The age old argument about modern cars and methods comes in for a sideways look. Mike Humble is your ringmaster.
There’s a great great fondness for the Marina these days but, back in 1980, they were beyond a joke. It isn’t that long ago either in the grand scheme of things
There I was happily doing some housecleaning and tidy up on the Facebook Group page. As I was hoovering the tinsel fragments away, deleting some erroneous posts and brushing the last of the crisps out from under the settee, I noted a post that was gathering some comments.
The author of the post highlighted how technical cars have become and complained about the cost of stop-start-suitable car batteries – which made me wonder a moment. One person mentioned about how he would only ever run a banger while another vented his spleen about the worrying amount of electronics in modern tin.
Why fear change?
It’s been said before that the only thing constant in life is change, and the motor trade certainly makes that ring true. When I first entered the trade back in 1988 with a large Ford dealer, the wind of technological change was blowing hard. At one end of the scale we were replacing points and condensers in 957cc Fiestas while, at the other end, you had the Granada with its electronic ALD4 automatic gearbox.
World-weary fitters would chunter about how this modern kit would only end in tears. The Sierra 1.8-litre CVH (R2A) engine, with its hydraulic roller tappets, heated inlet manifold and programmed ignition, was almost seen as a second coming of Christ!
However, just like Peter Kay’s late father’s refusal to taste anything new or out of the ordinary, all this negativity is a generation thing. My own late father’s background saw many years in the REME workshops before joining civvy street. Even though I was just a pup, I can remember him pooh-poohing the Lucas -programmed electronic ignition system that the Montego ushered in as stuff and nonsense.
The stuff of nonsense
Looking at present day cars, a lot of what was originally brought in as cost-cutting or time-saving features has since been improved and reversed. Timing belts are now reverting back to chains while hydraulically operated clutches and cable gear selection are very much the current norm – just like a 1969 Maxi albeit without the ‘bran tub’ shift-change quality.
With the exception of bargain bucket cars like a Dacia Sandero, there really isn’t much place in the market for a stripped out bog basic car – even then the under-bonnet trickery and electronics still apply. A-ha I hear you cry – but garages don’t even strip things down any more. Thank God for that, imagine the labour charges for removing the gearbox from your Rover 75, stripping it out and replacing that weak synchro?
The cost would be so prohibitive that breakers yards up down the land would be packed full of them. Remove and replace along with menu servicing makes motoring cheaper. Though it may dumb down the role of the mechanic seemingly – it makes life a lot easier.
The future’s modern – get used to it!
Take Stop-Start on your average modern motor. You’d better get used to it as its here to stay as long as round bits of alloy pound up and down inside a cylinder for engine propulsion. Anyway, there’s nothing new about that idea – I had an 1800 Vectra that would cut out when stationary once the engine was warmed through.
Okay, okay, it was a knackered camshaft sensor, but I swear it saved me a few bob on petrol as a result. Joking aside, though, a lot of the tech within the bowels of a new car can often be a priceless. The OnStar feature as fitted to most new current Vauxhalls opens a channel of communication in the event of an accident if the airbags are deployed – but here’s where its gets clever.
An operator asks if the driver and/or passengers are okay, if no verbal response is forthcoming your exact location is pinpointed via the GPS link and the emergency services are sent to your co-ordinates.
The car’s the (on)star
You see? This is serious life-changing and life-saving technology – and, when seen in action, becomes truly, deeply impressive stuff – no gimmick. But modern cars, features are taking away a driver’s right to make decisions for himself you may say.
Well, let’s look at radar or adaptive cruise control or the rather nifty City-Brake feature that Honda has rolled out across its range. Sometimes this technology also removes the risk of the driver making a wrong and sometimes fatal decision – I call it swings and roundabouts.
Modern metal brimming with gadgets and technology like the Vauxhall Insignia, for example, tends to meet with universal apathy. However, in 25 years time, people will bill and coo at the sight of one these on the King’s highway – I almost guarantee it!
I can’t, of course, make or convince you to like or admire bang up-to date-modern motoring, but I can leave you with a fact that’s difficult to argue against. The cars of today are the same cars we or our siblings will be admiring in 20 or 30 years or more from now. Who would have thought that folk would go all misty-eyed over the deletion of the Austin brand in 1987? Fast forward 30 years into 2017, and it seems like only yesterday doesn’t it, eh?
You get my drift?