The most exciting news of my collegiate career

I came to MU with the goal of becoming an automotive journalist. While there isn’t an emphasis area geared toward cars, I thought that I’d have the opportunity to write automotive stories in many of my classes. While I’ve managed to squeak a car story by my editors every once in awhile, I’ve been a little disappointed that I haven’t been able to focus solely on my passion. That’s all about to change next semester. While the designated capstone course for the news reporting emphasis area is “Journalism and Democracy,” I didn’t really feel that it was the right fit for me. Usually, that class involves working in a group to cover a topic selected in class. The odds of that being anything automotive related was slim to none. Consequently, I started looking at other capstone courses to see what else was out there. Then I found out about the advanced writing capstone course offered in the Magazine sequence. The professor, Berkley Hudson, said I’d be able to spend the entire semester writing stories about cars. It was a dream come true and the dream I envisioned when I decided to come to the Missouri School of Journalism. This is the perfect opportunity to use all that I’ve learned in my intermediate writing, multimedia, photography and convergence classes and apply it to my true passion — writing about cars.

I’ve already started to brainstorm some of the projects that I would like to create next semester, so I’ll give you a small preview of what I’m thinking about. While it’s not uncommon for me to have my nose buried in various automotive rags such as Motor Trend or Car and Driver, I get a little depressed sometimes as a poor college student knowing that I won’t be able to afford any of the cars I’m reading about until many years into the future. Yes, that includes even a base model Ford Fiesta. I’m sure that I’m not the only person in the world to feel this way. There are many others in the world that burn with a need for speed and world-class handling, but their pocketbooks simply won’t allow it. I’m here to tell you that the preconceived notion that you need a lot of money to have a car that’s show and track-worthy is simply not true. That’s why I’d like to create “Stop Dreaming and Drive,” an online publication that highlights inexpensive, underappeciated performance that that can be modified to exceed the level of modern-day machines for less than $10,000.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve never been one to go with the crowd. When my friends were driving Mustangs, Camaros and Chevy Silverados during high school, I was cruising in a 1969 Buick Skylark Gran Sport that I built with my dad. We purchased it for $2,900 when I was 12-years-old and spent the next five years using my savings to restore the interior and replacing the tired 350-cubic-inch V8 with a rebuilt 455-big-block engine.

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Buick GS Interior

By the time it was ready for me to drive, I had less than $6,000 in a car that could outperform nearly everything in the parking lot at less than one-fourth the price. I loved having a one-of-a-kind performance vehicle that stood out from the rest, and my goal is to show others how easily it can be done without breaking the bank. After graduating high school and deciding to attend college nearly four hours away in Columbia, I knew that I’d have leave my ’69 behind, and I didn’t want all of my tuition savings to go in the gas tank and out the tail pipe. At 14 miles per gallon on the highway downhill with a tail wind, driving back and forth to Columbia in my ’69 would have been the equivalent of setting fire to a Texas-sized oil field.

Since retiring it from daily use, it now serves as my summer cruiser that sees occasional track time at Ozarks Raceway Park in Rogersville, Missouri. During my last visit, it outran a C5 Corvette Z06 in the the eighth-mile which proves the point I so desperately want to get across. You don’t have to have a lot of money or a name brand sports car to go fast and have fun. With basic mechanical skills, a good performance platform and a little help from “Stop Dreaming and Drive,” you can finally build the car of your dreams without exceeding your budget. If you’re dying to find out the car that replaced my ’69 for daily-driving use, check back in next Saturday to see my next project. Oh, and just a hint, it’s definitely not a Toyota Prius.

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