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Celebrity Drive: Nathan Kress, former "iCarly" actor

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 4/6/2015 K.S. Wang

Quick Stats: Nathan Kress, former "iCarly" actor
Daily Driver:2010 Chevy Camaro (Nathan's rating: 9 on a scale of 1 to 10)
Favorite road trip: San Diego to Seattle
Car he learned to drive in: 2004 Toyota RAV4
First car bought: 2004 Toyota RAV4

Actor Nathan Kress has always wanted a Camaro, but he didn't think he would ever get the opportunity to buy the car he loved as a child.

"My dad had a 1982 Z/28, and that was his big purchase," he says. "It was his date car for him and my mom, and my brothers got home from the hospital in that car. I've had a lot of history with Camaros, and I always thought to myself that I would want one when I got to the age of driving a car. But unfortunately they stopped being made in 2002, so my hopes were dashed."

Because the Camaro wasn't available, he focused instead on a Nissan 350Z, but when he heard about the new Camaros and saw it on "Transformers," Kress was excited to finally buy his dream car. "I remember the first video I saw of that generation of the Camaro," he says. "I remember saying, 'That's going to be the car that I buy someday.' And I did."

He rates his 2010 Camaro a 9 overall, dropping the rating a bit for everyday use. "Sometimes over the bumps it can be a little stiff, and the bucket seats, for my driving in L.A., where it's a lot of stop and start, I'll find if I'm in that car long enough, I'm in pain after a while," he says. "So comfort level — it's a little to be desired, but then again who knows what they've changed in the last five years and newer generations of the car? So as far as appearance and performance, it is an easy 9. As far as comfort for a daily driver, I'd say a 7.5"

Nathan Kress Celebrity Drive© Provided by MotorTrend Nathan Kress Celebrity Drive Kress couldn't wait for the later model years. After seeing a video of someone revving the concept car in front of a hotel, he just had to have one. "I knew that was the one," he says. "People were saying they don't know how the transmission's going to do because it's the new generation and usually it takes a couple model years to figure out the kinks. I couldn't wait anymore. It was too gorgeous, and for a Camaro, the price was too good as far as I was concerned. It's been going strong for five years. I've had zero problems with it. And it's been going perfect for 65,000 miles, so I have zero complaints."

Kress bought his Camaro in May 2010, about a year after he saw the short video clip. His Camaro has a V-6, which he says was his concession. "For the purposes of a 17-year-old driving that car and paying his own insurance and the gas mileage and cost effective-wise being in L.A., I decided to just get the LT, which I'm super happy with; 312 horsepower is plenty for Los Angeles, and it gets me where I need to go very quickly," he says. "That said, I would do anything to get behind a current Z/28 or ZL1 because those things are just insane."

Kress only wishes the seat in his Camaro were a bit more comfortable, especially when driving the Pacific Coast Highway. "I did the entirety of PCH in one day, and by the time I was done, I was doubled over," he says. "It was hurting really bad because it was a lot of on the brake, off the brake, maneuvering around turns, and that was difficult in that car. So if they had a little bit more lumbar support or customization — I have the first generation; mine only goes in a couple directions. For all I know, the 2015 could have eight different points of seat articulation. I know the Stingray does, so they probably have really similar seats on the higher trim levels. I'm sure at this point, they've probably fixed that. It's just a problem for me because I couldn't wait. I had to get the earliest version of the car."

And because he got the earliest model, it had OnStar. "It was right before they started introducing the MyLink and the big sat-nav screens and the touchscreen into the center console," Kress says. "Mine is pretty much analog, so it doesn't have quite as much customization and control, and that's the one bummer. But when it boils down to it, the thing plays music, and that's all I need."

Now Kress has a new dream car, but he won't get rid of the Camaro. He will, however, give it a proper retirement. "I felt the same way as soon as I saw the concept for the Stingray, and that's my next thing," he says. "If I get the chance, that's what I want to graduate up to and retire the Camaro. Get all the stupid door dings that people who are idiots in parking lots left in it, get it really cleaned, and either save it or give it to my kid once I feel like I can trust them with it. Having a Stingray would be great. Not as a daily driver, but I think that's the next inevitable step."

Nathan Kress Celebrity Drive© Provided by MotorTrend Nathan Kress Celebrity Drive In addition to the parking lot scars and scratches, his Camaro has some self-inflicted wounds. "Driveways are extremely steep in certain areas," he says. "In another car it wouldn't make that much of a difference, but when you have one that sticks out pretty far in the front, especially if you take it at speed, which you have to because the window for merging from a parking lot onto a street is really short. You have to book it out of a driveway. Sometimes that scrapes the front end."

Car he learned to drive in

Right after Kress got booked on "iCarly" and started making some money, he bought a 2004 Toyota RAV4 after seeing it at a used car lot.

His dad would take him to an abandoned industrial park at night, which turned out to be the perfect place for someone learning to drive because it had stop signs, yield areas, and roundabouts. "I practiced changing lanes and pulling up to the curb, and I actually did my drivers ed online," Kress says. "The lady came and picked me up in a little driversed.com MINI Cooper and took me out for three days. I got on the freeway, and it was great. It was pretty darn cheap, and I sailed through both tests, and I was very well-taught for doing it online." Kress enjoyed driving the RAV4 and says it was pretty compact for Los Angeles driving. "That thing was awesome," Kress says. "We realized that we needed to get a car that had better mileage because I was going to put a lot of miles on it, and it would be something that would be really safe for me to start learning to drive on and to drive myself. My parents knew whatever we bought would be the car I would learn on, and they knew Toyotas were super reliable and very safe. It was really functional and really clean. Never had a single problem with it. It was a great car."

The only reason he stopped driving it was because the Camaro came out. "I probably would have driven that thing for another 10 years," he says. "I thought it was pretty cool-looking for a mini SUV. Everybody is almost entitled to being embarrassed by their first car, and fortunately I didn't really have that problem, because it wasn't super manly or super fast or super cool, but it was really functional, it didn't look bad, and it was really clean. So I was cool with it."

But there is no way he would go back from the Camaro.

Favorite road trip

In early 2014, Kress and his brothers had 11 days when they all had time off. "All of us decided, 'Look we're about to be grown-ups and have grown-up jobs, we need to do something together, some huge trip that we've always wanted to do," he says. "Go see friends and family and just do one last hurrah before everything starts getting crazy. So that was our big reason for doing it. It was kind of our last youth thing to do, a bunch of young boys wandering wild and not really having much of a plan. It was amazing."

They wanted to drive up the coast from Mexico to Canada. When they found out they couldn't take a rental car across the border, they made it a San Diego to Seattle road trip, driving the Pacific Coast Highway for as far as they could take it.

Celebrity Drive: Nathan Kress, former "iCarly" actor

"We got in touch with all of our contacts and family up the coast, and we had places to stay every night," he says. "We went down to San Diego, went as close to the border as we could past San Diego until we saw border patrol agents, and then we went all the way up and took the 405 and 101 up to PCH, stayed on PCH. I'm so proud of it. We have a picture that has the sign that says 'Highway 1 End.' "

Nathan Kress Celebrity Drive© Provided by MotorTrend Nathan Kress Celebrity Drive Because they only went from San Diego to Seattle, they had an extra day left over from their original plans. That allowed for a bit of a slower and more relaxed road trip.

"We ended up going through California, through the redwoods, and then through Oregon, to Portland," he says. "We ended up yurting one night right on the beach in Oregon. It was at a campsite, and we woke up super early. We went to the beach for the morning, came back, got back on the road, and went up through Washington."

Kress enjoyed seeing Seattle because "iCarly" was set there, but that road trip was his first time visiting the city. "It was nice to be able to get the chance to go where we were supposedly from on the show," he says.

They tried to minimize using their phones on the trip so they could focus on good conversation and company, but they did stream music, and someone was always navigating. "We tried to limit it as much as we possibly could and got back to basics — besides documenting it; there was Flip cams a-flying," he says. "We just tried to do as much simple stuff as we could."

The simple things they wanted to do included stopping at baseball fields to see how many home runs they could hit. "Which, hint, is not many," Kress says. "But it was fun to still try to do it. We would just do stuff that we always thought would be cool that we never got a chance to do. It was fantastic. It was just so simple."

The conversation was pretty introspective at times. "It was just getting reconnected and having really great conversation and getting a feel for where we felt like we were going in our lives," he says. "It got deep. It was awesome. That's one of those things that I love about road trips, that it gets to the point where even music starts getting old and you can't just sit there in silence. You have no choice but to talk about stuff. And eventually you run out of really fluffy things to talk about. And I've gotten down to nitty-gritty with people on the road. That's one of the things that I love so much about driving, that you really can get to know people if you spend enough time with them on the road. If you've got somebody buried in their phone, then they're not going to be doing very much."

Nathan Kress Celebrity Drive© Provided by MotorTrend Nathan Kress Celebrity Drive

2015 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Pro/Celebrity Race

This year Kress joins a field that includes fellow actors such as Mekhi Phifer, Sugar Ray's Mark McGrath, Goo Goo Dolls' John Rzeznik, and past celebs/Celeb Drives Rutledge Wood and Brett Davern.

Before he was even old enough to join this race, Kress heard about it from friends who participated in the past. He always hoped to be a part of it. "As soon as they told me about it, I was psyched," he says. "I had no idea that it was ever going to come to fruition, but when I found out that it was something I could be invited to and that I did get invited to, that changed everything."

Although it's Kress' first time in a street-course race, last year he did participate in a celebrity race in Irwindale, California, but he says that was very different.

"It was these old NASCAR S2s that were incredible and so powerful, and I learned a ton from that," he says. "It's been amazing and so different from the first race that I had done. Doing it on a road course rather than just doing those left turns and driving a perfect line is something that I didn't really think would be that difficult to grasp, but it's been very educational. The biggest thing was that I had never learned how to drive a stick shift. All those cars that I had learned on were automatic. I had never driven a manual in my life. But the difference is once that thing in third gear, you never take it out of gear until you're done with the race."

After his first race, Kress couldn't say he was that proficient with a manual transmission, and it was only practice at Willow Springs that helped. Danny McKeever, our first Celeb Drive, and his Fastlane Race School instructors teach the celebrities. Kress finally felt more comfortable with the manual transmission and enjoyed learning racing skills. "If I left and never got to train again and never got to do the race, I'd still be happy because I had an awesome time," he says. "I learned how to drive stick and apex turns and corner properly and brake properly."

He had little trouble coming to a stop. It was only going from a stopped car into first that what he needed practice with. "I took the instructors aside, and I said, 'Can I take my car onto the straightaway in the parking lot and just practice getting from a dead stop into first?' " he says, "I can get on the track just fine, but it doesn't look good. It looks embarrassing, so I just want to get to the point where not only can I do it on this track, but I can also do it in real life and not have worry about it."

Kress's primary goal for the April 18 race in downtown Long Beach is just to finish. "At Irwindale I didn't finish, because halfway through, my driveshaft blew up," he says. "I just want to see a checkered flag. And I don't want to be in dead last. Those are my only goals."

He says quite a few racers have competed in this race before, so that makes competition pretty tough. "I have zero expectation for getting anywhere even in the top half," he says. "If I finished between fifth and seventh, I would be ecstatic. I have very low expectations — high hopes because you don't want to be too dismal about it, but I'm planning not planning on any kind of dark horse upset."

Whatever happens in the race, Kress says the race training is helping him in regular day-to-day driving situations, but he also has a bit of the racing bug. "I'm becoming much more conscious of the road," he says. "I now know how to do J-turns and reverse. I love this. If I keep getting asked back to do these races, heck yeah, I'll do this every year."

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