Like many other automotive journalists, Chad Kirchner’s life changed in March when COVID-19 hit and put an end to events, travel and many of his assignments. With no place to go and extra time on his hands, Chad felt called to do something to help people during the COVID-19 crisis. That something was organizing a group of people who owned 3D printers to create face shields for people who needed them. Or as Chad put it, “a bunch of nerds who are into 3D printing got together and decided to do what we can.”
It turns out, brackets for face shields are easy to 3D print so the group of 30 people with 40 printers, found a design that was approved by local hospitals, and printed them non-stop for weeks. It would take an hour to print each bracket then they bought binder covers which they three-hole punched and attached to complete the shield. At the peak, they produced about 1,000 face shields a week.
Chad and his friends funded the entire endeavor and didn’t charge anyone for the shields. “Someone would put in a request and we filled them. We delivered them to local hospitals and a lot of nursing homes. We even provided them to an assisted living facility in Michigan. We didn’t turn anybody away,” Kirchner said.
They were printing so many that finding the filament material for the printers became tough. “Amazon was our main supplier, but when they went to essential delivery only, we lost our main supply line for 3D printing filament,” said Kirchner.
They started looking at local computer stores but quickly bought out all the available local stock. Chad ended up finding a large supply of filament in Brooklyn, NY, convinced Toyota to loan him a vehicle for the trip, which he wrote about for one of his many outlets, Automotive Map. He made the round trip journey from Ohio to New York in one 18-hour day.
Like many auto writers, Chad grew up reading car magazines at a young age. “In addition to the incredible cars, reading stories about these exotic locations was a great form of escape.” Chad started reading about Japanese tuners and eventually bought a Honda S2000 inspired by all the articles he had read about the car. “It’s ironic, I wasn’t big into trucks even though it’s what I cover now. I grew up in a small Midwestern town and everybody loved trucks. I think the Japanese tuner thing was my form of rebellion.”
Chad began writing about cars after he helped Josh Smith from GottaBeMobile.com with a purchase. “He needed to buy a car, a mutual friend introduced us and saying I could help him. Josh did something that never happens, he bought the car I recommended – and still drives it today.” A couple months later Josh called and said they were going to be adding auto coverage to the tech focused site, and asked if Chad was interested. It didn’t take long for Chad to say yes.
With 13 million unique visitors a month, GottaBeMobile attracted the attention of automakers and Chad began getting media loans. His first press loan in 2013 was a Ford F-150 Raptor and his inaugural press trip was for the Chrysler 200. Now seven years into his career, Chad freelances for a number of outlets with a primary focus on trucks. High points of his career so far include driving on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a Chevy program, a trip to Morocco with Nissan, and a small Ford Performance event at Eldora Speedway where he spent the day after the races jumping Raptors with racer and track owner, Tony Stewart.
Chad’s philosophy is straightforward. “My first responsibility is to tell the truth, even if that truth is harsh. But it’s important to say why. I would never write anything I wouldn’t tell a company executive face-to-face. If it gets you a nasty phone call, you get a nasty phone call.”
MAMA played a significant role in his professional development. “Early on it was made clear that belonging to a professional organization was important. And everyone recommended MAMA.” Based in Columbus, Ohio, he attends as many MAMA events as possible. “I would love to go to more lunches as I’ve gotten press loans from showing up to a MAMA lunch. MAMA has a reputation as a top-tier organization, and being a member has raised my profile and helped me get more gigs.”