The Strand Cigarette Man is a muttering rotter on the verge of going bang. And if he’s going down, there’s a few he wants to take with him…
This week, he turns his keyboard angrily in the direction of the car clubs and the abysmal record keeping, while offering some advice on how to keep yourself from being bored to death…
This week your Man with the Strand Cigarette has greater pleasure in awarding Dan the well-deserved ¼lb of pear drops. But now to our ever-popular main topic – ‘How to run a truly shambolic classic car club’.
Ensure that all records are years out of date. Two prime examples to follow are the club with membership lists that were last modified in 1997 and the organisation that issued a journalist with a contact telephone number for a car owner with a four-digit STD code. In both cases, the club reps took some umbrage at the suggestion that the respective owner might well be dead or deceased as no-one appeared to have seen their car in over a decade – which brings us neatly to:
Have a club management structure that is truly Byzantine in its complexity. Give everyone a grandiose title – Supreme Panjandrum I/c De Luxe Registrar, for argument’s sake – and then have them whinge when a member of the motoring press dares to ask them for help in finding a car for a photo-shoot. Train each club official in the art of inane and demented excuses as to not assisting in gaining their car of choice greater publicity by getting them to repeat the phrases ‘But I’ve just turned my computer off’, ‘That car is very rare, you know’, ‘We have a lot of records’ and the all-time favourite ‘I’ll have to put a message on our web forum’. This leads us to:
Remember – web fora are a sure-fire way of a writer being offered the wrong vehicle ten weeks after the shoot but what does that matter when one of your tasks is to:
Control all information regarding the cars. Ensure that your website is as badly written as a Jackie Collins novel and dates from circa 1999 and also take pains to have the world revolve around the club magazine – one with a current circulation of 3 men, two Scottish terriers and a passing goat. Ignore and, wherever possible, actively obstruct any attempt to place your members’ cars in the national press, for this might weaken your power-base. And if one or two more classic cars fall prey to those motorists who are strangely drawn to driving round and round in circles in a dismal provincial arena – well, what is that when compared with the glory of your office.
Now we’ve got this out of the way, how about a Public Information Film: How To Avoid A Self-Appointed Classic Car Guru.
Firstly – Recognising the Breed
There is no fixed physical type and indeed many gurus avoid the plastic sandals and Robert Robinson comb-overs so favoured by bus-spotters. One guru of the Strand Cigarette Man’s acquaintance bears a stark resemblance to Charles Hawtrey as interpreted by Donald Pleasance whilst another is reminiscent of a Chartered Insurance Broker on the rampage; they really do come in all shapes and sizes. However, the guru tends almost without exception to be male and another recognition factor is that they will approach you – never vice versa – but their main trait is an overwhelming air of smugness.
Secondly – Their Haunts
Obviously the NEC, Beaulieu and regional classic shows are their principle spawning ground but the enthusiast should always remember that gurus are quite possibly pan-dimensional shape shifting entities. Whenever and wherever they see a car of interest to them they materialise via the offside wing mirror without warning. The time to expect them to appear is slightly more predictable as this will be when you least want to be contacted by anyone at all but three groups of classic car owners seem to be in more danger than others – American Cars, Large British Saloons and Mini-Coopers.
Yes, anyone who drives a Yank Tank, even one made in Australia, Canada or South Africa, will have been approached by a guru, who will then proceed to lecture how the tail-lamp on the nearside fin is from a 1957 not a 1958, how they themselves would never have made such a crass mistake and how, if you followed their advice, your car would be worth £ more. Oh, and didn’t you realise that your indicator switch is also incorrect.
Meanwhile, British saloon car owners are at particular risk from an encounter with a particularly virulent spawn of guru – the retired Banger Racer. As we all know, Banger Racers are sensitive and articulate souls – ‘He also calls us philistines, says we butcher cars and suggests that we lie to buy cars . . .Dalags, go take a dump through his letterbox’, writes one mortally offended little wallflower – but retired examples of the breed are, if anything, even worse.
Their monologue will always commence with the dread words ‘Oi used to banger dese’ but, unlike most gurus, at least it will be short. After five minutes of stirring anecdotes concerning dismal events in dismal race circuits on the outskirts of dismal provincial hell-holes the light of smugness in his eyes will invariably give way to a far more alarming expression and the guru will edge away to an all-night session with his DVD of The Long Good Friday.
As for Mini Cooper gurus, their inherent danger should be known to one and all by now; they’ve been with us for nearly five decades…
Thirdly –How To Avoid Death By Boredom
Remember – these gurus can unleash the Power of Tedium. Empires will crumble, aeons will pass, the fore and hind legs of donkeys will be strewn about and still the guru will have not reached even the middle of his lecture. If all else fails, offer to sell him your car for, strangely enough, this gambit has been known to rid enthusiasts of many a guru – their opinions may be long but their pockets are often deep and their arms short.
Until Next Week
The Strand Cigarette Man
Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...
Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.