So you’ve always wanted to be an automotive journalist, eh? Well here is a little helper to get you started. For years, auto journos have been churning out formulaic and demonstrably familiar reviews of cars that they may or may not have ever even driven. It’s easy enough to do, and before long you can add esq. to the end of your name, and start racking up the frequent flyer miles as you get occasional glimpses into the frequently amazing life of a person who would actually be able to afford the cars you’re driving. Anyway, to help you on your journey to internet stardom and comment thread hatred, I’ve created this Fill-In-The-Blank to make churning out fluffy and fun reviews easy to do. All you have to do is fill in the blanks and follow a few simple rules, and you’ll be making easy money in no time! Instant, overnight success is at your fingertips, just click the jump to reach out and grab it!
- Photos are important. You can sell a mediocre article on great photography, but you can’t sell the best article in the world on below average shots of the car. Luckily, manufacturers give you a handy USB drive filled with great photos of their cars. Use those and you’ll be fine! Besides, taking your own photos of the car just takes time away from when you could be eating free food and drinking free booze.
- Insert as much poetry as you can. Even if it doesn’t make sense, just do it. It’ll make you sound smarter, and people will love it. You’ll win a Pulitzer, like Dan Neil.
- Read as many automotive print monthlys as you can, and just copy what they do. If you just ape what everyone in a dying industry does, you’ll be a winner!
- Start with a history lesson, end the first paragraph with a leading question, fill the middle with facts that nobody will read, and end with your condescending opinion of the whole thing.
- Never give a bad review, because then manufacturers would stop inviting you to drive their cars, and your revenue stream would dry up. Your new personal mantra is “There are no bad cars”.
CRAFTING A TITLE
Your title, outside of your leading image, is the most important part of any article ever. It’s what gets people to click on your article, and after that, who cares how long they stay. The click is all that matters, because that’s what gets you PAID! So now that we’ve established how important your title is, here’s how you make it.
The (Brain-Meltingly Beautiful/Tire-Smokingly Powerful/Manly-As-Opening-A-Beer-Bottle-With-Your-Eye-Socket/Entire-Fields-Of-Cows-Died-For-It Luxurious/Perfectly Cromulent) (Car Model) Is (The Best/An Epic/A Perfectly Crafted) (Throwback To A Simpler Time/Thing On Wheels/Way To Display Your Superiority)
And there you have it. The perfect title.
THE OPENING PARAGRAPHS
Like I said before, in the opening paragraph, you want to give a history lesson. Because the easiest way to prove your authority on a model is to spend 30 seconds cruising the Wiki page on it to find something about the history of either the model you’re reviewing, or the brand it comes from. As long as the site you publish to doesn’t have a comments section, it doesn’t even really have to be true. Try to make it sound true, though.
(Make) has been around since (year of inception/if not known, guess) when (founder) decided making (chuckwagons/bicycles/internet payment facilitation software/Formula 1 racers/coke-fueled paintings of sea otters) was for the birds, and the world hasn’t been the same since. Back then, (Founder) made a promise that his company would (be the best at making cars the world had ever seen/would change how people think about cars/would get people out of carriages and into cars). (Length of time) later, when the (Make – Model) was introduced, it was (considered revolutionary for the time/answered the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything/an immediate sales success). With this new version, though, (Make) has introduced (amazing new features/stylish new bodywork/an exciting new engine) that has made it (even better/more amazing-er/the best of the best).
This vehicle will definitely make you smile at how (fun/comfortable/safe/hilariously sideways) it is to drive. There is nothing wrong with this car, and I’ll be surprised if any are left on dealer lots when you go to look for one. This (car/truck/SUV/CUV/sportabout/dual-cowl phaeton) is a guaranteed hit among the target demographic (Suburban Moms With A Safety Fetish/MEN!/RaceCar YaYas/Collectors Who Will Never Drive Them Ever). Not only is it (beautiful/polarizing/a vision of The Lord God Himself), this thing (drives great/handles anything you throw at it/corners like it’s on rails/crushes the spines of the weak). So now that we’ve told you it’s awesome, you want one, don’t you?
VEHICLE EXTERIOR APPEARANCE
Describe the outside of the car as best you can without getting into too many specifics. If there is something you don’t like about the outside of the car, just call it “polarizing”, because that’s not exactly negative, but it gets across the point that *some* people might not like the way it looks without pissing off the manufacturer. Basically, you just want to write this part of the article as if you’re walking up to the car for the first time and describing it to someone who recently went blind. Here, try this.
From the front of the vehicle, you can instantly tell that this is a (make), because of that signature “corporate” grille [note: This might sound too specific, but don’t worry, every car maker has one now]. The A-pillar is (sharply raked back like a dancer/nearly vertical for excellent visibility/angled at a degree enough to provide a nice cabin, but also decrease wind resistance over the outgoing version), and that helps give the car its distinctive silhouette. The doors (scissor upward like a bird of prey about to take down a vole/open quite wide for maximum efficiency ingress and egress/are completely removable so you can show off your summer bod and shoulder tats to the honeys in that little red convertible number next to you at the stop light). Out back, the tail lights (are perfectly visible to anyone behind or to the side, as law mandates/feature multiple LEDs for a nice high-tech look/look like awesome light up circles at night, like flyin’ saucers/are mounted high on the rear facade to give the car the visual appearance of being taller when viewed from the back). Put that all together and you’ve got a (cohesive appearing/awesome/curvaceous/polarizing) package.
The inside of the car is most important to a lot of your readers, because that’s where they spend their time. It does well to remember, though, that you’re often not confirming a purchase for someone, rather affirming that they’ve made the right one. If you insult the interior of the car that they’ve payed good money for, they’ll write your editor and get you fired. And besides, that manufacturer will be less inclined to let you back into the interior of one such car any time soon. Always say that ‘everything falls nicely to hand’. I don’t know why, but it’s a phrase that pays, and it’s been used for decades. What ain’t broke, don’t fix. Keep it light, keep it airy, keep it positive!
Once seated inside, you’ll find that everything falls nicely to hand, and is within easy reach of the driver. The steering wheel is exactly where you’d want it to be for this kind of driving, and features a number of buttons for various functions. The center stack holds your (size) infotainment screen, HVAC, and various other controls (manipulated simply by your thoughts and gestures/in a single piece of wizardry shaped like a giant knob that you can sort-of pseudo write on with your finger/among a few dozen different switches, toggles, and knobs, as it should be). You sit (low/high) in the seat as a king or queen might, and view the world of your dominion, because this four-wheeled motion machine will make you feel like royalty. Comfort is exactly as you’d expect for a car like this, and easily on par or better than others in this market segment. No matter who you are, you’ll enjoy your seat time here. (The back seat is more than spacious enough for the kids and their gear, too!/The back seat is vestigial, and would probably be best reserved for hauling groceries, but it lowers your insurance rate, and can be forced into service if absolutely necessary/Besides, who needs back seats when this car makes you feel so good?)
This is the make or break part of the article. If you are worth your salt, you can make it sound like you have driven every car in the segment and know without a doubt that this one is the best. Maybe. See, this is where it gets difficult. You’ve got to walk the fine line of pleasing the manufacturer you’re driving right now, without making a competitor to that manufacturer angry. This balancing act is your bread and butter. You can’t really earn the right to objectively say one car is better than another until you’ve been playing this game for over a decade, at which point your decision will be predicated on which manufacturer buys the most pages in the annual ad buy with the publishing company that writes your paycheck. That’s an advanced level lesson for a later time, though. Let’s stick with the basics for now.
Even if you’ve never driven a car before, you would have a pretty good idea of how to write this section convincingly only if you’ve read a British automobile glossy magazine at any time in the last decade. The American pubs will give it a shot to emulate them as well, but it’s no good to emulate an emulator. Watch a few Jeremy Clarkson reviews on YouTube, too, if you think it’ll help. People love that guy. What you’re aiming for is a place to put all that poetry you studied/ripped off from better writers. If you get stuck, try this formula.
This motor handles (corners/the rat race/potholes and the trampled corpses of the proletariat in equal measure) with aplomb. Driving this beast (in the Atacama Desert/in the heart of Istanbul/up and down the Himalayan mountain range from peak to peak/through some of the best roads that southern Italy has to offer/around the Yas Marina circuit/to the North Pole) was one of the greatest experiences of my entire life, and it will be really hard to top that one. The thing I was driving managed the trip with no worries, and it was a great way to test out the new suspension design that it won’t really matter if you’ve heard of before or not. The sound of that engine is perfect in a way that no other engine could sound when it’s really doing its thing. The torque and power are both what you’d consider adequate for motion. There’s just something about this method of transportation that makes it superior to most other forms of transport. There’s a wheel with a tire at each corner, you’ve got bumpers to protect you, and probably some airbags or something.
This is where years of staying out late and cramming the morning before an exam helps. You can find everything you need to pass this section either on that USB stick the manufacturer gave you, or failing that, on Wikipedia. Just throw some numbers at the page and try to give an educated guess as to why they are important. Nobody really cares about anything but horsepower, 0-60 times and top speed anyway. They might tell you they care about payload and towing, but payload and towing doesn’t get their dick wet. Even truck guys and minivan moms care about horsepower and 0-60. If they’re real-f**kin’ nerds, give them a Nurburger-onion-whatever-kind-of-ring lap time. That’ll shut ’em up.
Stick to the basics. Find one competitor that is worse than this car in one metric and only compare them on that metric. That way you can later say that the competitor is better than the car reviewed here. It should look like this.
The (Make-Model) is quicker than (Competitor 1), handles better than (Competitor 2), and has more interior headroom than (Competitor 3). If that isn’t enough to make you get in your old jalopy right now and drive down to the (Make) dealer, perhaps the price will. At only (price), you really can’t afford to pass this one up.
And there you have it. Now that you know how to easily compile consumable and palatable automotive reviews, you’re almost ready for prime time. There is only one more lesson, but unfortunately that one you’ll have to learn on your own through the experience of being around other seasoned journalists, and that is how to bitch about your provided travel accommodations. Everyone does it, and I can’t seem to figure out why. Once you’ve got that figured out, you can start a podcast and you’ll be a 100% bona fide auto journo scribe. Welcome to the fold!