Portfolio

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About Me
Résumé
Selected Writings
Adventures in Automotive Nerdery
Barn Finds
The Ultimate Classic
ASD Resources
Contact

About Nathan Avots-Smith

I’m a lifelong car nerd. It actually runs in my family: my great-great-grandfather sold Mitchells and Hudsons from 1915 to 1952, and my grandfather was a longtime member and sometime president of the Society of Automotive Historians. I was spotting the differences between badge engineered Oldsmobiles, Pontiacs, and Buicks from my car seat as a wee, barely verbal baby and my preferred bedtime story as a toddler was the owners’ manual from my grandparents’ ’59 Volkswagen Transporter. The obsession has just always been there, so all I can do is figure out how best to lean into it.

Of course, anyone can say they eat, sleep, and breathe cars, but I have an unfair advantage; as an individual on the autism spectrum, my love for things with wheels is literally diagnosable! When I say I’m a born car nut, I really mean it. This also contributes to my focus and savant-like ability to quickly produce meticulously crafted content while bringing a distinctive perspective to my audience. I’ve included links toward the bottom of this page to some resources that might take some of the mystique out of hiring and working with me or other individuals on the spectrum.

I spent a couple of years as curator of an automotive museum, and while I’ve since moved on to other things in my 9-to-5 life, I still love researching and telling stories about cars, especially if I can find an interesting cultural, historical, personal, artistic, economic, or technological context to place them into. Cars are designed by people and built for our world and they reflect that in endlessly fascinating ways! Over the past year-plus, I’ve been able to channel this passion through writing for my own site and contributing as a Staff Writer to Barn Finds and as a West Coast Correspondent for The Ultimate Classic, the publication of the BMW Classic Car Club of America.

Below you can find a little bit about my experience, peruse a few samples of my writing, and find out how to get in touch with me.


Résumé

Expertise

Bringing the world of the automobile—and the automobile’s place in our world—to life for broad audiences, incorporating a deep passion for all things automotive and a distinctively knowledgeable and witty voice into clear, concise, and engaging content; balancing fast-paced priorities and projects to meet deadlines, always with an eye for exceptional quality and accuracy.

Skills

WordPress (hello!); Basic HTML and CSS; Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign (to CC); Social media: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, bit.ly, IFTTT; Digital and conventional photography and photo editing

Experience

Adventures in Automotive Nerdery—Writer/Editor/Photographer, August 2016-Present

Jump to samples.

Barn Finds—Staff Writer, July 2017-Present

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The Ultimate Classic—West Coast Correspondent, November 2017-Present

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East Bay School for Boys—Advancement and Strategic Initiatives Director, August 2014-Present

Working daily on fast-paced, deadline-driven programs, including writing all fundraising materials and developing outreach materials, while keeping an eye on long-term institutional goals. Project management of large-scale initiatives, including developing and maintaining a feature-rich, WordPress-based parent informational portal. Primary copyeditor for public-facing materials and keeper of the institutional “voice.”

California Automobile Museum—Curator, October 2010-November 2012

Researched, wrote, and executed an average of seven special exhibitions per year; rewrote and redesigned all exhibition materials in a permanent exhibition spanning six galleries in less than a year, developing and consistently applying an institutional voice and style; wrote, proofread, and/or copyedited all exhibition press materials.

Languages

English (native), German (proficient)

Education

MA, Museum Studies, The George Washington University, 2010

BA, Historic Preservation/German, University of Mary Washington, 2007


Selected Writings

Adventures in Automotive Nerdery

I started Adventures in Automotive Nerdery in August 2016 as a place to channel my automotive obsession and hone my writing skills. Along the way, I’ve gotten to expand my automotive palate with amazing new behind-the-wheel experiences; I’ve cultivated relationships with folks doing awesome things in the automotive world; I’ve availed myself of industry media resources to hone my insights and elevate the quality of my content; and I’ve learned a few content management, social media, and other tech tricks along the way. In addition to the selections below, please feel free to peruse my entire archive here.

All photography is by me, except where credited otherwise.

Whiz-Bang KidIn which I put a 2017 Mercedes-Benz E300 to the test and assess how its embrace of tech reflects its maker’s changing place in the luxury car landscape.

…It can also dance in ways that its predecessors weren’t engineered to. This is the upside of computerization; while puttering in the stop-and-go of San Francisco, I navigated through the COMAND infotainment system to set the steering, transmission, and suspension to their “Comfort” and “Eco” settings, giving the car a relaxed, efficiency-oriented character in those crowded confines. As we motored south down the peninsula into more open territory, I switched to the “Sport” and “Sport+” settings, which subtly but perceptibly woke the car up. The turbo four growled happily under acceleration, which proved more than adequate when the passing lane beckoned. The car’s grip through hairpin and sweeping curves alike, culminating in just a hint of oversteer in this rear-driven example, was confidence inspiring and even fun—a word that doesn’t really apply to the sternly competent driving character of the W124. Also a confidence booster when things get twisty: the adaptive seat bolsters, which hold the driver’s body in place by pushing counter to the gravitational forces generated under cornering, eliminating the feeling of flailing about that can inhibit zesty driving when the seats aren’t up to a car’s capabilities.

Nobody said superfluous whizbangery was all bad. The massage was aces, too. [more…]

 

A Visit to EV West and Zelectric Motors and The Silent TypeIn which I pay a visit to San Diego retro-electromobility wizards Zelectric Motors and their partner EV West, and get treated to rides in a few electrified classics.

…Despite the greenie cred generated by all of these kilowatts, the guys at EV West are first and foremost speed freaks. They rose to prominence setting a record for a street-legal EV on Pikes Peak with a 700-horsepower, nearly 900-lb.-ft. BMW M3, and were the first to run an electric racer in the grueling Baja 1000. Just a hint of the maniacal madman can be seen here in Mike Bream’s grin as he shows off this Baja Bug’s dual electric motors. [more…]

 

 

…At a stoplight, we pull up next to a woman in a Tesla Model X. “She probably has no idea,” David muses.

She is almost certainly unaware of how closely related this car is to hers: the Zelectric 911’s 180 miles of range come courtesy of a 54 kilowatt-hour (kWh) battery pack comprised of compact, energy-dense lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery cells from a Tesla Model S. The majority of these cells reside in the front luggage compartment—trading away some of the Porsche’s already meager trunk space for a slight improvement in weight distribution—while the engine compartment is host to a pair of three-phase AC motors generating 140 kilowatts (kW), or about 180 horsepower. More impressive is the 214 lb.-ft. of torque, a 60 lb.-ft. improvement over the 911’s original 2.3-litre flat six, and while that mill had to get up to 5200 RPM to generate maximum twist, all of the Zelectric motor’s torque is instantly available. [more…]

 

In Appreciation of Jan WilsgaardIn which I pause to remember an unsung icon of the automotive industry upon his passing.

…New York-born Wilsgaard, who grew up in Norway then fled to Sweden with his family during the Second World War, was just 20 years old in 1950 when he was plucked from his studies in Art and Design in Gothenburg, Sweden, to become head of Volvo’s new design department. Among his first assignments was to perfect the design of the windows for the new PV445 Duett station wagon, foreshadowing the extent to which the wagon variants of his designs would become the company’s iconic products over the course of his tenure.

His first major accomplishment at Volvo, the Amazon, was only the second postwar model developed by the company, and continued the American design inspiration of the 7/8ths-scale 1942 Ford look of its companion model, the PV444; while the Amazon bore an uncanny resemblance to the 1955-56 Chryslers, Wilsgaard himself said that its styling was inspired by a Kaiser he had seen at the Gothenburg harbor. [more…]

 

I’m Indexing Every Issue of Road & Track Because I Am a Crazy PersonIn which…well, it’s pretty self-explanatory. Post includes an embedded Airtable database of my own design.

 

Barn Finds

Writing for Barn Finds generally means following a pretty strict formula, and many posts on the site stick to straightforward recitation of facts about the featured vehicle. The selections below highlight ways that I’ve played with the formula: using an historical vehicle to contextualize an emerging technology; linking a ’70s custom to one of the top names in today’s aftermarket; drawing from my trove of terrible pop culture references; and having fun, finding sheer joy in the subject matter or even taking on an entirely different voice. My Barn Finds author page may be found here.

Note that none of this photography is mine—all are pulled from the classified ads for the vehicles in question.

Workaholic’s Dream: 1967 Imperial Crown Mobile Director

…One of the things about the coming autonomous car revolution (commencing comment section freakout in 3, 2, 1…) that bugs me is the idea that if we don’t have to focus on driving, we can devote that extra time in our day to working and being productive. Not to knock being hard-working and industrious, but considering what we’re paid for them, I think average Americans give too dang much of themselves to their jobs, and the idea of giving over even more of our precious personal time—hey, I don’t love traffic, but at least I can listen to the radio, or be with my own thoughts for a while—to work even more than we already do seems like a symptom of misplaced priorities. We convince ourselves that we always need to be busy, always need to be available to work even more when, let’s face it, 99.9% of us aren’t curing cancer, and our families and personal passions need our time, too—and our souls need that time to maintain balance. This is far from a new phenomenon in our culture, however, and for proof, reader Rocco B. has shared with us this 1967 Imperial Crown Coupe with the rare Mobile Director option package, aimed squarely at the Mad Men-era workaholic. [more…]

 

Proto-AeroWagen: 1974 Corvette Shooting Brake

…Have you seen the sexy new Callaway AeroWagen shooting brake conversion for the C7 Corvette? It adds striking style, greater cargo capacity, and improved aerodynamic efficiency to any new ‘Vette—but at a cost of $14,990 for the conversion, on top of the price of the car, which means that even appended to a stripper 2017 Stingray, the whole package would run you at least $71,435. For far less—and only a little more than the cost of the AeroWagen kit alone, which, let’s face it, is just a new hatch—you could be rolling in this even more unique 1974 Corvette sports wagon restomod, listed for $19,995 on craigslist in Lynn, Massachusetts. [more…]

 

Marcia’s Big Block: 1974 Chevrolet Caprice Classic

…The seller of this clean, original ’74 Caprice Classic convertible wants to talk about how it’s one of 600 such cars equipped with the 454-cubic inch V8, and I hate to derail a good conversation, but, man, all I can see when I look at this car is Marcia Brady beating her stepbrother Greg in the world’s slowest slalom in an identical car on The Brady Bunch. If you ever wanted to walk (or drive, I guess) a mile in her chunky-heeled platform mules, here’s your chance! [more…]

 

 

Don’t Come a-Knocking: 1976 Dodge Tradesman

…Up front, things continue in the same shagtastic vein, with sweet foot-shaped pedals, perfectly suited to when the cops show up and you have to boogie before you have time to put your shoes back on. And boogie you can, thanks to a complete refurbishment of all mechanical systems, including the Dodge 318 V8 and automatic transmission, since the van was recently awakened from a 30-year disco nap. The custom paintwork is a little more faded on the passenger side than the driver’s side, but unless you can find a true artisan to recreate it, I think I’d leave it alone, so perfect is its originality. If any of you have memories of your vannin’ past, you weren’t really there be sure to regale us in the comments! [more…]

 

Labor, Schmabor: 1984 Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit

…Where’s Driver today? What, a holiday? Oh, bother. Labor Day? Ridiculous! All the labor I do, creating jobs and trickling down and what have you, and now I have to drive myself? Oh well, let’s do pop out and pick up something a bit more manageable to drive, shall we; something like this 1984 Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit (you know, the regular wheelbase model). I think I can fish the $9,750 asking price out of the change cup in the walk-in humidor, and besides, we’ll be getting rid of it tomorrow anyway, when Driver gets back. [more…]

 

The Ultimate Classic

The SoCal Vintage BMW MeetOriginally published in the Winter 2017 issue.

…The 2002 remains the backbone of vintage BMW events like this, and they were out in force—only matched in turnout by the E30 3-series, representing a new generation of now-vintage BMW enthusiasts. The 2002s encompassed the spectrum from crusty survivors to immaculately preserved originals to every possible degree of modification, including one car that was hiding a heart transplanted from a Honda S2000, although there was no masking the sound as it sped away at the end of the day. The star that took home the Best 02 award was Greg Lennox’s beautiful 1974 Turbo. The E30s, with the exception of some of the M3s, were more or less all modified to some degree, ranging from simple wheel swaps all the way to full ’80s-excess body kits. [more…]

 

Selling a Bav on BaTScheduled for publication in the Spring 2018 issue.

…A BaT auction runs seven days and, let me tell you, it is agonizing. I suppose if you have a real high-ticket item, bidding might start right away and remain lively throughout, but I felt a rising panic that my car was just sitting there getting no action. There were a good number of comments on the post, all of which were positive about my car and about E3s in general, but few of which indicated any interest in actually buying the car. By the final morning of the auction there were just three bids and the reserve still hadn’t been met. [more…]

 


ASD Resources


Contact

nathan@autonerdery.com