Car Culture

The Back Story

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PHOTO: DAVID PROVOST

More new vehicles are launched at the North American International Auto Show, held every January in the depths of the Detroit winter, than at any other event on the continent. So how did former IEEE Spectrum editor John Voelcker get there from his home in New York City? He drove, of course.

For the third year running, Voelcker writes our annual "Top 10 Tech Cars" feature. But his passion for cars came early. In high school, he founded a club for U.S. owners of the Morris Minor, "Britain's Volkswagen Beetle," when he couldn't find parts for his family's own Minor. He still owns that car, a wood-framed 1961 Traveller--the world's highest-production "woody wagon," with 215 000 made from 1953 to 1971.

It's garaged next to a rare 1958 Riley One-Point-Five. The Riley marque, like Morris, vanished long ago as Britain's auto industry collapsed. But in their day, these sporty four-door sedans competed in the Monte Carlo Rally. Voelcker uses both cars regularly--on sunny weekends--over the country roads around Woodstock, N.Y., where he and his partner have a house.

Weekdays, Voelcker consults on media strategy. His writing career started at age 14, when Old Cars Weekly paid him US $15 for his first article. Three decades later, he's worked at Time Inc., Yahoo, and several (failed) technology start-ups. Last year, he struck out on his own and founded Profuse Media. This loose confederation of experts specializes in business strategy, product planning, and marketing tactics for all interactive media. Cars are part of the business too. In addition to Spectrum , Popular Science and others have recently published his articles on auto technology.

And that trip to Detroit? He drove his 2000 Subaru Outback (purchased through eBay), averaging 26.2 miles per gallon over the entire 1494-mile journey. With all-wheel drive, he was ready for whatever the Midwestern winter threw at him. As it turned out, the snow was virtually gone. There's always next year.

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