UKC

Era for peak driving skills

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The recent thread about "what car did your Dad drive" elicited a telling comment from someone, saying the thread is showing us just how much BETTER the average car is nowadays. 

This comment and thread, combined with my watching quite a bit of 1970s stuff lately (the Brian Clemens anthology series "Thriller" and a few Bond films and Charles Bronson in The Mechanic, even the unexpected "paranoid chase" at toward the end of Blue Collar etc), got me observing something.

In driving "action" scenes in a lot of 1970s stuff, the handling of the cars looks terrifying! Lots of roll, sketchy traction, "exciting" braking etc. 
In fact, even non-action scenes of basic driving, make it look like it's hard work. 

Was everyone just much much better at driving, 40+ years ago?! I know power steering, ABS, standard anti-roll bars, traction control, and even the smaller details like automatic choke etc. have made our lives easier and safer, and that my observation of "driving looks terrifying in the 1970s" is mostly based on daft scenes of fast driving and chases, but how does this tie back into the average person driving experience in the 1970s?! I assume that tyres are also a lot better now.

In 1960s popular media everything seems more calm and sedate, maybe less traffic? e.g. on the chase between Bond and Tilly Soames/Masterson in Goldfinger, I don't clench my buttocks for fear of the car handling. Ditto 1980s stuff. There just seems to be something about the 1970s, like it was a perfect storm of more powerful engines, larger bodies, increased traffic, and a lag in the wide deployment of the aforementioned technology to catch up with these factors. 

Am I just talking a lot of nonsense (as usual?!)

 Tom V 05 Apr 2021
In reply to Blue Straggler:

On 60's  British TV if anyone ever got into a white Jag they were as good as dead because it would end up flying over the same cliff edge that every other white Jag did.

I think the build quality of some cars of the time was "sketchy".  If a car can lose 5 hub caps in one car chase there is something wrong somewhere.

And you're definitely right about basic driving looking like hard work; the way peoiple wrestled with the steering wheel even when driving in a straight line makes me think they were trying to warm the tyres up.

 Hooo 05 Apr 2021
In reply to Blue Straggler:

I can't say much for the cars, as I got my first car 12 years ago. But in the 90s I was riding 70s motorcycles and keeping up with friends on modern machines. I assumed that there hadn't been much real improvement, until I got with the times and got myself a reasonably modern bike with modern tyres. It was a revelation, it just went where I pointed it and stuck to the road, and when I reached the limit of traction it slipped controllably instead of dumping me on the floor. It was all a bit boring TBH. It soon dawned on me that I would never be able to push the bike to its limit, as the limit was far past where I was prepared to go on a public road. Chucking a 70s Bonneville around I felt that I was actually using some skill.

 Hooo 05 Apr 2021
In reply to Blue Straggler:

When it comes to bikes in films... In pretty much any motorcycle chase in a pre 2000 film check out how the bike changes into a Triumph twin for the stunts and then back again for rest of the scenes. Really obvious in war films where the Germans have a BMW with the distinctive boxer engine.

In reply to Tom V:

> On 60's  British TV if anyone ever got into a white Jag they were as good as dead because it would end up flying over the same cliff edge that every other white Jag did.

Same piece of stock footage, hopefully? (although nobody told the producers of The Dukes of Hazard that they should do this, so they got through LOADS of "General Lees" )

> I think the build quality of some cars of the time was "sketchy".  If a car can lose 5 hub caps in one car chase there is something wrong somewhere.

On the other hand, green VW Beetles had amazing teleporting and/or replicating abilities.

> And you're definitely right about basic driving looking like hard work; the way peoiple wrestled with the steering wheel even when driving in a straight line makes me think they were trying to warm the tyres up.

Rear projection? As spoofed in some of the more subtle "in jokes" in Pulp Fiction. 

2
In reply to Longsufferingropeholder:

That's fantastic! 

 ScraggyGoat 05 Apr 2021
In reply to Blue Straggler:

My parents had a Saab 96 it was heavy, pre PAS and had a large steering circle, consequently parking and low speed manoeuvring was a huge effort.  It also broke down regularly on family holidays . Burbled from cold. Unusually had a fly-wheel to preserve momentum, which used to scare garage mechanics road testing as they took their foot off the accelerator on approach to junctions and it used kept going...
 

The second thing that probably has changed significantly is clutch control, gear change, power range per gear, and hand brake all feeding into hill starts.  The Highway Code had give priority to uphill coming traffic written into it for a reason.  I seam to remember old cars struggling to hold on the hand-break on steep slopes.

If you have to stop nowadays and restart on a steep hill it’s no sweat, except on the steepest corners on things like the Beleach to Applecross.

 artif 05 Apr 2021
In reply to Blue Straggler:

As a driver (currently) of a 70's American pick up, with the only safety feature being the optional seat belts, I would say they are definitely different to modern cars (recently been driving a Ford Fiesta hire car for work). Certainly a more raw experience and to me much preferable.

If you just want something to get from a to b safely then modern stuff can't be beaten.

Possibly one of the worst (most entertaining) car for driving was a mk111 cortina that the Mrs wanted, because her dad had one. Vynyl seats and a rolled like a pig, meant you had to hold on tight to the steering wheel. 😂

In reply to ScraggyGoat:

Ugh I forgot all about gearing and gear range. Yes modern cars are very forgiving of early or late gear changes. I learned to drive in 1992 but our family cars were old; the first car I drove regularly was a 1983 Talbot Horizon which was OK, not physically difficult like some of the old beasts, but yep it didn’t like being in the wrong gear!

I learned some basics in a Volvo 244 on private land in my early teens, which comical as I was a bit of a runt, had to sit on a cushion and have the seat as far forward as possible, and steering was like some Herculean task! It did mean that by the time I was 17 and my instructor’s car was a 1989 Rover 214, I had a good head start 

 artif 05 Apr 2021
In reply to Blue Straggler:

 It did mean that by the time I was 17 and my instructor’s car was a 1989 Rover 214, I had a good head start 

Had a rover 216 for a summer, a great car once I'd dropped in the weeds and cut the roof off, great memories of blasting up the m5  between Bristol for work and home in Cornwall for climbing. 

Don't think my parents were too impressed with it on the front page of the Falmouth Packet when it caught fire in front of their house. 😳

Post edited at 13:15
 Tom V 05 Apr 2021
 Lankyman 05 Apr 2021
In reply to Tom V:

> On 60's  British TV if anyone ever got into a white Jag they were as good as dead because it would end up flying over the same cliff edge that every other white Jag did.

You'd also have to drive through clouds of blowing newspaper and piles of randomly placed cardboard boxes.

> I think the build quality of some cars of the time was "sketchy".  If a car can lose 5 hub caps in one car chase there is something wrong somewhere.

Many of my early cars would shed random bits of engine, chassis or frame. They usually kept going.

In reply to Tom V:

Awesome, thanks. 

 timjones 05 Apr 2021
In reply to Blue Straggler:

You may need to factor the state of the roads into the equation.

Consider the early days of motoring with steep hills with no crash barriers, poor road surfaces and very rudimentary cars with poor brakes etc. Things may have been slower but the consequences were potentially pretty serious.

 Tom V 05 Apr 2021
In reply to ScraggyGoat:

I'm pretty sure my dad's old Land Rover only had synchromesh on third and fourth, which meant you had to double declutch to either move up or down into second

 elsewhere 05 Apr 2021
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Find a photo online of a familiar street from 60s-70s. The street is probably wide, open and empty - little traffic and not 100% full with parked cars on both sides.

Often looks idyllic. Was it really that good?

 GrahamD 05 Apr 2021
In reply to elsewhere:

> Find a photo online of a familiar street from 60s-70s. The street is probably wide, open and empty - little traffic and not 100% full with parked cars on both sides.

> Often looks idyllic. Was it really that good?

Everyone else's car was probably being repaired.

 Lankyman 05 Apr 2021
In reply to elsewhere:

> Find a photo online of a familiar street from 60s-70s. The street is probably wide, open and empty - little traffic and not 100% full with parked cars on both sides.

> Often looks idyllic. Was it really that good?

We used to play football in our street. One of my brothers still lives on the same estate. There's no way you could knock a ball about now with so many multi-car households crowding out the space. Me and a friend used to ride our Raleigh Choppers 20 miles to Rivington on main roads. Probably a death sentence nowadays? I'm probably lucky to be one of the last generations who was able to roam about largely free from fear.

In reply to Blue Straggler:

The peak peacetime year for road fatalities was 1967, there were about 13m vehicles on the road and 8,000 deaths. There are currently more than 35m vehicles on the road and about 2,000 deaths a year. The difference is probably even greater was miles travelled is taken in to account.

In reply to The New NickB:

Thanks, I didn't think of looking at it like that. I am going to watch loads of stuff specifically from 1967 now

In reply to timjones:

Thanks, I had been musing about the roads too! You say things may have been slower (and indeed still with awful consequences) but what I was trying to get at in the OP, was when things get faster - and I am watching and thinking "I wouldn't want to be driving that thing at 40mph on that road"

I remember when we were kids and Spielberg's "Duel" would come on TV, we'd laugh at the high thrills and drama provided by insert close-ups of Dennis Weaver's speedo reaching 70mph then 80mph but looking back, that would have been terrifying in his Plymouth Valiant! 

In reply to Lankyman:

> Me and a friend used to ride our Raleigh Choppers 20 miles to Rivington on main roads. Probably a death sentence nowadays? I'm probably lucky to be one of the last generations who was able to roam about largely free from fear.

Between 3 and 4 times as many cyclists killed on the roads in the 70s compared to now.

 artif 05 Apr 2021
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Not that bad, I had a police spec 68 Plymouth fury with a 383 (6.3l) that would go quite well, stopping, on the other hand, was interesting with drum brakes all round, especially on Cornish Country lanes. 

Also had 68 Buick that would run 12 seconds on the 1/4mile at over 100mph, similar to Nissan skyline, also on drum brakes. You'd get one shot at hard braking, and then have to wait for them to cool down. 

 Lankyman 05 Apr 2021
In reply to The New NickB:

> > Me and a friend used to ride our Raleigh Choppers 20 miles to Rivington on main roads. Probably a death sentence nowadays? I'm probably lucky to be one of the last generations who was able to roam about largely free from fear.

> Between 3 and 4 times as many cyclists killed on the roads in the 70s compared to now.

No helmets. Whatever the statistics, it was the freedom from fear that I remember well.

 jimtitt 05 Apr 2021
In reply to artif:

> Not that bad, I had a police spec 68 Plymouth fury with a 383 (6.3l) that would go quite well, stopping, on the other hand, was interesting with drum brakes all round, especially on Cornish Country lanes. 

> Also had 68 Buick that would run 12 seconds on the 1/4mile at over 100mph, similar to Nissan skyline, also on drum brakes. You'd get one shot at hard braking, and then have to wait for them to cool down. 


I (and my older brother) worked for a number of tuning companies from the end of the 60's through the 70's and for most cars the biggest improvement in road speed was brakes then tyres and shock absorbers, more than lightly tuning the engine was never the real winner. Brake fade down the Llanberis Pass was a real thing, in our tuned to death '56 Ford Zephr we fitted watercooling to the brakes!

In the mid 70's there was still plenty of 1950's garbage around not even capable of 70mph and with road holding suitable for 45 at a push. ABS would have been a laughable concept since locking up the wheels didn't exist. But that period was when things changed with the introduction upper-mid range cars which could run over 100 like the Rover SD1, Triumph 2500 and so on. We tuned basic rubbish to keep up with new generation cars but you knew what you were driving, 100mph in an Austin A55 you knew it, in a souless modern Ford Focus it's just going along as the driver is isolated from the real world.

And of course for all the complaints about the roads nowadays back then they were actually terrible, just sprayed tar and chippings, never saw a Hypac until they built the M5. The rest was guys with rakes and a roller.

 Timmd 05 Apr 2021
In reply to jimtitt:

> Brake fade down the Llanberis Pass was a real thing, in our tuned to death '56 Ford Zephr we fitted watercooling to the brakes!

That sounds interesting mechanically. 

 Timmd 05 Apr 2021
In reply to Blue Straggler:

I find myself wondering if 'people just died more often'? I remember reading on here some people musing that a spike fitted to the steering wheel might slow people down, and mentioned that to an older relative, and they mentioned that before collapsible steering columns, they basically were a spike which impaled people and that it didn't make any difference to people's driving, that they still drove too fast for conditions and what have you, and got impaled or damaged by the spike in a crash. Apparently seatbelts were a game changer at the time.

I guess people probably were better skilled drivers, but still as fallible regarding going beyond what was safe. Happy days at modern car safety.

Post edited at 16:41
 jimtitt 05 Apr 2021
In reply to Timmd:

> That sounds interesting mechanically. 


What, tuning a Ford Zephyr, same straight 6 used in the first Reliant Scimitars but ours was overbored, triple carbs, 6 into 2 exhaust out under the door and a custom cam. 0-100 faster than an E type Jag and a gearbox every 2500 miles. The standard spares kit in the boot was a gearbox and a half shaft in the boot. Possibly I'm the only person that's done a gearbox change in the laybye below the Grochan. Fun times!

Water cooling brakes is pretty normal, truck racers do it even now and we used to sell conversion kits for AP ventilated discs which were a popular upgrade back in the day, just a windscreen washer pump hooked up to the brake light switch and sprays into the middle of the disc. With drum brakes it's harder, you make a spraybar around the outside with 6 nozzles.

 Timmd 05 Apr 2021
In reply to jimtitt:

> What, tuning a Ford Zephyr, same straight 6 used in the first Reliant Scimitars but ours was overbored, triple carbs, 6 into 2 exhaust out under the door and a custom cam. 0-100 faster than an E type Jag and a gearbox every 2500 miles. The standard spares kit in the boot was a gearbox and a half shaft in the boot. Possibly I'm the only person that's done a gearbox change in the laybye below the Grochan. Fun times!

> Water cooling brakes is pretty normal, truck racers do it even now and we used to sell conversion kits for AP ventilated discs which were a popular upgrade back in the day, just a windscreen washer pump hooked up to the brake light switch and sprays into the middle of the disc. With drum brakes it's harder, you make a spraybar around the outside with 6 nozzles.

It was the brakes, but the other sounds interesting too. I can't drive yet, but I've always been mechanically minded and went through a phase of absorbing car related youtube videos in case any of it could relate to other things (pre uni course when I had more time to fill). The more fabrication related videos were quite cool and motorbike videos too, interesting to see how a wooden form can be made to shape sheet metal around, and how a template for a cone needs to be shaped.

Post edited at 16:59
 duchessofmalfi 05 Apr 2021
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Better 40+ years ago? not sure but they were defo more pissed more of the time and full of ciggy smoke from what I can recall.

I recall terrifyingly bad driving cooped up in the back of crap cars invariably with the heating set on "stifling" and being smoked like a kipper. Despite that I felt that people did pay attention a bit more because bits were always falling off the cars.

 wercat 05 Apr 2021
In reply to Tom V:

"Hell Drivers" comes to mind

 Andy Hardy 05 Apr 2021
In reply to Lankyman:

> No helmets. Whatever the statistics, it was the freedom from fear that I remember well.

Are cycle helmets that good? I now always wear one, because, why wouldn't you? However if I got hit by a car or truck doing 40 (the car, not me) I don't think the egg box on my bonce would do a fat lot.

 wercat 05 Apr 2021
In reply to ScraggyGoat:

ha,

one of my early "lessons" was pulling in to pass on the Bealach na Ba on a foul night and having to pull out again uphill in an Austin Maxi with a more or less totally ineffective handbrake and a dodgy clutch.

Exciting stuff

Thinking about how exposed it would feel not to have a seatbelt on makes those days seem even more dangerous.

 Martin Wood 05 Apr 2021
In reply to Hooo:

A bit like driving a TVR, then. No power steering, ABS or traction control and 300+bhp at the back wheels . It needed a lot of concentration and a modicum of skill to "make progress" within the limits of safety, or else you could easily end up like "white Jag" wo/man. 

PS--edited to add, bits were always falling off too! But I'd have another one in a heartbeat

Post edited at 17:17
 Timmd 05 Apr 2021
In reply to Andy Hardy: I was concussed for 2 and a bit weeks after headbutting the drystone wall alongside the left hand side of the road you go down after rounding Surprise View, I reckon helmets help towards stopping a pointy thing from breaking the skull, but brain injuries can still happen. I was doing about 28mph before I lost control, then feathered my brakes while bumping along in the gutter before I crashed and hit the ground, and my head made contact with the wall. Another time I might just haul on my back brake to scrub off speed rather than 'wait for things to unfold' like I did do at the time, upon finding I'd actually lost control of events, it comes down to having presence of mind, but another time I'll already know the potential of not doing (a speedier crash and more shaken up head). Safe cycling.

Post edited at 17:50
 artif 05 Apr 2021
In reply to Andy Hardy:

I've had a few hits and broken a few helmets, hitting trees and hard packed dirt at dh speeds certainly 40plus, so in my experience they do work. 

 artif 05 Apr 2021
In reply to wercat:

> ha,

> Exciting stuff

> Thinking about how exposed it would feel not to have a seatbelt on makes those days seem even more dangerous.

Some of my earliest driving memories are blasting around the Cornish countryside in a Triumph spitfire with roof down, mum driving, her freind in the passenger seat, with her freinds son and I sat on the boot lid, hanging on.

My mum was known for being an "enthusiastic" driver! 

In reply to wercat:

> "Hell Drivers" comes to mind

The most worrying thing about that film was Sean Connery’s early attempt at this “acting” thing 😃

 deepsoup 05 Apr 2021
In reply to Andy Hardy:

> Are cycle helmets that good?

No helmets are that good, but everyone who's broken one is convinced they would have broken their head if they hadn't been wearing it and at least some of them are right.

 Andy Hardy 05 Apr 2021
In reply to artif & others:

Good to know! Don't want to put it to the test though, all the same.

 daWalt 05 Apr 2021
In reply to Blue Straggler:

driving a car was way more dangerous in the 70s, you'd get a little bit sideways, your flares would catch an updraft and over you go....

as you see here:

youtube.com/watch?v=0xwc54G2Ur8&

 Jim Fraser 05 Apr 2021
In reply to Blue Straggler:

I first drove a car in the summer of 1964 on Lindisfarne sands. I was 8 going on 9 and the car was a 1958 Morris Oxford Traveller. During the following 9 years, a broad selection of cars and vans were driven on sites and forest roads and so on until in early 1973 I passed the car test. Along the way there had been a lot of engineering learning too. It was very very obvious that motor manufacturers and legislators were only vaguely interested in keeping people alive on the roads. This found its full expression in the near 8000 killed and around 50,000 seriously injured each year during that period. Annual road deaths had been largely unchanged for 40 years although traffic had increased dramatically in the same period. 

If you wanted a car with reasonable handling and good brakes in the 1970s then it was usually up to you to do the engineering. I routinely accepted that challenge. Car accessories were generally just as dreadful as they are now and selecting something effective was a struggle. 

Fortunately, my starting point, between 1974 and 1980 was more often than not a Hillman Imp. That machine was already armed with traction like Stalwart, an awesome engine and independent suspension. £21 for front springs, £8 for competition brake linings, and a few pounds for bodging the distributor to take Cooper S points, and suddenly you were in another world of control and predictability. Few machines were as cheap to sort out.

Deadliness was not confined to the cheaper end of the market. Lancias, BMWs and Aston Martins were dreadful too. Anything described as a 'sports car' was anything but, and should have carried a government health warning. I remember drifting my uncle's 1969 DBS round bends on Oxfordshire estate roads and it was only slightly more fun than a Ford D300 truck but at twice the speed. The sound effects were certainly better than a D300, as were the seats. What a handful though!

I was doing engineering at Napier, including automotive, and then worked for a couple of vehicle manufacturers. We knew in the 70s how to make cars handle: how to make decent dampers for instance. We could do things like passive self-steering rear suspension and other fancy stuff. We knew how to make engines reliable and economic. We knew how to do crumple zones. Could we be arsed? Not a bit of it. 

Driving skills? I would say that the vast majority of people driving regularly in the 70s had been in a skid and knew it. They just had to deal with it. Some didn't deal with it very well: thus the big death figures. What certainly differs now is that most people driving regularly either haven't been in a skid or had no idea that was what was happening. So a deficit in vehicle handling skills, probably yes.

Somehow, an increasingly greater proportion of serious accidents, including fatal ones, are happening because of two very basic driving failures: not paying proper attention and making poor decisions about an approaching hazard. We are fortunate that we have compulsory seat belts, airbags, sophisticated crash testing, forgiving handling, good brakes and host of other advantages that prevent those failings from turning into even bigger numbers of full coffins than in the 1960s and 70s. Those failings are deadlier than the deficit in vehicle handling skills.

If we are going to rely on 20mph limits, speed guns, the current driver training regime, and increased automation to provide safer roads then we are in trouble. The 1700 to 1800 GB road deaths per year that we experience now will be unchanged in 2030 and 2040.  

Careful attention and proper hazard procedure will keep more people alive and uninjured. We need to take the speed guns away from the traffic cops and get them out there HELPING ordinary drivers to do their ordinary driving in a better way. 

Here's how this works.

Exceeding the speed limit is a contibutory factor in about 5% of accidents. Not paying attention and making poor hazard decisions are over 60%. 

If you make huge difference to that 5% then you save maybe 45 people. 

If you make a small difference to that 60% then you save maybe 100 people.

End of rant.  (for now)

Post edited at 22:45
In reply to ScraggyGoat:

> If you have to stop nowadays and restart on a steep hill it’s no sweat, except on the steepest corners on things like the Beleach to Applecross.

Not true!

Ever tried renting a car and getting to a steep hill in heavy traffic and discovering its got some kind of electronic handrake but strangely enough you didn't read the manual before setting off and now you have no f*cking idea how it works and what is going to happen when you take your foot off the footbrake. 

1
 Jim Fraser 05 Apr 2021
In reply to tom_in_edinburgh:

The handbrake requirement (MoT) is only 16% (1 in 6) whereas historically it was 23%.

 65 05 Apr 2021
In reply to jimtitt:

I dabbled in motorsport during the mid 80s and drove (not owned) many of the sort of cars you mention, my friend's mum's Triumph 2500pi and another friend's dad's Rover SD1 Vitesse being favourites but more for the noise than the handling. I have great memories of a Fiat Mirafiore Abarth, various Lotus (Loti?),  a lairy Mk1 Mexico with 2.1 ohc engine and a 3.1 Capri. I had a Reliant Scimitar GTE for a short while too which was great when not broken down, it's default mode. I suspect I'd find them all exciting in a bad way if I drove them now. 

 65 05 Apr 2021
In reply to ScraggyGoat:

> My parents had a Saab 96 it was heavy, pre PAS and had a large steering circle, consequently parking and low speed manoeuvring was a huge effort.

I had one of those, prepped for rallying. A great if rather strange car. I was taught left foot braking in it and drove in the snow at alarming speeds, a bit like skiing in a car. I hardly ever used the freewheel, I found the absence of engine braking scary. Despite flogging it to death, partly because it was pretty gutless, it never gave me any trouble and I always regretted selling it. 

In reply to tom_in_edinburgh:

2015-2019 I rented approx 10 cars per year, several had electronic handbrakes, I am not an expert driver, I didn’t read the manuals, and I never had this issue. I made an idiot of myself with my first hybrid, and had a sketchy moment in a Mercedes once because the car was trying to be too generous with its options (facilitating a too-easy toggle between cruise control and speed limiter), and had to do an Internet search to find out how to open the boot on some Ford SUV, and had a Peugeot tell me to hold the steering wheel when the car got confused on a weird adverse camber off a slip road....but never had an issue with hill starts and electronic handbrakes. You must have had very bad luck. 

Post edited at 01:03
In reply to Jim Fraser:

Great post Jim, thanks. Just one thing, this:

” Those failings are deadlier than the deficit in vehicle handling skills.”

It’s kind of a grey area isn’t it? The reduction in the need for vehicle handling skills, has created a more general complacency - when you needed to be alert just to keep a car moving on the road, you’d be fully alert and aware of what’s going on around you. I (born 1975) do just about remember “don’t pester Dad or Grandad while they are driving”. Compare to today with drivers mostly able to faff around with all sorts of rubbish whilst on the move 

In reply to Blue Straggler:

> ..but never had an issue with hill starts and electronic handbrakes. You must have had very bad luck. 

The worst one I had in a rental car was sitting in the emergency lane on an autobahn reading the manual of a Nissan Cashcow which had lost power and wasn't keeping up with the traffic.   I wasn't driving that time, just a passenger, so I had manual reading duty.  I discovered there was some crazy fuel saving mode you could engage with a special wiggle of the gearstick that the driver had managed to do by accident.

In reply to tom_in_edinburgh:

Nissan Cashcow? Seriously? Are you 12? 

11
 waitout 06 Apr 2021
In reply to Blue Straggler:

I don't know about reality as I was just a kid in the 70's, but growing up I had good friends who were stuntmen, including Grant Page and his sons. According to Grant, the 70's was the first real generation in the explosion of stunt-dom, where that stuff drove plot lines etc, but was still a decade away from being properly overseen so things were pretty cavalier.

By the sounds of his tales, a lot was simply down to guys like him bigging up what could be done (this from the guy who did Mad Max) on what were for the time big budgets - destroy another car and put some guys in hospital? That was half the fun, with things possibly peaking with the Blues Brothers.

I wonder too if the cars of the day were simply more simple and robust; more steel and larger tolerances than the electronic, beeping and lit up plastic moving cameras that we call cars today.

 john arran 06 Apr 2021
In reply to Jim Fraser:

> Careful attention and proper hazard procedure will keep more people alive and uninjured. We need to take the speed guns away from the traffic cops and get them out there HELPING ordinary drivers to do their ordinary driving in a better way. 

> Here's how this works.

> Exceeding the speed limit is a contibutory factor in about 5% of accidents. Not paying attention and making poor hazard decisions are over 60%. 

> If you make huge difference to that 5% then you save maybe 45 people. 

> If you make a small difference to that 60% then you save maybe 100 people.

While I agree with your sentiment, and I agree that the best way to direct further road safety measures may well be in focusing on factors other than speed, the logic of removing some of the very measures that have been successful in preventing speed-related accidents is badly flawed.

Yes, you could make a good case for making changes in the way speeding is reduced, but the implication that we could simply remove some speed-control measures because few now seem to have speed-related accidents is a bit like saying we can remove vaccination programmes for some diseases as few people are now dying from them.

 john arran 06 Apr 2021
In reply to 65:

In about 1987 my brother had the best temp job in the world. He was charged with taking a rally-spec RS Cosworth around the country to be exhibited at various shows and events, and there were few restrictions on where he went and what he got up to between shows, as long as he cleaned it up well before a show.

This was probably the ideal time, because the road surfaces were generally very good by then yet the motorways were largely empty outside of peak times, and of course there were very few speed checks.

I only drove it once, hesitantly getting up to about 135 on the clock, but he'd had it up to 156 on the clock on a deserted motorway. I remember that kind of speed feeling pretty scary at the time, but I don't remember having any concern about the stability of the car. It really was a joy to handle, especially on A roads, where it seemed it could probably go about twice the speed I dared drive it. Try as I might not to brake too much into bends, feeling I was going at lunatic speed, the car would just glide round the curve like it was on a Sunday stroll, leaving me scratching my head as to how that could happen!

I dread to think what top racing cars are capable of nowadays, and I'm glad there are few opportunities for people to own them and drive them anywhere near their capabilities on busy public roads without getting stopped.

 Andy Hardy 06 Apr 2021
In reply to Jim Fraser: 

> Here's how this works.

> Exceeding the speed limit is a contibutory factor in about 5% of accidents. Not paying attention and making poor hazard decisions are over 60%. 

> If you make huge difference to that 5% then you save maybe 45 people. 

> If you make a small difference to that 60% then you save maybe 100 people.

> End of rant.  (for now)

Surely it's not either / or? For us mortals without eagle eyes and mongoose reaction times, driving at the speed limit (or less) gives more time to make hazard decisions etc.

 GrahamD 06 Apr 2021
In reply to deepsoup:

> No helmets are that good, but everyone who's broken one is convinced they would have broken their head if they hadn't been wearing it and at least some of them are right.

They absorb a significant proportion of an impact in my experience.

 elsewhere 06 Apr 2021
In reply to Jim Fraser:

Speed is a factor in 100% of collisions as kinetic energy is the determining factor for the level of minor/major damage, minor/major injury and low/high survivability.

1
In reply to john arran:

> While I agree with your sentiment, and I agree that the best way to direct further road safety measures may well be in focusing on factors other than speed, the logic of removing some of the very measures that have been successful in preventing speed-related accidents is badly flawed.

> Yes, you could make a good case for making changes in the way speeding is reduced, but the implication that we could simply remove some speed-control measures because few now seem to have speed-related accidents is a bit like saying we can remove vaccination programmes for some diseases as few people are now dying from them.

They're also not mutually exclusive.  Speed enforcement can cover most of its costs, so you have it as well as other more costly measures, not instead.

 jkarran 06 Apr 2021
In reply to Blue Straggler:

> Ugh I forgot all about gearing and gear range. Yes modern cars are very forgiving of early or late gear changes. I learned to drive in 1992 but our family cars were old; the first car I drove regularly was a 1983 Talbot Horizon which was OK, not physically difficult like some of the old beasts, but yep it didn’t like being in the wrong gear!

In petrol cars it's basically electronics: fuel injection, electronic ignition timing. Turbo technology (materials or design evolution?) has utterly transformed diesel and is now shrinking petrol engines incredibly. Both technologies have really fattened out the torque curves. 100bhp in an 80s or 90s hot hatch was cracking fun but you got that briefly at the fizzy end of the rev range only, nothing anywhere else, get the wrong gear and it'd just bog down. In today's cars, even the boring ones 100bhp comes with a big fat torque curve, the power is available everywhere instantly. Incredible really that for that they feel so dull, I'd go old-school every time for pure fun.

> I learned some basics in a Volvo 244 on private land in my early teens, which comical as I was a bit of a runt, had to sit on a cushion and have the seat as far forward as possible, and steering was like some Herculean task!

Snap, well I started in French hire cars but learned to drive legally in a 240. Distinctly old school engineering with hindsight.

I suspect the ropey cars of the 70s were still an order of magnitude easier to drive and live with than those of the first half of the 20th century: steering racks, radial tyres, hydraulic brakes, synchromesh, automatic ignition advance, independent front suspension, safety glass (!), seatbelts, hard bearings, oil seals... the 70s look good from that perspective.

jk

 Ciro 06 Apr 2021
In reply to Jim Fraser:

I'm not sure it's possible to make a lot of difference to the hazard perception and paying attention bit. Modern cars mostly just do as they're told, and unless you're a particularly "spirited" driver, experience tells you that there's no need to pay attention - until there really is. 

The more safety features we add, the less attention we need to pay to the actual process of driving. My partner's car has the cruise control that lets you set how close you want to get to the car in front. It's great for making driving relaxing, but I can't help wondering at what point these things become too relaxing. I know the self driving features we have so far all say we're supposed to be staying alert and ready to take control, but I honestly can't imagine staying alert enough on a long journey, if the car has self steering as well as speed control, to do a proper emergency stop if the car misses the requirement to do one.

The thing that'll make a big change in safety now is finishing the job of letting the car take over the driving, to the point where we no longer need to oversee it.

 jkarran 06 Apr 2021
In reply to tom_in_edinburgh:

> Ever tried renting a car and getting to a steep hill in heavy traffic and discovering its got some kind of electronic handrake but strangely enough you didn't read the manual before setting off and now you have no f*cking idea how it works and what is going to happen when you take your foot off the footbrake. 

Worse, I hired a Daccia something or other (Stepway?) in Ibiza a couple of years back. Not only did it have all that infuriating automatic crap but it didn't actually produce enough torque in the lower half of the rev range to climb the slopes in car parks and out of some of the steeper coastal villages without a run-up. 2018! It was a holiday spent smoking the clutch of a very nearly new car that was almost indescribably awful just to get it uphill, I simply don't understand how something like that makes it to market.

jk

 Greenbanks 06 Apr 2021
In reply to Blue Straggler:

A peak era for me was a late 70's series of 'DriveAway' car deliveries across the USA - speed limit mostly 55mph, but frustrating as we were delivery high-spec Cadillacs, Oldsmobiles and even a smart Volvo Estate. First time I'd driven any of the nice-looking motors that I'd seen in movies. I wanted a car chase...! I recall being pretty much skint but still driving a Cadillac convertible round Rodeo Drive for a few hours whilst waiting for the client to arrive at his 30-room mansion in Beverley Hills. All very different to my 1 litre Simca (top speed about 45 with a following wind).

 Siward 06 Apr 2021
In reply to Blue Straggler:

I know that in BBC's Life on Mars : 'Fire up the Quattro' etc, the makers had to disconnect the drive to the rear wheels because there was no way they were able to skid it around the corners in the approved style. Just too much grip.

 daWalt 06 Apr 2021
In reply to jkarran:

it's not the car, it's been engine-mapped to death.

I'v also had a hire car in spain where we had to kick all the passengers out before the last 20m uphill to our accommodation. I was quite surprised that a nearly new ford fiasco could be set up to produce so little torque.....

 65 06 Apr 2021
In reply to john arran:

> In about 1987 my brother had the best temp job in the world. He was charged with taking a rally-spec RS Cosworth around the country to be exhibited at various shows and events, and there were few restrictions on where he went and what he got up to between shows, as long as he cleaned it up well before a show.

I forgot about them, a friend years ago had two, one of the original hatchback RWD ones and then a later, 'boring' 4WD version. The RWD one was ace. 

> I dread to think what top racing cars are capable of nowadays, and I'm glad there are few opportunities for people to own them and drive them anywhere near their capabilities on busy public roads without getting stopped.

There is a youtube video somewhere of a race between an Ariel Atom, a 1000cc superbike and a works rally Citroen. The Citroen makes mincemeat of them.

 jkarran 06 Apr 2021
In reply to daWalt:

> it's not the car, it's been engine-mapped to death.

It's definitely the car, it's a system problem. The electronics are contributory but it wouldn't work any better on carbs and points!

> I was quite surprised that a nearly new ford fiasco could be set up to produce so little torque.....

It's odd. I know there's a tension between emissions and performance but most manufacturers manage a compromise which delivers a nice fat torque curve even from very small engines. There's no need for such dismal design, even with a terrible engine there's still at least a 5-speed gearbox hanging on it, how hard is it to fit an appropriate 1st so it can climb then split the difference across the rest of the ratios so it'll still cruise quietly in 5/6th.

I hired a similarly dreadful sub-1L Micra (2016 ish model probably). I suspect the Daccia engine is related.

jk

In reply to jkarran:

We haven't had a decent "what's your worst hire car experience" thread for a while, for fairly obvious reasons! Glad to see you dovetailing it into here. 

In my last 5 years of approx 8-10 rentals per year, the memorably bad vehicles have been Vauxhalls. I don't mean to slight the brand as a whole, because I just don't know what spec I had, and I guess most lines have a duff spec (and, at the other end, an insane spec) model for catalogue purposes. 
A Crossland(*) gave me the only driving experience where I was consistently anxious about turning right at busy T junctions (in a "will it get me across in time") kind of way. I have no idea what was going on with it; I've driven (and owned) plenty of underpowered things in my time but they were always decent enough from standstill. Can't remember the details of other bad Vauxhalls, there's not been a load of them. Well I did rent a "sporty spec" Astra once, and it didn't feel very sporty apart from the poor mpg! 


it might "cross land" in general, but "crossing a T junction", no promises

Post edited at 16:14
 jimtitt 06 Apr 2021
In reply to jkarran:

Had a miserable Opel thing once, the one with a 3 cylinder engine that promised gadzillions of horsepower and filled the tank as you went along. Had to get a gang of Ducati riders to push it out of the carpark at the top of the Sella Pass! Like all Opel/Vauxhauls of the time when we took it back we handed over a plastic bag of various screws and plastic bits that had fallen off. 

 girlymonkey 06 Apr 2021
In reply to Blue Straggler:

I think the concept of "driving skills" changes with each generation. Car handling might get simpler, but queue dodging, efficient route choice, knowing how to find a parking space and parking a ridiculously oversized vehicle in an overcrowded car park are all modern skills. 

Then, moving forward with EVs, efficient driving to eeck out your range, judging when and for how long to charger for en route for maximum efficiency etc. Not falling asleep because you have so little actual driving to do!

Surely the skills just change with the times?

 Timmd 06 Apr 2021
In reply to Andy Hardy:

> Surely it's not either / or? For us mortals without eagle eyes and mongoose reaction times, driving at the speed limit (or less) gives more time to make hazard decisions etc.

I got the impression he means it's about diminishing returns, related to the amount of money and human resources that are focussed on targeting speeding.

It strikes me that with conventional driving tests not covering things like skid recovery and similar, there's going to be a gap in many people's skillsets. Once 'normal people' are able to learn to drive again, I'm going to take lessons and then do some advanced driver training to, I don't want to be driving about without knowing how to correct a skid, obviously avoiding a skid happening is the main thing, but being a few tons of metal travelling at speed under my control it's something of a responsibility.

Post edited at 17:14
In reply to Timmd:

> Once 'normal people' are able to learn to drive again

What do you mean by this?

1
 Timmd 06 Apr 2021
In reply to Blue Straggler:

It was the first term which came to mind, I mean people who aren't given allowance to because they work in care or something else which is important. I didn't mean a slur.

Post edited at 17:20
 Hooo 06 Apr 2021
In reply to Blue Straggler:

> We haven't had a decent "what's your worst hire car experience" thread for a while, for fairly obvious reasons! Glad to see you dovetailing it into here. 

I hired one car last year. A 2020 Peugeot 208 with 3k on the clock. The most uncomfortable car I have ever driven, and I've driven a 70s mini. The Peugeot appears to be made for pixies, as it's totally unsuitable for a normal sized adult. I can't understand how they can make shit like this in 2020. And it scared the crap out of me on a stormy motorway when it started jerking the steering wheel around of its own accord. I limped to the next exit at 45 and after some googling worked out that this was something called "Lane assist". FFS, whoever came up with that idea needs to be sacked pronto.

2
In reply to Hooo:

>  A Peugeot...I limped to the next brexit 

Sorry not sorry

In reply to Timmd:

> It was the first term which came to mind

The first term that came to mind when thinking about people not working in frontline healthcare or as carers, was “normal people”? Classy. 

4
 Timmd 06 Apr 2021
In reply to Blue Straggler:

> The first term that came to mind when thinking about people not working in frontline healthcare or as carers, was “normal people”? Classy. 

There's absolutely no sense in which I see front line workers as abnormal, 'the norm', in this instance being most people, is people who don't have an allowance which allows them to have driving lessons.

Post edited at 19:35
In reply to Timmd:

Think more about how you phrase things in the first place. Professional broadcasters get sacked for stuff like this 

6
 Timmd 06 Apr 2021
In reply to Blue Straggler:

> The first term that came to mind when thinking about people not working in frontline healthcare or as carers, was “normal people”? Classy. 

The dislike isn't from me, but I say something isn't a slur, and then you sarcastically call it classy?

It's not difficult to be nice.

Post edited at 19:48
 jkarran 06 Apr 2021
In reply to Timmd:

> It strikes me that with conventional driving tests not covering things like skid recovery and similar, there's going to be a gap in many people's skillsets. Once 'normal people' are able to learn to drive again, I'm going to take lessons and then do some advanced driver training to, I don't want to be driving about without knowing how to correct a skid, obviously avoiding a skid happening is the main thing, but being a few tons of metal travelling at speed under my control it's something of a responsibility.

Thing is there's not much to do in a modern car to sort a skid, the computer and individual wheel braking are all over it before you know it's developing. It really is like witchcraft. Even on bad surfaces the real trick is remembering physics ultimately still applies, you feel you have so much grip it's easy to get too deep into a situation (too fast into a junction for example) you can't get out of witchcraft or not.

The skills you learn on a skidpan or in a raw driver's car will only need applying in a modern car once you're in such a mess the won't help much anyway.

I suppose sports stuff where you can dial the traction electronics down maybe but on the huge tyres they have you have dangerous amounts of energy by the time they start to slip.

Still, it's fun to learn. Karting in the wet is great value.

Jk

In reply to Timmd:

This IS “being nice”! 

4
 65 06 Apr 2021
In reply to jkarran:

Spot on.

When I bought a BMW a few years ago, aside from the usual snow/indicators/tailgating remarks, quite a few people said they'd be scared of ending up in a ditch. After a few months of driving it enthusiastically all over the Highlands in all sorts of conditions, I came to the conclusion that anyone actually managing to unstick one to the extent that it went spinning off the road would only be getting what they deserved. 

Karting in the wet is brilliant, far better than the dry.

Post edited at 21:24
 Jim Fraser 07 Apr 2021
In reply to john arran:

> While I agree with your sentiment, and I agree that the best way to direct further road safety measures may well be in focusing on factors other than speed, the logic of removing some of the very measures that have been successful in preventing speed-related accidents is badly flawed.

> Yes, you could make a good case for making changes in the way speeding is reduced, but the implication that we could simply remove some speed-control measures because few now seem to have speed-related accidents is a bit like saying we can remove vaccination programmes for some diseases as few people are now dying from them.

I don't think you are getting this. 

You are assuming that my plan would take resources from something useful. You also assume that 'few NOW seem to have speed-related accidents', which is far from the case. 

The speeding enforcement obsession of the last 20+ years is not useful. It distracts a group of some of the most highly trained drivers on the planet from using their expertise to help ordinary drivers conduct themselves in a safer manner. (And let's remember that road policing have a very low accident rate and nothing could be more obvious than that the low accident rate is not achieved by reducing speed! It is achieved by enhancing concentration and hazard procedure.) The longer the speeding enforcement obsession has persisted, the nearer the road death number have come to stagnation until now they never change. Soon the numbers will have been flat-lining for a decade in the 1700 to 1800 band. 

During the period of re-instatement of RRCGB, the exceeding the speed limit occurrence had remained between 3.5% and 5%. It never featured in the top ten factors. In 2017, corrupt management of statistics to fit with policy reached new heights. In RRCGB 2017, a factor that had featured in the top ten since forever, following too close (7%), disappeared. That allowed exceeding the speed limit to enter the top ten and get more attention thus supporting long-held policy. At the same time, the number for not looking properly and making poor judgement took an uncharacteristic dive. In 2018 and 2019, the occurrence of exceeding the speed limit INCREASED to 6% in spite of that 20+ years of obsessive enforcement. The top two factors again miraculously decreased to near early 2000s percentages in spite of all the conditions remaining in place for them to be maintained or forced higher

1752 people died on our roads in 2019. That is roughly the same as 2010 and every year since. While we should recognise that it remains a GOOD figure that makes our roads amongst the safest in the world, we need to wake up to the fact that our government is doing nothing to change that figure. In fact, they are corruptly manipulating the statistics to support their corrupt policy that has brought those road death figures to stagnation. 

2
 Jim Fraser 07 Apr 2021
In reply to Ciro:

I do sometimes wonder about adaptive cruise control. It not only features on cars but also on a large percentage of modern trucks. Adaptive cruise control does sort of draw you in and it does seem helpful and benign. However, it has an element of autonomous emergency braking which can be freaky scary. 

The thing about ordinary cruise control is that it fairly benignly just does what it says on the tin. If you set 59mph then it just does the 59mph thing and you know it's doing that. You don't have look at the speedo so often or make minute changes to the throttle. Your attention is available for wider aspects of situational awareness which should be a good thing. 

Some other automation is less benign and will 'do stuff' that may or may not be appropriate. Autonomous Emergency Braking is one of my pet hates and I have seen it 'get angry' with roundabouts and traffic in other lanes and cause all sorts of freaky situations. Nobody has died yet but if it happens then it will not be completely surprised.

Post edited at 00:37
In reply to Blue Straggler:

One thing I got learning on old cars (no abs, not even disk brakes, 4 drums!!) was even though you were going slower you had to read the road ahead and anticipate, not quite as much as when riding a motorbike, but same mentality. Nowadays with all the abs/ebs and safety features newer drivers are less likely to worry in case they will have to brake. Coupled with higher speeds that makes crashes more likely, but the safety features make it far safer to crash... for car drivers.

Post edited at 10:52
 wercat 07 Apr 2021
In reply to CantClimbTom:

that was certainly true for me learning in a 950cc 205.  Overtaking had to be executed as a kind of slingshot manoeuvre - you spotted a possibility (had to be a generous one!), and if you'd done it right you'd already dropped back a little so you could wind up your speed to overtaking grade well before you began to come level with the vehicle in front and constantly ready for an abort.  It takes a lot of risk out of overtaking if you have learned to abort rather than monomaniacally pressing on regardless of a change in circumstances.  Seems to be a judgement few people exercise these days - to begin overtaking is to commit regardless of outcome.

Post edited at 11:32
 Jim Fraser 07 Apr 2021
In reply to wercat:

> ...  Overtaking had to be executed as a kind of slingshot manoeuvre ...  ...  

I know it well. 

In reply to wercat:

>  Overtaking had to be executed as a kind of slingshot manoeuvre 

Not a task to be undertaken lightly

In reply to jkarran:

> Even on bad surfaces the real trick is remembering physics ultimately still applies, you feel you have so much grip it's easy to get too deep into a situation (too fast into a junction for example) you can't get out of witchcraft or not.

Hence the number of very expensive 4x4s littering the ditches after an icy spell. I'm not a fan of traction control and other gizmos, you lose all 'feel' for what's happening.

That said, some people don't seem to have any idea of the way way a car handles. Braking when cornering, coasting round corners in neutral, cornering under power - they all feel completely different, but I've met a few people who claim the car feels just the same and don't know what I'm on about.

 jkarran 07 Apr 2021
In reply to wercat:

998cc Mini. Useful skill, even with hundreds more horses available.

Jk


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