When Your Work is Play: A Car Writer’s Story

He didn’t describe it as a regular occurrence, but Steven Ewing did say that racing Volkswagen’s newest hot hatch, the Golf R, over a frozen lake just north of the Arctic Circle in Sweden earlier this year was a perk of his job as a senior editor at Autoblog. Other bonuses include driving Dodge’s three most powerful models from Dallas to Las Vegas in three days, and other trips throughout the nation and world to see and experience the newest things the car world has to offer.

Between trying to keep myself from sounding like a spazzy teenage fan and recording what Ewing was saying to me during our phone interview, I thought I was going to die from jealousy.

Photo courtesy of Steven Ewing.

Photo courtesy of Steven Ewing.

Ewing is a largely self-taught writer and car enthusiast from Detroit, where his passion for everything automotive manifested pretty early on in his life. That’s just how it works in Motor City, apparently.

“I got into cars at an early age,” he said. “When you grow up in and around Detroit like I did, it’s kind of hard not to.”

Everyone has a friend or relative that works with one of the Big Three (Chrylser, Ford and General Motors) that are headquartered there, and attending the Detroit Auto Show was just a part of childhood, Ewing said.

And destiny seemed to be calling him to a career as an auto writer when he was just 12 years old. Ewing was reading Automobile Magazine on the couch one day when his mother walked in and said, “I work there now!” She got a job in the office there and worked with the staff for several years.

“Having a family member in that side of the business was a dream come true,” he said, and he got to meet the staff and see the new cars the writers were testing.

In high school, Ewing was part of the student-run paper and worked on layout and design. He started interning with the Automobile Magazine staff as a teenager, and wrote his first car story when he was 17 about a BMW driving program for teens he participated in.

“When I was learning to drive, [my mother] would teach me on their long-term cars,” Ewing said. He even got some lessons from Jean Jennings, former editor-in-chief and cofounder of Automobile Magazine, when he was learning to drive stick shift. Meeting car writers early on is how he got his foot in the door (and across the sill and into the driver’s seat) in automotive journalism.

Ewing decided to postpone college when he graduated from high school—he had been accepted to a few places, but said that none of them felt right at the time. For a while he managed a Spencer’s at a mall, but a chance to start working in the car business came to him when his mother left Automobile Magazine to work at a different car publication, Winding Road.

Washing cars and answering phones were his first responsibilities at Winding Road, but things changed when the staff let him take a minivan, the Hyundai Entourage, home for the weekend. Ewing wrote what he thought about it in an email to David E. Davis Jr., the editor-in-chief of Winding Road, and they started giving him more cars to drive and chances to write.

In late 2009 Autoblog contacted Ewing about a new writing gig, and he took it. Five years later he is now a senior editor that does a lot of things for the web-only publication. He manages the national schedule of cars that are to be tested, keeps track of required maintenance of Autoblog’s long-term vehicles, edits stories and codes for the website, not to mention driving and writing his own articles.

“I kind of have a jack-of-all-trades role at Autoblog,” Ewing said. That is impressive considering he does not have any formal journalism training, but he just had the “knack for writing and for cars” and chose to chase those passions, he said. And it isn’t lost on him that he is lucky to have found a job completely dedicated to his interests as a car enthusiast.

“I can honestly say that, regardless of the stress and the hours, I firmly believe I have the best job in the world, and I will never take that for granted,” he said. “Everything that’s not perfect about it is totally outshined by how amazing it is.”

Ewing is animated when he describes how learning to drive on frozen Swedish lakes required him to throw out everything he knew about spirited driving. He doesn’t skip a beat when you ask him which of the three Dodge cars he road tripped in is his favorite. (It was the Charger Hellcat, by the way.) It is clear that this stuff doesn’t get boring for him, and that the details matter.

These experiences have been “breathtaking” and “hysterical,” and he said that “flying into the sunset” as he descended from a mountain road earlier this year was more than just managing high speed in a vehicle that isn’t in showrooms yet, which was undoubtedly awesome. But it was also about remembering the beauty of the U.S. and learning to appreciate American vehicles in a new way.

Fifty percent of his job requires managing the fleet of cars in Autoblog’s possession and taking care of other website duties, he said, but it seems that Ewing is putting the remaining 50 percent to good use. He mentioned learning and education a number of times, and what some would only use as a fun road trip in a Dodge Viper earlier this year, Ewing made to something bigger than that.

“I learned a lot about myself and a lot about car control,” he said. “I learned a lot about my limits and the limits of a car.”

Ewing has aspirations to always keep learning and becoming better, always taking something from the editors he has had in the past and putting it into his work.

“You learn something from everyone you talk to,” Ewing said. He even said that he has thought about getting a college degree, although he doesn’t have any immediate plans for that.

And for those interested in breaking into the automotive journalism industry, he said the best thing anyone can do in the meantime is to keep writing—for yourself and for anyone that will publish you.

“Learning to hone your craft and really enjoy it, that’s the best thing, in my opinion, that you can do,” Ewing said. Chase the passion for cars and the determination will be clear in the writing—that is what will make the difference when a job opportunity arises.

Clearly it worked for him.

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