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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

Where do we preserve the old-school knowledge?

Much of what we do as automotive journalists, outside of serving the contemporary news and reviews, is record slices of history. People who work in hands-on trades know this in a different sense, passing along generations of technical skills between tradesmen as they enter green and grow under the wings of those who've completed the same journey years before.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/opinion/where-do-we-preserve-the-old-school-knowledge/
59 REPLIES 59
danhise
Advanced Driver

Feliz y bendecito ano nuevo, compadre!

I'm glad that you confirmed that the cover of The Horseless Age really does have an image of horse business on it. And I hope that Hagerty never locks the gate on its considerable library, including this article.

Now it's time to test the censors: On your shelf is a copy of "Sport Trucking." Is there anyone else out there who is unable to suppress a smirk?
RJMatt
Intermediate Driver

Yeah, but Zen and the art of Motorcycle maintenance is leaning on it. I think that counts as a few points in it's favor.
hearsedriver
Detailer

i have collected several hundred automotive books ranging from the teens into the 70's after which cars just got too boring, appearance wise. i cannot obviously remember what all i have so have created a list of them in excel and carry a paper copy of said list when i go to flea markets etc, so i do not purchase yet another copy....these printed books need to go somewhere when i croak. i wonder if there is automotive museums that maintain paper libraries for their own purposes?
be happy to email a copy of the list of all my books if someone was needing some obscure info 1917 storage batteries? 1921 automotive radiator repair? automotive starting lighting and ignition 1919? a complete "counter book" nothing newer in it than the mid sixties? remember them? you walked into a parts shop and they had them on the counter and the parts guy would look up fan belts, brakes, generators etc in them? i have too much on hand to scan it all but i have looked up parts info for folks in the past.......
jrb23321
Intermediate Driver

you brought back memories of working at the auto parts store in the 80's and looking up parts in books. What fun it was having to update them every so often.
at least back then you did not have to tell the parts guy what transmission you have to get a headlight.
SJ100
Intermediate Driver

Your right. I sold parts with books. The new generation has no idea how to use a catalog. The counterman now just follows the prompts on the screen making him ask stupid questions. The more experience guys will skip that question and move on to what is important to find out the right nbr for the lightbulb. I remember asking if the light was round or square. Is there two lights or four. If four then is it the inside light or outside light. Took 30 seconds to ask those questions and the bulb number was in my head. 🙂 Thanks for taking me back to the good old days.
imavettin
Intermediate Driver

LOL
MAXTHEAX
Intermediate Driver

This is becoming an even greater issue as newer formats are used on web sites.
Was a time that a half brained idiot could follow what was going on and order parts from someone like Summit. Now it's safer to go to the manufacturers site and get the number and go back to whichever warehouse you deal with.
Good and easy cataloging does still exist, Rock Auto. With vehicles being made in three or four different countries and sourcing parts locally this adds yet a further layer of confusion.
I started at a GM dealership in 1967 and that was with catalogues for each car series, like A-body etc. plus truck. The rack I used was four feet long and three rows deep. The most difficult part # to find was the damn hood chicken on Firebirds. Seriously. I'd stop at the body shops and confirm the chicken before I ordered it. In any model year there could be a dozen options and three or four for a single colour.
Back in those days a good counter guy could almost name his price.
DaveA
Instructor

The Antique Automobile Club of America has a huge library. They may be interested in your books. 

Binksman
Pit Crew

I imagine a site with a searchable database of digital copies of service and owners manuals pretty much any type of vehicle- cars, trucks, tractors, bikes, etc. A for sale section could be available for users to sell their printed media of magazines, FSMs, owners, manuals, etc, dealer provided papers, etc.

Another part of the site could be for "reported tips" linked to back to the time stamps of the source videos. You could have some sort of visual check showing that other users verified the link was accurately described, dead links, etc.

I imagine kind of a cross between a forum site and Wikipedia but without all the chitchat of a forum site.
bblhed
Instructor

That sounds like a web site that people would have to pay money to be a part of, a good idea but unless you pay people to maintain it it is not going to work. I do like the idea.
hyperv6
Racer

The basics of how to do things is generally learned from one to another by showing and helping someone how to do a job. That is where I started at 11 years old and learned working on a Stock car nightly for a number of summers.. It led me to where I am today in the Racing Industry. Today the guys that taught me are calling me on the new tech they are learning yet in their 70's.

Once you have the basics and have a little horse sense you can figure most things out accept where to unsnap a plastic dash panel for the first time.
As for the rest we all have books on mechanics and on history of models we work with. Even then we only keep a small amount of the info that was available.

Mechanically we can sort much out as the basics all go back to what we learned when we got our hands dirty. But the history is often lost of distorted.

I have been a part of the Fiero Community for decades and have tried to preserve the history I have learned and tried to correct the lies and false info passed around the web for years. No Lotus did not design the 88 Suspension and yes the Corvette people pressed to kill the car. But there is so much more that needs to be on a web site or book to document the entire history of the car. It is no different for many other cars and some it is down right hard to find anything about them. Imagine owning a 1968 Chevelle Concourse. Yes most of you don't even know what that model was. Even in 70 when my dad sold his when he bought a new Chevelle he got calls back then asking what a Concourse was.
For what it is worth it was the top end Hard Top Sedan that had all the extra trim. Few were made and sold. But try to get much information on this and a number of cars today even with the web some can be down right donating.

Even on the web you still need to check the credibility.
Swamibob
Technician

Love the info on the Chevelle Concours hyperv6! That brings back a few really obscure thoughts.
NITRO450EXP
Technician

This is a good subject, I grew up on points and carbs, and later EFI but pre OBDII, these systems pretty much conformed to the Fuel, Spark and Air Trinity.
I never became proficient at tuning carbs and multiple carb set ups, and as the old guard slowly diminishes I feel these feel of the pants and tribal knowledge skills will be lost forever.
Books and paper will capture the academic side of it but the years of experience and seat of the pants feel, I fear may be lost forever.
Digital media has helped me with problems, unfortunately the internet is full of advice that is worth what you paid for it ! Zilch.
There are some well meaning and talented folks out there but lately if find myself wasting time trying to filter the wheat from the chaff.
I do have a decent reference library but it is lacking some key pieces.
Regards
Nitro
576168Birds
New Driver

I am surprised you didn't mention the AACA (Antique Automobile Club of America) and the new library that has just opened. It has one of the most if not the most extensive collections of automobile literature and reference in North America!!
DaveA
Instructor

I’d love to visit that new library. It looks fantastic. I don’t know if they accept book donations but I hope they do. This knowledge needs to be protected and preserved for future car enthusiasts.

OHCOddball
Advanced Driver

It is not just car magazines, but all print material that is in danger. My wife worked for a library that sold or tossed THOUSANDS or books and periodicals of all subject types. There is only so much space and they wanted to have room for the latest trash novels that have a shelf life of six months. Anything considered obsolete was weeded. The argument was that people weren't using them. How could they when the library went to an electronic catalog (got rid of the paper card files) that didn't include most of the old titles? Also what about all the knowledge that is lost when people retire or are laid off? There isn't the apprenticeship programs that there used to be. Companies want to hire workers ready to go out of the box and pay nothing while discounting all the skills that the old timers had.
Alan1
New Driver

The last line is extremely true of today's companies IMHO. I see plenty of jobs listed wanting specialized skills which the HR will say no one has. Unfortunately HR doesn't know what they are asking for and is only checking off a list. You need to build knowledge with both books and experience. Having only one doesn't guarantee anything. 
I retired from automotive manufacturing a couple of years ago. I saw too many bad decisions from all levels and the manufacturing decisions made in the quest for greater profits were concerning to say the least. You try and use you knowledge but cost savings is master. 

MATTMERICA
Technician

Good article, but....We all know once the machines take over we are F'd anyways, so the only machines we will be able to trust will be the analog ones, so keep those paper manuals hidden!
Tinkerah
Engineer

It's coming quicker than we realize. Stephen Hawking explained it simply: AI will inevitably overtake us because it evolves so much faster.
Music_michael
New Driver

I spent almost 2 million to design develop and deploy garageomatic.com, a solution that allows mechanics and restoration specialists to document their knowledge via video, photos, documentation and other means, then make that knowledge available to the consumer enthusiast free or at a charge at the mechanics discretion. The idea was to preserve the knowledge, reward the mechanic for their knowledge and help the classic car community by preserving the procedures in a well documented format complete with required and optional parts and tool lists (and links to buy the parts).

Bottom line, the consumer enthusiast does not care and expects 20, 30, 40 or more years of experience to be handed over for free on YouTube. Never mind the massive costs associated with producing high quality content that covers complex procedures and research, or even making the platform.

It's a real shame it's like this but this is the reality. We are moving in a direction to completely drop the enthusiast and focus our efforts on providing the solution free of charge to repair shops.


Lcarley
Pit Crew

The problem is nobody wants to pay for quality content.  They want it free, so the only way online publishers can earn any $$$ is to junk up their websites with tons of annoying ads.  I tried the subscription model on my website (pay a small membership fee and get access to ad-free content).  It totally bombed.  I got ONE subscriber over a two month period.  So like everybody else, I have to plaster my pages with ads, and even then the return is not very good.

 

FloridaBoy
Pit Crew

For fans of the Mercedes W113 SL (1963-'71), the Pagoda SL Club has compiled an extensive, online technical manual with input from hundreds of members who have actually performed the repair operations discussed. "Gray beard knowledge" is invaluable. The director/members of the club have been very careful to have an archive that is "future tech-resistant". It has survived the internet makeover and other changes over more than 15 years. It requires dedication to the cause but, as of now, there is better knowledge and information on these cars in that location than is resident with Mercedes. That won't work for every car or all the knowledge in the automotive world but it's a model to be considered. SL113.org
joesailor
New Driver

Access to service manual information is a big issue now. In the past I paid the $100 or so to get the full manuals for my car. For some like BMW good aftermarket solutuins exist but for many cars now its only online access for a fee to this information -- what happens if no longer available from the manufacturer?
Fatcat321
Intermediate Driver

Not only are we into the winter of the year, I am now in the winter of my life, and I too, wonder what is going to happen to all the knowledge that has been accumulated over the better than 100 years of the automobile. I have watched all the older mechanics that taught me the ins and outs of working on so many old cars from Bugattis to Ferraris fall by the wayside. I will donate most of my library of books to my local library, but I don't see them being able to use the technical books I have on cars, nor those from my other love, restoring old steam locomotives. So they will need a home. There are a few nationally supported historic libraries I have considered, but I haven't started any correspondence with any of them. Beyond that, there are subjects rattling around in my head that can not be found on paper, and sadly, those will perish along with my remains. Already we have lost such a wealth of knowledge and experiences, it is so sad to think that much more will be lost.
Doug42
Intermediate Driver

Speaking as a former Trustee of a local library your donation will either make their book sale or recycle bin. Professional librarians frown on donated books. I would look for a library that specializes in automotive history.
OldCarMan
Instructor

When publishers ran away from magazines for the internet, a lot of knowledge died. Problem with magazines was always in finding information in a collection of them. Never really had a good index system, though a couple people tried. No way to search even now.
Back up the shredder! Libraries do NOT want any automotive paper, magazines, or books! Younger generations don't know or care about it. You cannot even give away a set of Automobile Quarterlies, Car Styling, Hot Rod, Rod Action, or even Street Rodder. I have a large collection of concept car books I can sell for #1, even though I paid $25 -100. Museums don't have the money for them and will run surplus sales. They will never pay for anything. The few automotive libraries, including the Detroit one, regularly toss out or sell PR kits and brochures, never mind internal publications of the car companies. They are only open by appt, despite having a $1M endowment. Will only hire a masters degreed union librarian. Really sad state of affairs.
Might have to call "Got Junk" for final disposal. Even swqap meets, Marketplace, or estate sales are useless!
SJ100
Intermediate Driver

I have a bunch of old catalogs still. For everyone out there. If you want to look up your own parts online. I find one the best sites is ROCKAUTO.com. So easy to navigate. Give it a try you will be an expert counterman in minutes.
Tinkerah
Engineer

Good prices too.
AH3K
Intermediate Driver

Having been a professional photographer in my lifetime (among other pursuits), I oft' wonder how many digital "photos" will be around in 5 years, much less 2 or 3! Everybody's Mom or Grandmother had a "shoebox" full of old B&W "contact" prints (exact same size as the negative) which NEVER faded, NEVER corrupted, and contained such incredible detail that often you can read the dial on somebody's WATCH! Thus, the question [modified] comes to haunt us.. where will the repository of "priceless" knowledge be placed? ...and just as reel-to-reel, 8-track, cassette, and vinyl records faded into dust... we should bloody well PAY ATTENTION.
DrSchinbeckler
Pit Crew

For right now, the best repository of obscure information is the car club. In my own case, I was researching original equipment on my '61 E-type roadster, looking for records of oem parts suppliers. I turned to Jaguar Clubs of North America, which maintains a library of all sorts of Lucas, Girling, Spicer, etc. catalogs going back to WW2. I also found a mountain of information in the E-type Forum run by David Jones. Someday, these old references may be digitized and posted. But maybe not.
Kctr4
New Driver

I would suggest local car clubs gathering up books, magazines and documents to maintain their own club libraries. We have received book and magazine donations from car club members when they are downsizing their collections or in the case where members pass away and relatives are cleaning out their collections. Then we share the materials with other members when needed. A board member on the club maintains the list of what we have and who it is checked out to.
Doug42
Intermediate Driver

How many items are not returned?
Havoc319
Pit Crew

The knowledge will be lost because no one in the field cares anymore. When I went to school for automotive engineering, the teachers made lessons out of our personal cars. If we agree to allow other students in my group to work on it.
I went there thinking i would learn the tips and tricks to remove rusted bolts from exhaust manifolds and what to listen for when you hear a knock. "Is it timing, did i spin a bearing"
Now the same school 20 years later is not allowed to have a student touch tools due to insurance reasons.
The last article about the automotive industry barely scratched the surface of what is going on in this field.
The older mechanics with skills never told anyone how to do it because it was job security. Dealerships cant get decent help because no one wants to learn from an older tech who if you can find one willing to share secrets. And a dealership that had a decent mechanic was soo backlogged because the heater core job that is booked 12 hrs he gets done in 6. Making the dealership money. And when the care came back you didnt get paid to fix it. Rules changed in all work environments causing the workforce to accept and be working with one hand behind there back or fail miserably. Die like the dinosaurs or make it so the never existed. .
tonyjustin
Pit Crew

The problem I see is that guys at the parts store have lost the ability to think. I was working on an old 71 Honda 70cc motorcycle and needed an air filter and a muffler. I was not going for original; I just wanted something my daughter could ride around the yard. Of course the guy at the parts store said they don't have a muffler or air filter for a '71 Honda. I said, "Sure you do, can I look at the parts book?" Sure enough, in about five minutes, I spec'd one of each out from a lawnmower application and they had both in stock. That little Honda ran that way for years.
Havoc319
Pit Crew

no parts store is allowed to have any kind of mechanic behind the counter because when people who do not work on cars for a living go in to get a part they think is the repair or ask for help from parts counter and are wrong, you cant return a used part.

TA76
Detailer

Sorry not true. If you ae sold the wrong part they are swapped out. Worked for a major chain. I have been working on my car and friends cars for more than 55 years.
TA76
Detailer

Forgot to mention they prefer hiring people who know something about cars. It is very hard to find any who are willing to work for the low pay. I did it it for something interesting to do being retired.
Havoc319
Pit Crew

I didnt say there are not people like yourself behind the counter. They are few and far between. Wish there were more. But in 26 years of in combination of working at parts stores, being a mechanic, owning my own shop, it is very very rare to see stores now in these days, having people who have worked on cars be behind the counter because I have seen, and been apart of many bs claims that the mechanic received the wrong part, installed it and didn't solve the problem and blamed the parts guy. The parts guy sending exactly what the mechanic wanted and the mechanic saying its defective but it was actually a wrong diagnosis.
I have also seen the mechanic order the correct part, put used broken part in box to return saying its defective and charge customer but fixed car.
Also i have seen a DIY mechanic say he has squeek brakes, ask the counter to recommend pads, tell the customer how to install them, and customer return saying "i thought you told me to grease the contact part of the pad with grease to stop the queeks. Now it does not stop!
Havoc319
Pit Crew

The idea that what people read on how to fix things compared to watching a video "picture says 1000 words" can still be screwed up because whoever is involved may not know that a metric adjustable is fake and what blinker fluid and muffler bearings are.
To say that a chiltons is not worth its weight when u need to find a wire diagram does not help you when the car has been hacked on by 5 other people and now has house wiring and bug nuts as battery cable or that you cant use an old school test light anymore on pos grounded chassis with a body control module controlling everything. Even old school mechanics cannot keep up with the rate of change and if you cant work on cars to begin with, a book or a video will not help.
gregbeaulieu
New Driver

There has been some effort made over the last number of years to preserve much automotive literature in digital form. I do not know the implications of copyrights at this stage, nor do I know how much of what is at the link below is available to all or what might be behind a paywall, if anything. But I offer this for anyone interested:

http://wildaboutcarsonline.com/cgi-bin/pub9990262549620.cgi?categoryid=9990262549620
scatpackclub
New Driver

*cough cough* CarTech Books is still publishing new titles *cough cough*
Gary_Bechtold
Specialist

I love the old car forums. Facebook in particular killed web traffic to the various forums I am on. Thankfully there are old school veterans still around but as had been mentioned lots of pictures are just gone thanks to photobucket and others. Honestly anything digital can be lost at the flip of a switch. If you anger the "censors", don't go by whatever political narrative is the one and only you are allowed to express or some hosting company just shuts down anything can be disposed of on purpose or on accident. Car forums are still the place to go as facebook is an absolute waste of time but their glory days are behind them.
jrzybob442
Pit Crew

You know - you could see how a not for profit is saving the printed culture! Why not go over to www.ahpsoc.org and see what we're up to!
jrzybob442
Pit Crew

The Old school knowledge is being preserved - it has to be digital - there is just too much volume to do otherwise we already have saved 250,000 pages of material of an estimated 5 million. We are a not for profit Library www.ahpsoc.org so you can always have access to it. BUT we will always need your help. So why not join up and help? You can see anything from print ads to press releases - got take a look!
MARK400
Detailer

Isn`t it great when you walk into an Autozone (mostly out of desperation) and say, I need a set of points and a condenser for a 68 Le Mans and the 20 something year old behind the counter says what are points and what`s a Le Mans.
TG
Technician

It always irked me that automotive self-help moved from concise, useful photo journals to someone gassing off on Youtube for 15 minutes before finally showing me where the shifter interlock release button is on an Envoy... now I know why
FloridaMarty
Instructor

Wow, so many good points made in this comments section. Makes you think. I restore and preserve these vehicles, because I love them, and the time periods they represent, and the workers that engineered and built them. They are my own personal time machines. I assume many others share my view. I am not sure what they will mean to future generations. Sure, there will always be some youngster that's somewhat interested, but will large numbers of people still show enough interest and determination to perpetuate our hobby? Will they put in the time to do the research, learn the skills and do the work? The car has become a means to an end for most people these days, self driving cars are a perfect example. For me, it's always been about the car, and never about the destination.
Lcarley
Pit Crew

I've been writing automotive tech articles for 40 years. On my AA1Car.com website, I've posted about 450 of my articles for anyone to read. It's mostly how-to diagnostic and repair information that can be applied to almost any vehicle. I've also packaged many of these articles in PDF format and offer them as part of a collection of articles and training materials on my CarleySoftware.com website.
Daniel01
Pit Crew

I had to laugh (in embarrassment) to myself when I recently got out the dwell meter & timing gun to do the points, condenser & timing on my '68 Camaro. I thought to myself.... "Now where do I connect these leads again?" What I used to do with "muscle memory" is now one of those "How to Youtube"
inquiries. I did consult all on my records & manuals because I knew that one day this would happen.