Who else wants to review new cars?
Or do anything at all other than what they’re doing right now?
Newsflash: Nobody’s going to give you a shot if you don’t have a body of work showing you’re willing and able to do the work. If you really want to do something—just do it. Start as small as you have to, but please start.
James Lee wanted to review new cars. Seven years ago, he started renting them and test driving at local dealerships. Last year, he drove 70 new models worth a combined US$3.3M, mostly from OEM press fleets.
This is a story of a true hustler willing to put in the time.
This is a simple case study in turning dreams into reality.
After ‘race car driver’ and maybe ‘Top Gear Host’, I feel like ‘automotive journalist who reviews new cars’ comes in a solid third place on the Official List of Gearhead Dream Jobs. We’ve all seen how it goes…
You come home, there’s a brand new car or truck parked out front with a full tank of gas. It’s been washed and waxed and looks UH-MAZING. This week it’s a Kia Rio. Next week it’s a Rolls Royce Phantom. Maybe you’re helping friends move with the new F-150 the week after, right?
But they don’t just hand out press cars to anyone who asks (not even to already established journalists they used to hand them out to, these days). James Lee took a relatively unconventional approach to getting access to press fleets. He went from wanting to test drive and photograph new cars to actually doing it—averaging better than one new car per week.
You can do it too.
But you really gotta want it.
As if driving $3M worth of new cars in a single year wasn’t impressive enough—dude’s got a day job. James pays the bills as an architectural project manager working with commercial interior design—think: somebody who designs the food court at bigger airports. Out of the office, he runs SixSpeedBlog, where he publishes every review he writes.
James has built the body of work—and audience—required to prove to OEM PR teams that he’s not only qualified to spend a week unsupervised with a new car, but also likely to deliver a nice piece of content that gets new cars in front of interested eyeballs.
There’s always overlap in these things.
Keep an eye out for opportunities.
James rented cars out of pocket—but he did so while on business trips where the company didn’t always authorize one. You know, if your destination is the airport and you can stay in a hotel at the airport, why would you need a rental car, right?
If work-life balance is keeping business and pleasure separate, but (un)equal, James took a more work-life harmony approach. He was traveling. He had the time. Why not get an interesting rental upgrade and go exploring?
Chances are, if you’ve been on a business trip, you’ve done likewise. I know I still fondly remember the silver, B5 Passat I took to the top of Pike’s Peak on a business trip to Colorado Springs in 1999. Particularly, the way it felt when the in-car computer dinged to warn me of freezing temps and possibly icy roads—while I had the windows and moonroof open thanks to climate control and heated, leather seats. If I’d had a camera and a laptop in 1999, right?
Start a build thread.
Build thread your dream and build a body of work. Treat it like work. Take it seriously. Take yourself seriously. This is your dream, we’re talking about, right? Is there anything more important than following your own, personal North Star? Find a way to document the hustle, demonstrate your progress, and prove your abilities.
Nobody’s gonna give you a shot if you don’t have a body of work showing you’re up to the job. Nobody’s ever said, “Gee. You don’t have any proven experience or ability in reviewing new cars, but I guess you’ve always wanted to do it, so here’s a new S-Class. You’ve got a decent camera, right?”
It’s just like motorsport sponsorship. A tired STi and a dream aren’t enough to get a rally car built on someone else’s dime. You have to show up. You have to do the work. You have to prove to the people holding the purse strings that investing time and money into you is worth it.
Show ‘em you’re worth it.
Start a build thread. Build a body of work.
Would you like to know more?