We Regret To Inform You That Raphael Orlove Has Exploded

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If you work anywhere long enough, you eventually become the Old Master With Ancient Knowledge, which, at Jalopnik, is Raphael Orlove, who first started writing for the site when it was printed on paper and distributed for free outside the Detroit Auto Show. But no longer: today is Raph’s last at the blog. It’s time for a roast.

This will make me, technically, the Longest Continuously Employed Asshole Here, and I don’t know how I feel about that. Through all the changes I’ve seen at this place, Raph was my steady guide, partner-in-crime, confidant, friend. Not just me, because that’s how he makes everyone feel, a car blog editor with a set of skills that could not be more perfectly matched to the business of making good car blogs. We’ll be doing this forever I sometimes thought, until we won’t.

What I’ll miss is Raph’s frighteningly encyclopedic knowledge of all things cars and bikes; I’ll miss the banter; I’ll miss the blogs; I’ll miss driving out to Jersey to drive old Volvos; I’ll miss driving up to Westchester to go karting; I’ll miss getting a drink; and I’ll miss his edits. I’ll also miss his Slacks. This is from today:

Image for article titled We Regret To Inform You That Raphael Orlove Has Exploded

Screenshot: Erik Shilling

Raph told me weeks ago that he had gotten an offer, and it was a good one, and I was happy for him, all of which gave me time to pretend like it wasn’t happening. Which was a nice fantasy for a while. Eat shit, Raph.


Aaron Gordon, former Jalopnik Senior Writer

For the first four months I worked at Jalopnik I didn’t know what Raph did. His title was “features editor” but he never edited any of my features. Only once I started sharing an office with him did I learn what he did. He spent most of the day looking at vintage bike parts on Craigslist.

I’ve been texting with Raph in recent weeks about—what else—vintage bike parts, but he hasn’t mentioned anything about getting a new job. He’s clearly very enthused about this move. I can only hope whoever hired him is equally excited about having an in-house Craigslist bike parts scavenger.

Mercedes Streeter, Jalopnik Staff Writer

If you haven’t been a reader here for very long, let me tell you about Raphael Orlove’s antics. Raph created an entirely new verb when, some nine years ago he rolled his dream car, a cute little 1973 Baja Bug. To use what the kids say, he straight up yeeted the bug off of a hairpin turn, resulting in some infamous upside-down photos and the term “Orlove’d.” Even today I think, “man, I better not Orlove this thing” when I’m doing something sketchy with a vehicle.

And his cars, they seem so unreliable that I’m not surprised that he’s also the David Tracy of bicycles. I didn’t even know that restoring abandoned bicycles that were previously tied to street signs was a thing. At least if the Beetle doesn’t work, he has probably a dozen or so broken bikes that he could commute with.

OK, I’m kidding. I learned a lot about bicycles and the history of a bunch of different cars during his tenure. He is part of why I always look to see the origins of the vehicles that I write about. He’s one of the voices that made Jalopnik a unique outfit. Good luck, Raph, and don’t roll a car at your new employer.

David Tracy, former Jalopnik Senior Editor

Let me tell you my problem with Raphael. He’s the kindest man alive; he has a smile like no other; and he’ll butter you up by speaking German with you. But then, when you’re in an airplane headed back to the U.S. from Germany, he will slash over 1,000 words from your BMW 3 Series suspension deep-dive. You will land, check slack, and see messages from Raph indicating that, were it not for a few hangups, he would have published your story with ONE THOUSAND WORDS MISSING. These 1,000 words, you know deep in your heart, were important. Every damn one of them. As a writer, you don’t just shove superfluous letters and numbers into your articles — you are a professional. Who is Raph to imply otherwise?

I paced back and forth in my house, steam billowing from my ears. “THAT RAPHAEL. WHO DOES HE THINK HE IS? HE’S JUST GONNA CUT WORDS FROM MY ARTICLES WILLY-NILLY. WHYIOUGHTA” I yell into my phone to whichever fool was willing to listen (probably Jason — who, for the record, is pro-Raph. And I am too! It’s just… 1,000 words, man!).

I called Raph to make my case for why those 1,000 words belonged, and after I explained that these are important technical concepts to convey and that every section in my writeup strengthens the article — chill as ever, as Raph tends to be — he calmly told me that, like, maybe it’s better without those 1,000 words. I blew my head gasket, coolant poured from my face, my engine oil turned into a milkshake, and I nearly lost all compression. To slash a thousand words — that’s not great. To suggest that he was going to run it without even running it past me? Oh boy, very not-great. But to then listen to me explain myself and then tell me in such a calm, collected manner that maybe, just maybe, those engineering explanations in my story were just not needed. WHO IS THE ENGINEER HERE RAPH?

This happened a few times. It left a few scars on my cylinder walls, but I’m still sputtering along, and Raph and I get along great, because he’s a lovely human. Chill, incredibly positive, and just a joy to be around. And that’s a good thing, because man has he driven me crazy a few times.

Tschau, Herr Orlove!

Tom McParland, Jalopnik Contributing Writer

Raph is the only person I know that buys one of the most durable models Lexus ever made and still managed to turn it into an unreliable nightmare.

Patrick George, former Jalopnik Editor-in-Chief

Here are some things to know about Raphael Orlove:

—He wrote the definitive modern guide to Amati, Mazda’s failed Lexus and Infiniti competitor, and that story remains so good that I still re-read it a couple of times a year. It also took him 10 years to write that story. Deadlines do not exist to a man whose mind exists outside of time as we understand it.

—He wrote what may be my all-time favorite Jalopnik headline, “God Can Always Track You Down and Kill You, but in a 300 Horsepower Toyota Camry You Get a Pretty Good Running Start.” If we did anything better than that while I was there, I can’t think of it off the top of my head.

—Some of his other all-time greatest hits include Where Are All The Beeps?, These Are the Fast Cars of Big Speed, Fast Cars: Too Fast? and Where Are The Large Cars Of Beauty And Grace?

—Of all the automotive writers who would sprint down the street after a Lancia Scorpion while squealing “PLEASE TAKE MY BLOOD,” Raphael is assuredly my favorite. Or at least in the top three.

—He once screamed “Have some decency!!!” at a quartet of parked Ferrari F50s, and for some reason, that quote remains permanently seared into my brain.

I am very glad he is moving on from Jalopnik without having to be dragged screaming away from it, as I always figured would happen. I also deeply look forward to Road & Track Magazine’s new post-modern direction. I may even start subscribing again.

José Rodríguez Jr., Jalopnik Staff Writer

Raphael Orlove was the face and voice of Jalopnik to me — for better or worse. Mostly worse. If only those curly locks could distract from that awful mustache. See, I’ll never forget Raph’s hipster vibe and contrived stances from the carspotting series. I’ll also never forget or forgive his strawman cargument against Kristen Lee, whose take on the right way to say Porsche is much more nuanced than Raph’s. Yeah, yeah. We get it; you speak German. So could David Tracy, and he wasn’t going on and on about it all the time. With Raph, it’s auto frei this and dienstwagen that. Shit, I speak fluent Spanish and Andy Kalmowitz is fluent in New Jerseyan.

I bet the number of times Raph’s been cussed out in New York City in German for cutting off cars on his busted-up Schwinn is ZERO, while profanities in Spanish and New Jerseyan are likely directed at Raph 24/7. Those angry drivers having committed Raph’s color-blocked wardrobe to memory by now. Because let me tell you: Raph commits to the shtick whole-heartedly. When I finally met him, after years of rolling my eyes at the vintage sweaters in his videos, I thought to myself, Damn, this dude’s for real! 

Now he’s for real about leaving Jalopnik after a decade — if not more! There’s no way to be certain how long he’s been here, because he actually predates Kinja. Legend goes they found him in a pile of used clothes at Jalopnik HQ. And now he’s leaving, carrying that same dirty pile of clothes after mentoring me and countless others at our beloved site. So eat shit, Raph. I won’t say it in German — because of the kinky subtext — but will say this, instead: ¡Hasta nunca, Rafa! ¡Come mierda!

Travis Okulski, former Jalopnik Editor-in-Chief

I really want to roast Raph. I want to talk about how he called me after he rolled the Baja Bug. About how he thought, for some reason, it’d be fine to take a Fiesta off roading and then was surprised when he damaged it on a tree. I want to tell you about how he made us stop multiple times on our 24 hour marathon drive back from Daytona in an RS7 to look for something he continually called “goober peas” (I don’t believe we ever found them). I want you to know the number of times we wandered to Chinatown for discount dumplings or how his immense bubble car feature was the product of actual years of work/procrastination. About how I’d deputize him to take photos for reviews and then make him stand outside in the freezing cold while I drove by him, repeatedly. I want you to know how horrible yet not at all surprising it was when he crashed that Spec E30 during a Mid Ohio AER race. And about how I love that for his entire time at Jalopnik, he’s just decided what his beat is and nobody has said “hey, maybe we’re not an old bicycle restoration website.” I want to tell you about that stuff, but I won’t. Raph is just a delightful guy, and someone I’ve missed working with since I left Jalop all those years ago. I had told Hearst we were a package deal when I got hired at R&T, and I guess, seven years later, the company is finally following through. Now we just need him to reboot Motorballs.

Bob Sorokanich, Jalopnik Editor-in-Chief

You know, I was really looking forward to having a bicycle mechanic on staff. But the automotive media universe hangs in a delicate balance, maintained by the Jalopnik-to-Road & Track pipeline. Most bloggers make that journey in their tender post-college years, but Raph had so many unfinished reviews, it took him until his early 30s to clear it out. (Here’s a review Raph published this week of the Kia Stinger, a vehicle that is now cancelled.) Looking back, it’s kind of amazing what Raph survived in his many decades at Jalopnik: a rollover crash in a Beetle that was more rust than car, three corporate owners, one pro-wrestler/evil billionaire lawsuit, numerous pissed-off automakers, a pretty harsh crash at an AER race, numerous pissed-off commenters, himself, his obsession with buying terrible cars and making them so, so much worse. Nothing could chase Raph away from Jalopnik. Nothing, except for me.

Erin Marquis, Jalopnik Staff Writer

For years, I thought Raph was a muppet—like he was an intern from Sesame Street or something. I have recently been informed he is indeed a real boy who pulled an actual salary to write about bicycles for our car website. I frankly admire the grift but I’m glad you’ll be pulling it on some other jokers. You take your mop of glorious curls and go eat shit.

Adam Ismail, Jalopnik Staff Writer

Last year I was walking the paddock of a Formula Drift event in Englishtown, NJ with a friend when we spotted a man in a fluorescent yellow photo cred vest and a wicker sunhat (it was a remarkably overcast, rainy day) leaning over a chain-link fence, standing on the tips of his toes waving double middle fingers at somebody. I’m the sort of person who ignores people acting out in public and continues walking, but my friend likes to engage with the chaos. “Who we flipping off today?” he asked the stranger, whose back was facing us.

The fashion-embattled man stood down from his trash perch and turned around. It was Raphael Orlove. My colleague and superior who, until that moment, I hadn’t met in person. I feel obliged to point out I recognized Raph immediately while it took him like three seconds of vacant staring to figure out who I was.

As for the target of his gesture? “Some dude from Staten Island.” In fairness Raph, that is the traditional greeting in those parts. Your Amati piece is my favorite Jalopnik story ever. Eat shit.

Aaron Brown, former Jalopnik Social Media Editor

raph, i am very excited we will be working together once again. third time’s the charm

thank you for being there for me when i needed you most. that being, when i was 18, fresh in the industry, and didn’t quite know what i was doing. here is one of my favorite edits from our first days working together:

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Screenshot: Aaron Brown

you were of great help then, and i expect the same level of attentiveness when you join us over in the world of digitized print. also, i’ll forever cherish our days spent wandering nyc boroughs looking for semi-interesting cars to turn into zesty, desperate social video content. carspotting forever

Kristen Lee, former Jalopnik Staff Writer

With Raph’s departure also comes an end to the era of the longest Jalopnik staffer to date. Bless. I thought I’d never see the day.

There are too many memories to block out (although “Lamborghini Aventador SVJ Smashes Anvil Through Nürburgring Production Car Record; Shatters It Like Glass; Hurls Shards Into Nearby Porsche’s Drink” remains the greatest headline Raph and I ever came up with), so I’ll keep it at a tidy two.

The first was when, if you’ll kindly remember, Raph crashed my borrowed Fiat 124 Spider Abarth, like an asshole. He didn’t need to switch off the traction control. He didn’t need to throw it around the curve like that. All I needed him to do was drive at a leisurely pace and the camera’s slow shutter speed would have taken care of the rest. And yet.

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Photo: Raphael Orlove

Image for article titled We Regret To Inform You That Raphael Orlove Has Exploded

Photo: Raphael Orlove

The second was when Raph asked [REDACTED AUTOMAKER] for a press car. We emailed the fleet and were told the car wasn’t available, either because it was undergoing some repairs or there was something mechanically wrong with it and they were working to address it. Sure thing. Not a worry at all. Totally understand.

However, a [REDACTED AUTOMAKER] PR rep who was copied on the email responded directly to the fleet and basically scolded the fleet manager for giving out too much information, because Jalopnik is vile and evil and will twist anything anyone says (untrue). The [REDACTED AUTOMAKER] PR rep was free to express their opinion in such a fashion, but they had neglected to remove Raph’s email address when they hit reply-all.

Twenty minutes later and after a very panicked phone call from the [REDACTED AUTOMAKER] PR rep, Raph kindly assured them that everything was fine and no harm was done. Was he too nice and too forgiving? Should he have bargained for a fleet of [REDACTED AUTOMAKER]’s sports cars instead? Jury’s still out on that one.

Regardless: “That, my darlings,” said Patrick George (RIP), “is the power of fear.”

Raph’s now headed to a small, local publication that you probably haven’t heard of before and is in the business of intimidating absolutely no one. Just like those rotten beans from his college days, Raph can eat shit.

Jason Torchinsky, former Jalopnik Senior Editor

Unlike most of my colleagues who either avoid my calls and texts or only talk to me to try to get me to buy huge quantities of Herbalife products, Raph is very good at keeping in touch. Of course, every conversation with him is pretty much the same: he texts me in a panic, because something has happened to his ‘74 Beetle, and he’s stuck perpendicular on the Brooklyn-Bronx Crapway blocking eleven lanes of traffic.

These texts are always accompanied by a picture, usually of his engine missing some crucial part, or with something like the back half of a pigeon trapped in his air cleaner or a large dill pickle sticking out of a spark plug hole.

“Any advice?” he’ll ask, as ambulances honk and wail their sirens, their patients inside screaming in agony.

This happens a lot. It’d be easy to blame the old VW, but I’ve owned a car just like his for over 30 years and daily drove it most of that time, and I never, ever had problems like Raph seems to have. I had plenty of old car problems, absolutely, but Raph? Something about that dude emits a shittening ray to any machine around him, and so every time he sits in a car it’ll either flip over or somehow liquify its camshaft and spray it out the defroster vents, or something.

It’s a shame, because nobody knows more about obscure Group B engine cheats or rally cars or Japanese auto design schools or any number of other fascinating things. It’s too bad that’ll all be gone because somehow Raph put in the wrong fuse and it made his steering work backwards and he’ll end up at the bottom of a ravine.

That’s why he’s so into ridiculous bicycles built for three weeks in the 1980s by some Dutch craftsman living in a cave in Vermont. Less parts to fail, and it’s a lot harder to block an expressway with a bicycle.

Raph’ll figure out how, though, I’m sure.

I have no doubt that Tarmac & Speedway or Engine Fashion or Auto And Passenger or wherever the hell he’s going will be delighted to have him, even if I’m certain he’ll bring absolute ruin to any car they let him drive. But that’s what those fuckers get with the Orlove.

Mike Ballaban, former Jalopnik Deputy Editor

What time is the end of your day on Thursday?

Rory Carroll, former Jalopnik Editor-in-Chief

I suppose congratulations are in order, not just for Raph, but for his new colleagues at—I assume—Bicycling Magazine (or similar) who will no doubt appreciate his keen insights and observations on the topic of the repair and reconditioning of various abandoned bicycles even more than the Jalopnik commentariat does. I’m so happy to see that he’s moved on from car writing to pursue something he’s truly passionate about.

It wasn’t that long ago that I was inviting Raph to write long features about cars (he used to write about cars, you see) for Autoweek’s much-loved 30 and Under Issue, while also trying to entice him to move to Detroit and join our staff. He always turned me down because—and I’m paraphrasing a bit here—he “ha(d) his rube editor exactly where he want(ed), and could basically do whatever he wanted all day.” Years later, I would get my own chance to be the rube editor that let Raph do whatever he wanted all day and enjoy the immense pleasure of explaining to various people why that was a good thing for Jalopnik.

Raph, I’ll miss reading your thoughts on cars, but let’s be honest you moved on a long time ago. Happy pedaling!

Stef Schrader, former Jalopnik Staff Writer

You know you’ve made it when your name becomes a verb. Even the time I got flipped onto my roof got called an Orlove! I still have the Orlove’d t-shirt somewhere, although it’s pretty worse for wear now. There are no rules when you leave—we’re dead now!—so I recommend Orlove-ing the CEO’s desk on the way out, just for good measure.

Getting traded for Bob sounds like a bit of a buzzkill, but you can always establish dominance in your new office by having the vehicle that leaks the most in the Hearst parking lot. How do you think I get to post about Porsches on The Drive so often? Type 4 ownership, baby! No one out-pees that car. Ideally, you never should’ve gotten rid of the Orlove’d Baja Bug, but I have faith in any old aircooled to piddle profusely when needed.

Break a seal on the first day, and R&T will give us the sick drift and rally issue we deserve in no time.

Bill Caswell, International Man Of Mystery

I’m super bummed to see Raphael go, but I always knew it was just a matter of time – there are only so many Group B rally videos to post and they’re not making any more. I guess he finally went through them all! The truth is that I’m going to miss Raphael’s posts. You could tell it was him by the time you finished the first sentence. And I always read every word.

Does anyone remember his Baja Bug? Not the first one. Nope, he rolled that one pretty fast. The second one. It was one of the most dangerous vehicles I’ve ever seen. There was a giant pile of random wires under the rear seat. Some were live too. But Raphael pointed out there was nothing under there to ground out on, so what’s going to happen? And he had a point I guess. But he was so chill about it all. Not a stress in the world. Pure optimism. He had just driven up from NYC, so maybe he had a point? We were at Team Oneil rally School in northern New Hampshire, so he could go fast and sideways with Wyatt Knox for an update on the bug I guess. Actually… I remember Raphael getting super nervous that trip. I had to fix something on the back of his car! I think I welded a support bracket for that giant Baja exhaust. Or maybe the brake light. I cant remember. But he got super nervous! Said something like “You sure you know what you’re doing Caswell?” I looked up and was like “Oh….. the pile of wires under the seat are OK, but my welds aren’t?”

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Photo: Bill Caswell

Michael Roselli, former Jalopnik Video Producer

First off, who is he? He’s dead.

Second, here’s my roast, please edit as you see fit.

I was fortunate enough to work with Raph during the inception of Jalopnik’s video programming, which means I have a lot of his screw-ups documented for the world to see in perpetuity. There was one time, however, when I made the mistake instead of him.

We were going to interview Fernando Alonso before the Indy 500, and I was waxing poetic to Raph on the cab ride over about how good I was as a camera operator – never once forgetting a piece of equipment in all my years doing it. “I’m great,” I said repeatedly. When we showed up, it happened – I forgot the screen for the camera. First and only opportunity to film the one and only Fernando Alonso, and I couldn’t see what the camera was pointing at.

Raph yelled at me for being the idiot I was, and mentioned the word “karma” a bunch of times until it came time to actually start recording. I took my best guess at the settings I needed and sent it.

Just know this video of Fernando cracking a walnut with his neck was filmed entirely based on guesswork. Exposure, focus, framing, everything. I nailed it.

Fuck you for ever doubting me, Raph. I am great.

Steve DaSilva, Jalopnik Staff Writer

I’ve been reading Raph’s blogs for over a decade, and he’s directly responsible for some of my interests in car culture. He introduced me to Baja Bugs (by crashing one), Formula Drift cars (by crashing one), and he even almost convinced me to buy a Fiat 124 Abarth (by crashing one). Then, I started working at Jalopnik, and found that Raphael Orlove is a dork.

When I, a known nerd, asked my coworkers “Hey you remember that one video where Stephan Papadakis carried a cardboard cutout around Japan?” I was met with blank stares from all — except one. Raph knew it. He knew which FD drivers have had which engines in which chassis in which years. The man is a certified dork.

So, farewell and eat shit, Raph. Bring your nerd shit to Road & Track.

Gabriella Giacona, East Coast Sales, Teapigs US

Let’s be honest — this is Raphael’s world, and I am just a mere passenger in his 1974 VW beetle that is either: broken down on a busy on-ramp in NJ traffic, broken down on the side of the Westside Highway (twice), just outside of Binghamton puking out all of its oil, in New Hampshire with a faulty wire, or out of gas 1 hour outside of Saugerties. Hey, of course I support Raph 1,000 percent on all his car/bike journeys; he is learning, living, laughing, and blogging along the way, which I love!

But if I hear him say: “Hey, hi! This is Raphael calling about those *insert unnecessary bike parts here* you are selling on craigslist — you think that you’d be willing to drop them off at a bike shop and ship them out to me?” over the phone from the other room one more time…I will die 🙂

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