So Long, and Thanks for All the Emails

Our longest-running online column comes to an end.

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Richard Pardon

“Whether we shall meet again I know not /Therefore our everlasting farewell take.” That’s what Brutus said to Cassius in one of those old, culturally irrelevant plays from which today’s schoolchildren are mercifully (or, depending on your own level of classical education, cruelly) excused. And so it is with you and me, dear reader. This will be my last Avoidable Contact column here at Road & Track; I have a new gig which expressly prohibits freelance work of this sort.

Pictured above: The author in an AMG GT C in the Alps, likely blasting a song by Benny Mardones for various reasons which remain unclear to this day.

Some of you will no doubt breathe a sigh of relief at this news. I made more than a few enemies over the past five years while discussing topics as diverse as FWD race cars and SUV Supras. I never deleted an email and I tried to respond to as many as I could. It’s very common for modern authors to dismiss their critics, particularly the people who leave short and often disjointed comments on Facebook or elsewhere. I’m not sure that is a good idea. Critics, like the very truest friends, are not afraid to tell you when you have made a mistake.

For my other, kinder correspondents–the ones who agreed with me, sent me pictures of their cars, told me stories, offered a critical piece of knowledge from their professional lives inside or outside the auto industry–I have nothing but gratitude. You lifted my spirits, renewed my enthusiasm, taught me things I would never have learned otherwise. You let me drive your cars, everything from a final-production Viper to a front-wheel-drive Olds 98 Touring Sedan. Thank you.

In any authorial enterprise of any size, there will always be a few loose threads to gather at the end. These are the ones which come to mind:

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Jack Baruth

•Rich Ziolkowski at set up my son’s first-ever road test, of half-scale exotic cars for children. The idea of having an eight-year-old write new-car reviews seemed good at the time but my eight-year-old insisted on writing the review like an adult, which made it look like I’d ghost-written it. A year passed while I wrestled with this conundrum. About the Ferrari replica in the above photo, John wrote “The Ferrari is very complicated, make sure you understand that it is not a toy. It has a very good system including headlights, keys, turn signals, and real shifting! Make sure your driving space is big, It can make noises that can be weird sometimes. It is very dark silver and is somewhat comfortable.” If you have serious cash to spare and you want a first-rate four-wheeled toy, you should call Autosport Designs. They sell the stuff of which dreams are made, for adults as well as children.

•The nice people at sent me their vehicle coating (don’t call it wax!) for an evaluation. I had my Silverado detailed with the stuff in September. Almost ten thousand miles later, it is still beading up water. Very impressive so far.

•I had this crazy idea of using an enhanced dashcam as a racetrack video recorder as well as a daily-driving liability aid. sent me the N2 Pro. My wife, Danger Girl, compared it to a GoPro during Time Trial Nationals. The verdict: not quite as good as a GoPro in terms of video and sound quality, but also much easier to permanently wire into the car.

•Last year, I decided to run my World Challenge Accord in a NASA Super Unlimited race. I ended up having a knock-down drag-out twenty-lap fight in the pouring rain with a young driver in a Cayman GT4. About half of the drivers quit the race before the midway point because the visibility was so bad–but the Cayman was always haunting my mirrors right to the end. I finished second and he picked up the last podium spot, ahead of every other BMW, Corvette, Subaru, or prototype(!) in the class. Afterwards, I spoke to the driver in question–his name is Jon Taylor and he had just made the jump from iRacing to real racing. Quite well, I would add. He would be a dream come true for most sponsors; he looks like a movie star and drives like a madman. Email me if you want to work with someone like that.

•Let me answer the question that has surely formed in your mind–“What about the first-place racer?” His name was Curtis Baldwin, he had a 525-horsepower V8 Miata with an A-Mod autocrosser’s worth of sprint-car wing, and he joined my endurance-racing team the month after that win.

•I’ve been working on a story about the intersection of high-end audio equipment and exotic cars for about a year now. In preparation for that story, I cleansed my hi-fi palate by borrowing two absolutely perfect pieces of gear from Brian Zolner at : the M12 “Dual Mono Source Controller” and the M15 amplifier. Together, they cost more than a new Camry–but if you had the money, you’d spend it the moment you heard what they can do. Don’t take my word for it; John Mayer is just one of the firm’s famous customers.

•I would like to thank the NASA Great Lakes Region and the Ohio Valley Region of the SCCA for putting up with me as a competitor and embedded writer. I would also like to thank SRO, organizers of what was once called Pirelli World Challenge and will now be called TC America, for the chance to compete in their series during 2018. Last but not least, my “” racing team has always had a steadfast friend in and its owner, John Kolesa. I have paid more in entry fees to AER since 2017 than I’ve paid to SCCA and NASA combined in a decade. It has been money well spent.

What’s left to say? Only this: I hope that all of you continue to take both joy and solace in the simple act of driving. There is nothing quite like firing up your own car and traveling on your own terms. We will miss it when it is gone. Let’s hope that day never comes. In the meantime, we might as well return to that old play for a moment. How does the little speech by Brutus end?

If we do meet again, why, we shall smile;

If not, why then, this parting was well made.

See you down the road.

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