With 51 vehicles passing through the Ward's parking deck recently as part of this year's Ward's 10 Best Interiors competition, the editorial team spent untold hours sifting through each passenger compartment like eager prospectors seeking gold nuggets.
Each editor might have a particular pet peeve, checking every vehicle on a certain metric. For instance, how easy is it to reach the seatbelt or the radio tuning knob? Is the headliner made of low-grade rat fur? Are seats easily adjustable, and is the glovebox large enough for more than a pair of gloves? Does blood wash off the back seat? Come on, you know I'm kidding.
As for me, I'm the designated photographer, charged with capturing the insides of all the vehicles we evaluated. Averaging about 50 shots per vehicle, I snapped more than 2,500 photos in two months.
Those shots came in handy when the editors met to decide which 10 vehicles were award-worthy. When the argument reached a fevered pitch about two vehicles in contention, a photo montage on the conference-room wall helped settle the debate.
My pet peeve as I shot these vehicles was backseat comfort, and I eventually figured out snapshots of facial expressions would be the best way to convey in a photo whether a backseat was spacious, merely passable or downright cramped.
I'd hold the camera with an extended hand and snap a self-portrait. A happy smile indicates I have plenty of headroom, a smirk suggests headroom is adequate and a frown means exactly what you think it means.
I'm not a big guy, not even 5-ft.-10-ins. (1.8 m) tall, so I figure I'm the ideal size to test a backseat. Feel free to visit the WardsAuto.com blog site and the Facebook page of Ward's Automotive Group to see more images.
As you'll see by these unflattering photos, I'm not given to vanity.
Tom Murphy is executive editor of Ward's AutoWorld magazine, with an emphasis on technology and suppliers.