Not long after AW reported launching of The Car Guy TV in Dallas, Texas, questions arose about the whereabouts and activities of the original “Car Guy.” To AW’s best knowledge, that would be Steve Ford, who registered “The Car Guy” as his service mark in 1985 and has used it ever since in print and on radio, TV and the Internet. So AW asked him what’s he been up to and what he is doing with the byline today. His response becomes this month’s Autowriters Spotlight.
Most of my closest lifetime friends have migrated from where we met in our high school auto shop class into careers that could leave someone today wondering how they ever fit into the ‘gearhead’ stereotype. Still, they’re all car guys and into the car hobby to this day.
For me, that teenage passion for cars forged during those impressionable years pointed to an inevitable career path with commercial use of the registered service mark The Car Guy®
From early work as a mechanic just out of high school and into the automotive industry, to the moment I started work as The Car Guy in 1983 to pay for college, to every newspaper or magazine article published, radio or television segment broadcast, convention or keynote speech delivered, technical training seminar or automotive class presented, I have worked to uphold the best of this original title. As a moniker for my byline, it reflects the inspirational education I first received as a teenager reading the enthusiast magazines for which many of you write today.
Generating a part-time income in college from used-car inspections for customers was a perfect fit to allow daytime classes. Meanwhile, writing automotive columns for the school newspaper and delivering car tips on the college radio station, KCSN, also opened a view to broadcast journalism.
A few professors and even some buddies laughed about what seemed too lighthearted in use of “The Car Guy” in an era when the predominant and accepted terms for a car person were “car buff”, “car enthusiast” and “gearhead,” even as being a “car guy” was an emerging new term – among a number of others (including “petrol head” and “motor head” from European car culture).
An attorney told me I should check with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to confirm that I had adopted an original title. He pointed out that this would both respect the right of any prior or similar registrant and help prevent likelihood of confusion for consumers. After a nationwide search to confirm the originality of The Car Guy, following the registration steps, I received USPTO approval for exclusive use of the mark in 1985.
A moment after college, I was fortunate to land at Los Angeles radio station KHJ to become a part-time broadcaster in their ‘Car Radio’ format with daily 60-second car features. From the KHJ radio platform, I began writing local freelance newspaper columns for Santa Monica’s weekly newspaper and later for the daily Santa Monica Outlook, along with new-car commentary for other media outlets, including KNBC TV news. Later employment in automotive advertising and national public relations enabled the good fortune of an increased income, while continued work as a freelance journalist added more automotive writing experience.
An eventual opportunity to become a regular columnist as The Car Guy for the Santa Barbara News-Press opened another door in 1995 when local station NewsTalk KTMS invited me to host a live radio program. A year later a weekly opportunity opened up to deliver The Car Guy TV consumer feature on Santa Barbara’s KEY3-TV News.
When a chance to move to and work in “Motown” arrived, it also provided a series of experiences across five years that included hosting The Car Guy show on radio in the Motor City, while also contributing new-car features and car tips as The Car Guy for Detroit’s FOX2-TV News, as well as freelance work including The Detroit News, MOTOR magazine, Autoweek, The Auto Channel, Green Car Journal and the Copley Newspaper Group, among others. Along the way, I earned an M.A. in Distance Learning through Michigan State University’s night school program.
When my wife and I missed California and returned to the west coast, l was thankful to be hired as The Car Guy by the DIY Network to join Lauren Fix The Car Coach® as co-hosts of a national car-care TV series. In more recent years I‘ve been fortunate enough to have worked for the California Motor Car Dealers Association as a certified ASE Master Automotive Technician traveling throughout the state as an auto industry representative and speaker to thousands of youth in high schools on behalf of the industry and share my career as The Car Guy and encourage them to explore our field through automotive internships.
Meanwhile, through the years since to this moment, I’ve continued hosting the website www.TheCarGuy.com with ongoing articles, audio and video segments along with The Car Guy TV appearances on car care, including consumer tips on the national CBS Early Show.
Today I continue to host The Car Guy radio show weekly from Santa Barbara/Ventura, Calif., on NewsTalk KTMS. In high school I learned that the best rides can’t be bought, they have to be built. And while I’ll be the first to say I stand in the shadow of a titan car guy like Bob Lutz or Jay Leno, so long as these machines we call “symphonies in agitated metal” roar, purr – or even hum electrons, I look forward to continuing as The Car Guy and stay in touch with that inner teenager from auto shop.