What was I doing at this precise moment ten years ago? Well, there’s a strong possibility that I had just finished a very awkward phone call explaining why a customer’s car still isn’t fixed, why we haven’t ordered any parts and why, exactly, we haven’t got a clue what’s wrong with it.
It was an industry I loved to hate, one that I occasionally miss, one that has given me hundreds of very messy memories, and one that I had no idea how to escape from. It turns out that Tim Odell was my Steve McQueen and Hooniverse was my motorcycle.
My own blog, RoadworkUK (the URL of which is currently locked behind a Google paywall that I need to get to grips with) was started some time around Hooniverse’s conception. As with so many of staff and commenters of this parish, I was a refugee from Jalopnik’s awkward phase. It was a while before I took a berth on the good ship Hoon, though, mainly because I didn’t know it existed. When I dropped any interest in redacted like a hot brick, I kind of went cold turkey on any kind of content that was created by other people.
I thought I could do better, and started RoadworkUK. From my position as a dealership employee, I had access to an endless number of cars I could thrash about in with gay abandon, and then publish my thoughts on line for millions to ingest with hunger and glee. Of course, just like that Web 1.0 page you started on AOL when you were 15 (www.budgethost.com/accounts/
Turns out I probably couldn’t do better.
I persevered with the writing, though, because I absolutely loved doing it. I’d do my 9-5 (or actually 8-6) and then get home to do my real job. The one I liked. The one I wanted to do forever. It was one of those life-defining moments when Tim Odell saw the RoadworkUK raft bobbing listlessly, threw me a lifeline and invited me to climb on board.
I made myself comfortable in no time at all, and pretty soon I was taking all kinds of liberties. I churned out all kinds of uncategorisable content, eventually pretty much taking ownership of a couple of categories that seemed to be there for the taking. They were:
This was where I took a random car brochure from my embarassingly ample hoarde and wrote about it, seeking to highlight anything odd or, in some way, novel and interesting about it. In all honesty, my Carchive work was, more than anything else, a way of me legitimising adding yet more crap that I don’t need to my floor joist-buckling collection.
The same as above, but substitute the phrase “model car” for “car brochure”
This became one of the very highlights of my calendar year, for five years in succession. As the sole UK member of Hooniverse staff, it was my natural duty to spend a weekend at Goodwood every year, waving a press pass around and chilling in air-conditioned press-centre paradise while the great and the good of the journalism world orbited me.
I was there, legitimately. As a member of the press, despite, for three of those five years, still working at a dealership during the week. YES.
Other Random Shit
In actual fact, this sub-head is only at the bottom of this list so I can mention it last, because, in many ways, it’s my absolute favourite thing in the whole world.
Over the the last few years, Hooniverse has allowed me to write about subjects as diverse and ridiculous as how eating a juicy burger reminded me of a car’s steering and how a wobbly inflatable kayak is a metaphor for driving involvement, along with my paeans towards sunroofs and armrests, not to mention my occasional, indulgent flights of total fiction and fantasy.
And, you know, there’s absolutely nowhere else I could have gotten away with any of that. Certainly not in my day job. I have Hooniverse to thank, more than anything, for my having turned my back on dealership life for good and forging a career in actual, genuine automotive journalism. Against all possible odds.
Although I did once flirt with the idea of designing cars for a living, that was only a distraction, really. Writing about cars was what I really wanted to do, and RoadworkUK had the placebo effect of helping me think that was really happening. Hooniverse, though, was the real deal. Here, people would actually read my stuff, occasionally say nice things about it and, sometimes, hold discussions in the comments section. Thanks, guys.
Seriously, thanks. Thanks for making a warranty administrator with a remarkably docile telephone manner feel like he belonged to something that really mattered. Thanks for enabling me to meet international celebrities like Pete Zilliox and Jeff Glucker.
The image at the top of the page, incidentally, is of one of my very favourite possessions. After skilfully plucking it from a Florida roadside verge, our own Longroofian took the trouble to box this up and send it across the Atlantic, and it has graced my garage for several years. Elsewhere I have a KV Mini fabric patch from Mharrell that I’m just waiting for a pair of trousers that are worthy of having it sewn onto.
(All pics copyright Hooniverse 2019. Happy Birthday)