In the darkness of this global pandemic, there are precious few rays of light and hope. But there will always be the illumination of truth. Sweet and just truth, which will spring from our hearts and banish the shadow of lies and deceit. Truth is brought forth into the world today in the form of the very true story of how our Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk was stolen.
This story actually took place in January of 2019. Why we decided to finally tell it today, March 31, 2020, is a mystery to me. But anyway!
Two Januarys ago, a crew of Jalopnik staff and myself organised a trip to Detroit to attend the 2019 Detroit Auto Show. Jalopnik doesn’t typically partake in manufacturer trips for auto shows. Rather, we buy our own airfare, book a big Airbnb for ourselves and request a few press cars from automakers so we can review them, take turns driving them, and shuttle to and from events.
(Full disclosure: David Tracy wrangled some press loans for us that included a a blue Ford F-150 Raptor, a green Genesis G70 with a manual, and a scarlet Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk. Of the three, I think people were most excited to try out the Trackhawk. It’s a 700-horsepower Hellcat Jeep! Yes, it was every bit as righteously delightful and stupid as we thought it would be.
The G70 was also wonderful. It was a bit lower on power, but still light and tossable, though the back row was quite cramped.
The Raptor did your typical Raptor things. Accelerated faster than any pickup should and made you feel like you were bigger, taller, and better than everyone else.
We had these cars over a year ago and we’ve just reviewed them now. We suck and we know it!)
There were about six or seven people who needed to stay in one Airbnb, so we found a big, beautiful house in Detroit’s historic Boston Edison neighbourhood. And though lovely and spacious, the house did have one drawback.
It had a shared driveway with the neighbouring house, and their cars were blocking the entrance to our driveway, which extended to the rear of our house. Alright, street parking it was. Not my preferred method of parking, but we were Airbnb renters in a someone else’s neighbourhood and didn’t want to be a bother.
After a successful first media day of the show, everyone went back to the house to decompress and get dressed for the dinners and evening events that followed. Since people had different plans to go to different events, the general plan was to depart as a group and everyone would find their way back to the Airbnb, whether with one of our designated drivers or via a cab.
For whatever reason, the Trackhawk was not used to transport anyone to dinner that night. So it was definitely still outside of the house when we all returned a few hours later. David, a designated driver, and Jason Torchinsky drove me home in the Raptor. Before we went inside, we sat in the truck for about 45 minutes and discussed [REDACTED] and [REDACTED] at great length.
That lasted until then-EIC Patrick George drunkenly turned up outside the pickup after being dropped off by a cab, rapped on the window with his knuckles, and ordered us all to go in the house. I remember seeing the Trackhawk parked in front of the Raptor the entire time.
Once inside, Brad Brownell, Patrick, Jason, David, and I sat up in the living room for a bit longer, talking, before everyone departed for bed. I went upstairs to my second-floor bedroom at around 1:30 a.m. Brad stayed downstairs on the couch.
The next morning, after I was showered and dressed, I ran into Jalopnik’s then-social media editor Aaron Brown on the landing. He held up a red key. “The Trackhawk’s missing,” was all he said.
(Here is Aaron’s own retelling of the matter:
“It’s all just a hazy memory to me now, but if I remember correctly, it went something like this. I woke up, ran downstairs in our seemingly-nice-enough Airbnb, found the Trackhawk Red Key, went outside to our quiet Detroit street, and found, well, no Trackhawk. We left it parked on the street overnight. But, when I came outside, it was totally fucking gone. Evaporated. Missing. Cloud of dust. Invisible. Nonexistent. At first, I thought ‘Maybe someone came back late and parked it around the corner?’ Strange, but not impossible. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.”)
I peered outside the window. The Raptor wasn’t there, of course, because David and Jason had taken it to David’s house for the night. The Genesis hadn’t moved. Brad’s rental car, which we had managed to squeeze into the driveway, was also still there. But the Trackhawk was indeed missing. We went to find Patrick.
Perhaps it was the slight hangover or because it was early, but Patrick couldn’t immediately grasp the car was gone. “If you’re fucking with me, you need to not be,” he snarled.
We insisted we were not. We showed him the key and led him to the window.
By this point, I had already accepted someone had stolen our car—a $US100,000 ($162,775)-plus, fully loaded, shiny, red, and brand-new vehicle. We were a mark. There was really no other explanation I could think of. Nobody else on staff had it. It couldn’t have been towed because the Genesis was parked on the same side of the street and it was still there.
Down on the first floor, Brad swore he didn’t hear anything in the night, and the Trackhawk is loud when you start it up. It had definitely been driven off on a flatbed or something.
Still holding onto some hope, Justin, Aaron, and I did a lap of the streets in the Genesis. The fruitless outing, predictably, yielded no results. But outside, where it had been parked, they found some smashed plastic from a broken reflector and licence plate frame with Fiat Chrysler stamping on them.
Meanwhile, back at the house, we called the city tow yard. No Trackhawk there. So we called the police, reported a missing and/or stolen vehicle. While they dispatched someone to come over, Patrick also called Jeep to break the news to them.
As Patrick remembers it: “I spent a day away from the auto show at a DPD station filling out a police report and explaining what a ‘press car’ was. FCA was very, very chill and kind about it. They were just glad we were OK and said it’s happened before in Detroit. Very professional and understanding. I followed up several times to ask what happened to the car, if they got it back. I never heard from them.”
I know FCA has insurance for this sort of thing, but it still sucks nonetheless.
I think everyone spent the rest of the morning in utter shock. I definitely did. Getting a car stolen is one of those things you can read about countless times, but it’s never enough to fully prepare you emotionally if it ever does happen to you.
We never found out if they ever located the poor Trackhawk, or likely what was left of it. I’m almost certain the car went straight to some chop shop somewhere, the engine pulled out and sold on some shady Internet side.
I agree with you, we probably should have insisted on using the driveway. We probably could have done a bunch of stuff differently! Easy to say in hindsight. But this is the truth of what happened and now you know. My conscience is clear.