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Hagerty Employee

Smithology: I have questions.

There has been much stewing of late. Necessary thinking, or at least thinking that feels necessary. Years ago, when I worked as a parts guy at a Jaguar dealer in Chicago, my friend Frank MacNaught had a phrase for moments like this. Frank was the dealership’s parts chief, a man who could list, from memory and in chronological order, the 12 superceded part numbers for the driveshafts of the American-market Jaguar X-Type. He tended to verbally summarize complex situations as he met them, a sort of knee-jerk sitrep. Common behavior in parts guys. Whenever world news grew particularly high-volume or concerning, Frank would put his hands in his pockets, lean back against the counter, and eye a shelf of oil filters as if it had insulted his mother.


“Stuff,” he would say, with no small amount of gravity, “is happening on the rock.”


I was young and perhaps more than occasionally a doofus, so I once asked if those words had some deeper meaning or symbolism. He shook his head, chuckling.


“Aw, no. Just a good distraction, helps me think.”


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As much as I love the sounds of a high strung Italian beauty,  the P51 (or Supermarine Spitfire DH Mosquito) would always win that best sound ever.  I am going online to listen to Merlin engines. Thank You!


I think Top Gear in its current form just barely works. The current showrunners have stripped Top Gear to its basic premise: three blokes with chemistry just dicking around and having a good time with cars. Indeed Clarkson, Hammond, and May openly joked that they weren't really doing a car show near the end of their Top Gear run, and now they have abandoned the studio show to just do travel specials with Amazon in their old age. The car reviews on today's Top Gear suffer for two of the lads not having had the professional background that Clarkson, Hammond, and May had, though I suspect TG makes up for this by having Chris Harris and the magazine staff write most of the review. My evidence is a segment where a TG magazine editor interviews Harris for a YouTube clip about the BMW M8, which tacks suspiciously close to Paddy's M8 review for the show.

Top Gear, its spin-offs, and the legions of car TV shows inspired by Top Gear won't ditch the formula of "three dudes talking about cars" until someone else finds something that works. Humans in all fields tend to follow the leader, because that seems like the surest path to success. See all the NFL teams that have hired Bill Belichick assistants over the last two decades. The formula took Top Gear from British MotorWeek to a global BFD. Of course the formula itself wasn't the reason for success, as the BBC themselves have learned. The reason was chemistry, which is much harder to manufacture.

I think a future for car TV in America will have to come from YouTube, or a streaming service not run by Motor Trend. In media, there's no scared money quite like TV money, and you aren't getting any of those scripted garbage shows about building up some muscle car that no one under 40 cares about off TV for anything. Hell, Motor Trend won't even displace those garbage shows on their TV network for RoadKill re-runs, which has been very successful by anyone's standards. NBC may have come the closest to figuring it out, but I won't think they're serious until they put their car programming on Netflix like they did with The Good Place. Seriously, it is impossible to watch old episodes of //DRIVE on NBCSN, and your show too, Sam. 

Intermediate Driver

My 20 something year old son's girlfriend reluctantly sat down with me last week end as I binge watched several vintage 2012-2014 episodes of TG. After the first episode she realized that the interactions between Clarkson, May, and Hammond were what made the show what it was, and we spent several hours howling uncontrollably on the couch. My wife would periodically stroll in to see what was so funny, but it is hard to get the jokes when you only get 3 minutes snippets of the fun.
New Driver

"Frank did not like customers".  I worked in the car business for 40 years.  There were always Franks working at the dealership, they worked there for years and they always got away with not liking customers.  Let me be frank, some days I just wanted to be Frank.  

Intermediate Driver

I used to be a Detroit River rat that waited impatiently every summer for the unlimited hydroplane circuit to show up, with their fleet of Merlin, Griffon and Allison V12's that sang like songbirds. To stand on the shore and feel the ground shake when six of these monsters roared by like the gates of hell had been opened and unleashed was an experience never to be forgotten. Soon, they started adding turbos to the Allisons that muffled them a bit, and then the dreaded turbine invasion began. Now we just had what sounded the world's biggest vacuum cleaners passing by.  The sport has never been the same, and now barely exists at all.

Intermediate Driver

Sam, this was a ton of fun!!!  The only sound that comes close to those you describe is that of a Bennelli Sei 750.  Many years ago I was pursuing one on an organized and "brisk" vintage motorcycle ride. (I was holding my own on my R75/5 BMW.)  That bike accelerating out of turns sounded like a little Ferrari! It was truly awesome! Fortunately, I didn't suffer any ill-effects from that bout of foolishness!  Thanks again for a great read!

New Driver

Mowing the lawn seems to be the bane of many "Amurican" males.  

Many years ago I replaced a 5hp Briggs & Stratton engine on my lawn mower with a shiny new 6.5hp Honda.  Figuring that the Honda had a little more umph; I installed a "little larger" drive sprocket.  This would make the mower travel a little faster and shorten the time required to mow the lawn. 

At the time I was working long hours and my wife decided that she would help out by mowing the lawn for me.   

I came home to  lawn that had four inch wide trenches anytime she engaged the clutch.  The mowing pattern was almost perfect figure eights.  Our prized Black Locust shade tree was now void of bark in the lower eight inches of the trunk.  I found the misses in the den nursing a glass of red wine and a broken toe.  

The end result was the addition of an extra attachment to the mower.  It's called a gardener.   



"Why are all the American production companies obsessed with brain-dead automotive-competition-battle shows?"


I don't know, why do we keep getting those goofy -- and often somewhat horrifying -- "Chip Foose Draws a Car" videos from Hagerty?  Answer one question, and you have the answer to the other.


I would go with the P51!  If you stand to close I think the exhaust noise would actually stop your heart!


I would go with the P51, I could feel each combustion event in my chest from 100 yards away!

Intermediate Driver

Don't let Tim the Tool Man hear about the walk behind lawnmower races.  

Pit Crew

I had the good fortune of being a corner worker at Riverside International Raceway in the early 60s. The sound of the pontoon fendered  250TR going under the bridge on the back straight will always be fresh in my mind.


I would like to suggest the Reno Air Races , for that fix of the V12s flying by 200ft off the deck at 300+mph! (canceled this year of course) . On my list is the song of the small block Chevy (dz302) at full tilt boogie. Boats seem to be the way to still experience the sound , while mostly being unmuffled , Jersey Speed Skiffs are a hoot! . Some of my fondest memories , back in the day ,  are towing the '69 Pachanga (w thru transom exhaust) , with the '88 Sub , 150 miles north to experience the unlimited hydros tied to the log boom on lake Washington.



Sam is best autoerotic columnist since Henry N ManneyIII !

Intermediate Driver

Another one: why do the  current car magazines suck? I just purchased the December 1976 Road & Track (Bob Bondurant drifting the new Ferrari 308 on the cover) to keep my 308 company. I was just amazed at the quality of the writing and the variety of the content. 

Smith is one of the few remaining bright lights in auto journalism since the retirement of Peter Egan. These days I waste my idle hours on YouTube with Leno, Harry Metcalfe and lately Iain Tyrrell.

The P51 gets my vote... I used to draw pictures of these while trying to pay attention to my 5th grade teacher.

Pit Crew

You nailed it! Those are the three most thrilling and beautiful sounding engines ever made. My favorite, the only one I can afford is the Bevel Ducati. When I was 13 I bought a Riverside Record featuring the Ferrari 250TR. A few weeks ago I was fiddling in my garage with the door open when I heard the spine-tingling sound of an approaching Merlin. I ran outside to see a P-51 resplendent with D-Day stripes flying low overhead. I swooned! 

Advanced Driver

Late 50s at the local drag strip on a Sunday afternoon.  This cat (precursor to "dude") pulls into starting position in a '58 Chevy, dechromed and painted matte black, with Lakes pipes and cut-outs initiated.  It made a lovely sound going off down the strip, but what I remember best was the sound of the idle.  It seemed to be idling in slomo, with the pistons firing one at a time, a second apart.  It was a rough beast.  It slouched up to the gate. I wanted nothing more than to have it for myself.  To paraphrase Scott Fitzgerald, everything I have done since then, no matter how fulfilling, has been "a poor substitute at best." 


Thanks for "Stuff is happening on the rock."  Would it be ok if I substituted something stronger for "stuff"?  I was thinking that that was what Frank did.