How they met
Within minutes of meeting one another at the University of Iowa, the topic of cars surfaced. The car has since been the centerpiece of our friendship now measured in decades. Some guys play golf on Saturdays, others have poker night on Thursdays. We talk about cars throughout the week. Curating and celebrating cars through our website is our favorite pastime.
How We Met
We met the day Jim moved into the dorms at the University of Iowa to start his freshman year. Jared, then a sophomore, had to see who took occupancy of his dorm room from the prior year.
Within minutes of the conversation the topic of cars immediately surfaced and has since consumed the dialogue between us car admirers for what has become a friendship measured in decades, but we've lost count of how many cars we've talked about..
Jared being an only child and Jim the oldest of four with three younger sisters, our friendship started with a conversation about cars. But, quickly turned into a bond that's the closest thing to brothers as we would know.
Why We Started AE
We were both born in the late 1970s, Witnessing so many brands retired in our short lifetimes saddens us. There are countless entertaining stories of so many beloved brands. Many of these stories are at risk of being lost or even worse not fully leveraged for the benefit of each respective brand and the industry as a whole.
We believe the stories we have enjoyed curating are worth sharing to celebrate all that represents the automobile. What started as research our curiosities of the origin of several hood ornaments "marques", quickly snowballed into the 12 Automotive Essentials methodology. Our methodology is a guide for what makes a truly great automotive brand.
We started Automotive Essence, LLC in 2006 to preserve history, display what makes a truly great automotive brand, and celebrate the car.
Q&A: Why Cars?
Jared: As any boy growing up I had a fondness for cars and trucks – or anything with four wheels. I can still remember going on errands with my mom and always wanting another Matchbox or Hot Wheel car as a ‘reward’ for putting in my time. Christmas and birthday gifts were also loaded up with car related items.
For me, the interest went not just into having a lot of toy cars but also knowing what type and model they were. Some received special treatment, while others were tarnished and thrown. For those that received the special treatment, I made sure they survived every wreck or imaginary situation I threw at them. My rally Audi UR Quattro and my Mercedes 500 SEC AMG were always the hero cars.
As I grew older my parent's selection of cars became more of a defining element of my early childhood. We lived in the country and had a steep driveway which demanded four-wheel drive. It started in 1984 with my dad’s first purchase of an Audi 4000s Quattro. This began our lineage with Audi. The ability of those cars to conquer our driveway and other conditions began my fascination with the automobile and their capabilities.
Jim: "Car" was my first spoken word and has been my favorite topic of conversation ever since.
When I was a very young boy, my father recalls me climbing into my maternal grandparents wood-paneled Toyota Camry station wagon to run an errand with him while on vacation in Florida. I immediately noticed the Toyota Camry badge on the passenger side of the dashboard. I said out loud "this is the same car that grandma Anne (my paternal grandmother) has in New Jersey". He was surprised by my brand awareness at the age of 4.
My interest in cars progressed throughout my youth where I was often found pushing my Matchbox Cars in the back yard and later on preferring to read my Automobile, Car & Driver, or Motor Trend magazines than my school books. Quite frankly I absorbed more information in one pass of reading a car magazine than I would in three passes of a school text book. Cars just make sense to me.
During my free time in my high school years, I would wash cars in my neighborhood. With close to 100 clients at my peak, I was fortunate to be able to spend countless hours detailing a wide array of cars. At the age of 16, I received a call from a new customer and in order to ensure his vehicle would be processed timely, I asked what size car he wanted me to clean. He responded flatly, "it's a Ferrari". Not just any Ferrari but a charcoal on tan 308 GTS. I met the customer at the requested pickup location and after orienting me to the car, he tossed me the keys and said "have fun". My appreciation for each car I cleaned was only surpassed by my diligence to please each customer I served. "Have fun" in my mind was responsibly driving this vintage Ferrari to my parent's driveway and studying all of its visual appeal ensuring it was returned in the best condition possible. The customer was pleased, so much so that I replaced his other car detailer (3 times my age) and then had the privelege of also taking care of his limited production Mercedes-Benz 300E, Buick Grand National, and an all blue Stillen Chevrolet Tahoe.
The automobile is an amazing machine, transporting its passengers to where ever they need to go, engineered to keep them safe at a variety of speeds and conditions, and designed uniquely that is often an extension of the owner's personality.
Q&A: Car Highlights?
Jared: Growing up with Audis has given me a great affinity towards the brand. Starting in high school my first car was a 1987 Audi 5000s Quattro. It was a straight 5-cylinder with a manual transmission. I learned a great deal of respect for driving a manual transmission early on with my parent’s vertical driveway. This car also survived my teenage driving throughout high school, which is no small feat.
Since then my car ownership has been a laundry list of Audi’s: 1993 Audi 100, 1996 Audi A6, 2004 Audi A6 s-line, and another 2004 Audi A6 s-line. And just-for-fun opposites: a 2004 Mini Cooper and a 2007 Suburban LTZ.
My other experiences have run the gamut. I find excitement in the rarity of being able to drive an exotic like Ferrari or Bentley. However, some of the cars that are equally interesting are those with a great story attached to them. Trucks with more rust than paint because the owner finds it a challenge to keep it running, to the well cared for high miler looking to see the next 100,000 tick by on the odometer.
Jim: I currently enjoy driving a 2011 BMW 335is special edition coupe with a dual-clutch transmission. My first BMW and a true joy every time behind the wheel. If I'm with my family, I love riding together in our 2016 GMC Yukon Denali.
Two Toyota Camrys, one in New Jersey and one in Florida, referenced above.
Three Chevrolet Suburbans, consecutive family cars, and the vehicle I first learned to drive.
Three Ford Mustang GT 5.0s (1989, 1994 & 2011). My father sold cars at Bronx Ford to help pay for his college education while he attended Fordham University, and later proceeded into the Ford Motor Company Executive Development program. Needless to say he often had a Ford Mustang 5.0 in the garage.
A 1947 British racing green MG TC and a 1976 British racing green MG B. My Father enjoyed restoring these two classics. He outsourced the restoration of the engine and drivetrain to a neighbor, who was a mechanic. The mechanic said he needed to test drive the MG TC to ensure it was working properly. Since my dad was out of town he asked me to help. As a result, I learned to drive a right-hand driver manual transmission car, at the age of 13.
Of course, the Ferrari 308 GTS already mentioned. And that reminds me of another car detailing customer who asked me to detail his brand new black on black Mercedes-Benz 600SL V-12 roadster only a week after purchasing it.
My first car I ever purchased was a 2002 Nissan Maxima, one of the last models built in Japan before relocating production to Smyrna, Tennessee.
A Pontiac Grand Am SE that I drove to and from high school...in Eden Prairie, Minnesota.
And I detailed and drove over a hundred different vehicles and several models from within a variety of brands ranging from Audi, BMW, Buick, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Harley Davidson, Infiniti, Jeep, Lexus, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Oldsmobile, Toyota, Volkswagen, just to name a few.
Q&A: Goals for AE?
Jared: My passion for cars comes from seeing something which has for over 100 years made an impact on our human existence and society. Every one of us can identify what a car is, but it is my hope that through this website people can come to understand what a car means. Automotive Essence is just that – the essence of what it means to relate to the automobile.
Jim: My appreciation for and interest in learning about cars is insatiable. I have been fortunate to have many fond memories of cars, having driven a wide array of brands, and experiencing events such as the 2001 Monaco Grand Prix and all there is to admire about cars in Monte Carlo, Monaco.
Over my entire lifetime I have seen several great brands continue to excel not just in manufacturing vehicles, the focal point of many childhood dreams, but, execute branding excellence on top of making a great set of cars. The stories in the industry of brand execution done well are stories I like hearing and I enjoy sharing.
Witnessing so many brands retired in my short lifetime alone also saddens me. The stories that those brands created, that became fond memories for their fans, and they are at risk of being lost or even worse not leveraged for the future benefit of the industry is worrisome. This drives me to capture these stories of successes and challenges and in the process curate cars and celebrate them here.
I look forward to collaborating with other automobile admirers and increase the appreciation for what the car represents and what it means to people.