EMPLOYEE: Tony Leopardo
OFFICIAL Title: Car Journalist/Tester
UNOFFICIAL Title: "Santas Chosen One"
ANNUAL SALARY: $0
well, sort of
SOMEBODYS GOTTA DO IT! San Francisco: PREAMBLE -
The jobs we typically focus on in this column tend to be rich in filth, stench and
monotony. They are, by appearance and description, the dreary jobs of the American
workforce. They often involve human waste, danger and the occasional animal carcass.
But for the sake of focusing on an occupation as fresh as the
morning dew and to give fairness to the other categories of jobs that someone must do,
lets reach into the "Holy Crap Thats a Sweet Job/Somebodys Gotta Do
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW - To say that Tony "The Car Guy"
Leopardo simply loves automobiles would be a gross understatement. The man lives and
breathes car fumes. And the brass in Detroit need a man like Tony.
Imagine coming home after a hard day at the office and a brand new,
fully-loaded Yellow Chrome Hummer H2 is sitting in your driveway. This mammoth car was
neither purchased by you, nor is it a rental. It came from the heavens for you and you
alone to drive. Next week, an $80,000 Audi A8 will arrive; and the week after, say a
modest $12,000 Kia Spectra will be sitting in your driveway. If youre Tony, every
week is Christmas and Santa doesnt drive a sleigh, he commandeers an auto trailer.
All thats required of you in return for these shiny, speedy
gifts is that you write an unbiased report, praising or dogging the features of said cars.
Not a bad deal.
WHAT IS THIS ALL ABOUT - Tony is one of approximately 1,000
journalists around the country who make up the elite auto press fleet. These men and women
not only know their cars, but are treated as royalty in the car industry. In return for
their words of good or bad, they receive one of the 800 latest make and models that are
produced in the United States each year. They keep each car for seven days, just until a
new one arrives and the old one is shuffled to the next journalist in waiting.
In a single year, Tony will pilot more than 70 cars. In his 20-year
career in the press fleet, hes tested nearly 1,400 cars! Think about it, Tony
Leopardo has never had to buy a new car and his neighbors continue to gaze upon his
driveway with great envy.
NO LEMONS IN HIS FRONT LAWN - "There are no bad cars.
Were in 2003. They dont make bad cars any more," adds Leopardo as he sits
in his Burlingame warehouse, which is chock full of his personal stable of classic cars,
ranging from a pristine, yellow 61 Corvette to his emerald green Baracuda (he
currently owns 20 classics). "These days the cars that are made have quirks and
glitches, but theyre all modern day, quality specimens."
THE INCOME - "I dont make anything from driving the cars,
not one penny," says Leopardo. The real money comes from the articles the veteran
writer, editor and publisher makes from selling his opinions to local papers and on his
THE DOS AND DONTS - Never smoke, never drink and
dont get tickets. Thats the motto of Leopardo and the words he agrees to and
signs off on when the cars arrive. Everything else he chooses to do to and with the cars
is considered research.
He will drive to the bank, head to the grocery store and even take
the occasional trip to Southern California. The cars are to be driven in a way to learn
the most you can in a short time.
But there are boundaries which have been tested over the years, like
the journalist who put 3,300 miles on a car in their seven days together
writer who banged up a Hummer
and the guy who had a few too many cocktails and
rolled a Z-28. Tony is not one of those people. He is as professional as they come.
YOU TOO CAN BE LIKE TONY
If you happen to have the luck of a
lottery winner. Being a member of the auto press fleet is a fraternity thats hard to
crack. It takes years of being a car journalist to get on the list. Working for an
accredited publication as an auto writer is just the start.
Vacancies in this car club dont come up very often. If
youre one of the elite 1,000 in the press corps, why would you give up a gig like
It may not involve picking up poo or dead animals
and it doesnt involve being covered in grime or being bowled over by fumes in a
sewer tunnel. No, siree, being a test driver is about getting treated like a king and
getting to take part in Christmas once a week. Its utopia for a car freak, but, the
old adage still applies: Somebodys Gotta Do It! By Jimmy Christopher © The Wave Magazine - San
Wave Home Page
Byline: Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo ©
Column Name: SOMEBODY'S GOTTA DO IT!
Topic: Celebrating the Bay Area's Underappreciated Jobs
Word Count: 911
Photo Caption: Tony Leopardo & the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon
Photo Credits: Jon Ross @ The Wave Magazine
Series #: 2003 - 20
Download the Microsoft Word version here: 2003 SOMEBODY'S GOTTA DO IT!
Download the original image file here: 2003 Tony and Rubicon 16k