Way back in the days of “print journalism,” there used to be these guys called “auto editors” that worked at “news-papers.” And a lot of them worked for outlets in New England.
At outlets like the Boston Globe, the Boston Herald, the Christian Science Monitor and the Providence Journal, a real live Yankee would write a piece every single week — sometimes two! — to tell you about automotive stuff going on in your region. They’d usually offer an interesting destination or event on a Saturday and give you a full-blown car review on a Sunday.
While a lot of those folks are still around, the newspapers they wrote for have all but dried up, and the automotive content they used to publish is now farmed out to syndicated writers strewn far and wide across the United States. The people that wrote these pieces — people like John R. White at the Globe, or Charlie Dole at the Christian Science Monitor — were my heroes of automotive journalism. They were tough, fair and willing to try just about anything, but they were — above all — from the community and knew how we as New Englanders used our automobiles.
We are notoriously tough on cars. We have blistering heat in the summer, frigid temperatures and mounds of snow in the winter, slick wet leaves in the fall and a mix of all of that for two months in the springtime. Our roads are blistered and buckled from the earth pushing up rocks through their surfaces. Add in the fact that we have a mix of horrid traffic and beautiful back roads, and nobody from Southern California can tell you what anything might be like to own in our corner of the country.
We also use our cars differently. How often does somebody at one of the buff books take a car to the dump on a Saturday? Does some syndicated no-name from Michigan have to sit in traffic on the Southeast Expressway? Does a writer based in Texas ever have to make his commute home from work through eight inches of snow that fell over the course of the workday?
Well, I’m here to help you, my New England neighbor. My name is Craig Fitzgerald and I’m the Yankee Driver. I was born and raised here and I’ve never lived outside of the six states that comprise our storied region. For several years, I wrote automotive editorials for the Boston Globe, and for the last seven years, I’ve been on the editorial staff at Hemmings Motor News in Bennington, Vermont, editing both Hemmings Muscle Machines and Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car. And I’ve never driven past Yankee Stadium without flipping it the bird.
My plan here is to keep you informed, give you some understanding of how certain cars work for us in our varied circumstances, and provide you with some hopefully interesting commentary along the way. I’ll give you a weekly car review, along with what used to be called a “column,” back when they used to have those things newspapers and magazines. And in between, you’ll get regular updates, links, flotsam and anything I can think of that might be of interest to readers in the region.
I can be opinionated and abrasive, and I can occasionally use some fairly coarse language to make a point, just like anybody you might find sitting around the woodstove at your local general store.
I hope you’ll enjoy what you see here and shoot me an email every now and again to call me to task if I’ve gotten something wrong. With any luck, we’ll be bumping into each other soon.
PS: The piece of artwork you see at the header of this page is a painting by Thomas Hart Benton called The Yankee Driver. It’s part of the collection at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California.
According to Benton expert Henry Adams, the subject of The Yankee Driver is Billy Benson, a weathered native of Martha’s Vineyard who did odd jobs around the property where Benton stayed. For Benton, residents of the area stood for traditional values. Benton claimed that it was through painting pictures of these plain American people and their environment that he rid himself of “the hand-overs of France and the isms of modern aesthetics.” The full portrait is below: