by Mike Peake
Like many of you, I have been around classic cars for many years. I have attended too many shows to count and have taken part in many specialist forums, chat rooms, groups and clubs.
During this time, I have been observing, indeed studying, my fellow enthusiast. I have encountered the classic car enthusiast in many forms and suffered the potentially disastrous consequences of not knowing how to deal with each type effectively.
I hope the following anthropologic study will help you identify and subsequently cope effectively should you encounter the classic car enthusiasts in the wild.
I have found that whilst individual classic car peccadilloes are as varied as there are humans on the planet, all of us fall into one of the following categories and sub categories.
Main Categories of classic car enthusiast
This species of enthusiast actually owns a classic car. Some have been known to own more than one. Sometimes, even hundreds and sometimes even all at the same time. These latter types are considered by some, even among their own community, to be completely mad.
Owners also consider themselves to be the “Alpha” species in the community. Owners can be further divided in to several subspecies as described below.
The Muggle is a species of enthusiast often seen at the larger car shows open to the public and on internet forums. Whilst not owning any classic cars themselves, they consider themselves a vital part of the classic car movement. Muggles also fall into several subspecies as described below.
Sub Categories of classic car enthusiast
The Fred Dibnah (owner)
In my opinion, these sorts are the true heroes of the movement but little is known about them as they are critically endangered and rarely seen outside of their workshops. On the rare occasions that “Fred” does leave his natural habitat, usually only to visit an auto jumble, he is readily identifiable by his uniform greasy blue overalls, oily flat cap and scuffed steel toe capped boots. He may also have a pipe clamped between his teeth which he uses to point at things and has invariably “gone out”.
His natural habitat is his workshop which is always a form of darkened shed equipped with engineering machinery such as lathes and mills and lots and lots of specialist tools. Many of these tools “Fred” will have “knocked up” himself for a long forgotten specialist purpose. The shelves will be stuffed with old tobacco tins full of every nut, bolt, washer and widget known to man and some known only unto “Fred”. “Fred” knows how to do EVERYTHING. He will have restored, built, redesigned and designed everything from a toy steam engine when he was 3 months old, to a World War 1 tank and a 1900 Darracq, as well as vehicles and whajamacallits of his own making. He will often make any hard to source parts himself from ore he has dug up from his back garden.
If you are lucky enough to know a “Fred”, nurture and care for him well, as he will be very useful. A mug of beer and a cheese sandwich left at his workshop door will help encourage him to be friendly towards you.
The “Norman Shufflebottom” (Muggle)
“Norman” is probably the easiest enthusiast to spot and surprisingly common. He will be of slight build, possibly slightly stooped. He will always be wearing a blue Kagool, backpack, floppy hat and sometimes a walking stick. Every inch of the floppy hat, back pack and walking stick will be covered in badges and patches from un-interesting places that he’s visited.
“Norman” will typically sidle up to a gleaming example of his chosen model and furtively ferret about until he spots “IT”. He will then accost the owner and pronounce in his extremely nasally voice “This isn’t original is it?” “Whoever restored this had no eye for detail.” “See this washer?...this one here…oh use my penlight and magnifying glass…See it now? They didn’t use that type of washer until 26th March 1969 and this car was built in February 1969….shouldn’t have it see? Dear oh dear”. “Norman” then shuffles off shaking his head.
Unusually amongst the classic car enthusiast, “Norman” may also have additional hobbies. Typically, these will be train spotting and rambling. Further, although classified as a “Muggle” he may actually own a classic car, usually a Morris Minor, but this will be entirely by accident.
The best way to deal with a “Norman”, should you encounter him, is to lead him into the “Modified/Hot Rod” field where he will immediately fall into a dead faint.
The “Julian Syngine-Smyth investment Banker” (Owner)
Back in the 80’s, “Julian” would be seen in a suit and red braces, clutching a Filofax and driving a candy red Porsche 911 Turbo with full body kit which he loudly referred to as “The Porker”. Today though, he has matured and wears a shirt, blazer and cravat set off with a panama hat.
“Julian” can be seen at the high end car shows and will be driving something very exclusive and sporty. He will be clustered together with others of his subspecies typically in a deck chair sipping champagne and eating caviar behind the row of 4 or five similarly out of reach super classics. This enclave will be protected by rolls of razor wire and the odd machine gun nest to keep the plebs from getting drool on their posh cars. On the extremely rare occasions that he ventures outside his enclave, it is to pour scorn on the owners of models he considers inferior to his own. Which, to be honest, is all of them.
“Julian” will be heard to proclaim loudly, such things as “Oh yes! Bought her as an investment actually old chap. Money markets being as they are you know” and “ Took her for a blast around the French Riviera last year. Superb!”
Of course, he has never even seen a spanner as he has “an excellent chap that looks after all that for me. Flew him out to Monty Carlo last month to fix the windscreen washers. Said he put water in the bottle or something or other. All rather technical you know.”
Should you happen across a “Julian”, on no account must you succumb to the unusually overwhelming urge to “smash his smug face in” as this type of action is frowned upon, and even illegal, in most modern societies.
The Nick Griffin (Muggle)
“Nick” is also easy to spot on the rare occasions he ventures out. He is loud, brash and oafish. The “Nick is very common and can be found at any car show. Usually though, he will be hiding behind a keyboard in his bedroom of his Mum’s house, spouting his narrow bigoted views on every car forum on the web.
“Nick” has never owned a classic and gained all his “knowledge” either from his “mate down the pub” or “that bloke off the telly”. He will vigorously repeat these second hand views as gospel.
He will be heard to say such things as “That’s not a classic” and “Cwoar, they were rubbish they were!” or “My mate down the pub says they were always breaking down!”
Unfortunately, if you meet “Nick” in real life the best thing to do is avoid eye contact and grin and bear it until he gets bored. As with a “Julian” you must strenuously resist the overwhelming urge to “smash his ignorant face in” as this type of action is frowned upon, and even illegal, in most modern societies.
It is much easier if you encounter “Nick” online as you can simply ask your harassed, overworked but dedicated admin team to “banish his arse”.
The “Oliver Truewhisstle” (Owner or sometimes Muggle)
Whilst more commonly part of the “Owner” species, the “Oliver” can occasionally be a “Muggle”. However, their characteristics are so similar in either species that they are commonly grouped together in this one overlapping subspecies.
“Oliver” is a purist in its purist form. He will robustly preach “originality” to any restorer allowing no room for even the slightest modifications. He will have strong beliefs on what constitutes a classic and it will be very narrowly defined and certainly won’t include anything post 1958.
Non-standard wheels such as Minilights or Slotmags are considered thuggish in the extreme, although for some reason, wires are usually thought to be acceptable. He will even have an opinion on the font and colour of the number plate that he will consider suitable for your car.
Whilst there are many similarities, the “Oliver” should not be confused with the “Norman”. If you try to take “Oliver” to the “Modified/Hot Rod” field, he will soon become uncooperative and even aggressive before getting close enough to have an effect. The best thing to do is to show him a pristine example of his favourite classic before opening the bonnet to reveal completely modern underpinnings. At which point, he will immediately fall into a dead faint.
The “Vicky Butler-Henderson” (Owner)
The “Vicky” is almost certainly the rarest form of classic car enthusiast and quite probably the most dangerous if not treated correctly.
Whilst the “Vicky”, being female, is easily distinguished from her fellow enthusiast, she is commonly confused with the entirely separate species of “Long suffering partner”. Although this may be understandable to some, given the strong physical resemblance, this mistake can lead to serious misunderstandings.
The real giveaway that you are dealing with a “Vicky” is that on approach, she will immediately leap to her feet shouting “Yes! I’m a Woman! No! it’s not my husband’s car! Yes! I do all the work myself!” This is a reflex defence mechanism.
Surprisingly, the “Vicky” is not an instinctively aggressive species. Rather it is a condition forced upon her by the unthinking, more populous, male enthusiasts, garage mechanics and parts suppliers that she has been in contact with. She has faced years of people saying things like “It’s about the car, can I speak to your husband?” or “ no, really. Who does look after the car?” or “Did you choose the colour? It’s lovely”. Worse still, facile sexist comments and “jokes” mainly from the “Nick” subspecies.
If you are confronted by “Vicky” in full defence mode, the best course of action is to engage her in conversation about her car in exactly the same way you would any other owner enthusiast. “Vicky” is knowledgeable and a good resource for help.
If you can’t trust yourself not to make a facile sexist remark then maintain eye contact and back away slowly. It is vital that you refrain from any facile sexist comment as the next stage of her reflex defence mechanism is to bury a ½” socket drive in your skull.
The “Barry Brewer” (Owner)
The “Barry” is the dedicated devotee owner of an “unfairly much maligned” model. Once considered endangered, he is now enjoying a resurgence in numbers due to his own stubbornness and the caring, nurturing activities of another species of enthusiast I shall describe later.
The “Barry” is shy and nervous and continues to expect an imminent attack from any and every quarter. Consequently, he has developed his own reflex defence mechanism.
Like the “Vicky”, His reflex defence mechanism is triggered when approached. “Barry” will immediately begin a 30 minute lecture on why his car isn’t as bad as everybody says it is, backed up by slides, evidence and references to eminent people in the field.
The best way to deal with “Barry” is to say “that’s a nice car” in a loud and clear voice when you approach. You will still trigger the reflex defence mechanism, but 5 minutes into it, his eyes will become unglazed and he will ask “Sorry? What did you say?” at this point it is vital that you repeat, in a loud clear voice, “that’s a nice car” After a moment of shock from “Barry”, you will then be able to engage him in normal conversation about his car, or cars as it will turn out that he has 30 other examples in his back garden that he has “rescued” as he couldn’t bear to see them scrapped.
It is an exercise in futility to persist in the uneducated view that his car is rubbish. “Barry” has had years of practice defending his car and will cut any and all of your arguments off at the knees. Further persistence could trigger the final reflex defence. “Barry will forcibly insert a jack handle into your chest and then bury you under his collection of “rescued” cars.
The “EMB no damn EBMV er BB 1885” and the err “EPMMV” (Owners and Muggles)
As you can see, there are two groups to this subspecies, but their behaviours are so similar that I shall deal with them together. Indeed it is only the very slightly more liberal attitudes of the EPMMV that stands them apart. Members often view the newer “EPMMV” as more of an evolution rather than the formation of a separate group.
The “EBMVBB1985/EPMMV” are the true enthusiast. Just 2 years ago they were so rare that they were considered, in some circles, to be mythical. However, having found a sanctuary in Facebookshire, their numbers are now growing strongly and they are even venturing out into their former homelands and show grounds.
The “BBBEMV1985/MEPMV” are extremely sociable, polite, knowledgeable, inclusive and welcoming. So welcoming in fact that many a “Vicky” and “Barry” has made a home with them too.
Whilst each and every “MVEBBB1985/MMEPV” will be passionately loyal to their own favourite model and marque they are extremely tolerant of others opinions and choices. They may not agree with a members decision to spray his Standard 10 luminous green and fit candyfloss pink Slotmag wheels, but they will defend to the death his right to do so without public ridicule.
If you encounter an “EBVBBM1985/EMVPM” out in the wild, you really have nothing to fear. They are all jolly nice, friendly, and all round good eggs. However, it is worth mentioning that should you be so bad mannered as to criticise or ridicule their car or a fellow member’s car, they will become fiercely defensive.
If you persist with your bad manners, they will summon up their secret weapon to smite you from the face of the earth. This secret weapon is known amongst this group as “ADMIN”. Once “ADMIN” has been invoked, only a profuse and heartfelt apology and a copious offering of cake will prevent a smiting.
I have only a limited amount of room here, so I have restricted my anthropologic discussion to these main subspecies of classic car enthusiasts. Obviously, there are many others, some of which will be, as yet, unknown to science.
I will endeavour to research and study the subject further and maybe revisit the subject with you at some time in the future. In the meantime, if your interest has been piqued and you wish to continue your own studies, please visit the events section of the group's Facebook page for a list of shows and meets that should provide fertile grounds for research.
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