The Fast and Furious franchise may be fictional, but there are actual jobs where you get to drive cool cars all day without being part of NASCAR. Case in point: Roman Mica, presenter and publisher for TFLCar.com (aka The Fast Lane), which publishes video reviews, comparisons and packages featuring everything from Jaguars and Audis to Corvettes and Mustangs to Camrys and Civics.
Boasting more than half-a-million subscribers, TFL’s YouTube page is a fantastic source of info about all things car. And Mica himself is a great source of inspiration about doing really cool stuff for a living. So we caught up with him to ask about his work, memorable experiences behind the wheel, driving tips and advice for those who might wish to follow in his tracks.
Check out our Q&A below, plus the first of three exclusive videos he made with us, rounding up some of the hottest cars at the North American International Auto Show, which is taking place in the Motor City as we speak …
“Last year I drove a $300,000 Bentley Bentayga in the California sand dunes. We filled it up with about 20 pounds of really fine sand. I can just imagine 50 years from now the look on the face of some rich collector who is restoring the car when 20 pounds of sand spill from a body panel…”
First off, for people who might be unfamiliar, take us through a typical day for you, living life in The Fast Lane.
To many car enthusiasts, I have their dream job. Hell, I get to drive new cars for a living. In fact, they deliver a few new press fleet cars or trucks to our offices every week. The cars and trucks come to us clean and full of gas and one week later they pick them up dirty and in need of fuel. That’s a dream job… right? But it’s not so simple. When I get to the office we have to figure out how to review each car. We’re essentially in the story-telling business so we always try to tell an interesting story and that’s where the rubber hits the road.
First we brainstorm an informative and entertaining concept for the video review. Once we have that I write a brief script. Next we have to figure out where to shoot the review, then I drive to the carwash because inevitably the car isn’t clean enough for the video shot. Once we have all the cameras, gear, microphones and people in place, we shoot the review. Then it’s back to the office to import the video. Sometimes I edit the video and sometimes one of our editors does the hard work. When we have a first cut, I sit down with the TFL team and we go through the video and trim and spell check and final cut it. Finally, we come up with a headline and thumbnail and upload to YouTube. Rinse, repeat and do it all over again the next day.
That’s the easy part. The hard part is actually coming up with engaging, entertaining and creative car and truck video reviews that don’t look like we stole the concept from Top Gear. That’s the secret sauce.
Still sounds like a dream job. In a hundred words or less, how’d you make that happen?
One part Masters degree in Broadcast Journalist, one part love of cars and trucks, mixed together with luck and simmered with being the right car guy in the right place at the right time.
What’s the best part of this career path?
Getting paid for what many might do for free.
What aspect would you rather do without?
I love it all… except maybe for the constant washing of cars. I really need to hire an intern or two.
Do you have any idea how many (mostly) awesome vehicles you’ve gotten to drive at this point? Hundreds? Thousands?
That’s actually a pretty real number. I drive a new car every week. 52 weeks in a year. I’ve been doing it for 6 years. That’s 312 cars over the past six years plus about 50 new cars I’ve driven around the world on press programs. Add all of that together and you get 362.
“Self-driving cars. I hate them. I dread the day we’ll only be able to drive cool cars in some Disney-like park in Wyoming.”
Of all those epic drives, which vehicle stands out as the most amazing and unforgettable—the one that still motors into your dreams now and then?
Last year I got to drive a $300,000 Bentley Bentayga in the California sand dunes. Let’s be real. No one will ever take their Bentayga into the dunes. We filled it up with about 20 pounds of really fine sand when it got stuck. I can just imagine 50 years from now the look on the face of some rich Bentley collector who is restoring the car when 20 pounds of sand spill from a body panel. Why, how and when he’ll wonder did this happen…
Ever have an experience where you, say, almost totaled a half-million dollar vehicle?
No, but I was in the passenger seat of a Lamborghini Gallardo when I felt like I was going to die. The driver was Valentino Balboni, who at the time was Lamborghini’s test car driver. The speed limit sign read 60 kilometers per hour. I looked down and we were doing 160 kilometers per hour [about 100 mph] on a public Italian road around the factory. We were passing cars like they were going backwards. I was like, “Valentino, don’t you think you should slow down?” and he said, “You no tell me when to slow down, I know when to slow down.”
My feet were buried about six inches into the car’s firewall hoping to push on the brake that was not there. All of a sudden Balboni slams on the brakes and my eyes almost pop out of my head. I say, “Thanks” and he says “No, look there.” It was a speeding camera. He knew exactly were they were and as soon as we passed the camera he was right back on the gas. I suspect he had driven those roads a thousand times but that didn’t make me any less scared when he put the pedal to the metal.
What current automobile trend gets you most excited?
Self-driving cars. I hate them. I dread the day we’ll only be able to drive cool cars in some Disney-like park in Wyoming. You know that’s coming, but if you mean a good trend it has to be the horsepower wars. When you can buy a 707 hp Challenger Hellcat at your local Dodge dealership for well under $100,000, that’s a trend to get excited about.
What’s the number one mistake guys make when looking for a car?
They don’t buy a car with a manual transmission.
What’s your top tip for helping anyone become a better driver?
In case of an emergency, look where you want to drive because you will always drive where you look. This means if a car stops suddenly in front of you and you want to avoid hitting it… don’t look at it, but look past it, because otherwise you will hit it.
What’s your best advice for someone who desperately wants to make car coverage a career?
Get a journalism degree in college and learn to write like a journalist by doing.