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Discussion in 'The Observation Bar' started by GHT, Mar 21, 2015.
Too damn funny.
My mother made the mistake of briefly owning a 1968 Ford. "Briefly," because one afternoon it spontaneously caught fire in the driveway. Pretty impressive display.
The '70s American cars my dad bought - a '70 Ford Granada (I think that's the name, might be off on the year a bit), '72 Buick LeSabre and '78 LeSabre - ended his "buy American" default setting as all three stunk, with the first and last being truly horrible cars. The '78 was so bad, that the factory rep (called out by the dealer after my father, without raising his voice, convinced the dealer that they needed to do something) settled with my father and took the car back for a price my dad was okay with. That was it for American cars for him - especially GM.
In the case of automobiles, my loyalties are to my billfold. I've never owned a new car, and doubt I ever will. Whenever I go in seatch of a replacement vehicle I make my mental calculations as to which candidate is likeliest to offer me the greatest (meaning least expensive overall) value.
As to bells and whistles ... Rare is the late-model (less than 15 years old, say) passenger vehicle that doesn't have power steering and power windows and an automatic transmission and air conditioning. These one-time amenities I've grown to regard as near necessities, seeing how the greatest part (by far) of my driving is done in city traffic, in a place that gets quite hot in the summer.
That scenario was much the same here. I bought three new British Leyland cars throughout the seventies. They were appallingly bad, I later learned that the reputation built up by William Lyons with his Jaguar Car Company, had been brought down so low by B/L that Americans who loved the marque would joke that you needed to buy two Jaguars because one would always be off the road.
It's hard to image a worse plan than what these auto companies did to themselves. They turned off "locked-in" customers like my father and the next generation (mine) from even considering buying American (or British in your country). Most of my friends have never bought an American car. It took another generation, my generation's kids, to get old enough to buy cars for there to be a new generation open to American cars.
To be sure, I'm exaggerating as the domestic car companies still sold to every generation, but the percentage in each were dramatically reduced by the brand damage they did to themselves in the '70s.
I love the history of British auto industry (love those '60s Austin Martins, MGs, etc.), but as you note, I remember the disparaging view many held of Jaguars for years and years. I haven't owned a car in almost 30 years, but if I had to buy one today, I would be hesitant to consider an American or British brand just based on those lingering '70s impressions.
About Jaguars: you actually needed three -- one on the road, one in the shop, and a spare. There is an amusing scene in Mad Men, wherein the ad agency has just bagged the Jaguar account. An unfortunate Brit who works for the agency has coincidentally decided to commit suicide, so he goes into the parking deck and runs a hose from the tailpipe of his new XKE into its passenger compartment. Climbs in the car, puts the key into the ignition switch, and . . . the damn thing won't start.
My success with American brand cars has been pretty good. Had a 1969 Ford Fairlane which was a delightful car, a mid-80s Ford Taurus station (estate) wagon which was sorta OK but nothing special, a 2001 Mercury Grand Marquis which was excellent, and two Dodge Intrepids which were pretty good.
Over the years I have also had several Volvos (highly overrated in my opinion), several Saabs (quirky but endearing and entertaining), several VWs (Never Again!!! and I mean NEVER), several Hondas (good workhorses), a Toyota Camry (very nice), a little Infiniti (which was fine), and a Nissan Stanza (the worst car I have ever owned).
I've owned more cars than I trust myself to recall, many of which had me as their penultimate owner, because when I was done with 'em they went to Joe the Scrap Man.
Near the top of the list was a Datsun 510 wagon. Great car. Handled real nice, plenty of poop for the long uphills, easy to park.
Greta cat is much the same, except she insists on being shut in the bedroom with me (she'll wake me up when she needs out for the bathroom...). Often though she'll chase me to bed. Typical tabby, creature of routine..
I've been the last stop for every car I've ever owned, and the one that served me best and longest was a 1997 Toyota Corolla. I bought it with 82,000 miles on it when it was seven years old, and I got eleven years of good solid Maine winter use out of it before the calcium carbide destroyed the rear end. If it hadn't been for that, I'd still be driving it, and when I win the powerball one of the first things I'll do is track down and buy another one exactly like it.
As it happens, the '99 Subaru that now serves as my winter car is nearing the end of its life, and I find myself in a quandry because it's getting to be very difficult to find manual transmission cars on the used market, and I have had very bad experiences with automatic transmission cars in the snow. Give me a clutch or give me death.
My Dad was a Ford (actually Meteor) guy but I became a Chevy guy for some strange reason. Loyal until 1988 when I reached my limit after being nickeled and dimed to death with my 1988 Olds 88. Very good car, engine and tranny top notch but the rest was crap with electric windows, cruise, and most other electrical items started to die and at $300 to $400 a pop was driving me into the poorhouse. Switched to Japanese and have not crossed back. My last two vehicles, Honda and now Hyundai have been stellar vehicles, best I have ever driven for reliability and cost per mile.
Any guesses as to the percentage of drivers these days who have never driven a car with a "standard" (standard no more) manual transmission?
I'd guess the overwhelming majority of people who learned to drive since 1980 haven't -- and unfortunately a manual transmission has gotten this aura of being "too hard" to learn. Which is the bunk. When I collapsed at work last year with appendicitis and had to go to the hospital a couple of The Kids -- who had never driven a car with a clutch before -- were able to teach themselves the rudiments just from having seen me do it, and were able to safely drive my car home with no damage to themselves or the car.
So I have to think it's less a matter of not knowing how as it is a matter of simply never having had it presented to them as an option.
My wife's car, a 1998 VW Golf, is a six speed, manual, clutch pedal car that she has owned and driven for almost twenty years. And my MG is one of those double-de-clutch affairs, anyone know what that means? Can anyone else do it?
Would you ever consider the BMW version of The Mini? They are not so mini these days and they are plentiful in North America with a clutch pedal.
You might find this website fascinating: http://www.latimes.com/business/aut...-disappearing-stick-shift-20161115-story.html
This quote is from that web page:
You might also like to look at BMW, they don't hold their value, but you can capitalise on that because you keep your car until it dies. My wife did much the same with her BMW 525 before we bought the Golf.
I had to learn in college. The only friend with a car had a Mustang with a manual transmission, and if I wanted to take my date out for a decent meal, I had to master the skill. Fortunately for me, the lady I was dating was able to teach me. She was one of four daughters of a dad who felt that it was best to learn on the most difficult option. So, when they learned to fly, the plane was a tail dragger-- and when they learned to drive, the car had a stick.
Later I married a woman who drove a manual transmission by choice- and thus it became our preferred option. I find that it gives me far better control on ice and snow. And damn it, it makes driving more fun as well! When we retire to the PNW, I want a Miata as my next car. A poor man's sports car: but if it has an automatic transmission it won't be nearly as much fun to ride around in during my golden years.
Double-clutching and understanding the infield fly rule are near the top of the list of matters that people make much more difficult than they really are. If a person can count to three, he's capable of understanding the infield fly rule. And if that person is minimally coordinated and can grasp the concept of matching speeds, and why that's a good idea, he can drive a car with a crash-box tranny without grinding gears.
Many years ago, when we were young and not so well off, our car had a problem with the synchromesh selector in the gearbox. At the time I just couldn't afford to get it fixed, so I used the double declutch method and it worked fine. My wife was fascinated by this so I showed her how it was done. She commented how the car slowed much more smoothly when doubling down, unlike the forward movement that braking alone causes. A good few years later and she has joined the ambulance service. Back then the crews were taught double declutching for the same reason that my wife had previously commented on, it gives the patient a smoother ride.
For training purposes the ambulance service used a Ford Granada before using an ambulance. My wife who, at the time, was about thirty two, was in the car with two other trainees, a couple of young guys in their early twenties. The instructor went through the procedure two or three times then asked the fellows to give it a go. The first one managed to crunch the gears, and this was a synchromesh gearbox. Second one all but tied the gear stick into a reef knot. Third up, my missus, the two guys were sitting in the back waiting for 'the woman, the older woman,' to make a right pig's ear of it.
She doubled up through the box smooth as silk, but then it doesn't take a blip on the accelerator to spin the flywheels going up. Down through the gearbox she came, double declutching each gear. The two other trainees were silent. The instructor said: "Done this before, have we?" Missus said: "I paid attention to what you said." She later came clean, but she said that the look on the faces of the young guys was priceless.
I've never driven in snow, but I have driven on slurry-coated roads on which any standing water or rain water made loss-of-traction the rule rather than the exception; like trying to drive on an ice rink. I absolutely agree with you--automatic transmissions are almost completely useless under such circumstances.
I'm going to go with "possibly". When driving all three of the 60s-era VW Beetles I've owned I had to double clutch every time I downshifted into second gear. It takes a little practice and a light touch on the gearshift lever, but it's not too difficult once you get the hang of it. I do think having to double clutch every time you shift gears would get tiresome though.
The tipping point for my dad was the "clutch type torque converted" (pretty sure that's what it was called) in the '78 LeSabre which was some early fuel-efficiency thing that was supposed to automatically shift your car - in the right situations (I think it was when you were over a certain speed for a certain time) - into some gearing ratio that used less gas. The thing was also supposed to be all but unnoticeable, but in our Buick, the car literally bucked when it kicked in. That was only one of many problems, but that was the one that tipped my father over as they simply couldn't fix it and the car would buck a lot (with an lovely accompanying "clunk" sound).
I knew super girlfriend was well, super, when I met her and she was driving a stick - a Acura Intergra (basically a Honda Accord) - as she bought the lowest priced Integra with the fewest features possible. I would rather drive a manual any day. That car was underpowered, but I still enjoyed driving it because you feel, IMHO, more in control of the car in a manual and more connected to the driving experience.
One side note, I'm a reasonably good driver - but no professional race car driver. Back when we owned the Intergra, we had to have something fixed on it and when we took the car out to the shop, the repair guy drove us back to a train station so that we could get home. His shifting skills were the best I'd ever seen - it felt like he had magically converted the car to an automatic as you felt nothing - no pause, no slight change, absolutely nothing - as he moved through the gears. My girlfriend and I were amazed and have talked about it ever since.