I met @basemwasef while he was working in the Talent Department at Disney Channel. He was sweet, funny and helpful which was not very typical in the executive corner I worked in at the time. While I decided to forego Grad School in Ireland after they lost my application (seriously? yeah seriously) and stay at Disney Channel, Basem turned into a great friend. He was that very rare creature one hears about– a native Angeleano!
Those were the days when we would play pranks on people and had a lot of fun. We got to hang out with The Backstreet Boys in New York and Britney Spears in Orlando as well as all a lot of popstars in LA.
One thing about Basem, he was always full of surprises and shows up in a different ride almost every time I see him. After lunch at Fred Segal’s with another friend, he asked us to come with him out to the parking lot because someone was dropping off a car for him to review. He drove off in a Bentley while I returned to my leased silver Honda.
Basem’s love of cars and motorcycles is a life long passion that turned into a career. He gets flown all over the world to review the world’s most amazing rides so it was only a matter of time until he wound up capturing some of that passion into book format. His first book Legendary Motorcycles includes a foreward by his pal and fellow enthusiast Jay Leno.
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Vocation: Author, Journalist, Photographer
1) How did you first get involved in reviewing the world’s most amazing rides?
Strange but true: I’ve been a car and motorcycle fanatic and enjoyed writing for as long as I can remember, but didn’t connect the two until I was in my thirties.
In 2001, I wrote a spec piece for an upscale lifestyle magazine looking for an auto writer, and was awarded an assignment to compare four convertibles (for a pittance, incidentally.) Three weeks later, I had over $200,000 worth of (borrowed) sports cars sitting in my garage.
Since then, I’ve expanded into testing motorcycles and written two books (Legendary Race Cars and Legendary Motorcycles), and contribute regularly to several magazines including Popular Mechanics. I also serve as About.com’s Guide to Motorcycles. The automotive journalist lifestyle has been described as “living like a rock star, but getting paid like a roadie,” but I love what I do.
2) What are your favorite cars and motorcycles of this year? And what are some that you’ve seen that will be coming out in the future?
I was lucky enough to test the $2 million, 1001 horsepower Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport, and am happy to announce that I walked away with my driving record intact. It’s a stunningly fast, immensely powerful car, the likes of which will probably not happen again soon. I also recently flew to Monte Carlo to test the latest generation of Mercedes-Benz fuel cell vehicles (which run on hydrogen and emit nothing but water vapor), and was impressed. They’re nimble, roomy, and virtually silent, and will be on an extremely limited lease program next year for about 70 lucky Americans.
On the other end of the financial spectrum, I get an enormous kick out of motorcycles, and often insist that $10,000 bikes are usually more fun than $100,000 cars. That said, I think Ducati’s new Hypermotard 796 is an exceptional bike; it’s got a potent power-to-weight ratio, and is especially entertaining in urban settings. I tested it in the winding roads surrounding Bologna, and had an incredible ride, despite a typhoon-like storm. I was also impressed with KTM’s RC8R, which I tested at Laguna Seca raceway; it was surprisingly comfortable and refined for a fearsome, 170 horsepower superbike.
3) Your second book, Legendary Racecars came out this year. Could you describe what it’s about? (ps I think this is the PERFECT Christmas gift!)
Legendary Race Cars features 25 chapters on some of the most historically significant race cars in existence, and I traveled extensively through Europe and the U.S. to photograph the vehicles and interview key personalities. It was a huge undertaking, but it was also a thrill to meet some of my heroes and shoot some of the most beautiful machines that have ever competed in motorsports.
My first book, Legendary Motorcycles, also profiles iconic machines and the personalities that made them famous. I drove cross-country to photograph everything from James Dean’s first and last motorcycles to Evel Kneivel’s bikes and the Harley chopper allegedly featured in Easy Rider.
4) Who has the most impressive personal collection of automobiles that you’ve seen?
Jay Leno wrote the foreword to my first book, Legendary Motorcycles, and he’s got an impressive range of cars and bikes; everything from 1930s Duesenbergs and Bugattis to iconic supercars like the McLaren F1 and the Lamborghini Countach are represented, not to mention a fair share of quirky rides like a one-off custom powered by a tank engine and a turn-of-the-century Stanley Steamer that runs on… you guessed it… steam.
Jay also referred me to Dr. Fred Simeone, who has a staggering collection of sports cars at his Simeone Museum in Philadelphia. Dr. Simeone’s tastes run from Alfas that competed in the Mille Miglia to Porsche 917s and a Ford GT40 that ran at Le Mans.
The great thing about both collections is that they’re dynamic; the vehicles are often run and appreciated in motion, rather than simply admired as garage queens.
5) Your an expert on cars, motorcycles but let’s talk about your photography skills — you have some incredible shots in this book. What kind of camera do you use and do you think it’s vital to your profession to be able to enhance your writing with photographs?
I’ve been a photography nut since I was in junior high. When I finally made the transition from film to digital, I went with a Canon 5D, and recently upgraded to a 5D Mark II.
Because publishing budgets have dropped significantly, being a double threat—ie, writing and shooting—certainly helps. And while having a high-quality camera is important, it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of spending loads of money on equipment while not developing your technique. Learn what your camera can do by taking a class or reading up on its features. But don’t forget that the most important tool is your eye; good decision making and original creative choices will produce better shots than the latest, greatest camera at the hands of somebody without the means to maximize its capabilities.