That actually means that we’ve sold you a product and tested it on you, but it does not work properly. So we are fiddling with your existing product, that does not work properly and we will then test this on you, to see if this one works. If this does not work we’ll be coming back and trying something else.
When you bought your Standard Motor Car you got exactly that. They’d tested it as best they could back at the factory and it was safe, within reason, and had the basic bells and whistles. It stayed pretty much like that for most of it’s limited life. Now it’s very different. You might get Standard Product, but it will not be quite as expected, the ‘garage’ will send an automatic update that will give it a new engine every 6 months or so. They will move the handbrake or replace it with a new and improved handbrake system, without telling you how to operate it. They will give you a link to a website that will tell you how it is supposed to be operated, and there will be a group of other frustrated handbrake operators like yourself who will form an online group. They will be called discussion groups or even a community, though that is never what they are. Within this community you can grumble about handbrakes until you go blue in the face but they will not persuade the makers of the Standard Product that the old system was fine, and that they could have saved thousands of pounds of developer time by sending the handbrake developers to a school for sewing where they would be better employed making gowns for the NHS.
Below is a piece by my late friend and collaborator Gordon Thorburn, which touches on the same subject in a way. It’s from a book that we created together called “Some Missing Persons”, and is about creatures that are no longer with us, or are in danger of extinction. In this case there are still Men who mend cars, but very few.
Men who mend cars.
Sometime in the 1970s, a design engineer had the idea of putting a computer in a car. At that instant, an entire breed was sentenced to death and we can expect Man Who Mends Cars to be virtually extinct in the western world by about 2015AD. Then, there will remain only a few isolated individuals within whom will reside the last shreds of knowledge about how to repair cars rather than psychoanalyse them and reconstitute them with plug-in components.
By then, except in Famagusta and at Classic Car rallies, you will never see a Ford Cortina nor any kind of Austin, Morris, Triumph or Hillman. All old-style VW Beetles will have been squashed flat. No Citroen Deux Chevaux will be worth flogging. People will think the Fiat 500 is the Italian share index.
There will be no cars left without fuel-injected air-conditioned sports warranties and three-year ABS alloy airbags. Every car will bong at you to say that you have left the door open, the handbrake is on and you haven’t fastened your belt yet. Equally newsworthily, every car will tell you that it’s cold outside and there are roadworks on the M6. Every car will have more buttons on its radio/CD dooberry than were once considered necessary for the entire dashboards of twenty MG-TCs.
Meanwhile, Man Who Mends Cars looks out onto the road and sees a never changing stream of vehicles which are incomprehensibly complex inside and whose outsides cannot be told one from another. Eventually, the only task within his capabilities will be changing a tyre.
Today, if you want to spot Man Who Mends Cars, you will need to go to a small country town (non-commutable) or the back streets of a poor area of the city. Look for a rusty sign saying National Benzole or Pratt’s Motor Spirit. There, inside a dark cavern with a rectangular hole in the floor, will be a stove burning sump waste. You will see some motor cycles (BSA C15, Ariel Square Four, Triumph Tiger Cub, Norton Dominator), the bonnet and wheels of a Riley Elf and several wiring harnesses on a hook. In the chaotic area designated ‘office’, there will be a picture of a Jowett Javelin, some horrible items to do with making tea, and a girlie calendar for 1972 provided by RW Grimbagg & Sons (Abrasives) Ltd.
The man himself, in a dark blue over-all, will be sitting on a bentwood chair eating a king prawn jalfraisi, part-payment for a job he did last year on the Taj Mahal owner’s daughter’s Mini Moke.
Man who mends cars always had someone who could be called Man who mends cars consultant, a smallish chap who would share his tea and voice the occasional opinion on the merits of the much lamented Jewett Javelin.