Welcome to AROnline‘s newest blogger – a motoring rotter who wants to tell it like it is. He’s the Strand Cigarette Man…
This week, he turns his keyboard angrily in the direction of some of the classic car scene’s unsavoury stalwarts…
All classic car enthusiasts know that the old car movement is one of the finest social pastimes imaginable – with a few exceptions. So, for the benefit of all automotive enthusiasts everywhere your friendly Strand Cigarette Man – you’re never alone with him – has produced this handy guide to certain individuals, none of whom bear any resemblance whatsoever to any car collector. Of course not.
The Angry Enthusiast
The terrible news is now public knowledge – there has been a major argument at the last AGM of the Ford Granada 2.3 GL Mk2 Automatic Estate Club and so Arnold, that organisation’s erstwhile Secretary, is now the President/Chairman & Founder Member of the Ford Granada 2.3 GL Mk2 Automatic Estate Car Club in Green (Isle of Wight Division). Of course Arnold is quite understandably a very angry man, much given to the writing of strongly worded letters to the classic car press: Why does his choice of car never seem to be tested in any magazine? Why do certain well known classic motoring writers either run and hide or pretend to be able to speak only in Sanskrit whenever he approaches them at the NEC?
And, most importantly, why do Arnold’s daily press releases on the wild and exciting world of the Ford Granada 2.3 GL Mk2 Automatic Estate Car (in green), hot from his own office (AKA a garden shed somewhere in Ventnor) never seem to be treated with the respect that they truly deserve? Maybe Arnold’s latest organisation, ‘The Peoples’ Granada Front of Ventnor (Mk2 2.3 GL Estate-Car Automatic in Green Division)’ will finally gain his movement the international attention befitting such a club.
Potential visitors to Arnold’s home are often put off by the rumours concerning a burning wicker effigy of an Mk1 Granada Ghia coupe blazing merrily in his back garden but Arnold is always pleased to receive company; tea, biscuits and a look through his film collection are always on offer to all guests. The latter should be regarded with some trepidation as Arnold ’s film collection solely consists of various big and small screen moments of his favourite car edited together into three glorious hours; from a drive-on in a 1978 edition of Southern TV’s The Famous Five to a low-budget chase in an early episode of Minder – Arnold has them all. Then, providing his guests have regained the will to live, there are the photo albums, one of which consists of pictures of the Granada’s rear offside tail lamps in different states of disrepair.
Meanwhile, the sheer weight of Arnold’s brochure collection has caused the ceiling to ominously bow in several places whilst the great man himself holds forth on his favourite subject- just how an international cartel of evil, comprising of the editors of several well-known classic car magazines, Captain Black of the Mysterons and Mr. Meeker from Rentaghost have conspired to deny Arnold and his followers their true moment of glory.
Naturally, as a true devotee of the breed Arnold is present at every classic gathering throughout the UK, leading to rumours that he has actually managed to clone himself. You will recognise his stand as his will be the only car only display – and Arnold will be the only club member apparently present. Indeed, although Arnold is ever-keen to answer any Granada 2.3 GL Mk.2 Automatic Estate (with a green paint finish) related question, one matter that he is always coy about is how many other members his club has besides himself…
The Classic Car Widow
To the classic car enthusiast, summertime means the show season where rare cars may be discovered and vital technical tips swapped but to Hilary, our classic car widow, BST usually infers a damp field where she is subjected to the following conversations – “Blah, blah, column shift, blah, blah, McPherson Struts, blah, blah, blah, 3.3 litre, blah, blah, blah badge-engineering, blah, blah, blah”. After approximately five minutes the children will inevitably be bored and start to demand hamburgers (at a price of £2.50 per unit with the bonus of free added botulism) ice-creams (powdered milk, air and glucose at £1.50 per go) or visits to the nearby funfair which seems to be entirely staffed by characters from The League of Gentlemen.
Even more disquietingly, almost all of the other show-goers seem to be men of a certain vintage with Bobby Charlton/Robert Robinson hairstyles, plastic sandals, nylon sport shirts and a faintly disquieting air of fanaticism. Especially at the local shows for local people…
The Club Communications Officer
This year Derek has finally achieved his long awaited goal – he has managed to put off more would-be classic car owners from buying a historic vehicle than ever before and, better still, this magnificent target was reached without Derek uttering a single word. Indeed, Derek prefers to communicate via grunts and surly looks and you’ll find him at most old car shows sat on a deckchair, reading The Daily Express and dreaming of his glorious twenty year career as an Acting Lance Corporal i/c Office Sanitation in the TA. The only problem is that punters will keep coming up and asking him futile questions about his car, its restoration etc.
Fortunately Derek has an infallible method for such nuisances – he merely stares at them. At this stage in the proceedings most fringe adherents to the classic car world will merely give up and start considering a two-year old Ford Mondeo but a few more hardy souls will persist and might eventually be rewarded with a taciturn response of the Steve McQueen/About-to-be-sacked-security guard school of communication. However, the net result is almost always the same – virtually all visitors to the club stand will start thinking of mandatory scrapping of all cars aged over three months and of the joys of new Hyundai ownership as they edge away. If ever a film were to be made of Derek’s life it would star Stephen ‘Blakey from On The Buses’ Lewis in the title role and be scripted by Harold Pinter.
No-one quite knows just how Derek came to join the club and there are certain rumours flying round that he was actually created in a failed Frankenstein-like experiment at Longbridge during the Second World War. He seems to have been a club fixture for aeons, the sort of member who can brighten a room merely by leaving it and an utter wow in his official capacity. Ever since Derek was elected ‘Communications Officer’ there has been a 75% decline in membership and the next AGM will probably be held in a telephone box. Meanwhile, the club stands at major shows have been notable for their resemblance to a run-down municipal car park.
However, this is not to infer that Derek lacks all passion for classic cars for what really riles him is the thought of someone making an unauthorised modification to their own car. There is still talk of the evening that Derek and friends (all two of them) suddenly materialised at a hapless member’s workshop one evening, demanding entrance on the grounds that said party was rumoured to be converting a very rare ‘Mk1’ model to ‘Mk2’ specification…
The (Ex) Banger Racer
It’s not so much the banger racing that put most people off of Kelvin – although he does make slightly too many impassioned references to the A60 wrecking scene in The Long Good Friday for comfort – but his utterly determined attempts to become a ‘character’. In between bouts of fervent Humber Super Snipe smashing, Kelvin has managed to cultivate an accent that can only be described as “Cornish Cockney”, and acquired a standard routine of ten jokes that even the late Bernard Manning might have conceivably rejected. At his club AGM Kelvin has recently developed the habit of playing a guitar at people who have done him no harm.
Worse of all, Kelvin likes to think of himself as existing on the fringes of the ‘criminal fraternity’ and likes to wander around in shades (this might account for the majority of his non-banger circuit crashes), a leather jacket and some ‘gold jewellery’ which is slowing turning his skin an interesting shade of green. Kelvin also has an almost complete library of ghost-written memoirs of retired bank robbers, minor criminal gang leaders, football hooligans and the like. At moments of stress Kelvin likes to retire with his copy of I Was The Fifth Kray Twin, to relive those glorious days of heads being nailed to Ford Zodiacs and Maltese ice cream parlours being set on fire. Still, at least gangsters behaved like gentlemen in those days and were always good to their mum. This last point is of direct relevance to Kelvin as he still lives at home.
You will recognise Kelvin at most classic car gatherings – indeed you would be hard pressed to avoid him – but one infallible way to cease his relentless stream of patter is to make a logical argument against certain forms of banger racing. Then, and quite possibly only then, will Kelvin’s Achilles’ heel become obvious – he has absolutely no sense of humour.
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.