Feature Writer Blues

I can’t get my muscle car into my garage. It’s too long to fit and the garage is only a one-car unit anyway. So, I rent one for the winter months. It’s usually put away by November, but this year it was December twelfth. I shot my last feature in early November. Both of these dates are way later in the year than I usually do them. In total I did fifteen features since last April and they will keep me busy sending them in all through the winter months. 

It was even so bad that I had to send it to the garage on a flat bed tow-rig, because the engine wouldn’t start up. (Something to do with the ignition system that I will fix sometime soon.) It is now March 2014 and I still have snow as high as my backside and we are getting more this Wednesday. I’m out of features for this month so I’m doing the first DIY article for you.  All of this said, I’ve had a great year going to local shows and cruises to find some of the best Mopars in the east during 2013, but this winter has lasted far too long for my liking.

But, that is just the fun part of the job. The hard part of the job is to get properly filled-out technical sheets with a lot of detailed information and a signed-off release. That might seem like easy work, yet it can be really hard. The most difficult of all is the person that simply doesn’t know anything about his vehicle, because he had it built or bought it “as-is” without any paperwork about any of the parts or the strategy used to develop the combination. When it comes to 100 point restorations, it is important to know the builder, engine builder and the internal parts that make it better than stock. (Camshaft, valves, valve springs, crankshaft, rods, pistons, porting, etc.)

Please, understand, I have a lot of technical experience in all phases of automotive work. I have a lot of jet aircraft technical experience I earned by being a Crew Chief on C-130s in Southeast Asia. Having studied Industrial Administration and Engineering, I completed my university studies with a lot of new knowledge. Additionally I paid for my education by working as a line mechanic in a dealership for two years and then by working at the Chevrolet assembly plant in St. Louis in Quality Control Engineering on all three of the vehicles they produced; pickups/medium trucks, full size cars and the Corvette. I know this goes back a lot of years, but I only tell you these things to let you know I am qualified to digest the technical aspects of any vehicle and turn them into an understandable narrative for you.

The photography part of the job came about when I went on assignment for Hot Rod Industry News the first time and they sent a photographer to shoot the photos.   We were talking about how much we were getting paid and it turned out he was getting twice what I was. (I guess they thought photography was two times harder than doing in-depth technical editorial as well as feature articles about industry people.)

After that assignment I went to a photo store and bought a good Canon FI body along with a good set of prime lenses; 35mm, 50mm normal, 50 mm Macro, 135mm and a 250mm. That was all I needed to get me started. Well, that plus a great how-to photography book and a lot of film shot through each lens. I later added a medium format camera and lenses for higher quality/larger film size photography for covers, features and advertising work.

So, if you are wondering how to get my job you can do it as I did, but with digital cameras like I now use. I still prefer prime lenses because they are always going to deliver better resolution than a zoom. I have one Canon “L” lens and three that are not. I use only one zoom; a 55-250mm unit that has good Canon glass yet didn’t cost me an arm and a leg. My Canon STi is just 12MP, but it is very good and I have done posters with it as well as one billboard.

Now, I am trying to write a feature for March, but that is impossible because I’m out of Mopar photos layouts and filled in Technical sheets with signed off permission to use the photos I have taken. I hope you have enjoyed the features I’ve done in MoparMax as well as the photography. I am adding a technical “How-To” feature monthly starting in this issue. This is the time of the year I usually start getting wound up and ready to get my own hot rod as well as friends cars back on the road. Too bad we’re still getting snow in New York, about 55 miles north of New York City. There are no owners willing to take their car(s) out of the garage while there is still snow and salt on the roads. I wouldn’t either.

So, have fun and feel sorry for those of us that live here in the frozen tundra of New York.

Matt Strong