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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

Smithology: Night flights of fancy, hard truths of industry, external circumstances | Hagerty Media

Until a few weeks ago, I'd maintained a habit of reading books in bed. Every night, just before lights-out, a few pages or maybe several chapters. Same as I've done since childhood. Then that practice ground to a halt. I began diving into my phone instead.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/opinion/smithology/smithology-night-flights-of-fancy-hard-truths-of-in...
30 REPLIES 30
audiocage
Detailer

In my experience, the wanting is all too often better than the having. Also, I have no idea what a CUV is.
Sajeev
Community Manager

A CUV is a Crossover-Utlity-Vehicle.  That used to be a name that meant something, back when SUVs existed with truck based body-on-frame design and CUVs were car based.  These days everything is a CUV, even if most folks call everything an SUV. 

driverdude98
Intermediate Driver

It pains me to admit, but you’re 100% right on motorsports. Try as I might, I cannot help but be bored by much of it, and I want to love it. It needs to have an interesting element that it’s lacking, just like Red Bull and Hoonigan as you mentioned have infused their niche with excitement that attracts eyeballs.

You’re also painfully right on the manual. I think, though, it provides an interesting niche for a company to jump into specializing in manual transmissions and conversions. Unfortunately only the rich could afford something like that, but it could allow it to live on. As the Everyday Driver guys have said, one day people will look on engine and manual transmission enthusiasts like we look at people who ride horses: very niche, mostly rich, and relegated to the back country trails.
EugeneWhite
New Driver

I wonder if the waning importance and status of racing is in some way a byproduct of the inside baseball reference. To wit:

Lotsa smart scribes, including some who have been admitted cogs in the machine, have decried big swaths of automotive journalism over the past few decades as being overly focused on numbers, rather than driving experience (hey, the '91 Spirit R/T ran the number!)

Horsepower figures, acceleration times, even low curb weights were blared from every magazine cover. And the public ate it up. Perception becomes reality, yadda yadda. Instead of pointing to race results for bragging rights between marques, we cited 0-60 times captured under hermetically sealed conditions as proof of the superiority of our chosen hero cars.

It became more important to look good in print than be good.

Now, with video being the logical progression of an emphasis on quick attention rather than substance, here we are. I will say, however, that most of the awful, attention-grabbing nuclear colored fonts on YT videos look a lot like early 90s Motor Trend covers.
TheStick
New Driver

Maybe this already exists and I just don't know about it, but I think racing could return to relevance if the rule book was whittled down to just three entries. 1) A production version of the race car must be available to consumers with all of the same performance equipment for $65K. 2) The race car must have the proscribed safety equipment installed - cage, harness, seat, etc. 3) The race car may not deviate from the production model except as it relates to the safety requirements specified in rule #2.

This would free the manufacturers and teams to focus on whatever areas of performance they wanted (weight reduction, horsepower, suspension design, etc.) but within the constraints of a production car that real people can afford. Imagine if you had the big name drivers (and corresponding media coverage) from F1, NASCAR, IndyCar, etc. - but in cars that you could go out and buy. I would love to see BMW, Lotus, Mustang, Corvette, Supra, etc. all competing in this series.

Win on Sunday, sell on Monday could become a thing again. Issues identified during the races could be used to improve the production model. You and I could participate in HPDE events at the same tracks and in the same cars as our driving heroes. What's not to love?
8-P
Pit Crew

I like you're idea on motorsports, a sort of ultra-extreme homologation. I can see a couple of sticking points in the details, i.e. available to consumers where? Is everybody going to find the country with the least restrictive rules and sell their car there? Can certainly be solved but suddenly the rulebook gets more complex and potentially political.
luv2fly2
Intermediate Driver

Good article. I have lost interest in motorsports, mainly because I'm too cheap to pay for 100 channels I don't want to get one that I do. And Road Atlanta is just too crowded any more.
I laughed about the books stacked beside the bed, half read, and checking the phone first. Guilty.
But, most important is the writing. As I've said before, Hagerty is gathering the best writers in the business. And I hope Hagerty and the Drivers Club is wildly successful so this website and the articles and the magazine are around for a long time.
thetossedtool
Intermediate Driver

So true!!! This week I bought a practical, somewhat boring car to serve as my daily driver. For the first time, cool didn't enter into the equation. I justified that to myself with the idea that my vintage car and my vintage motorcycles fill the cool niche. Too bad I'm only cool on nice warm days!
Harvey_Mushman
New Driver

Once again, some great thought provoking thoughts here. My $0.02 on some things (sorry, it's longer than expected):

- Motorsports: Agree completely on the boring. I think the focus for consumers has shifted to convenience technology rather than outright performance. Infotainment systems have no relevance to a quick lap time, so manufacturers don't feel the need for investment. Combine that with the cost to develop and even greater cost to develop a winner and the ROI just isn't there. I think electrification could be the only savior to this. If manufacturers can develop real-world advances in battery, charging, and other technologies at a reasonable ROI in racing, then that can, hopefully, carry over to showrooms.

- Electrification: Your truism about gas prices and vehicle diversity is apt. I think EV's will cause something similar. The biggest hurdle is the infrastructure, but the use of that infrastructure is completely different than the current one for petroleum. Typical use of EV's will be to charge at home, if available, with an already well established and subsidized infrastructure. The traditional "station" will only be of use for long haul trips. Instead of "stations" the charging infrastructure needs to include a long term parking element for apartment/condo dwellers in large cities. A huge obstacle is just who pays for this. As of right now the auto industry is heavily investing and subsidizing this, which is adding to the high cost of the current EV's on the market (see Baruth's article on the Mach E). If the utilities themselves would pick up and run with the infrastructure the cost could be taken from the vehicles and split over a much larger group of users. But the catch 22 of this is two-fold: Utilities are already heavily subsidized and it would require wide adoption of standardized charging methods.

- McCluggage's quote is great.

- Auto Journalism: I've found myself switching from allegiance to publications to allegiance to writers. Hence, why I am even aware that Hagerty has an entertainment section. I followed Mr. Baruth here from R&T and you followed, so I'm all set here (also found some others that I'm warming to here as well). Also might have to take an interest in UTV's just so I can keep reading Mr. Bowman's writing.
8-P
Pit Crew

Been thinking about this issue on motorsports for a long time, and I don't have any good answers either. I am still a die-hard IndyCar fan, and I am excited for the new 2023 engine package, but lately I've been obsessing over the Galles/Galmer G92/Lil Al's 500 win story and the fact that Alan Mertens works in the nuke industry now because he couldn't get enough racecar development gigs to pay the bills.

I was initially stoked for Formula E when I heard about it, but it's much closer to a spec series than I would like (and full of truly idiotic rules like the whole fan boost thing). I don't think anyone is making the connection between those cars and any company's EV road cars, even though there might actually be useful development there that does eventually make it into a consumer car. I want an EV series that is essentially Indy in 70s, or Le Mans in the 60s in terms of rivalries and innovation...but I'm pretty sure that's never going to happen.
Tinkerah
Technician

"The best anti-theft device is a manual transmission". <-- Jay Leno

All four of my and both of my wife's cars are stick shifts. You appreciate it deeply when you can get running again with a dead battery, alternator, tossed belt or failed starter.
danhise
Detailer

Other than my Dodgers cap, my favorite cap now is my Hagerty "Three Pedals/No Problems" cap. I, too, have resigned myself to the disappearance of manuals, but more and more of us will be going electric so it will be a moot issue. Now, I'm 78 years old, with a 2014 Ford Focus ST that has around 43000 miles on it. I figure that I will be having a good time behind the wheel for years to come. I usually have to help out maneuvering my ST at the car wash, but I get a kick out of it.

I hope that you finally read "Dune." Trust me, please, that you do NOT want to read the sequels, which are mostly garbage. When I was a college English professor in the 1970s I added "Dune" to the syllabus of my American Lit survey one spring. It's one of the many sci-fi crossover novels, and one of the best. The gods chose the humble Frank Herbert to spin one of the best tales we've ever had, one that gives us a convincing portrayal of what it takes to conquer fear. And long live the Bene Gesserit.
CABRIO-STEVE
Pit Crew

If televised motorsports seem boring now, wait until electric cars are raced. Better to switch to cornhole tournaments. Try watching the Youtube Goodwood races...the insane Brits inspire real excitement.
MoparMarq
Detailer

Motorsports: Couldn't agree more. I stopped watching stock car racing (when did it change to Nascar anyway?) when they stopped being stock cars. Although if #43 was in the race, I couldn't resist.
Manual trans and what makes you happy: 3 out of 5 are sticks, and only because the other 2 weren't available as sticks ('01 and '09, different mfgrs.) Even the wife's old car (which I kept) is a stick; a 1992 Acura Vigor. With a 2.5l engine, it's an underpowered, front wheel drive, 4-door sedan. Possibly the epitome of uncool, but it always starts, gets over 30 mpg on the highway, and it's a stick. And since it's worth doodly-squat to sell, might as well keep it, if for no other reason than as a spare driver. The stick makes it tolerable to drive.
eighthtry
Intermediate Driver

If we talk meat for automotive journalism, try this on for size. I, for one, would like to see a well researched, well written article about electric cars, complete with sources of information.

In particular, these are sold as green. Are they green? I mean really green? Where do the raw materials for batteries come from? What recycling plans are in place? How will they affect the present power grid, particularly as it pertains to base load versus peak load? From where will the raw materials be sourced? How might that impact any country that supplies them whether environmenttally or economically?

I can say without a doubt air quality would likely improve in the good old USofA. Particularly if the government confiscates my 50 to 60-year old cars.

That is all I can say without a doubt. I cannot help but be suspicious of the hype. I think a good journalist probably already is suspicious of the hype.

Then maybe self driving cars can be tackled.
Smileamile
Intermediate Driver

Sam,
Now 73, I’m a well ahead of you. Drinking the same water in Louisville that you did as a kid, I must note we are living parallel lives. I read car stuff nightly in bed, especially your “stuff" (haven’t yet transferred to the iPhone). Let me recommend Adrian Newey’s book “How To Make A Car”. Best car book ever; he is a great storyteller of period events and tells of his role as a designer of aero stuff for F1. What a page turner!
Let me also recommend SVRA racing for those looking for something real (so many classes you can’t believe it; former F1, former LPM1 and 2, FV to Trans Am cars). Rob Davenport, son of **bleep** Davenport (a National Champion in the 70’s), bought his dad’s ’74 Alfa GTV race car, got a license and has been racing for quite some time (with a couple podiums). “Giovanni" Hicks (the Alfa expert), my brother, “Guido” Boone and I are fortunate to be the pit crew. We have raced at Road America, Road Atlanta, VIR, Watkins Glen, Grattan, Mid-Ohio, COTA and plan to go to other tracks once we all get the “shot” (not just bourbon).
I try very hard to embrace change and not sin with getting stuck in the past. Life is good... don’t get sucked in by the bad stuff, go live. And please never stop writing...you’re a breath of fresh air!!
Sincerely,
"Christoforo" Boone
Anchorage, Kentucky
Okey78
Intermediate Driver

You're right about most car books. You don't expect much from the cheaply thrown together coffee table faire, but when the book is high quality and high priced, has obviously been meticulously researched, but then they mislabel a photo, or spell Alfa "Alpha", your confidence in all their meticulousity plunges. (Yes I know I made up "meticulousity", but it seems to fit). Authors, please know more about your subject than I do and for heaven's sake it's ALFA!
Okey78
Intermediate Driver

It's fare not "faire". Get a proofreader already!
spoom
Technician

There was a time when "Ye Bill of Faire" was very proper, so in the usage of its origins. maybe don't spank people too hard for staying in period, goode sire. 😏

Okey78
Intermediate Driver

Another thought: For your Dream Car to be a Dream Car, it must remain aspirational. Once you get, it becomes a CAR, with all the annoyances that brings: registration, insurance, maintenance, repairs, door dings, rock chips, keeping the thing clean and shiny. But as long as it's aspirational, everything works, it's in concurs condition, the sun is shining, the road is twisty, and the young lovely sitting beside you is squealing with glee. My Dream Car(s) will always be that...dreams.
Zephyr
Instructor

Auto racing suffers from the same problem that Olympic sports do. Using computer analysis engineers have worked out the perfect way to do everything, from pole vaulting to cornering a Formula One car, which means that everyone does things the exact same way. It's no fun watching a long line of cars go through a turn following the exact same line, going the exact same speed, especially when the cars look identical. And in some types of racing the cars are so heavily computerized that the driver is basically there to push buttons. Remember long ago when you could tell the difference between a Ferrari and a Mercedes? Or when an individual like Carroll Shelby or Jim Hall could build a car that was an original design? Or how in 1957 Vanwall fielded a car that was so ahead of the competion that the design was outlawed the next year? Regarding writing for a living, speaking as someone who tried it several decades ago, as one writer said it's such a speculative way to make a living that it makes betting on the ponies look like a solid occupation. And that B-58 - one of the greatest planes ever built. Too bad its mission disappeared about the time that production was ready to start.
RobH
Pit Crew

Sam, I wholeheartedly agree on your Car Dealer analogy. I worked for Saturn back in the late 90's, early 2000's and Saturn had sales/marketing figured out and customers were happy with their purchase, more happy with the experience and very loyal to the brand. Everything manufacturers want, for which they can't aspire. I recently replaced my wife's 2010 Ford Escape (yes, we drive an SUV, mostly against our will) and visited 8 different brand's dealerships. Brands ranging from Lincoln, to Mazda, Honda, Nissan, Subaru, Audi and BMW. Ultimately, we bought from the sales person that treated us the best and that was at BMW. The rest were not willing to create a GREAT customer experience. Sales people simply need to think: 'How would I like to be treated' and better yet, ask the customers how THEY would like to be treated and then do it. Simple. Keep up the great work!
GriffShell
New Driver

Is what we're seeing in motorsport and automobiledom inevitable? Both of these worlds are very much goal-driven, and that goal (sadly) isn't to entertain or engage but to win. Teams win on the track, manufacturers win in earnings reports. I think we were just spectators to the march of survival for both. Race teams survive by edging out the competition, and eventually they all come to basically the same formula for survival. That's why F1 and the like are most just parades. Manufacturers survive by selling more cars at higher profit margins, so its only logical that models that aren't profitable die off. Both worlds are in a race to the bottom line (be it sales figures or lap times) and enthusiasts for both worlds were just passengers on those journeys. Too bleak?
Joe
Hagerty Employee
Hagerty Employee

"Decide what you want to buy, he said, and then work backward from the problem you want or need to solve, to see if the purchase actually solves it."

So, Sam, for what kitchen appliance purchase did you use this method?!?
TonyT
Instructor

Judging by the consistent refrain in the comments, we in the Hagerty Community share a common desire for more sticks in cars, better racing and an all-around better life with our respective cars. Herd mentality? Or are we the only ones with any sense? Excellent article!
oldcars
Intermediate Driver

Another waste to time article
spoom
Technician

Some very good points, well thought-out and defended. I am glad that we have a platform like Hagerty that allowed you to share them.
Autocanoe
New Driver

Yes Sam, read every night. As you well know it's much more important than most would think.
Along that line, of course you've read Yuval Harari?
And R&T is no longer... can't decide which expletive... valid?
Cheers and keep up the inspiring work!
John Montgomery
Port Townsend, Wash.
Swamibob
Instructor

Mr. Smith... Do you have a friend named Mr. Jones? A not thinly veiled reference to the TV show from my youth. Now that I think about it, that will probably be coming back soon, because there isn't much new coming in TV production.
I'm with you on the reading, I have many, many banker boxes full of books from many authors, including the complete Sherlock Holmes list. I love Sir Arthur's writing. I'm not a huge fan of Frank Herbert, but I am a huge fan of Isaac Asimov. Far more of a Robot Series aficionado than a Dune reader.
I can agree with much of your notes ideas. I do love motorsport, but am more interested in British Touring Sedan racing than most other series. They're not afraid to trade paint, drive way too hard and look like they are having a lot of fun.
Unfortunately, for much of the Automotive world; I'm not their consumer. I've never purchased a new car, nor do i ever see myself doing that. I drive old cars year 'round. Cool cars in the Spring, Summer and Fall and an old S10 in the Winter. New cars don't provide me anything I can't get in an old car and I don't care a bit about them. Maybe I'm the problem (or too many people like me), and that's why so many publications have gone out of business?
I do miss being able to find S10's with 5-speeds readily. My last two have been auto's. 😞

I really appreciate Hagerty for having you and their other excellent writers; so I do have a place to write my thoughts down and read excellent writing. Thank you again for a good read.
spoom
Technician

"...because there isn't much new coming in TV production." Amen. I wouldn't be surprised in the least if NBC announced Jimmy Fallon starring in a remake of The Flying Nun.