A Mostly British Obsession

Category: Rust Never Sleeps (Page 2 of 5)

My writing is as rusty as your sills

Saab Story


(Forgive the pun!) My friend Paul and I travelled to Olympia today to look at a Frogeye Sprite and a Mini “Cooper” that a gentleman down there has. His shop was absolutely stuffed with 2-stroke Saabs, some of them quite rare these days.
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Minor note…

I’m editing the layout to make it a bit wider and going back and removing my old photos and replacing them with larger versions, now hosted on flickr. There really isn’t an easy, good photo manager for WordPress, so I’m going with Big Brother.

Ford 1, Common Sense 0

1968 Ford F250

Ford pulled the plug on the Cafe Press store I use (used?) to sell fund-raising merchandise for “xkedata.com”. They claim I am infringing on their trademarked material–which is ironic, as I took great pains to not include the word “Jaguar”, the Jaguar logotype, or the “leaping kitty” trademark on any material I had in the store.

I just don’t have time or money to fight this, so they’ll probably win. Congratulations, Ford (and their stalwart partners at Howard, Phillips & Andersen, LLC, in Salt Lake City, Utah)–you guys have shut down a real racket! $500 less a year of nicely designed reminders of Jaguar’s classic heritage will not find buyers!

Chuck has his say.


I took my bride’s Subaru in for service yesterday and the complimentary rental car was a Chevy Aveo. It was reasonably competent, thrifty I’m sure, but…geez, talk about lack of personality. It’s the first car I’ve ever driven that has a message telling you the lights are off. Plus, as far as I can tell, everything on it was made of plastic.

That said, it’s pretty astonishing how competent even the cheapest cars are today. I bet this thing in real dollars isn’t much more expensive than the Yugo was in 1985, and yet it’s light years ahead of it from just about any angle you care to approach it from–safety, performance, fuel economy, even looks, homely as they are.

More Lessons From Free Car Sites

  1. People expect home-brew free sites to perform as flawlessly as commercial software. The more “professional” in appearance your site is, the more people expect the features and “customer support” of a site where people get paid to sit at desks and help. A lot of this is probably from a misconception about how easy or hard it might be to program a website, either based on complete lack of knowledge or that gained from putting up an AOL homepage. On the other hand, there is little more frustrating that trying to use software which simply doesn’t work. Look at the classifieds I ran for awhile on the data sites: I had a “clever” idea to capture car numbers, but the hoops to jump through were just too many for them to get much use.
  2. Most people are gracious and enthusiastic. I’ve met a lot of neat people via my various web sites, and some folks get genuinely enthusiastic about them, which is very gratifying.
  3. A lot of “authorities” are pretty rude. Many of the experts I’ve invited to look at the data sites–thinking they may find it interesting or useful–generally pee all over it. I haven’t quite figured this out, other than its the same forces at work when you suggest a new idea at a meeting and the old guard immediately are skeptical and critical. My “critical moment” regarding club participation was listening to a club treasurer shout at someone who had the temerity to suggest a couple of fund-raising ideas that didn’t sound too bad to me.
  4. Clear, easy, intuitive–it’s hard to do. I feel like I do better than most in that regard, but there is still a LOT of possibilities to improve the user’s experience.
  5. Trying to put users in a box hardly ever works. People will always find a way to push the boundaries of what’s possible. You either have to limit their options so severely they don’t have fun, or accept that some folks will use the site in ways you didn’t imagine (and which you might not be too excited about).
  6. There are always critics; ignore them. It’s very easy to offer up criticism about the way things should be run–this is just noise. I’m not talking about fundamental flaws which should be fixed, but rather “this site sucks, I feel it should do this, and this, and not do this.” Oddly enough, their “much better” sites never appear.
  7. Without an audience, there isn’t much money involved, so don’t dream about it. I would need at least 1,000 times the number of users I get now to even consider “going it full-time,” and there just aren’t that many people interested in obscure subjects to ever get there. Plus, the server would explode. Be satisfied with covering the hosting costs and accept that time spent on the sites is just like time spent on a restoration: it has a value of $0, but can still be very satisfying.
  8. Blogs are better when posted to frequently. And we know where that leaves this blog. I dunno why it’s so difficult to put up even a short blurb every day, but a lot of time it’s the last thing on your mind.

Bonus: I was threatened with being banned on TTAC for offering literary criticism. Fair enough, it is in their terms of service, and I simply forgot. Much as I enjoy that site, they have some transparency issues that I feel could be handled better. For example, about three or four weeks ago there was a terrible editorial which a lot of people quite rightly criticized; it disappeared without any note at all, which does nothing but make you wonder what else disappears from time to time.


I’ve been reading car magazines and recently a few car blogs, and find that I generally cannot stand them much.

The reason is that being excited about cars these days means being really rich (according to these publications). Blogs like The Truth About Cars and Winding Road and most of the print magazines (perhaps, especially, Sports Car Market, where the “our cars” feature is populated with lurid tales of driving a $1,000,000 car down a dirt road, like that makes it “just a car” and it makes the owner “just like us”) seem to make some very basic assumptions: That you can spend $100,000 on a car without thinking (doesn’t everyone have that kind of money?), and that the pinnacle of automotive bliss is driving a specialist-tuned version of an already expensive car–yours for twice the already incredible asking price.

I’m not so much begrudging the rich their expensive machinery, it’s the ho-hum mention of high five and six-figure prices that boggles my mind. “Available for a modest $120,000” one review read recently. Since when is that a modest price for any car? Is their readership so exclusive? Or do they just like to point out how inadequate most of their readers are?

I must be really cranky today.

Worst Car You Ever Owned?

Of course, I only have three readers, but what the heck: Share a brief anecdote of the worst car you ever owned.

1st place: hands down, the execrable Mercedes 220S, circa 1962. Regularly failed to start. Caught fire. I paid a stupid price. Had to give it away. No syncromesh left. No fun to drive. Just bad, all the way around.

2nd place: the 1984 XJS. A wonderful car when working well, but my well used example simply ate money, to the tune of $1000 a month. I would only buy another if it was immaculate and had a history file from new.

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