Talking Motors: Just no need for the Facebook know alls!

My MG Midget getting a new set of tyres

My MG Midget getting a new set of tyres

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It’s easy to get angry while skimming over Facebook.

Idle swiping of the thumb in itself is a sign there are often better ways to spend time, though there are instances where the website has become a decent replacement for what internet pioneers referred to as ‘forums.’

In similar spirit to Googling every question that comes to mind, Facebook pages are useful when the hundreds of thousands of results Google throws back are more daunting than a direct answer from another car fanatic.

It’s often a quicker way to find out how to fix a problem than pulling all the Haynes manuals off the bookshelf, and it’s not always possible to grab the phone and pick a more knowledgeable person’s brain.

You also have the advantage of getting an answer from someone who has been there and done it, so any obstacles omitted by writers can be highlighted.

But, as we know, behind some keyboards lie trolls. The cyber version of what my dad’s generation called the ‘flat hat and go-faster gloves brigade.’

A post in the last week on a car page I usually enjoy reading grated like a mis-timed clutchless gear change attempt for no benefit other than to show off.

The Facebooker, and I’m ashamed to say, fellow Midgeteer (that’s an MG Midget driver to the uninitiated) posted a rant about how they taught themselves everything they know about car maintenance. They stripped a car down to its bare shell in the dark with their bare hands and put it back together again using only original handbooks as reference points and have never asked for help online – and anyone who dared post trivial question is lazy and stupid.

I may be exaggerating a little, but the word lazy was used. But my thoughts turned to what sort of impression this would give the car newbie – something I still very much consider myself as being in many ways.

For anyone that has ever depressed a brake pedal for the lights not to come on, knowing full well the bulbs are fine, trawling through books and sitting through confusing YouTube videos, where the model being used as an example uses a different switch to yours, is a soul-destroying experience. There are exceptions to this rule of course. While I feel better being shown how to fix a problem, my sister is much more adept at fettling her Morris Minor unaided.

So I’ve found the route of typing a quick question into a box and pressing return enables me to filter out wrong models, point out checks already made and await a tailor-made response. It really is a reassuring crutch when probing further into the problem by yourself could cause more damage than good.

So for people irked by those who post questions online, I make no apology.

I will champion doing research, reading books and getting hands mucky because it is a rewarding experience, but sometimes the safest option is to ask.

Instead of expressing disgust at the lazy mob of wannabe classic car owners unwilling to carry out jobs they are not confident doing on their vehicles (which is also a concern for road safety) try being chuffed somebody needs your knowledge.

And imagine if you continue to sit back and leave them unaided.

Would you rather the next generation take an interest in something else and are not there to give you a hand when we’re too old and physically unable to work on our cars?

Classics are there to be driven and not hidden

On the subject of car DIY, nights getting gradually lighter and turning the heating off signals MOT time for my beloved Midget.

For the past week the pastime of ‘playing cars’ in the garage has shifted from banging my head on the bonnet of my dad’s Magnette to making sure my Midget was fettled for the tester.

New tyres and a general spruce-up, which has included changing the oil and greasing the joints has provided the equivalent of ironing a shirt for a night out.

But to put it mildly, a couple of gremlins have cropped up, leaving the MOT tester shaking his head and giving me a dreaded phone call which could have been done without.

It turns out as well as ironing a shirt the car needed a shower, shave and gym membership to be ready for its grand entrance into full-time summer usage.

My latest experience has provided me with enough receipts to add a weighty new chapter in the car’s history file, which has already seen several volumes added on my watch.

Fortunately, the expertise of Guy at GA Welding, of Miry Lane Industrial Estate, means one poorly car will be discharged soon before we get to go through it all again with the Morris Minor.

It just goes to show that despite paying careful attention to cars, things can and do go wrong, and feeds the argument that all classic cars should go through appropriate annual testing.

Pre-1960 cars are currently exempt from MOT testing, but it’s massively important that, in the absence of modern safety features, owners have a reputation for keeping their vehicles safe. Yes, the occasional (or should that be annual?) three-figure repair bill isn’t nice, and means sacrificing non-essentials such as food for a time, but we knew the score before we went for our lusted-after classics.

Originality and period features don’t have to be sacrificed in order to make sure cars are fit for the road – and after all, they are there to be driven – not hidden.

In the Hunt for a new chapter on champ

Formula 1 gets under way on Sunday in Melbourne and if pre-season testing is to go by, it looks like it’s already shaping up to be a dominant year for Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes team.

Changes to the sport over the years have given some a valid argument into the detriment new rules and regulations have on the excitement of the spectacle. But for those happy to breathe in some nostalgia, 2016 represents two significant anniversaries in F1 history.

Damon Hill took his one and only title 20 years ago this year, when his eight Grand Prix victories were enough to stave off Jacques Villeneuve’s challenge.

And this year also marks the 40th anniversary of James Hunt’s sole title win. Along with Nigel Mansell and Jenson Button, there’s a theme developing with favourite drivers over here.

Like Hill, Hunt claimed his title after a dramatic final race of the season in Japan, pipping another legendary driver in Niki Lauda to the crown. Not that it mattered to the Austrian, as he finished his career with three titles and is regarded by many as the best driver of all time – something to argue over with Michael Schumacher fans.

McLaren is marking Hunt’s anniversary with a new book, for which I have already dropped a helpful hint for people who might be inclined to buy me a birthday present – this being despite the fact there is already a full ‘James Hunt bookshelf’ in our house.