cars, classic cars, History, longstone, motoring and cars, renault

A luxurious future?

A friend of mine was telling me about his new car. It’s a brand new small Renault Twingo. ‘Its just a cheap basic run-around’ he told me.  Then he listed some of the technology that comes with his new car. Automatic headlights, Automatic wipers, Electronic Brake Assist, Park Assist, DAB, Electric Windows…. This list started to make me think about two things; Firstly, how reliable is this technology going to be in 10 yrs time (when I am likely to be driving a 2016 plate car). And secondly, do we really want all these extras?

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I have had  ‘modern’ cars in the past, a  Golf 115 PD and a Ford Mondeo 130 TDCI . By the time I brought them they were about 9 years old with a high mileages. They both went like stink with good fuel economy, but they both went wrong alarmingly frequently. One had a habit of cutting out on the fast lane of the motorway, and the other used to go into ‘limp mode’ and use tons of water. I took both cars to a number of garages, but no one could get to the bottom of these issues. Even the water problem did not appear to be anything obvious like the head gasket. Sensors were thought to be the root cause of most the problems, but no one knew which sensors! This has left me with major suspicions regarding any car built after 2002. This is when cars appear start to become riddled with sensors and ‘fly by wire’ controls. If cars are full of computers and micro switches then there is the opportunity for manufactures to program in obsolesces into the their products. This makes me think that if manufactures cheat fuel emissions tests, who knows what ethics underlie any company’s drive for economic sustainable growth?  Even components such as electric windows could have a built in shelf life.vehicle-sensors

The first car to have electric windows was a Packard 180 built in America in 1940. This soon became a popular addition to American cars but did not filter down to the ‘Top of the Range’ British Leyland cars until the late 70’s. Britain’s idea of luxury motoring was Walnut trim, leather seats and Axminster carpets. ‘If it wasn’t found an a Mayfair Gentlemen’s club, then it had no place in a car’. That was fine, whilst  due to the lack of real competition, Britain was the largest producer of cars in the Common Wealth. But once we joined the common market in 1975 and trade restrictions were lifted from countries that only a few decades earlier were WW2 enemies, the new competition offered a fresh perspective on what a normal car could be. German cars had unrivaled build quality, Japanese cars had the audacity to start on cold mornings and all but the most basic models had electric windows and central locking as standard . Suddenly the novelty of gadgets seamed very appealing and  a bit of wood stuck to the dash with an engine from a 1950’s Morris Minor didn’t seem enough!

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My friends cheap Renault raises alarm bells for me. A company that once curated the Renault 4, the car for the people that provided everything required to transport people and goods around rural france, now has automatic headlights on its cheapest car!

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I believe that there is now a new emerging market for a basic car that is designed to last. Now Britain is in danger of ostracising itself from the rest of the EU we now need a new market sector to utilize once more. We can’t do cheep (South Korea do that), we can’t do executive (the Germans do that) we can’t do flamboyant (the Americans have that one). But we could do basic and well engineered. We know what brakes, it doesn’t have to be cheap if it’s well conceived.  Billionaire Jim Ratcliffe plans to start manufacturing a rugged off-road car in the style of Land Rover’s discontinued Defender. I hope that this could be the start if a new/old way of thinking. We should be planning make a rugged family car, with the minimum of electronics and gizmos. A car with a 30 year life expectancy. This is thought to be financially unsustainable, but the world is a big place and there is the scope to sell a lot of cars to a lot of emerging markets.

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I’m not suggesting that we live in an totalitarian dictatorship, where we only have one choice of vehicle for the masses, but it would be good to have the option of a car that was designed to do 300,000 miles. A passive sensor system could also be used, one that just informs the driver of a problem with a pacific component and does not confuse the car’s ECU in the process. It is very environmentally damaging to produce a new car with only marginally better fuel economy, that only lasts ten years then scrap and reproduce a new car !  Dougal Cawley, owner of Longstone Tyres once jokingly said ‘we all know that a panda dies every time a new car is made’. Although this statement is not entirely true, the sentiment remains.

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campervan, classic cars, History, Uncategorized, VW, vw camper

Cars and the Fossil Record

As most palaeontologists will tell you, we don’t have a complete fossil record of the natural world. There appears to be gaps in the full spectrum of plants and animals that are thought to of existed . This could explain more about evolution and diversity of the natural world. These gaps would help to link all elements of the living world together, but without the fossilized evidence this is just an educated guess. Some people use this to bolster their claims of the existence of an overarching deity, a sentient being with a master plan of the direction of life itself. Others can perceive that in order for a plant or animal to become fossilised, they must die within the perfect conditions for fossilisation to take place. This means that a plant or animal that spent most of it’s life in exposed, dry or upland conditions would not have the same probability of getting covered in the protecting sedimentary debris of those in marshy or coastal areas. Therefore we are not fully aware of the biodiversity of periods of time such as the Jurassic age, we only know what elements of this looked like.

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What has this got to do with classic cars?……

Over the years I have attended many classic car shows. Wondering around I marvel at the gleaming automotive exhibits on show. 65% of the cars on display are usually  sports cars or luxury cruisers.  If you were to take this as a cross section of Britain’s automotive history you could easily conclude  that 1960’s and 70’s Britain was full of men in cravats and sporting jackets driving e type Jaguars and MG’s. You could think that very few people drove Austin A35’s and Morris 1100’s. But from memory and photographs I know this not to be true.

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In this typical 1970’s car park picture there are at least seven mini’s but also cars that are very rare now such as an austin farina of which there are only 68 on the UK roads. Three hillman avengers (of which there are 36 still on the road) and a number of austin 1100’s (of which there are now 346 on the road [the 1100 was one of the best selling cars of the 60’s in the UK]), the Triumph GT6 (876 left on the roads) and Jaguar 240/340 (1427 left) are clearly in the minority.

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Above is another photo of an English car park in 1974. It is peppered in the obligatory mini’s, escort’s and 1100’s with hardly any car that could be classed as sporting or exotic.

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1970’s shrewsbury

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Shrewsbury in 2017. Will any of these cars exist in 43 year time?

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This is what you typically see at classic car meets now.  This is nice, but it does rather misrepresent the era. Sometimes, without the protective embrace of a dry garage and the foresight of their owners, the once commonly  mundane can become the rarest and most interesting. .

The same ‘rose tinted’ views could be said for most cultural aspects of 60’s and 70’s .Britain. When talking to people who grew up in the 50’s and 60’s they will tell you that crime levels were nonexistent, the summers were warm and long and everyone was happy. We know this is not really the case. The Beatles, Stones and Kinks did not solely dominate the charts in the 60’s….  Frank  Ifield and Rolf Harris had hits too!  I believe that we have been very fortunate to have lived through a period of relative economic and civil stability over the last 30 years and therefore we have become disenfranchised from the real issues that are important in this world such as equality and peace. Society now feels hard done by because as humans we have a tendency to only remember the good things from our past. Therefore we need the Austin 1100 and Moskvich 412 to keep the automotive fossil records alive and to remind us how life really was. It’s ok that everyone is not driving a Porsche or an Aston Martin now. The mundane is as much part of normal life now as it was in the 60’s, only with aircon and electric windows!

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