Our Two Cents: Automotive heroes we’d like to be


The mission of Our Two Cents has been to seek enrichment from our staff of automotive professionals/enthusiasts on a variety of topics. Clearly, we have a diverse background, so why not put it to good use for everyone’s benefit?

For this episode, we asked our staff a very pointed question: If you could be one person from Automotive History, who would it be?

Dwight D. Eisenhower

hmdb.org | Jason Voigt

Managing Editor Stefan Lombard started us in a good, yet unexpected direction. We all like Ike, especially when we hop on the interstate to enjoy his 1956 creation for public enjoyment and national security. As Stefan said:

“The staggering number of staggering automotive personalities is, uh, staggering. But for some reason I keep coming back to Dwight D. Eisenhower. He’s the Supreme Allied Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force one day. And he’s Head Honcho of the American Interstate System the next. The guy won a war and then paved the way for hundreds of millions of us to explore this magnificent country. Not a bad legacy!”

Enzo Ferrari

Enzo Ferrari cockpit portrait high angle
ISC Archives/CQ-Roll Call Group

David Zenlea, Managing Editor, gives us multiple reasons to be Enzo Ferrari. Can’t disagree with any of them!

“I’d be Enzo. For all the misty eyed reasons but also because Italy in the mid-twentieth century seems like a great place to be rich, famous, and powerful. Think of the food. The wine! The villas!”

Burkhard Goeschel

Dr. Burkhard Goeschel BMW 645Ci convertible 2004 detroit debut
Jeffrey Sauger/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Executive Editor Eric Weiner dug deep into BMW’s corporate machinations behind one of his favorite machines. And he found a very interesting person in BMW history:

“First, let me state that I don’t know that I’d want to be any of the people in the next sentence. But that said, I’d love to have been a fly on the wall in the boardroom when Burkhard Goeschel was selling BMW’s board on the Z3M Coupe. He had to explain that it was going to be as affordable as possible to adapt from the roadster, and I suspect he may have gone light on details about the ultimate design.”

David Scott


Senior Editor Brandan Gillogly has once again thrown us a delicious curveball, as he decided on the man who first drove on the moon!

“My first thoughts on this subject included some notable racing milestones. Mickey Thompson had a number of great feats, including running in excess of 400 mph at Bonneville in 1960 and driving a 427 Corvette at Daytona in 1963, but I think one of the coolest “firsts” goes to David Scott.

During the Apollo 15 mission, Astronaut David Scott became the first person to drive on the Moon when he piloted the Lunar Roving Vehicle, serious bragging rights. Pick up the pace Neil, we’ve got lunar landscapes to see!”

Shigeru Uehara


Editor Nathan Petroelje picked one heckuva automotive engineer, who has made an impact on so many vehicles…and many writers.

“I’m a sucker for a high-revving four-cylinder engine in a lightweight car that wants to pick fights with expensive exotics, so naturally, the original Acura Integra Type R is a hero of mine. The man behind it, Shigeru Uehara, is responsible for some of Honda’s greatest machines, including the Type R, but also the S2000 and the NSX. To have his tuning ability, and to be able to experience the first time that he got each of these cars ‘right’ would be incredible.”

Steve McQueen

Steve McQueen on Triumph Motorcycle Germany
Bettmann Archive via Getty Images

Editor Bryan Gerould picked a person near and dear to many of our hearts, but his reasoning put a unique spin on why it would be so great to be Steve McQueen:

“The aura of Steve McQueen and his life is undeniable. From The Great Escape to Bullitt to Le Mans, spending my years on earth as the leading man of some of the most iconic films in automotive history would’ve been one hell of a way to go.

Afforded the gift of knowing how memorable some scenes ultimately became, this answer is obvious for me. Plus I would’ve gotten a front-row seat watching stuntman Bud Ekins do his thing and marvel at the dude’s daring. Not a bad day at work.”

Sam Smith

Sam Smith portrait
Kyle Van Hoften

Yes indeed, our Editor at Large Sam Smith, answered this question by wanting to be himself. But that’s not the candid feedback of an egomaniac, quite the contrary:

I don’t want to be someone else, I want to be me…but with a time-travel machine. I will go back to watch/help/participate in about three thousand separate moments. Not only motorsport or engineering—that’s just the stuff top of mind:

  • Nuvolari’s win at the Ring in 1935 against the Nazis.
  • The moment the first Model T rolled off the line.
  • The day Dan Gurney won at Spa in an F1 car of his own design and build.
  • When Harry Miller met Leo Goossen.
  • The day Carroll Shelby realized Phil Remington was a genius.
  • The day Pete Brock and John Morton and the BRE Datsun 510 team lost, then won, at Laguna Seca, in 1971.
  • The first time Bonnie and Clyde left a bank robbery in a Ford V-8.
  • When Gordon Murray first drove a McLaren F1. When Paul Rosche first ran an S70/2 on the dyno. And on, and on, and on…

Carroll Shelby

Carroll Shelby portrait
Bernard Cahier/Getty Images

Steven Cole Smith, our Special Projects Editor, has met a fair number of automotive celebrities in his career. Perhaps that’s precisely why Carroll Shelby is his pick of the litter:

“Bob Lutz is a possibility, Phil Hill and Dan Gurney are others, but despite all his personal travails, including heart transplants, the man I saw having the most fun was Carroll Shelby. He was a slippery fellow in business dealings, sure, but he leaves a lasting legacy that will outlive us all. And I look good in a cowboy hat.”

Anonymous engineers?


Senior Video Lead Ben Woodworth knows what he likes, but not necessarily who was behind those things. Wouldn’t it be great if we could learn about someone who made the products that had such an impact on the esteemed Mr. Woodworth?

“I don’t know much about the people behind any of the vehicles I covet. Maybe I need to watch more Jason Cammisa Revelations episodes on YouTube? (You are the king of cross promotion. Now get them to talk about me! – SM) 

Anyway, most of the old cars I love are late-80s to mid-90s Hondas and Toyotas. So perhaps the person I’d choose is whomever designed Toyota’s All-Trac system. Or Honda’s RT4WD system. Or maybe the person who designed the wagons and vans those systems went into? I don’t know, as my mom always told me I should just be happy being me!”

Terry Fullerton


Senior Editor Eddy Eckart gives us a deep cut into the world of automotive motorsport:

“I’d like to be Terry Fullerton during his tussles with Ayrton Senna on the kart track in the late ’70s. To grasp the talent it took to regularly beat Senna in the purest form of the sport, if only for a moment, boy, that’d be something.”

Tony Kuchta

Not pictured, Tony Kuchta. Ford

I am inclined to pick people in the same vein as Nathan Petroelje and Eric Weiner, but I generally prefer folks who are even harder to Google. Putting my money where my mouth is, here’s my story on the work of Dennis Foerschler. Stories like these are likely to never wind up in a social media mention, a PR-blessed story, or a magazine article. And that’s a shame, as such automotive professionals deserve much better.

That’s where Tony Kuchta comes into focus. Rumor has it that Ford made Kuchta take early retirement because of his team’s collective failures in the design and implementation of the 1989 Ford Thunderbird. As this book suggested, the oversized, overbudgeted Thunderbird needed a corporate scapegoat, and it would be both heartbreaking and enlightening to walk a mile in that man’s shoes. The questions I would ask myself, had I earned this opportunity:

  • What did/does he feel when passing by a 1989–97 Ford Thunderbird or Mercury Cougar on the street?
  • Is he tempted to pry off every Ford blue oval he sees in a Walmart parking lot?
  • Where/how did he find solace?
  • Did he bounce back from this setback?
  • Did the experience make him a better person, eventually?
  • If he could do anything differently, would he?

These questions are a touch more personal for me, as I’ve been a victim of scapegoating in a past career. Over time I realized the experience made me a better manager, a kinder person, and hopefully a more compassionate individual in my personal relationships. I would like to know exactly what Tony Kuchta did when faced with similar circumstances, and I suspect I am not alone.

Whose shoes would you want to walk a mile in? Or maybe drive 100 miles? Let us know in the comments below.




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    The question needs clarification before I’ll answer: does it mean who would I be ‘and still be alive today’? Or does it mean who would I be ‘and lived when he/she lived and likely be dead now’? Context matters… 😋

    Context kinda doesn’t matter, because we keep it open ended to ensure we don’t constrain the answers! Answer it in the context you see fit!

    Oh, okay. Then I want to be George Jetson, so I can drive a big, bubbletop flying car and soar above all the traffic snarls, speed traps, potholes, and other cares of the day, and then it snaps up into a briefcase (light enough to carry) when I get to my destination!

    I would have liked to be Dr. Fred Simeone…
    World-class neurosurgeon, author, ultimate “car guy”and founder of the Simeone Museum. I’d be the owner of THE Daytona Coupe, The Bugatti “Tank”, two Ford GT40 LeMans winners, many Mille-Miglia trophy winners, and a world class personality to match his cars.

    Not sure who I would have wanted to be.

    If a racer you experienced death and injury.

    If a Corporate giant you suffered failure.

    Designers often struggled vs companies and or had ego issues.

    For every great that hit the high in the industry most suffered an equal low to counter it.

    Porsche, Shelby, Ford, Ferrari, Foyt, Durant, Dodge, Clark, etc.

    Nearly every car or racer hero has faced good and bad in their time and all did not glitter.

    I am going to have to think on this.

    Right now Mario may be one I would like to fallow as he has had minimal lows. Yes many close Indy wins but he did win one.

    The loss of his wife, twin brother and a team mate are his major lows

    But the one I would I would like to have swapped shoes with would be Dan Gurney.

    Dan really did it all. He won, avoided injury and built some incredible cars. He did just about all could do and remained a total class act till he passed at a ripe old age.

    He was on of the nicest people I ever met in racing proving nice guys do finish first.

    I would like to have been him not for the accomplishments but for the the person he was.

    Thank you hyperv6, any such list that does not include the legendary and incredibly talented Dan Gurney is beyond incomplete.

    Smokey Yunick. You have to wonder how much fun he had coming up with ways to bend the rules and see if he can get away with it. P!us I love Chevelles.

    Smokey would have been my pick too. Those Omni’s with horsepower and gas mileage. Something that wasn’t supposed to work.

    Nailed it! A life well lived and lived well beyond 9 lives. Would love to have been him, then conservative married for 52 years me in the afterlife.

    Another Jay Leno.

    To be able to have the way and means to just enjoy all types of motoring history and to work on them daily.

    Also how he shares his passion with others.

    Two that come to mind, one shown above – Carroll Shelby, and the other not mentioned – Smokey Yunick.

    I’ve never really wanted to be someone else, but forced to chose, I’d still be hard-put to chose between these two.
    (and for the moderator – if you saw me hunt and peck you would not say I posted too quickly)

    Nobody has mentioned Lee Iacocca , probably the most significant influence in the auto industry

    The “king” Richard Petty, whose exceptional career along with amazing southern charm & good grace, really put nascar in the limelight. Or “Big Daddy” Don Garlits who did the same for NHRA, spanning tow ur own hand built hot rod across the country to big rig semis housing hi-tec rail jobs while he still road his 60s bicycle in the pits & loaned parts to other racers to keep competing. These men exemplify both individual integrity & out-of the box experimentation that made a hobby a nationwide sports brand where the common man could still compete.

    Shoichiro Irimajiri, creator of the legendary Honda CBX along with the company’s F1 engines. Also the first Japanese automotive engineer to be recruited for a senior position at General Motors.

    I’m thinking Dan Gurney, as much for his personal nature as his accomplishments. Not that the others mentioned would be unworthy, but Gurney’s cleverness and decorum are so top-drawer, and he lived a comparatively blessed life. I gotta say that Jay Leno is about as lovable as people get, and guys like Briggs Cunningham and Dr. Simeone are rightfully highly-regarded as well. But Gurney is to me heroic.

    Dan Gurney and Brook Yates for winning the first Cannonball Run Just for one! I loved meeting him and hearing his stories about that blast across the US in the blue Ferrari Daytona and also talking to Lee Holman ( think Holman & Moody) and what they did to prepare it for the race

    Re: Shelby–Haggerty’s magazine, and now this, keep talking about Shelby as a great American hero. My folks were amoung the founders of the Pacific Sports Car Club, which became the SCCA, in the fabulous fifties in So Cal. Raced all the local courses and so on. They came up with and admired Phil Hill. My mom’s reaction–“all the girls loved Phil. A real gentleman.” However Shelby–who was also circulating– not so much. He was known as boastful, hugely self promoting, and dishonest–leaving many people in the lurch with unpaid bills and broken promises. My mom frowns and shakes her head when Shelby is brought up. Note my dad was also pals with Vasek Polak and did body repair for the dealership so sharp business practices were not the problem. Shelby did some amazing stuff, but I think he was no hero.

    Agree completely. He got famous by stuffing a big motor in somebody elses brilliant car.

    Abd I suppose that in your life you could have added more to automotive history and design than Carrol Shelby LOL. Jealousy is childish ???

    Very nice of you to tear down a Legend after he is dead. I believe there is a saying about if you can’t say something nice etc. etc. BTW, He was a Hero to many many people.

    Dick Teague. He could do anything, with nothing, except weld the crack of dawn. Elwood Engel. He would repeatedly make cars more elegant, and made that achievement look deceptively simple.

    How about Charles F. Kettering, the man who pioneered the electric self starter, which would ultimately lead to a doubling of the auto market by allowing half the population: women, to start and drive their cars without a man present. He is the only auto executive on the Ms. Magazine list of the 100 greatest feminists of all time, for precisely this reason.

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