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Open Diff – Hello from the new guy, Mike Austin

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Photo by Murilee Martin

I’ve loved cars since before I knew what they were, playing with a pile of Hot Wheels as a toddler, and I’ve been reading about cars almost as long as I could sound out the words on page. I don’t think that’s all that unique among this audience, but I will confess to one thing that is probably an anomaly to the Hemmings crowd: I’ve never owned a car with a carburetor. My oldest car is from 1987, although I’m not counting the Mustang convertible my parents own (the one I continue to put off fixing the power top hydraulics. Sorry, Dad).

Don’t get me wrong, I love older cars too. I just didn’t start with them. As someone born into the tail end of Generation X, my dream Corvette was the C4 ZR-1, my muscle cars the Camaro, Firebird, and Mustang of the early ’90s that came out right before I learned to drive, with a good share of admiration towards Japanese and European sports cars lumped in. That passion lead to a fondness for all things automotive, old and new. To appreciate any car, of any era, is a recognition of all cars. Greatness is in part built on ideas that came before it. And all the facets that cars encompass – the history, the reasons behind what makes a car what it was, where it stood when it was new – are just as fascinating as how a car looks and drives. That’s a long way of saying that I believe all cars are capable of some level of appreciation, some level of love. Because cars are amazing.

In terms of my credentials, as Kurt mentioned in his recent announcement, I’ve worked at Car and Driver, Popular Mechanics, Autoblog, and a few other publications, driving almost every new car over the last twenty years. I’ve won several trophies at the 24 Hours of Lemons, and failed to finish several times more. My personal garage, as of this writing, is an international mix with representatives from Japan, Italy, the USA, and Sweden. That’s a 1991 Honda Beat, a 1987 Alfa Romeo Spider, a 1995 Camaro Z28, and my 2007 Saab 9-3 Aero Sportcombi daily driver. All of them could use some level of attention, but all are currently roadworthy. Mine is the age-old dilemma of the hobby: I’m torn between the enjoyment of wrenching and the pleasure of just driving, and I wish I had more time for both.

Honda Beat Chevy Camaro Alfa Spider in garage

If you’re looking for some level of credibility, I hope I passed. But, keeping on the honesty theme, I don’t think there’s a test to join the cult of the car. The truth is we are all gearheads, and wherever you loyalties lie towards a brand or era, we’re all on the same team. All it takes to belong is an open mind and a welcoming attitude.

I plan to bring those two things to my role at Hemmings. I’m here to celebrate the car with you, in all its great (and sometimes terrible) forms. In terms of reverence for automotive history, there is no better place in the world than right here at Hemmings. My new coworkers have an expertise that is unrivaled in the automotive world, and we have an immense archive to back that up. We’ll bring that expertise further into the digital world, giving you more of what you already love about Hemmings and taking that same approach as we expand our coverage into new topics.

I’m glad to be here. I’m even more glad you’re here. And I’m excited for the journey ahead.