Ten Years Later: Giving credit where credit is due

When I was a junior in college, studying advertising and public relations at Loyola University Chicago, I knew entering into my fall semester I wanted to open the door into the automotive world for my career. Far prior to hearing the word “Hooniverse.”

After an internship with PickupTrucks.com (when it was run by now-Ford North America Product Communications Manager and truck godfather Mike Levine) and Cars.com’s talented editorial team. On my first day, I took the subway to a skyrise in Chicago’s loop at 175 W. Jackson and a bird shat right on my new dress shirt the second I stepped off the early morning Red Line. Perhaps it was good luck. After orientation, one of my first tasks that day was to study a three-ring binder filled with pages of Cars.com’s style guide. I was familiar with the AP Style Guide, a must for my degree program, but this automotive-specced guide that would soon become my bible was addictive. I did my best to understand the proper time when to type “all-wheel-drive” vs. “all-wheel drive,” remember the correct sequence for “twin-turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder,” and memorize the order of capitalization in “Mitsubishi i-MiEV.” I was hooked in the most nerdy way. On September 29, 2010 I was 20, and had my first bylined automotive piece published on the web. It was a news story about a bonkers concept Mercedes-Benz PHEV delivery truck called the Reporter.

I interned two more times at Cars.com, another stint on the editorial team and one with the public relations department. Half-way through my senior year I stumbled upon Hooniverse.com. Alongside Autoblog, it quickly became my go-to source for anything car-related on the wild interwebs. To this day, it remains an absolute goldmine for the most pure, raw, and obscure automotive content. Stuff to dream over, lust for, whisper about, and reap in.

I sent an email to Jeff one day towards the end of 2011, wanting to broaden my young, aspiring autojourno skills and contribute to the site. Everything I had read up to that point was right up my alley and I wanted to be a part of it. Jeff gave me the green light, login credentials, and it all began. The first post I ever wrote for Hooniverse was in January 2012 about a rusty, blue Austin Westminster I spotted parked at quiet Pagoda along the Perfume River in Vietnam, where I had studied abroad a twelve months earlier. The car looked eerily familiar. I paused, then it clicked. This exact car was what Thích Quảng Đức, a monk, drove to Saigon before committing self-immolation in protest of South Vietnam’s Pro-Catholic harsh treatment of Buddishts. These were the types of powerful automotive stories I wanted to share with the world.

My first big assignment was covering the 2012 Chicago Auto Show. It was my first time working in a press room, hustling around on the floor, then darting back upstairs to churn out as many posts I could. I can on this beloved site. I was living the dream and went on to call this my home auto show, reporting on it multiple times for Hooniverse. After graduating, I joined the Cars.com team full-time at 22, as an Assistant Editor, where I stayed for awhile. Then I played the millennial card and moseyed toward several different directions, trying to figure out what the flippin’ hell I wanted to do. The one thing that kept me grounded and I could rely on was having Hooniverse as place to translate my passion for cars into words. That drive to keep writing never faded, no matter how stressful life got.

Earlier this year, I jumped back into the automotive field full-time and started a new job at an automotive market research and product consulting firm called AutoPacific as an Industry Analyst. So far it’s been an incredible opportunity that’s fit me perfectly. Being in an analyst role rather than a strict journalist has allowed me to explore a completely new, fascinating side of the automotive industry I’ve always wanted to shift into. Truthfully there’s no way I’d be where I am today — in my professional and personal life — if it weren’t for all the hours I’ve put into writing for this site. I probably wouldn’t have been sitting in a room, shoulder to shoulder, with product planners and designers at Hyundai’s classified R&D center two weeks ago if it weren’t for the knowledge and experience Hooniverse has gifted me all these years.

Since I started, I’ve blogged about literally everything from hurtling Dodge’s 485-horsepower Challenger R/T Scat Pack Wide Body around Gingerman, how I instantly regretted lowering my car, a ridiculous love for a $2,000 beater Saturn, and why we need to pay attention to Audi’s A8. I’ve covered races at Road America, lived with Ram’s Rebel for a week, interviewed a local custom motorcycle builder, tested new gear from Yakima, and stirred the pot by asking you readers if a new sports car could in fact, save Mitsubishi. The piece I’m most proud of was a recent one, where I examined the whole deadly Takata airbag recall disaster. Another gift are friendships I’ve built with countless individuals in the industry, people I’ve grown to admire as inspiring role models. I’ve gratefully learned so much too. How the automotive industry ticks, photo editing tips, random facts about obscure cars, and what it takes to churn out quality, original content I can contently slap my byline onto.

I owe the upmost thanks to Jeff, Kamil (whose last name is still spelled incorrectly in my phone), plus our ever-growing team of weathered and new writers worldwide (!), who continue to tirelessly make Hooniverse one of the most unique, authentic, and more importantly, humble places to seek out quality automotive content that isn’t found elsewhere. Not to mention the dialogue we get to have with you, the readers, makes it worth our time even more. This is all what makes this site so excellent, and an outlet I’m damn honored to be a part of.

We write not for the sake of click-bait or to elevate some ego, but because we genuinely love cars. That, has always been our mission. We’re glad you’re here, cheers to another decade.

By |2019-10-01T21:54:38+00:00October 1st, 2019|10 Years Later, All Things Hoon|3 Comments

About the Author:

By day, Robby DeGraff is an Industry Analyst for an automotive market research and product-consulting firm. Based an hour from Road America in Wisconsin, he once piloted a Suzuki Jimny around Iceland for two weeks alone. Robby still has his first car: a red 2001 Camaro, his second Saabaru, and a 1981 Honda CB650. He dreams of owning a first-generation Aston Martin Vanquish or Volkswagen Vanagon.