I am an avid reader of UK-based Mercedes Enthusiast magazine. I don’t subscribe but rather choose to buy it at the newsstand at Grand Central. I pay the cover price because the magazine helps makes the torturous Metro North commute more tolerable. At $12 per copy, I actually look forward to purchasing a new issue each month.
Recently, Mercedes Enthusiast ran a comprehensive story on an ultra-low mile Mercedes 560 SEC. As regular Turtle Garage readers know, the W126 SEC is one of my favorite cars on the road. As I read the magazine I fantasized about a similar article on my delivery-mile R129 SL 600 V12. On a whim I decided to reach out to the magazine to see if they had interest in doing a piece on my car. I found an email address somewhere on the masthead and I drafted a short note to an unknown person somewhere across the Atlantic Ocean.
A few days later Reed Hitchcock wrote back a friendly email and said they would like to do a story. After a few attempts we settled on a date for an interview and photo shoot. On Saturday Reed and his incredibly talented photographer Kaveh Sardari arrived at 6:30 am. I invited Dean Laumbach to join us as he is the reason I own that special 187-mile SL 600. Dean found the SL, negotiated the deal, and made it all happen—all while I was Cuba communicating with very unreliable text messaging! Everyone had driven up to Bedford the night before after spending a tough week at their “day jobs.” Similar to how I write for Sports Car Market, Reed moonlights as a car writer on weekends. Kaveh had just finished a photo shoot with President Obama the night before. Reed, Kaveh and Dean all are real enthusiasts and exude true car passion. We started wandering around my garage as Reed instantly gravitated towards the Mercedes E500 sedan—ironically he just purchased a gorgeous and rare Pajet Red 500E.
While we were talking “500E speak” Kaveh exclaimed “Get the car!!! Hurry! The light is perfect!!!! Move it move it move it!!!” Reed and I looked out the garage door and there were Nick Manifold’s twelve polo ponies being exercised on the field in front of my garage. Suddenly we both saw what Kaveh saw. It was the ultimate photo op!!! We hastily backed the black SL out of the Turtle and put it on the field. Kaveh motioned to the two outriders to bring the gaggle of ponies over for a photo. We must have shot 400 photographs. We then spent the next several hours photographing the SL 600 from every angle. We also hit the road and did some action shots. Reed interviewed Dean and got the full story behind this rare and special car.
Another example – and my most recent: Just this past weekend I traveled to Westchester County, New York to visit Philip Richter’s Turtle Garage. This collection is all about “cars and motorcycles with stories” – and it delivers. Pulling-up to the farm-based garage looked a little like that old poster that most Car Geeks around my age will remember all to well: “Justification for Higher Education” – a collection of 80s-vintage exotic and luxury cars in a multi-bay garage. Turtle Garage even contains two (arguably three) of the cars on the poster. Clearly our generation is coming into its own in the car collector hobby, and we’re buying-up the cars that whetted our appetites as hormonal teenagers.
So here’s how the day went:
Drove 5 hours Friday night in trusty Toyota Tundra – a pickup is a great car shoot vehicle – arrived around midnight.
Alarm at 5:00am Saturday morning. Sleep button. Alarm at 5:10am. Sleep button. Finally awake at 5:20am. Get gas, coffee, and a very dry gas station muffin for breakfast.
On location at 6:30am. Best light is early morning.
Drooled over car collection for a few minutes, chatted with owner about the morning, started pictures.
Polo ponies happened to be exercising in the adjacent field at the same time. So much about a photo shoot is luck – and this one delivered in spades. It looked like a Ralph Lauren advertisement, and the horse trainers were terrific sports. So was the bulldog that knocked the photographer over.
Pictures for about an hour. Every angle, with owner, without owner, lights on, lights off. Move it back three feet. Turn the steering wheel. No, turn it back. You’re in the reflection! Can we get the horses back? And so on.
Meanwhile, talk to owner about the car, about cars, about life, WAIT – I should be taking notes. Get notebook. Ask redundant questions. Talk to Dean Laumbach, the “car whisperer” who found the car about his perspective. B.S. about cars we like and totally lose focus.
Look through pictures in the camera, good stuff. What next?
B.S. cars some more. Forget that we’re not done yet. Drool on collection some more. Do you like the 928GTS? I’ve always loved those…. Refocus.
Time for motion shots. Pile in the truck, me driving and photographer in the bed. Establish hand signals with the subject car because I forgot to bring walkie-talkies.
Drive slowly on the main roads so as not to lose photographer out the back. Wait, he’s standing up. WHY IS HE STANDING UP?
Find side roads with good scenery and less traffic. We’ll lead first – try and stay off the brake so it doesn’t reflect. Speed up. SLOW DOWN. Stop here. Wait. Go again. Can we do that road again? Let’s do it again. One more time. No really, just once more.
Find a good area to stop and get drive-by shots. OK – go that way, turn around and come back, then turn around and come back again. We’ll give you a thumbs-up when we’ve got enough. 2 passes. 5 passes. 10 passes. OH! I found the shot! 18 passes… I lost count.
Back down that pretty road again. We’ll follow this time. 3 hours in at this point.
Pulling back onto the farm. This is gorgeous! We need to shoot here! Get the truck out of my shot! Bring me the ladder! Never mind, I don’t want it. OK, we’ve got what we need.
Back to the garage. More detail shots of the car. Every single bit that’s interesting.
EVERY.SINGLE.BIT. 4 hours…..
Meanwhile drool over collection one more time….
Some more owner shots. Now get all of us together. I think we’re done…4.5 hours in.
5 hours to drive home. Then entertain my sister in-law and her kids for the remainder of the evening.
Back to work on Monday.
And this was an easy one. As you can see, it can be repetitive and tiring, but it’s an absolute blast at the same time. so a few pieces of advice for those who have an interest in automotive journalism or anything like this:
Take initiative. My career started with an email. Be bold, but be smart about it. Think about what you have to offer that everyone else doesn’t
Be professional. With your editor and with your subjects. In the car community, one collector often knows others. From this event I emerged with 2 contacts. That is future content. Be thinking forward.
Get a good camera and learn how to use it. I love working with Kaveh, but he’s not always available and/or it’s not always practical to use him. Practice at local car shows or on your own car.
Have someone else read your writing – especially early on. My sister – the self-proclaimed “editorial goddess” – did this for me for a long time. Accept criticism. Become better.
Keep trying. Not everyone is going to connect with you or accept your content. If you can engage them, understand why.
Use the internet. Both of us at TTS write professionally, but this is a great outlet to practice and to manage our own content. Websites and blogs are cheap and easy. You may just develop a following. We average about 200 folks a day. Imagine those folks in a room – and post frequently (do as I say, not as I do….). Content is king.
Keep an eye out for the upcoming article in Mercedes Enthusiast. We expect to see it published in the fall.
Dean and Reed enjoying the morning while Kaveh is hard at work!
Dean, Kaveh, and myself hanging out with an E30 M3