THEY say that religion, politics and UFOs should never be mentioned in polite conversation.


Willys Jeep

In the classic car world, most people think we know everything there is to know about our own cars and that we can bore them for hours with details of how we found out about rust perforation and how we fixed it good and think it is good dinner conversation.

It is not, but most people will forgive you because you are probably just a harmless older person who smells strangely of mint and engine oil.

If you find yourself with a lull in the chit chat during dinner, bring up any of these topics and you can be sure that the juice will start to flow quite fast.

Number One: No one can agree on the definition of what is a classic car.

In today’s inclusive society, even owners of just any old car is welcomed to take part in jamborees, historical rally and even concourse, as long as their car’s shiny bits are shiny.

There are attempts to clearly define a “classic car”, but it is usually met with a flurry of opinionated letter writing or twitter firings or Facebook filings and then we move on.

In the best traditions of riling up the hardcore, I say that a classic car is one that helps to define a particular class of cars or vehicles.


Jeep Wrangler.

For example the Willys Jeep, Land Rover, Toyota Land Cruiser and the 100-inch wagon Range Rover are definitely classics because they helped define what a modern off-roader should be.

Notable inclusions are the Suzuki Jimny and the Porsche Cayenne because the Jimny helped define cheap, small ways of doing an off roader while the Cayenne showed that even leather lined “lorries” could be made to go off-road.

The BMW X5 was OK, but Porsche’s definition is better. That is what I think, anyway.

The modern Jeep Wrangler does not deserve to be included in this company because it is an abomination of the original whereas the Isuzu Troopers and Mitsubishi Pajero and Nissan Patrol did not open up new definitions of the genre, they simply followed.

They followed well, to be sure, but they followed.

Our suggestion for exploring this topic includes starting the conversation with the following line: “So why do you think your car is a classic?”.


Gordon’s improved Corliss Valvegear was used during the steam era.

Number Two: You can get a degree in classic car restoration.

If you are inclined and have a wealthy relative who needs his garage full of classic cars looked after, you can get a degree in classic car restoration where Alice went down the rabbit hole. The aptly named McPherson College in Wichita, the United States, has been offering its Degree in Automotive Restoration programme for nearly 10 years.

You will be trained on a selection of classic vehicles such as the Ford Model A, Ford Model T, MGA and a dozen other cars so you will always know your grommet from a divot and never insert your doohickey into a whatchamacallit.

Here is one suggestion for exploring this subject: “I saw your car and your doohickey is wrongly positioned to the divot.”

Watch how quickly they respond to your efforts to teach them something useful.

Number Three: Direct-shift gearbox (DSG) is old tech and so is Variable Valve Timing (VVT) and continuously variable transmission (CVT).

Frenchman Adolph Kegresse was the first to come up with the idea of the dual clutch transmission just before World War 2 when Volkswagen was about to be otherwise occupied.

Early working prototypes were built in the early 1980s by Automotive Products (AP) with the help of British automotive engineer Harry Webster. So, the technology is at least 37 years old.


The Evans friction cone is one example of a CVT transmission.

VVT is an idea that went back as far as the steam engine when technology, such as the Corliss valve, helped to regulate steam intake and exhaust. The idea of varying the intake and exhaust cycle is old and engineers understood the idea for some time before being able to implement the theory on high-speed internal combustion engine.

Honda’s Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control (VTEC) was made famous as it romped to victories in Formula One in the 1980s and 1990s.

CVT seems like the holy grail of powertrain efficiency, and the idea has been around since Leonardo Da Vinci came up with it in the 15th Century.

The first working example came the 1870s when Milton Reeves developed it for sawmills and later his car.

The problem with CVT is that it is only 88 per cent efficient. Losses chalked up due to slippage is hard to compensate due to the gearless nature of the system and this meant that the system is suitable for low-power application or where constant engine speed is desirable above all else, like in a bulldozer or other such machines.

“Isn’t it interesting that a transmission system for farm tractors now finds a home in your car”, can be a good conversation starter.

You can end the night by saying: “I think the Porsche 911 is ugly”.

I can bet you that during the next dinner they will hold their tongue in fear of your wisdom.

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