Theme: Secondhand – Opinions

I had quite a lot of those bits of received wisdom until recent years.

1976 Porsche 928 interior

Some of those shopworn gems include the idea that steering should be heavy, Opel make bad/dull/boring cars, Ferrari is interesting but Japanese cars are not; small saloon cars are drab, six speed gearboxes are a good thing, low profile tyres and big wheels are visually worth it, bright colour is wrong inside and out. Those are some of the bits of second hand wisdom I have accumulated and sloughed off.

Car journalism is full of ideas like these that hang waiting on pegs ready to be re-used so as to avoid any new thinking to be done. I notice that most of the shopworn, secondhand ideas I have ditched are the ones adhered to by the anorak-wearing types who like loud and speedy cars. On the one hand the visual aggression and assertive character of these cars is seemingly untraditional and exciting and “youthy”. In another sense, these ideas form a deeply rigid and conservative canon that many car journalists subscribe to. They are just as stuck-in-the-mud as any one else, but it’s different mud. Or put another way, these clichés about hard suspension, meaty steering and balls-to-the-wall driving capability are fine for sports cars but they are a form of sports car fundamentalism which

1986 Honda Accord Aerodeck
1986 Honda Accord Aerodeck

has burst out of its little trackday world. I am really quite agnostic on cars. I ask if the car does what it seems to be intended to do. Does it follow some basic sensible ideas about useability?  Does it have an ashtray? I can take my ideas from Ford Fiesta all the way to

1980 Nissan Laurel: wikipedia.
1980 Nissan Laurel: wikipedia.

Lamborghini Huracan (should I get the chance). I don’t ask myself do I like this car or that car but is that car or this car suited to the kind of person I think it’s designed for. That’s why I never hated the Ford Fusion and why the BMW GT cars don’t bother me at all; and if some American cars are definitely rubbish many were very well judged for the customer and conditions they were going to encounter. Like all of us, I have my clichés and well-anchored prejudices but they are mine and I found them myself.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

13 thoughts on “Theme: Secondhand – Opinions”

  1. Kudos!
    One of the reasons why I grow fonder of this little blog – influential or not – virtually every day.
    Car agnosticism is a good one, should become part of my active vocabulary.

  2. I like to think I form my own opinions, but of course this isn’t always so. The problem about being an ‘enthusiast’ is that you feel an obligation to have an ‘informed opinion’ on all related matters. Where you lack first-hand knowledge, you end up taking on what you read somewhere, or what someone once told you. Take supercars. Unchallenged journalistic opinion is that Ferraris sound sublime and that McLarens sound disappointing. Living in London, I can sample these soundtracks occasionally at no cost to myself and my conclusion is that a Fezza (is that right?) is like someone who talks too loud at parties in the hope others will overhear “yeah, so I said to Brad and Angelina….”, whereas a Macca (?) has more of the speak softly and carry a big stick to it.

    Apparently Jeremy Clarkson once waxed enthusiastically about the Mark 1 Citroen Berlingo. This disturbed me since I, too, had a very good opinion of it, but I didn’t want my stereotype of Jezza’s (?) unremitting pwhoooarrr boorishness challenged. So I ended up in a quandary regarding my opinions of both the Berlingo and Mr C.

    There are other downsides of received wisdom. I am often what is politely described as a ‘press-on driver’ (i.e. sometime immature and impatient prat). When I drive like that in my old, bright blue Audi with black grille and S badge, it’s rare for anyone to pull out of a junction in front of me. When I drive like that in a Renault Kangoo, it’s quite common. That’s because other drivers use their preconceptions rather than their eyes – a fast car must be going fast, a slow one must be going slow, and also is probably being driven by a softy. For the three years that I downgraded my motorcycling to a 125cc scooter, I found it took me around London just as quickly, but I suffered more near misses from people who chose to ignore me. When I started using a large motorcycle again, it seemed to command more respect.

  3. Like the others who have commented so far, I found this a thought and self-reflection provoking piece. I think it is inevitable that I am influenced by the amount of automotive media relted material that I ingest on a daily basis, but try not to be lazy about giving second hand opinions, or at least I state where they are second hand. I do become irritated by writers/ people jumping on the bandwagon of something, as the bandwagon can often end up becoming self-fulfilling. At the end of the day, people like or buy cars on any number of bases, and one has to respect that. Nice one, Richard, if a little uncomfortable.

  4. I don’t know much about pre-2000 Japanese cars, but this Laurel looks like a more sophisticated version of the Opel Senator.

    1. Not sure if it looks more sophisticated, but there’s definitely more than a passing resemblance, on that picture at least. Even the wheels look like something from Opel in the early 80’s.

  5. A more sophisticated version of the Opel Senator? I don’t think that’s possible! Imagine.
    All jokes aside, there is a similarity. The Nissan does seem more refined. The measurable difference must individually slight yet add up to an altogether smoother shape. I’ll still take the Opel as it has that wonderful wood detailing on the top version.

  6. Thanks Richard for this nice piece. Many of the things you state sound very familiar to the way I think about cars (we have to discuss that ashtray thing, though).

    I’ve learned to be very sceptical about too established opinions; the downside of it is that I often find myself adhering to the opposite opinion just for opposing’s sake which is not much smarter than just taking over mainstream thinking. But breaking out of my usual Citroën-centered habits and reading a lot of DTW makes has already made me thinking some things over. I hope this continues.

  7. Another car magazine turned up today and as I said elsewhere here, they are still busy with their anti-colour propaganda. There is a problem with magazines in that there is no one keeping an eye on them the way newspapers watch each other. Isn´t there a convention that no magazine ever mentions or even alludes to another of the same type?

  8. Yesterday I re-read an article by Anthony fffench-Constant and it struck me how ossified his prose has become. He’s an odd throwback to “character journalism” which I appreciate though.

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