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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


MotorSpaceNW guide to swindling test-drives

Listen… do you smell that? It’s opportunity. A shiny new year is upon us and our humble auto enthusiast site just topped one thousand members. We should all be proud. More importantly we should all be blogging. Anyone can write for MotorSpaceNW. It’s like a MySpace for cars, which means being talented is less important than being prolifically snarky. 

“But what’s in it for me?” you ask. Besides the warm glow of vanity, volunteering your writing for a credible auto publication comes with one major perk: Test-Driving new and gently pre-owned vehicles. I’ve done it and you can too, that is, if you’re willing to follow the necessary steps:

Establish credibility 

Unfortunately, car dealerships also ask themselves “What’s in it for me?” when a person claiming to be a blogger asks to test-drive one of their vehicles with no intention of buying it. The answer is publicity. MotorSpace reaches a large enough audience now to be taken seriously as a legitimate media outlet, a loudspeaker for the almighty word of mouth, so long as you actually blog for the site. 

Blog for the Site 

It’s critical you have a body of work to show a car salesman before ever attempting a test drive. Write numerous blogs on car-related topics beforehand, say eight or nine of them. If you’re strapped for time or really hung over, it’s still not okay to copy and paste from Wikipedia. Once in the showroom, have a salesman pull up the MotorSpaceNW page and take a look at the blogs you’ve composed on your personal profile. This solidifies your credibility…sometimes. 

Dress the Part

Don’t overdo it with driving gloves/goggles/scarves/leather hats/ cigars and the like. Also don’t repeatedly make casual reference to the thrift store typewriter in the backseat of your Dodge Diplomat during preliminary conversations with the sales staff. Jotting down notes on a simple notepad and taking pictures with a digital camera will suffice. If you do in fact drive a Dodge Diplomat, it’s best to park it out of view several blocks away, preferably in a Taco Bell parking lot where it will blend in like a chameleon and smell of sweet taco when you return. 

Step 3
Drive it like it isn’t yours. 

If any of you score a test drive in a fast car using the MotorSpace name and decide to gently cruise it around the block, I’m required by law to line you up next to your grandmother and stooge-slap the both of you. Push it to the limit, max it to the extreme and so on. 

Know how to drive a manual transmission 

This one bit me square in the ass when I was test-driving the 2010 Mustang and Challenger. Asking to drive a performance car on the condition that its equipped with an automatic transmission is a dead giveaway that you rolled out of bed with a half-baked plan to impersonate an auto journalist. Stalling the car during the test drive is even worse. If you do stall, try one of these maneuvers to divert the salesman’s attention from the mishap:

-Mash your finger on the navigation screen and ask questions about how it works; salesman love describing these things and will gladly ramble on about their features while you coyly set the emergency brake and restart the engine. 

-Fart. Blame it on the salesman, once again jumpstarting his talker. 

-Turn the radio up to earsplitting levels. This drowns out questions regarding your identity and will help mask the fart smell. 

-Flee the car 

-All of the above

Step 4
Write the blog.

Only the top ninety percentile of those reading this guide will successfully make it past the first step to the actual writing of the blog. Of the remaining ten percent, nearly half will be eaten alive in the piranha tank that is the Internet, which brings us to the next Sub-Step:

Write something original

Embellish, embellish, embellish. Nobody wants to read what countless other auto journalists at larger publications already had to say about the car you just drove. Narrative-style is the small-time blogger’s deadliest weapon against these shell-backed corporate juggernauts. 

Instead of writing, “The engine was peppy through third gear, but fell a bit flat up into fifth,” jazz it up a bit. Try something like, “It was midday. The sun’s high heat poured in through the windshield, blanketing my trousers with mad urgency, melting the gummy bears in my pocket to an orgy of nightmare creatures…” 

Sub-Step 2 
Don’t get sued (Seriously) 

Believe it or not, people will actually read your blogs, especially if you’re any good at it. Car dealerships will often times ask you to send them a link to your finished car review or visit MotorSpace periodically to keep an eye out for when it posts. If they like what you have to say, or at least feel like you gave the car a fair shake, they’ll be dramatically more inclined to let you drive other cars in the future. 

On the flipside, tear their car a new exhaust pipe and you’ll not be allowed anywhere near their dealership ever again. Worst-case scenarios can dip into libelous territory. So, be nice and weave any criticisms in with mentions of the car’s strong points. 

Step 4

Since you’ll probably never be paid living wages for blogging about cars, or paid at all, the whole business revolves around personal enjoyment and exaggerating your successes to strangers. Name-drop names of cars you’ve successfully test-driven. Do this in social situations without regard to the current topic of conversation, if you were part of the conversation, or if you actually test-drove the car in question. That just about covers it. 

Congratulations, you’re an auto blogger! Now get out there and make something of it! 

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