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Old 10-11-2008, 04:49 PM
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Why the romance for awful older British cars and mororcycles?


Over the years Ive seen several threads, including this recent one, about otherwise rational people mooning over restoring or acquiring some unreliable and crappy even when it was new British motorcycle or car.

The comments usually run along the line of "Boy howdy it was a serious piece of shit, but it looked so cool."

If it's unreliable and poorly engineered why keep bringing these things back to life to torment the living?
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Old 10-11-2008, 04:53 PM
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Can't the same be said for American cars?

In fact isn't America far mor guilty about this (or was) than any other country? (Keeping old poorly engineerd but good looking cars in favour of better engineered better on the economy but often rather bland looking cars)
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Old 10-11-2008, 04:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by astro View Post
If it's unreliable and poorly engineered why keep bringing these things back to life to torment the living?
Some people have time, money, and energy to burn. These people are called hobbyists. The distinguishing characteristic of a hobbyist is that their hobby looks silly, extravagant, and wasteful to anyone who does not share it.

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Old 10-11-2008, 05:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Lobsang View Post
Can't the same be said for American cars?

In fact isn't America far more guilty about this (or was) than any other country? (Keeping old poorly engineered but good looking cars in favour of better engineered better on the economy but often rather bland looking cars)
Older American cars including sports cars, for all their faults, were generally not considered unreliable relative to the state of the technology. Judging by what I've seen written about the subject older British vehicles seem to be in a class of their own regarding bad or questionable engineering.
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Old 10-11-2008, 05:21 PM
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OK. But older American cars were extremely un-fuel-efficient right? So while they might not have been unreliable they were not that efficient.

From what I've seen, a lot of old British cars WERE beautiful, (Such as the old Jaguars). And there's a patriotic side to this: Britain no longer has any companies that make cars. (Well I think there's one - Lotus. But they don't make 'ordinary' cars) So I can see why people would want to own a purely British, classic car from when Britain had some of it's Empire sheen left.
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Old 10-11-2008, 05:34 PM
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Yeah, it's not about the engineering or performance, it's about the aesthetics. The MG TD is a dangerous pile of shit, but you look stylin' driving it around, and no one uses it as a daily driver.
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Old 10-11-2008, 05:44 PM
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The best British, indeed any, car is the Bristol.

But one needs a certain (dare I say British?) mindset to fully appreciate them.

Chrysler engines for decades though I fear.
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Old 10-11-2008, 10:54 PM
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A wanted a Norton Villiers so badly when I was a kid.
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Old 10-11-2008, 11:19 PM
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Just yesterday, for the first time in probably at least ten years, I saw a Triumph TR6 in traffic. The styling was still cool.

A guy I knew in high school inherited some money from his father and decided he wanted a Spitfire. I tried talking him out of it, based on what I'd read in Car & Driver. He insisted, however. Within a year, he was wishing he'd listened to me.

Too bad someone doesn't revamp the mechanics of some of these old designs, like they did with the Cooper.
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Old 10-11-2008, 11:29 PM
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Old Jaguar's were perfect as long as you bought two to have a spare while the other one was in the shop.
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Old 10-11-2008, 11:42 PM
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Old Jaguar's were perfect as long as you bought two to have a spare while the other one was in the shop.
I knew a guy who loved Fiats. "People say it's so hard to find parts for Fiats, but it really isn't. Just look in the road behind you."
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Old 10-11-2008, 11:52 PM
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My first memory of being in any car is of being in a Triumph Herald convertible. I grew up riding in a '66 MGB roadster. My first car was that same '66 MGB, which I drove in the '80s. And I had a couple of '77 MGBs concurrently. Now I have a '63 Triumph Herald 1200 convertible that I pretty much got accidentally, and a '66 MGB that is in much better condition than my first car.
Quote:
Originally Posted by astro
The comments usually run along the line of "Boy howdy it was a serious piece of shit, but it looked so cool."
Yes, British cars have their quirks. But POS? Not really. One of the things I liked about the old MGB as a teenager was that it was very nimble and had good acceleration. Plus it looked cool. My 'new' '66 MGB handles just as well. Sure, its 0-60 time isn't as impressive now as when they were first made almost half a century ago, but it accelerates better than my Prius or Cherokee.

Problems? Well, British cars have their quirks. I've posted about a weird electrical problem, and the difficulty of erecting the top when it's cold. Just quirks, that's all. As long as you keep them in tune, they'll run.

So for me, it's nostalgia. I grew up with British cars, and drooled over a Norton at the local dealer's when a 100cc Enduro was too big for me. 'Unreliable and crappy'? The 'B was made for 18 years virtually unchanged. Can that be said about any Toyota? Besides, they look cool.

Last edited by Johnny L.A.; 10-11-2008 at 11:53 PM. Reason: coding
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Old 10-12-2008, 06:33 AM
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Old Jaguar's were perfect as long as you bought two to have a spare while the other one was in the shop.
I currently own 1 1/2 MGBs.
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Old 10-12-2008, 06:41 AM
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That Jaguar of Inspector Morse (swoon).
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Old 10-12-2008, 09:15 AM
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Heh. We were watching Casino Royale the other night, and I joked that one of the gadgets in James's Aston Martin was a GPS system whose dedicated function was to show all the closest Aston Martin repair shops.
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Old 10-12-2008, 09:28 PM
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Old Jaguar's were perfect as long as you bought two to have a spare while the other one was in the shop.
That's incredibly funny and very true; now I just need to find a way to work that into conversation with other car enthusiasts.
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Old 10-12-2008, 09:31 PM
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I've joked that I had three MGBs... Usually two were running.

In reality, they were usually all running. But none were restored (two were under a decade old at the time) and two of them (the '66 and one of the '77s) would manifest an 'issue' from time to time. But they still ran.
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  #18  
Old 10-13-2008, 12:49 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by astro View Post
Judging by what I've seen written about the subject older British vehicles seem to be in a class of their own regarding bad or questionable engineering.
You don't have the nuance right. They were often beautifully engineered in a certain sense. The engineering was often theoretically very advanced and cool, in the sense of what the cars were capable of, when running correctly. The problems lay very often in quality control, lack of serviceability and unreliability.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Martini Enfield View Post
That's incredibly funny and very true; now I just need to find a way to work that into conversation with other car enthusiasts.
If they haven't heard that before they're very young or they aren't car enthusiasts.
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Old 10-13-2008, 01:01 PM
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The engineering was often theoretically very advanced and cool, in the sense of what the cars were capable of, when running correctly. The problems lay very often in quality control, lack of serviceability and unreliability.
In the Top Gear "British Leyland" challenge, they showed some snippets of film from, I guess, a British Leyland promotional film from the 1970s - in addition to lots of guys with big bushy mustasches assembling car parts, there was a scene with an older man in a smock with a ball-peen hammer banging away at a door frame to get it to fit. (over this scene Hammond said that British Leyland cars were either poorly made, or weren't made at all - showing scene of striking BL auto workers).
  #20  
Old 10-13-2008, 01:10 PM
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The Really big problem with british cars (ca.1960-1980's)


was technical onbsolescence. take electrical systems-the USA, germany, japan, switched from DC generators to alternators, by the early 1960's-the Brits stuck with their LUCAS generators. A generator needs periodic service (brushes, bearing lubrication, commutator cleaning). Neglect that, and your battery won't charge!
Carburators: the Brits used a old side draft design from the 1920's (SU)-the rest of the world went to downdraft and later fuel injection.
Starters: my 1969 MGB had a starter that was used on the FORD MODEL A (1930); the old bendix drive would get dirty and stick-so your starter went "whirr, whirr"-instead of cranking the engine.
Add to that the weird placement of components (MGB fuel line went over the hot exhaust manifold-guaranteeing engine fires), removal of Austin-Healy water pump was an all-day affair!
That and weal, noisey heaters, road-pounding suspension ("lever shocks" (1920 design))!
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Old 10-16-2008, 10:25 AM
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I suppose since I started the linked thread I should reply here.

For me there are a few reasons.

1. I like the styling on a lot of the old English vehicles. I mean there are a lot of good looking vehicles now also but they usually don't fall into the same classic styling of the old ones. Yes there are a lot good looking old American vehicles I like also but I don't think I need to tie myself here just because I'm an American. This to me is one of the biggest draws because I think old English bikes are just right when it comes to styling.

b. I also like the idea of being able to fix something myself. Vehicles from back in the day are less reliable than ones now but I can pull out the old toolbox and, with the appropriate manuals, actually have a chance at being able find/fix the problem.

III. The last one is one of that I'm a cheap bastard. I can get an old English bike for like 25% the cost of an old American one in the same condition.

As far as reliability what I have been hearing is that once you get the electronics sorted out the reliability is a factor of how well the rest of the bike is maintained. A poorly maintained vehicle is going to have poor reliability. I have also been told that the particular one I got is actually a really good, well handling example of an old motorcycle and I can't wait to see if it's true.

I suppose the last reason is that while I won't say I'm an attention whore I like being noticed and if it's not going to be for my rugged good looks, which will be hidden under a full face helmet, it may as well be for the really cool English bike.
  #22  
Old 10-16-2008, 11:58 AM
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This is for Lobsang.

My daily driver is a 1967 Plymouth Valiant Signet. This is one of the most reliable cars ever made. Mine still gets 15 city/20 highway. I have heard that this is the car that made Detroit go the planned obsolescence route (needs cite).

So your ideas about at least some American cars from the 50s/60s/70s could use reworking.
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Old 10-16-2008, 12:22 PM
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I saw a beautiful mid 60's Jaguar at a car show a few months ago. The owner had a sign in the windshield that had some info about the car. Chevy 350 engine, 700R transmission, Corvette independent rear end, Dodge Dakota digital dash, Dodge Viper bucket seats 70's Camaro subframe plus a host of aftermarket stuff like the wiring harness, steering column and rear suspension. The only thing British about the car was it's body.
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Old 10-17-2008, 04:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Soul Brother Number Two View Post
This is for Lobsang.

My daily driver is a 1967 Plymouth Valiant Signet. This is one of the most reliable cars ever made. Mine still gets 15 city/20 highway. I have heard that this is the car that made Detroit go the planned obsolescence route (needs cite).

So your ideas about at least some American cars from the 50s/60s/70s could use reworking.
Well 15/20 isn't good by today's standards. Was it considered 'economical' back then?

How big is the engine?
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Old 10-18-2008, 12:05 AM
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It has a 225 slant six engine. 15/20 was very good when it was built, and many of today's American cars don't do that much better; some trucks, SUVs and other V-8 engine types do much worse.

Question: I know you are on the Isle of Man, but in the UK in general are there many classic cars that aren't necessarily upscale and/or collectors' items around? Here in the SF Bay Area, I regularly see Pintos, Mavericks, and some AMC abominations as well as the standard Mustang/Cougar/Riviera/Monte Carlo types.
  #26  
Old 10-18-2008, 12:16 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lobsang View Post
From what I've seen, a lot of old British cars WERE beautiful, (Such as the old Jaguars). And there's a patriotic side to this: Britain no longer has any companies that make cars. (Well I think there's one - Lotus. But they don't make 'ordinary' cars) So I can see why people would want to own a purely British, classic car from when Britain had some of it's Empire sheen left.
There are tons of British companies making cars: Lotus, TVR, Morgan, Caterham, Westfield, Vauxhall, Jaguar, Aston Martin, Bentley, Rolls, Land Rover, Bristol, Ascari, Caparo...

It's just that hardly any of them are British owned these days (and the ones that are, generally, are tiny specialist manufacturers).
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