The Final Lap: It’s Been A Great Ride, Time To Take The Exit Ramp

exitrampAfter spending most of my adult life working in the automotive industry, I found myself without a career during the great depression of 2010. Well, that’s how I saw it, anyway. So I went back to school to get my pointless Associates Degree from the now defunct ITT Tech, and in my last semester in school in April, 2012, a position opened up as a writer for classic musclecar content.

I thought with my experience I would be a shoe-in, but to be honest I didn’t even get the job when I applied for it.  I started to write on a freelance basis and within a couple weeks I was offered the position that I originally applied for. Keep in mind, at the time I interviewed, it was my first real job interview since before the internet was invented. It was a new venture in my life, and I was a bit nervous.

ringbrospantera

Not quite the Pantera I saw at a shop I worked at years ago, but this one done by Mike and Jim Ring was pretty cool, and I got to meet them and other talented builders.

My prior job as a technical editor began in 1989, and prior to that I had managed body shops, was a service writer, a parts manager, and for a while I was the guy who sold Lamborghini parts and got to see Ferraris, Panteras, and twin-turbo Porsches on a regular basis, as well as a few Diablos and a Countach or two here and there. That was a fun job, to say the least, and that’s where I learned that a Diablo clutch job was about $5,000 in parts, and $5,200 in labor. Ouch.

In the showroom of that business was an original, right-hand drive Ford GT40 with a kevlar body, and in the ‘toy room’ was a Nissan Sentra with a blown 454 Rat motor (with the appropriate “Sentrat” emblem on the back), and a few other hot rods and street rods. You could say I’ve been around cars both personally and professionally for a very long time.

Left: Yeah, I had a little fun at the expense of our Mustang Project car.
Right: One of my first articles about the Mopar Polysphere 318 has been a constant performer. Who knew?

Transitioning to the editor of (then) Street Legal TV was not a real stretch from being around cars, but allowed me to go back in time – back when I was a teenager and lived around 1960s and 1970s musclecars. When one young writer asked me how I was able to capture the essence of the musclecar era, I simply told him, “I cheated. I was there.”

2015hellcat-162

Almost Famous

Getting to know you all over the years and trying to find content to keep you entertained and interested has been fun, and the experience of a lifetime. Getting to meet some of my favorite TV personalities – one of whom penned a couple of articles for us – has been a blast. Meeting fans of our online magazine has been great, too.  Having people walk up to me from time to time and say, “I still get your newsletter, keep up the good work,” is the stuff that lets you know that you’ve made an impact.

withRPetty

Yep, that’s the King, we couldn’t pass up this opportunity.

And the cars… being able to drive a couple of Hellcats around for a week and test driving new vehicles before they’re available to the public, well that was one of the best parts of this job. Another favorite part is when I developed friendships with the many representatives of the companies that make these performance parts, there is clearly way too many to mention here.

But our readers are who we write for, and without you we wouldn’t have an audience. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed meeting readers at shows and events, and wish I could have been there when many of them stopped by my car to ask about it. Blame it on the day job, I was out shooting photos and talking to car owners.

MT12

When we first showed up at Willow Springs, people scoffed at us. By the time we were out on the track, people took notice.

Exit Ramp

This week, however, will be my final lap with Street Muscle Magazine. On Friday, June 9th, 2017, I will be walking out the door for the final time, no longer your editor.  I’ll be embarking on a new career, but remain knee-deep in the automotive aftermarket as I get in on the manufacturer side of things and help out with marketing and writing.

I will still contribute to Street Muscle on a freelance basis, and we’re keeping our 1965 Plymouth Belvedere II around as a project car with more upgrades to come – including a new engine with a little bit of a surprise. I may see some of you at events or shows where I take the car, but instead of being out taking my 1,500th photo for the weekend, I might actually get to sit down and enjoy the show for a little while. So if you see a faded blue ’65 Plymouth with fat tires and a mean stance, and some old guy kicking back in a folding chair, stop by and say hello.

The way the car came into the shop the first time was very plain. It has left the building with a wicked coilover suspension and lots of attitude.

It’s been a great ride and I’ve enjoyed being your editor. But the white flag is waving and I’m on the last lap – I see my exit is up ahead. Stay cool, gearheads… thank you for your wit, your comments, your memes, and your banter – and especially for sharing your cars, trucks, and your passion with us. See you on the outside.

About the author

Michael Harding

Michael is a Power Automedia contributor and automotive enthusiast who doesn’t discriminate. Although Mopar is in his blood, he loves any car that looks great and drives even faster.
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