Right now, there are dozens of people in your office you’re not spending enough time with. You know them, you nod at them in the hallways and sometimes hold the door when they leave the building. That’s the kind of relationship I had with Lesley, who worked in the composing room at one of my former papers.
We became Facebook friends, and I know way more about her now than I did back then. Like how she knows everything about cars, and is a really good artist. And how she draws pictures of cars. And how she writes about them for newspapers.
I don’t know anything about cars, so that’s what we talked about.
I thought girls didn’t like cars?
You’ve been hanging around the wrong kind of girls. There are more and more women getting involved in the automotive industry. Whether you’re a fan of hers or not, Danica Patrick has done a lot to raise awareness of women in racing. As far as auto journalism goes, seven or eight years ago I might have been the only female on an otherwise all-male press trip. Today it’s probably 20 per cent women journalists.
Does anyone ever give you a hard time cause you’re not a dude when you’re trying to do your job?
Not now. Most people in the car industry are a bit too politically savvy to think that way, or if they do, they’re smart enough to hide it well. When I was a bit younger and starting out, I banged heads with a few stereotypical chauvinist blockheads at local shows and dealerships. The nice thing about becoming “more mature” is that you develop an attitude of “don’t even think of fucking with me.” That’s like Kryptonite to bullies.
Are your friends into cars too?
Years ago, I had a monster engine installed in my pickup truck. The thing sat on an engine stand in the mudroom off my kitchen for two years while I figured out what performance parts I was going to buy. My friends rolled their eyes in exasperation. When it was finally completed, I was driving home a vocally non-automotive younger friend, when a carload of guys pulled up beside us voicing their appreciation of the motor’s loud and lopey idle. It happened again a few blocks later, a different set of guys. My friend sat in silence, then finally said “OK, Wimbush, I’m riding with you more often.”
What’s the fanciest thing you’ve ever driven?
I guess that depends on how you define fancy – by far the greatest number of propositions yelled from patios and truck windows came while I was in the Audi R8. At that time there were only three in Canada. I was actually followed around town by people holding their cell phones out the window to take pictures. But driving Toronto’s new $1-million aerial fire truck ranks right up there too. And while behind the wheel of a DeLorean I received thumbs-up from all kinds of people – old guys, young guys, families with kids. It was a wheezy old bugger with almost non-existent brakes, and the gullwing doors were a little on the flaccid side, but that car had undeniable presence.
If you could be a car, what kind of car would you be?
That is a hard question. So many choices. I’m not enough of a diva to answer “Ferrari” and I like to think I’m a bit more refined than your average muscle car (although I do love them). No British cars, since I have all my parts and they all work. I have aspirations of sportiness and can occasionally be, if not high-maintenance, then at least finicky. So maybe a BMW M3, an Audi RS4 or on a good hair day, Acura NSX.
How much do you actually know about them? Like, do you know what a crankshaft is? Because I can’t say it without laughing.
Yes, I actually do know what a crankshaft is. I’m no mechanic, but I have three vehicles and do most of the maintenance on them. The big stuff I’m smart enough to turn over to my mechanic. You probably saw me in the parking lot at the newspaper, sitting cross-legged in the engine bay of my pickup truck, grease up to the elbows and swearing like a sailor. The industry is evolving so rapidly it’s hard to keep your knowledge up-to-date, particularly when it comes to hybrid technology and electric vehicles. And the level of gadgetry is astounding – as well as personal device and sound integration, some of the new safety technology was actually developed in fighter jets. It’s exciting, but a bit daunting to try to keep on top of it all.
You’ve raced around tracks against the clock – what’s that like?
Imagine the biggest thrill you’ve ever had, clothed or unclothed, illicit or otherwise… and multiply it by ten. For me, nothing tops the rush of navigating a technically difficult track like Mosport and doing it correctly. It’s extremely challenging mentally to remember the proper entry and exits point of each the many turns, while at the same time keeping the car balanced and shifting in the right spots. Very humbling, there’s great potential of looking like a complete dork.
The fastest I’ve ever driven was 245 km/hr. I’m not telling you where.