"Er, you guys really need to do a story on my car...."
Depending on the mood you catch us in, the answer to this question can vary from, "Oh, yeah? Why?" to a terse, "Sorry, not interested, even if it is the only '66 two-door twin-Hemi station wagon the factory built." Truth be told, dozens of potential car features are proposed to us every year. Sorting through that group, we save some for the Reader's Rides issue in October, some are used in Bench Racing and PentaSTARS, and some are set aside until the 10th of Never (and that's a long, long time!). Seriously, the following dozen pointers is a guide to making the most of your chances of getting some real feature ink. We can't promise they will always work, but this is what we want when you get ready to pick the phone up...
1. Why, Why, Why?
The truth is, we have a lot of cars on file from previous staff, freelancers, and others. What we need is the "hook;" why your car is special. For example, say you've got a '71 Super Bee. Is it numbers matching, rare options? Completely rebuilt by a family of four? Did it star in the Joie Chitwood Thrill Show circuit? Ordered by a kid who never came home from a tour of duty? What makes your car special from every other '71 Super Bee we see? Every car has a history (including yours), its own unique characteristics, etc., and those things will separate it from the other 5,000 cool '71 B-Bodies out there. Oh, and by the way, truly outlandish tales need to be supported by real documentation.
2. Don't Call Us, Child, We'll Call You...
We get to a lot of shows and events every year, but we can never see it all. This is where your best opportunities come in. Contact us regarding your unique car (you did read part one, right?) and we might be able to hook up with you at an upcoming event to consider it for publication. There are several ways to do this. You can try the phone, but chances are you'll get the voice mail; leave a message or try later. Unfortunately, travel and deadline work sometimes mean these calls are inadvertently overlooked.
A better solution is to e-mail us at email@example.com; we can reply to e-mail directly, and we certainly find out about many cars this way; just be sure to include phone and return e-mail information. Then there is the good ol' U.S. Postal Service; send the information you think is important to Mopar Muscle, 9036 Brittany Way, Tampa, FL 33619 and tell us about your machine.
3. Taking Pictures...
Obviously, you think Mopar Muscle should run photos of your car in the magazine, so in most cases we need to see something before we can commit to anything else if we have not seen the car in person. Take good quality, in-focus images and have them printed in 4x6 format (we don't need 8x10s); if the photos are out-of-focus, poorly exposed, cut off parts of the car, etc., we can't do much with them. Again, what things make your car unique? Say it with pictures. If you choose that new-fangled invention, the Internet, to reach us, make sure the images you send are ones we can open-high-resolution JPEGS are best.
Include extra photos and angles to show the car's attributes; if you are serious about being used as a full feature, we need to see the entire car: exterior, interior, and engine compartment. With mailed prints, be sure to mark them on the backs only with a fast-drying Sharpie so the fronts are not ruined. One final note: We do keep this photography since it is impossible to return it all.
4. Under Construction Department
Building an absolutely killer Pro Street/hot modified? Like Bryan Crenshaw did (his Coronet 500 is on the cover of this issue), forward us pictures of the car even before it is finished. This helps us in a couple of ways. If the project fits our editorial themes, we can plan accordingly to feature it soon after it is completed. It also gives us the ability to see other ways we can develop the story. Regardless, let us know what you are up to; we get a kick out of seeing what is being built out there while we are stuck in the office.
5. It's The Little Things That Count...Under The Hood
There are some things the camera can hide, and some things it cannot; these details can make or break your opportunities for print. Batteries that are dirty or incorrect can be a big problem. Wiring harnesses that look like spaghetti laid across the intake are another. Rusty headers, underhood aftermarket decals on the fenderwells, dirty firewalls, and an unfinished overall appearance can cause us to walk away. The time spent here makes a real difference, and it's a bummer to see a great-looking car at a show only to find out the engine bay is in need of some attention.
6. It's the Little Things That Count...Inside the Cockpit
Although not as critical as the engine compartment, the correct interior detailing can be a great help. Sometimes, even the best show cars can get dirty due to weather and road travel; throw out the fast- food bags and related disposables, use good cleaning products to scrub it out, and have the important things like seatbelts and door skins installed. This is not as critical on race-only cars, but can make or break a restored or modified ride.
7. Show Field Real Estate
Once you are ready to display the car and have entered a show, remember a couple of cardinal rules. Stop back at your car on a regular basis, especially if you have already talked to us and we have expressed interest in seeing it. For us, time is critical at most, if not all, Mopar shows. Often, we will leave a business card or note on the cars we think will work in the magazine with a time we will try to be back. We have had to pass on some great cars because we could not hook up with the owner. If you see us walking around on the show field and feel your car is something we might be interested in, talk to us. More than once, cars we hadn't given a second glance became features because the owner approached us and showed us things about it that were not evident at first.
8. Does This Thing Still Run?
We love cars, right? Cars were made to drive, and one of Mopar Muscle's current philosophies is to have some sort of action photo with a car feature. In the summer, we normally shoot 6:30-9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. to dusk to ensure good lighting. If you don't believe in driving your car except to and from the trailer, chances are it won't get much ink; we are sitting on a lot of car features because it is "just another car" sitting still. That great Mopar iron looks a lot better if you have some photos of it moving, so be willing to wheel it around to a local four-lane so we can get shots that will make you look good.
9. Life Is Just A Dream
Another feature we do is the Dream Drives, which are where you foolishly allow us editorial types to go out and cruise around, drag race, or abuse your car. These features are normally pre-arranged a few months in advance. If you are willing to do this, write or e-mail us the reasons you think your car fits the profile. Since it is called Dream Drive, we try to do these features using cars that most other people have not had a chance to drive. We also try to do these someplace interesting to the readership-Woodward Avenue was a good example. Stunkard and I are still arguing over who gets the wheel time in the first vintage nitro car offered up.
10. Travelin' Man (or Woman)
Unfortunately, there are only so many weekends a year, and frankly, we can't be gone every one of those. One thing that can make a real difference is being able to get the car someplace we might be. We can guarantee we will be at the Mopar Nationals, Carlisle, the six Classic Events, and Spring Fling on the west coast this year; there will be at least another ten shows we will attend in 2002. When contacting us, let us know which events you hope to attend. Be sure to enclose a phone number or e-mail address so we can contact you to confirm the plans as the event gets closer.
11. Drag Fest Showdowns
One special feature we hope to grow in 2002 is the two-out-of-three drag fests like the Hemi four-speed race we featured in March. These are side-by-side, heads-up races, usually between two similar machines. We are open to suggestions on this one, and plan to have at least one such showdown at each of Jeff Johnson's Classic Event shows this year, as well as select other events. We are also tentatively planning to do a pair of multi-car shootouts at Englishtown, New Jersey, sometime this year. Again, e-mail or write us with suggestions. Of course, letting us take the car down the drag strip a time or two never hurts, either!
12. Double Exposure
Finally, have you already contacted another magazine about featuring your car? With the limited number of publications out there, one problem we all suffer from is featuring the same cars. We try to photograph cars that have not been previously done by one of our competitors, so if another magazine has photographed your car, be up front and honest with us about it. In exceptional cases, we will run cars that we know have been selected for features by someone else already, but this is an exception. Kind of like sharing your girlfriend.
A Few Final Notes
* Be patient. It can take from three months to three years before a feature gets used. We normally return the text of any story written about your car so you can proof it. The action photos mentioned in tip number eight go a long way toward expediting the feature.
* Cover features are a unique problem. We do 12 covers a year, and these are subjected to a long approval process. On more than one occasion, a car we had slated for the cover was changed for something more agreeable to this consensus. Don't ask; if it belongs on the cover, it may get there.
* We occasionally get offers of money to feature a car. This is unethical from an editorial standpoint, and we could be summarily dismissed (yeah, that's right, fired) if anyone ever found out. You don't need money to get in Mopar Muscle, just a car that photographs well and a story you think the world wants to hear.
We hope this gives you an understanding of some of the things you can do to increase your chances of seeing your car here in full-color glory for your fifteen minutes of fame. Good luck!