Jean Knows Cars is not just the name of this website; it’s a true fact. I have been writing about cars and the car business for more than 30 years, having learned about cars at the kitchen table from my late father, Robert Lienert, who was the editor of Automotive News. At age eighteen, I bought a used car, painted it yellow, installed a toplight and a meter, and joined the Yellow Cab Company in Ann Arbor, Michigan, as an owner/operator. Five years later, I got a job at Chrysler’s test track as a test driver, welder, and mechanic in the impact lab. In 1980, I was hired as a writer at Car and Driver magazine after getting laid off at Chrysler, and in 1985 I left to establish Automobile Magazine with David E. Davis, Jr. I was the magazine’s first Executive Editor, became Editor in Chief in 2000, and added the title of President of Automobile Magazine in 2006.
I’ve been profiled in The New Yorker and have been a guest on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. I was a guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show, teaching Oprah and her studio audience how to change a tire and to jump a battery. I was Good Morning America’s automotive correspondent from 1994 to 2000 and then did the same thing for the Oxygen network.
I have won awards for feature writing, car reviews, and my monthly Automobile Magazine column, “Vile Gossip,” including the 2007 Ken Purdy Award for Excellence in Automotive Journalism. I’m a regular on-air contributor to Fox Business Network; CNBC’s Closing Bell, Squawk Box, Behind the Wheel, and Power Lunch; MSNBC; CBS This Morning and Evening News; and CNN’s American Morning and Headline News. In fact, I would almost call myself a TV slut, but I’m proud to say that I turned Geraldo down.
All of this has taken place in a male-dominated automotive space, where I’m all too frequently the only woman in the room. I know the secret handshake, but JeanKnowsCars.com is going to be a place where you don’t have to.
I live in the Michigan countryside with my husband, Tim, and the entire food chain. You’re going to get to know my driveway and my dogs really, really well. Just keep reading.
The DogsI’ve owned dogs since I was sixteen years old, when a golden retriever puppy wandered up to my taxicab in downtown Ann Arbor. He belonged to some commune of hippie candle makers, who sold him to me for $100. His name was Odin, and he lived to father two large litters with golden number two, Barley. At one time, I lived with five goldens. That’s when I made the rule that I couldn’t have more dogs than limbs. Every death broke my heart in pieces, so I gave up on dogs for ten years. Eight weeks after I met Tim Jennings, I bought him a Chesapeake Bay retriever for his birthday. We found out later that the dog had been born the day we met. As I drove that little guy to Tim’s house, it suddenly occurred to me that I was about to live with dogs again. We named him Ronald Ambert Wilkins, after a friend of ours who died of cancer. RonDog was our first, but not our last.
GCH Irish’s Robert Garcia de Padua (Bob)I don’t mean to brag, but I come from a mighty line of champion Chessies from the Irish kennels in Michigan. Tim and Jean don’t deserve me. They let Kelly the kennel lady take me to a dog show when I was four months old, and I won two ribbons. Imagine their surprise, even though my name is Bob. Get it? Best Of Breed. Everybody kisses me a lot and gives me treats. Now I’m a big-time show dog, and I even went to New York City, where I made the top ten out of twenty-nine champion Chessies at the Westminster Kennel Club show before I was even three. Kelly gives me hot dogs and chicken just for standing really still, and then we run. And then she gives me more. And then they give her a ribbon. When I’m home, Tim takes me for long walks. We go bird hunting in the fall. Two years ago, he brought home a funny black hound dog for me to play with, because the old girl dogs were so mean to me. He is my best friend. After Tim, that is.
Favorite website: www.westminsterkennelclub.org
Sandra Lou Jennings (Louie)I’m thirteen, so I get to stay in the house all the time. I go for walks, but sometimes I just turn around in the middle of the lane and amble back to the house. Both my back knees were rebuilt before my first birthday, and I have an underbite like Marge Simpson’s, but Tim and Jean don’t care. I don’t get to go bird hunting much, but I love it more than life itself, like all good Chesapeakes. I miss RonDog a lot. The other dogs are okay, although sometimes they bang into me or try to steal my toys, but I can still finish a fight when I have to. Whenever I want a biscuit now, I just bark as loud as I can. Jean gets mad, but I keep barking in her face until she gives me a biscuit. Make no mistake: I play her like a drum.
Favorite website: www.freekibble.com
Cecil Ray Hartwick (Ray The Stray)The first people I knew threw me in a ditch in Mississippi because they didn’t want me anymore. I dug a cave there and curled up tight inside it every night to hide from coyotes. I was hungry and scared. A dog from a nearby hunting camp would play with me in the ditch, but he wouldn’t let me in camp to get any food. The hunters there were trying to decide which one of them was going to shoot me because they didn’t want to leave me to the coyotes. But one of them, Tim, picked me up and put me in his car. I was so sick, I could only eat a tiny little bit at a time. We drove a long way to Tim’s house in Michigan, where I live now. The dogs there were really big and not very nice to me at first, so Jean let me sit on the couch with her. Now Bob is my best friend, I have my own swimming pool, I eat twice a day, and then at night I curl up next to Jean. I’m almost fat now.
Favorite website: www.pedigreefoundation.org
Stella Mae Jennings (Stella)I am a Chesapeake Bay retriever bitch. That is the word for a girl dog, no matter what anyone tells you. My dad was RonDog. They bred Ron with a championship Chessie hunter named Teal so that there would be another RonDog after him. Everyone called her T-Rex. I mostly take after her, although I try to get along. Everything was fine when there was just Ron, Lou, and me. Then Tim and Jean brought Bob home. It took me forever to get him under control. Then came this hyper black hound dog, Ray, and they let him sit on the furniture. Not fair. I’m always getting sent to the bedroom early because I can’t control my temper around that annoying hound. I love to flush and retrieve game birds, and Tim takes me everywhere in the fall. Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota are my favorites. The rest of the time, it’s my job to protect Jean with my life. As far as I’m concerned, the rest of these dogs (especially that hound) should go play in traffic. Jean is mine.
Favorite website: www.pheasantsforever.org