A Generational Shift: Hi! I’m Tom

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I may be a fearless driver, but also a terrified passenger

Things change. Paradigms shift. Torches are passed. Cars change hands. Generational leadership changes, too

Having devoured all the car magazines growing up, I can tell you, doing this “auto-writer” thing for a living and still having so many of the heavyweight writers, authors and editors from that fantastic era as peers, is indeed a generous part of my passion. Two of those guys are Larry Edsall and Bob Golfen, long-time auto writers, founding editors of this website — and Baby Boomers. They’re not leaving (thank goodness). But now I’ll be carrying the torch as managing editor.

Craig ‘Smiley’ Stevens briefs me as I prepare to drive the 1968 Lola T-160 Can-Am car

I won’t bore you with my pedigree. Don’t get me wrong, I can pontificate with the best of them. However, since we are just getting to know each other, that’s never a great way to start. What I can tell you is that this Gen Xer has had the car bug from the moment I sat in a stroller, at 8 months of age, in Thunder Valley and witnessed Chuck Parsons and Skip Scott winning the 1968 Road America 500 in a Lola T70 Mk.3 Chevrolet — a full six laps (24 miles) ahead of the McKee Mk.7 Ford of Bob Nagel and Ed Lowther.

With Chip Foose and Linda Vaughn

The car hobby, and my various gigs, have taken me many places and introduced me to many interesting people, who without the passion otherwise might not give me the time of day. The people you meet in the car world are just people. People who put their driver’s suits on one leg at a time. People who have to deal with life on whoever’s terms – we all gotta serve somebody… But come the weekend, all over the world, a great secret society meets in so many places. People and their rides converge on Cars and Coffee, National Meets, Concours de’Elegance, Club Races, Track Days, Drive-Ins, Cruise-Ins, Speedways, Street Circuits, Dragstrips… All speaking a common passionate language: The Automobile.

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Racing with the Vintage Auto Racing Association through one of many corners at the Spring Mountain Circuit in Parhump, Nevada

It doesn’t matter if it’s 1955 or 2020: It’s 10 p.m. The lights of the open garage bay bathe the driveway in soft light. In the garage, a group of people stand around an open hood — beverages in hand — admiring, talking, commiserating. We really are all the same. In the more than century-old history of the car, many branches have grown away from the trunk that is the foundation of car culture. But in the end, we are essentially all the same.

At the Motor Press Guild Awards with Jay Leno

The diversity of cars and the incarnations of style, mods, uses, and the demographics of the people, may seem foreign from one side to the other, but what unites us all is that car bug. Each of us can pinpoint the moment and tell the story of how we caught it too.

If I’m at a party, and most of the people there are talking about, say, tennis, and some guy pulls up in a fully dressed East LA Lowrider, guess who I’m going to talk at the party? I may not follow that branch of the car culture closely — but I respect it. I know that guy will speak to me in a language that the other people in the room won’t understand. It’s a secret handshake of sorts. Consider I was purposely seated at a wedding next to a gentleman, because the bride knew we both liked Formula One. That man would become my oldest daughter’s Godfather. See how that works?

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Moderating a panel at the Riverside International Automotive Museum featuring (from left) Rick Knoop, Tony ‘a2z’ Adamowicz, John Morton and Brett Lunger

The genuine interest is out there, despite leaps and bounds in technology, so many distractions, smartphones, entertainment options… Life… The idea is to get hands on. To twist wrenches, to bid, to admire, to drive. No matter who we are and where we come from, we are united.

The idea of being the editorial boss of a well-circulated car site like ClassicCars.com is certainly a “feather in the cap.” I have been working in this field many years, aspiring to an opportunity like this. But in the end, I’m just blessed. I get to be around this lifestyle — and feed my kids!

Driving a Superformance 427 Cobra

That said, with respect to you, the reader, I also aspire to be a good steward of these pages. There will be some changes, but invite all of you to reach out when you like or don’t like something, have an interesting idea, or just want to talk cars at a show somewhere. I promise to keep my eyes and ears open for you.

It has been an amazing 50-plus-year ride from that stroller in Elkhart Lake. I’m looking forward to all the new adventures to come.

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Tom Stahler is the Managing Editor of the ClassicCars.com Journal. Tom has a lifelong love of cars and motor racing – beginning with the 1968 USRRC race at Road America, in a stroller, at eight months of age. His words, photos and broadcasts can can be found on a myriad of media. He has won the Motor Press Guild’s Dean Batchelor Award and a Gold Medal in the International Automotive Media Awards.

16 COMMENTS

    • Andy, if anyone understands the care and feeding of a starving automotive journalist, it’s you! Look forward to a play date at Spring Mountain soon!

  1. I couldn’t be more pleased to be the first to leave a comment after just finishing your opening salvo to all who love cars, irrespective of which denomination of the church we happen to occupy. I wouldn’t expect less from you. In disclosure to others, and as a an automotive broadcaster and now video host and producer, I’ve watched your passions grow and your knowledge base expand for a couple of decades and your new position isn’t unexpected for me. But then, I have the advantage of knowing some of the crowd you’ve had access to since you were in Pampers and folks, if he ever opens up about those folks, your jaw will undoubtedly drop.

    I’ve been friends with Larry for damn-near as long as you, as well, and he is to be lauded for his incredible stewardship of our sport and our love. Thank you, sir. You’re a legend in our business and rightfully so. Your successor will do you proud, I’m sure.

    So now, go kick some ass, Tom. And folks, you’re in for a treat.

    • Paul, I think you have had a senior moment… We have known each other for the better part of FOUR decades… Grateful for your friendship and mentorship!

  2. Hi Tom
    The look on your face was me the first time l let my buddy (and fellow professional driver) Peter drive my Bentley Arnage T.
    He drove it exactly the same way l did – up till then, anyway.
    He frightened the life out of me.

    • Well Malcom, you and I can agree on “The Fear Factor!” This photo was taken while I let my co-driver, Jonathan, drive the Superformance 427 Cobra on loan to me for the Targa California. Needless to say I did most of the driving during the three day event… I also get this look on my face when I would ride shotgun with my ex-wife… Cheers! Thanks for reading!

  3. Welcome to the jungle!
    From the tundra of Fargo ND, where this motormoron drives a much massaged manual ’04 GTO year ’round.
    I did buy it to drive, so I do.
    Looking forward to your take on the best addiction ever.
    Happy Christmas and Merry New Year!
    -R

    • Thanks Ryan!Hope while you zoom around the frozen tundra with three pedals, you sometimes take off those driver aids and get opposite lock through the corners! Thanks for the kind words and for reading!

  4. Fantastic summary of the disease we all caught and share in common..the sight, sound and yes smell of cars and trucks that have grabbed our attention throughout our lives. Such as my neighbors 66′ red Vette convertible and his brothers 66" black Mustang GT fastback with the most beautiful sound in the world coming from those megaphone exhaust pipes as he went through the gears down our cul-d-sac. Cars, motorcycles, go karts, airplanes and helicopters "get my motor running" and reading your online articles just stoke the great memories and future wishes of more toys. You are partially to blame for there being no cure, haha. THANK YOU.
    I was an avid reader of all Bob Golfen’s articles back when he wrote for the Arizona Republic.
    Keep up the great work.
    Bruce Haffner
    Pilot/Reporter
    Phoenix Arizona

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