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?

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)

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.

recovering model-builder

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.

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.

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.

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.

A wanted a Norton Villiers so badly when I was a kid.

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.

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.”

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.

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.

I currently own 1 1/2 MGBs.

That Jaguar of Inspector Morse (swoon).

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.

That’s incredibly funny and very true; now I just need to find a way to work that into conversation with other car enthusiasts. :smiley:

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.

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.

If they haven’t heard that before they’re very young or they aren’t car enthusiasts.

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).

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))!