Friday, September 20, 2013

Peter Egan and Side Glances


One of my favorite Saturday rituals is reading Road and Track.  Once a month, for the past twenty odd years, I'll sit down with the latest issue and a cup of coffee and turn immediately to Peter Egan's "Side Glances" column.  This month was no different.  I opened the magazine to his column and begin reading about his latest purchase, a VW Jetta TDI Sportwagen.  That's when I found out he was retiring.

I've been a subscriber of Road and Track for the past 30 years, in large part because of Peter Egan's writing.  The first story I remember reading was about buying an Austin Healey Bugeye Sprite, one which he'd owned previously, and driving it from Wisconsin to California.  After that I was hooked.  Over the years I read about driving a Ferrari Dino in the snow, travel by Ford Model A, and taking a couple of old Cadillacs along the blue highways.  I've followed along as he's rebuilt various cars like MGBs, Lotus Elans, a Porsche 356, and Jaguar E-Type.  He's also owned several modern cars that are on my short list, including a Jaguar XK8 convertible and Porsche Boxster.

What makes Peter Egan's writing so appealing to me is his combination of wit, clean prose, and ability to tell a good story.  He also explains what I find compelling about cars, like this paragraph from a recent column titled "Cars of Occasion":

There's something in most of us (if we're car buffs) that likes owning at least one vehicle whose emergence from the garage makes us feel as if we're rolling out the big guns. It's the automotive counterpart of opening a hangar door and pushing an airplane into the sunlight, a sense that something slightly sacramental is taking place. It doesn't have to be a large or expensive car, as long as it sidesteps the casually assured perfection of the modern SUV, minivan, or family sedan.

Peter Egan has made a career writing about "cars of occasion," and taking vehicles that sidestep the casually assured perfection of the modern car on interesting trips across the back roads of America.  Now he is retiring his regular column, giving him more time to move about and explore.

As I get older, I've grown to appreciate that all good things come to an end.  But like all good things, there are memories to cherish, and in the case of of Peter Egan's writing, 30 years of "Side Glances" and other stories to read and enjoy.          

3 comments:

  1. I couldn't agree more, Mark. Egan is one of the all-time great automotive writers. A "Car Guy's Car Guy". So many stories about his racing career, his formula Fords, getting a new, modern more reliable car like the Jag because "Barb probably needs it", and dipping into the modern (don't forget the Bullit Mustang) only to return to his first love of vintage race cars and British sports cars.

    His retirement is a real loss to the magazine. As all of the car mags have fallen under the same ownership and become more and more homogenous, his columns were one of the last real stand outs.

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  2. Thanks, Eric! I couldn't agree more--I know Car and Driver and Road and Track are owned by the same company, and even seem to feature a lot of the same content every month. But Peter Egan is an original.

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  3. I guess I ran across this rather late but had to comment. Peter Egan's writing, both in Cycle World as well as R&T expressed my feelings about cars and bikes in a way I was unable to. I had my wife read some of his material to try and help her see these machines the way I did (and perhaps understand why we were riding the bus with a Fiat 850 spyder, Triumph Spitfire and a T-100R in the garage). As we've gotten older, those cars and bikes have gone, but my wife loves driving her MX-5, in part because of the prose of Mr. Egan even though she has to park it by boxes of parts that "one day" will be a Luscombe 8. I was saddened when he announced his retirement, its like another friend moving to Florida, and selling his XK120 to finance the trip.

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