab but had no aspirations to work in the auto industry or turn my hobby into a job. Instead I went on to Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, and pursued a degree in journalism, concentrating on advertising. I’d wring my Mazda RX-8 out on back roads, but that was about all the autophiling I did. A couple years into college, a professor, Peter Jacobi, encouraged me to start writing after reading a piece I did for his class. So I did and fell in love with it. I took up a yearlong position writing a column for the student newspaper, followed by an internship and freelance work for Tribune Media Services in Chicago. Soon enough, I decided I needed to write articles focused on something I cared about, like cars.

After stalking the Automobile staff, I met with deputy editor Joe DeMatio, whose first words to me were, “I don’t know why you’re here.” Fast-forward to today, and here I am. And, yes, from time to time DeMatio still wonders why I’m here. So do I, as it was neither a lust for writing nor a lifelong dedication to working at an auto buff book that landed me this job. It was a series of unexpected events and slight life-plan readjustments that led a green writer, two years of experience under his belt and tattoos on his arms, here.

I walk into this office and think, just like Garth and Wayne, “I’m not worthy!” Looking back on what I’ve accomplished since day one at this magazine has me thinking I might have the chops to hang, but there’s a long way (and a lot of editing) to go before we can be sure of that. For now, I’ll keep working toward the day DeMatio stops asking me what I’m doing here.
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