Welcome to Ask a Gearhead, a new monthly series where we meet enthusiasts and influencers in the automotive space. We’ll be talking to journalists, personalities, and gearheads to bring you varying perspectives on driving and life. Each month will feature a different face but the same set of questions. This is the inaugural Ask a Gearhead, a shakedown if you will, and we are pleased to feature Matt Farah!
Matt Farah is an automotive journalist and host of The Smoking Tire on Youtube, where you can find his popular series One Takes and commentary on all things car-related. Alongside Zack Klapman, Chris Hayes, and Thad Brown, Matt hosts the Smoking Tire Podcast, which is full of unfiltered stories, laughs, and conversation. You can also check him out on Twitter and Instagram.
WHAT WAS YOUR FAMILY CAR GROWING UP?
I’ll start with the car my mom let me pick out for her, which was a Volvo 740 GLE wagon. I wanted her to get the turbo, but she didn’t want to get the turbo. It ended up getting lemon lawed. From that she went to the Mercury Villager minivan Nautica edition. This was a partnership between Mercury and Nautica clothing. If you look it up, it’s heinous-looking. It looks like a windbreaker from 1993. My dad’s first nice car was a ‘92 Lexus LS 400, and that’s sort of when I became an LS 400 enthusiast.
WORST THING YOU’VE EVER DRIVEN?
As far as a car that is just purely terrible from the day it left the factory, my now ex-housemate had a 2009 Dodge Nitro, and it was just the worst car I’ve ever driven. It’s terrible, as far as I can see, in pretty much every conceivable way.
IF YOU COULD OWN JUST ONE CAR FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
If I am living in Los Angeles as I am now, and have to contend with the level of traffic I do on a daily basis, then the Ferrari 488 GTB would be a perfect forever car. If I am living outside of LA, and can bear the thought of a manual transmission for a forever car, then I’ll have a Porsche 997.2 GT3 RS.
FAVORITE ROAD TRIP?
I have a pretty high standard for road trips. My absolute favorite so far, I started in Sweden at Koenigsegg, drove down across Germany, into the Swiss and Italian Alps. It was in a BMW M6, which was brilliant, and it was lovely. If you love driving, boy are the Alps the place to be… Driving sports cars in Europe is really good — the mountains, the relatively relaxed attitude about speeding (at least once you’re outside of the cities), and giant, beautiful mountains. Every time you go around a corner is just spectacular.
YOU’RE DIRECTING FAST & FURIOUS 9. WHAT’S THE HERO CAR?
There’s a company called Hypercar Engineering out of North Carolina, and they can do a McLaren, a 12c or a 650S, which normally have a twin-turbo V8, and they added a third turbo. So it’s got three turbos, and like 1200 horsepower. So to me, the hero car would have to be a car that has a third turbo.
WHAT WOULD BE THE BEST ANIMAL RIDE IF IT WERE SCALED UP TO THE SIZE OF A HORSE?
A cat. I have three cats and I think if I had my cat — with its same personality — but the size of a horse, that would be awesome. It’d probably mess my house up but it would be really cool.
FLIP FLOPS WHILE DRIVING — YAY OR NAY? WHAT’S YOUR PREFERRED FOOTWEAR FOR DRIVING?
Well, first let me say as someone who lives in Venice Beach, I spend a lot of time in flip flops. That’s pretty standard for me. When I get into a car while wearing flip flops, I take them off and drive barefoot. I think if you can drive with flip flops on effectively, good for you. And I have been in a car with racing driver Leh Keen, on a dirt road in North Carolina in his 911, and he was in flip flops and he drifted the hell out of that car, and I was super impressed. If you can do it, god bless… Barefoot is good, especially if you have big feet. I can drive better barefoot than with I can with any type of shoe on, including proper driving shoes. I just have better feel with nothing.
WHAT DO YOU KEEP IN YOUR CAR AT ALL TIMES, JUST IN CASE?
I switch cars on almost a daily basis, because I’m testing cars or whatever. So I keep nothing in my cars. Because I hop from car to car all the time, I have a little pouch that goes in whatever car I’m in. That pouch has a phone charger, sunscreen, sunglasses, and a Valentine One radar detector. I have one hardwired into the Focus RS, sort of my daily driver right now, but I also have a portable Valentine One that comes with me for press cars. And one of those cellphone clips, because I use Waze a lot in LA. I’ve developed this pouch over a long time, I’ve gone through many iterations, and many times where I lost sh*t by leaving it in one car or the next… I’m not trying to brag about how many cars I drive, it just happens.
WHAT’S YOUR MARIO KART CHARACTER?
I haven’t played Mario in a real long time. I feel like I was a Yoshi guy. The last Mario Kart I played was on the Nintendo 64, and I was diehard.
WHO WOULD PLAY YOU IN A BIOPIC OF YOUR LIFE? WHAT WOULD IT BE CALLED?
Seth Rogen would play me, obviously. Although I’d want him to look like him; I wouldn’t want him to shave his head — I think he’d look dumb with a bald head and goatee. And you can just call it The Smoking Tire, I’d prefer that. I spent a lot of time thinking up The Smoking Tire.
IF YOU HAD AN ICE CREAM TRUCK, WHAT SONG WOULD YOU PLAY FROM THE SPEAKER?
How about “Damn it Feels Good to be a Gangsta” by Geto Boys? I feel good when that plays; it’s nice. When I bought my Aston Martin in 2003, when CD burners were a big deal, I made one mix CD, and track two on it is “Damn it Feels Good to be a Gangsta”. That CD has not left the disc one slot of that car in 13 years. So I hear that song a lot.
LAST CAR YOU RENTED, ON TURO OR OTHERWISE?
I rent cars based on a very specific need and ‘or similar’ is a real problem. First I booked a Toyota 4Runner ‘or similar’, and got put in a Dodge Journey, which trust me, is not the same as a Toyota 4Runner. Then I booked a Chevy Tahoe, ‘or similar’, and guess where I was put? In a Dodge Journey. Which is also not the same as a Tahoe. So we had a lot of problems with that. And I wrote an entire column about my hatred of the ‘or similar’. And then I rented a Tesla Model X from Turo, and it was great except my rental was short… Besides that I enjoyed the experience very much.