Hey there and welcome to the BigAppleSchool podcast. My name is Sam.
And today we’re asking what’s the craic about cars. Something to say?
No, I was gonna say that it’s going to be very interesting.
Well I hope it will be for you at least. So we’re gonna ask about, talk about our experiences with cars, if we have any, I’m sure we have something to say. Whether or not we love cars, what are our favorite cars, maybe car TV shows.
Comparing modern and classical cars, are modern better than classical or vice versa? We will think about any car problems we may have had. Ideal color, iconic cars. All kinds of lovely question for your car-lovers that may be listening today. So, are you sitting comfortably Stephen?
Ready to go in the first gear and…
And in Northern Ireland we say car. We love to pronounce the R. Are you? You’re from England?
The part of England that they don’t pronounce.
A little bit less pronounced maybe.
A little bit less pronounced. Sometimes people still say motor car.
Right. Yeah. I’ve heard that, I’ve heard that.
Especially when you’re talking about a classic car, it’s…. They would say motor car.
Not just a car, a motor car.
Do you have a driver’s license?
I still have my first driving license that I took when I was 17.
I don’t think it works anymore.
On the 8th of September. And it expires when I am 70.
The interesting thing is it’s the old type that doesn’t have a photo. I can drive anything including a steamroller and a lorry.
Wow. And do you want to drive a steamroller?
Wow. Well this is a difference because I learned to drive, let’s see… It was 2000 I think when I got my first driving license. I was 17. And it expired after 10 years. It had a photo and it limited me to…
I can’t drive a steamroller, I promise you that. And I’m now in my second driver’s license so yes, let me see, it will expire next year. It’s a UK driver’s license so I don’t use it at the moment as I’m in Russia. But it’s… I have been driving for about 20 years now.
Although not so much when I’m living in Russia.
Yes, I’ve been driving… What would it be? 43 years.
Yeah. Goodness. It’s a little why.
So did you…. I want to ask you a question about it. Did you pass your driving license, your driving test on your first attempt?
Well done! I’m proud. I didn’t.
And we also had a theory to do as well and I did okay in that as well. I did well in that too. It wasn’t rocket science, it wasn’t so hard. But first time I passed it I didn’t get so nervous, although I was nervous beforehand.
I tend to be kind of not nervous when it comes to tests. Or at least able to cope with it if you like. But you didn’t pass first time?
The first time I was quite… I wasn’t very nervous, but when I did the three point turn, I hit the curb on the back reverse. And they said they failed me for that. And also for driving too close to another vehicle. The second time I drove much worse, in my opinion. Took a wrong turn and went down the wrong street. But I passed.
Maybe there was a quota, cause sometimes.. I’ve heard, I don’t know, but sometimes an instructor needs to pass a certain amount.
He said you’d better take those L plates before I change my mind.
Right. I remember in my test I was allowed five minors or something. I think I got two or three minors. You weren’t allowed any majors of course, cause that could be serious accident. But you’re allowed something like five minors if I remember properly.
And I think I had a couple. Really minor things, you know, little things, mistakes in my driving, nothing that would cause an accident.
You have to take it a separate written test.
A separate written test. And actually in 2000 it was done on computer, touchscreen. Even then it was very sophisticated, with the touching a computer.
They tend to ask some questions in the car.
My father never took a driving test, because he drove in the army. And my grandfather who drove from 1926 also never took a test, there were no such thing as tests in those days.
Yeah, you just got a car and…
Well you had to have a license. I still have his licenses actually. They lasted for a year on a piece of card. And then you have to get a new one, and they cost one guinea.
Which was a lot of money?
Which was one thousand one shilling. That was a lot of money.
Right. A guinea, my goodness. As a red-blooded… Oh hang on! What was your first car? I should ask that.
Well that’s a strange question, because my… All of my family were in a motor trade, my grandfather and father were dealers in cars. So I didn’t really have my own car. For many years I just sort of drove one of the cars from the garage that my father was sort of not wanting to use.
But I suppose my first car, really was…. I cannot remember the name, the mark of it now, not… Hillman Avenger.
Right! I’ve heard of that. It’s a good car.
They were good cars, Hillmans, yes. It was the Rootes group, the state Chrysler.
You’re talking like another language. Chrysler I’ve heard of, yeah. Wow. I had a nineteen… was it 1995? 98? I’m not sure. I think it was maybe 95 a red Ford Fiesta I think it was. It was basically… Basically it was a cheap car and the insurance cost me the same amount as the car. And it was…
It didn’t have power steering which nowadays is standard, it’s normal. But in that car there was no power steering, and that was my first car. And not a big car though, it’s a small car. And so without the power steering I was able to maneuver okay, even as a young driver.
Yes. My cars that my father gave me for some time was an old Ford Kadett. Unfortunately engine blew up because I didn’t put any oil in it.
And the Opel. In fact I know Opel is Vauxhall now, isn’t it? Well in the UK it’s called Vauxhall, but I believe in the republic of Ireland it’s called Opel still.
From what I remember and what I’ve seen. So are you a car lover?
I always loved cars, because I think it’s… As I say it’s in the family, my grandfather left school at the age of 12. And went to the local squire, the aristocrat, because he didn’t want to go down the mine and he said he wanted a job and the squire said what can you do, he said ‘I’m interested in cars’.
And the squire in 19… what would’ve it been? 1917 just started changing his horse-drawn levered cars, so he gave him a job, and then so it’s always been in the blood. I’ve always loved old cars, really. I grew up around them, seeing them. So it was not unusual. I knew all the different ways of how to start old cars and I had to drive them.
Did you ever tinker a mechanical or anything?
I wasn’t very good at tinkering mechanically, that was not my style. I was always polishing them, not tinkering.
Okay. Very good. And have you ever watched Top Gear? It was really popular in the UK.
I was very fond of it and while Jeremy Clarkson was on it, but I’ve not watched it since he was kicked out.
Right there was a bit of a controversy with him.
Yeah I think he was very good but…
Didn’t agree with everyone I think. On some issues. What is Top Gear for anyone who might be listening who doesn’t know it?
I think it was very popular in Russia when it was on. It basically was sort of entertainment program, discussing cars and trying out new cars and old cars, driving motor cars…
All kinds of different and anything…
Anything to do with… I think they once drove a <…> or Lada or something to Chernobyl. Jeremy Clarkson did about 10 years or 15.
He was very comedic too. And there are three presenters or there were three presenters. And they all a little bit different personality, they all got unwell with each other I think. And very comedic.
I think it was… It wasn’t a generational thing – young people, old people, it was all of it, I think.
And I wouldn’t class myself as a car lover per se. But I enjoy watching it at times. It’s just so humorous and to see all the different cars. I enjoyed even watching it too. Now. Modern cars. What would be your dream modern car? If you could own anything.
Actually, I’m not a lover of modern cars. I have a Jaguar X, which I supposed is modern, it’s 11 years old. It was my father’s car, I inherited it from him. That is as modern as I want to have of a car, because it goes well, it doesn’t have a lot of problems, but it doesn’t have a lot of unnecessary gadgets.
Right. You’re not comfortable with different electrics, yeah?
Well I’ve once tried to fix my telephone to the… what’s it called….
Bluetooth, yes. But no, modern cars don’t interest me.
And I suppose the problem might be with the modern cars that they often have a close system, a brain even.
And the engine’s closed in, and if you want.. I mean if you were of mechanical mind you would simply not have the abilities to do anything with it, cause it’s closed up, and you have to take it to the dealer and let a professional with all the equipment do it. And they need a lot of high-tech.
My father always said that the last cars you could come a normal mechanic deal with on his own were made in about 1980. After that it was all computers.
My cousin actually is a mechanic and he’s had to learn and deal with the electronic side of things, and I mean he would’ve, I’m sure, started off learning the mechanics, but now he has to contain with the electronics and plugging in and doing analysis and all kinds of things. I mean, it’s not… I’s very different from a mechanic’s kind of view. It’s almost computers.
And so it’s almost like you have to be not only a good mechanic, but a programmist as well. So it’s not the easy I suppose. What would be your dream classic car?
Well, actually, I’ve just not… Some years ago I bought a Jaguar xjs, 1991 from an old friend of mine. That’s a sports car of course. It’s in my house in France, it’s not really repaired properly. That is a rather dream car of mine.
And as soon as I’ve got it repaired and licensed in France, which I can’t do for another two years, because it has to be 30 years old to have a special status as a classic. But if you ask me about another dream car, I would like a Jaguar mark 2.
The one that Inspector Morse drove in Morse programs.
I don’t know if anyone, everyone will know that, but it’s a British TV show about a detective. Inspector Morse.
I think people have watched it in Russia, because I’ve seen it on Vkontakte.
Yes, I believe so, I can’t remember, but it’s certainly…
It’s ITV, I guess, which is another British channel.
Which I think stands for International television or something.
Independent, ah. That makes more sense. And it’s another very popular… It was at least a very popular British TV channel. It still is.
They have more money than BBC for making their programs.
They are run by advertising.
Whereas the BBC are run by TV licenses that people have to pay, a kind of a TV tax in fact. And it goes to the BBC.
And you don’t get advertisements on any BBC channel, which is a big plus, but I don’t know. I’m not sure if it’s worth it for the TV license.
It’s certainly not worth it in my opinion. But that’s another podcast.
Right, right, right. To complain about it. Dream modern car, I’m gonna share with you. My parents have a Volkswagen golf and not necessarily the newest, but I enjoy it. It’s a small car again. I don’t… For me it doesn’t have to be a big car necessarily.
But it’s a lovely car to drive. I’ve driven Volkswagen golf and it’s a lovely car to drive, it feels nice and solid, maneuverable. It’s got enough speed if you get the right speck. And just simple, it’s not heavy on fuel, it doesn’t drink a lot of fuel if you like. And it’s not a particularly expensive car, it’s a sports car or anything, but I like that car to drive.
Out of all the cars I’ve driven, and I used to drive for car auction by the way, I used to work part-time, I would say that it’s one of the best cars for me. Just comfortable, nice size, maneuverable and everything. I like it. So for a modern car I would pick that.
Classic. When I was 17-18, just got my driving license, I saw a Ford Capri and I fell in love. And I’m not a car lover per se. Well I’m not a lover of modern cars per se. But Ford Capri with its long body, and curves, and style. It’s from… is it late 70s or early 80s mostly.
I think late 70s. I think they went on to the 80s, but I’m not sure.
And I looked about it when I was 17 or 19, I looked about buying one. And because I was just a young driver it was so expensive insurance-wise. And it hadn’t got power steering as well. And a big car like that – it wasn’t for me at that time, but honestly I think they are beautiful, beautiful car.
And to me that got big style, that got big curves and long big bonnet in front of the car and it’s… To me that style is not comparable to modern cars. To me they don’t have the same style.
They’re not really personality, and old like has a personality. In fact I always called an old girl. They had a feminine personality, the old cars.
We sometimes refer to our cars as she when we talk about them. She’s not run very well.
And I guess we’re both on the same page here, but like can we compare for a moment modern and classical cars? Which are better? I think we both know what we’re gonna…
Well it’s not the matter which are better, it’s a different situation. If you’ve got a classic car, unless it’s… Well I suppose the classic cars officially, like in France, start at 30 years old. And a car from the 1990s is quite reliable.
If it’s maintained well. But if you start back to 60s and 50s cars, these cars are not all very reliable, they could break down, so you wouldn’t be wanting to….
Is it because of the age or is it mechanics?
It’s not their age, because they’ve all something that could go wrong, the fine belt may break, the radiator could overheat, or something could snap. It was just the way they were made. They are very easy to repair, but…
Do you actually think.. I mean what you’re saying is that more modern classical cars, if you like, are actually better to keep and to maintain, they’re better made than the older cars?
Well I think after 1991 jaguar, for example, changed their technology. And after 1991 maintenance is very low. Before that in any car, when I started driving, every week you had to have a bonnet top checking the oil, checking the tires, checking the brake fluid. If you didn’t do that, the brake fluid could go down, the oil could be away.
In the 90s no one had time to do that every day or every week.
I mean now in a new car how often do you lift the bonnet top to be looking at the oil?
To be honest, life is so busy and If someone’s travelling every day to work and maybe doing 50-60 kilometers or more, they might not even have time to or the interest to open the bonnet and look at it after work or before work. So…
The old engines are said they intended to overheat the radiators were not very efficient. They didn’t call the engine very much, so if it was a very hot day, you often had to stop for two hours.
There’s a phrase… That’s kinda surprising me cause there’s a phrase that says “they don’t make them like the used to”.
But it’s saying that the older cars, I mean there’s a general idea or belief that older cars were better, well-made and solid and not made of plastic panels and things that we have now. And they were more reliable, but…
Well they were certainly better-made, the materials were better, but it didn’t make them more reliable, because… Especially with the bigger cars you could get quite a few problems. The simpler the car, the better.
So maybe a cheaper car even, something with less specks.
For example a Range… Not a range, a Land rover was very reliable, I mean it was nothing to do with a land rover, you could repair it very easily.
Very popular with farmers, it’s a big four-wheel drive car.
It could be four-wheel car, you could put it. But the same trouble with the old rand rovers, especially one problem with real classic cars – they had no synchronized gears. You could change down normally, but when you’re changing back up, you’ll have to press the clutch and rev the engine, put the gear into neutral, left the clutch, press it against, rev the engine, and put it in to gear. Two wheels would not be the same speed. And they’d be a sort of crashing.
Goodness. And you don’t want that for sure. They’re not so cheap to replace.
And for those of you listening, Stephen gave me a demonstration moving his feet, so that I understand. I can see he is a car driver, cause he’s moving his clutch, his gear stick and everything.
I used to drive in a 1948 land rover.
And the first gear was very close to the reverse.
And once I put it onto what I thought was first, went off and it shot backwards about ten yards. Fortunately there was nothing behind.
It’s not what you want to happen. For sure. And it’s… I don’t know if it’s true and maybe you can comment, but from what I gather American people don’t often have gear sticks.
They tend to have the automatic… Or they stood to the technology like we used to have in Britain that the gear stick was on the wheel.
Right. I’ve driven cars like that.
And you changed that the gear with the wheel hand.
I’ve driven cars like that as well actually, when I was driving for a car auction. And there are modern automatic cars where you can have the option of changing by pressing the buttons. And it’s quite comfortable, but you still have to get used to the idea.
For me, I mean, I drove what Americans call drive stick – I learned with the 9-year-old car with the gear stick, and drove for years like that. And it’s perfectly… part of my routine, you know, it’s an automatic response, it’s not unusual. Have you ever driven an automatic car?
My Jaguar is automatic, but I’m still a bit wary of it, because it’s different driving. You don’t feel as if you’re in control of the car.
It decides when to change up and change down. I think it’s less fuel efficient, would you…?
Cause… When you change it yourself, you feel it… Well I do and I do it more quickly, more smoothly I think, than what the car will do automatic.
It’s when you start the car off, it’s rather strange or slow down. You don’t seem to have the control over the car as much as you would.
You can push the clutch when you’re going very slowly, and you have the car going. But maybe a few miles per hour, in the UK we use miles per hour…
My father always said that the good driver never drives on his brakes. He always drives with the gear.
You probably would say I was about right.
If you have to put the brake on, you’re a bad driver. Except when it comes to a complete stop, but you should never have to…
I have a bit of a bad habit. if I’m going very slowly, push the clutch and a little on the brake as well.
Yeah then you’ll wear the clutch out.
Right. It’s not a good habit. Okay. Now. Problems. Cause occasionally, and we’ve hinted it already, cars have problems. Have you ever had any memorable problems with any of your cars?
I think I mentioned it before -the first problem I had was when my Opel Kadett blew up in the middle of nowhere. I was about 18 or 19. My father came.
No. I had to go to somebody’s house and telephone him. He came over and he was very angry, because he said I put no oil into the engine, It had to stop.
It was. So I didn’t make this mistake again.
Other problems… Well I had one clutch go, but not suddenly. On the present car I’ve got.. It was faulty, it wasn’t that I’ve driven it, but that was quite costly to repair. Something like that can be – clutches… No, I haven’t had many problems. What about you?
Not too many. I’ve accidentally, especially when I was a young driver, I accidentally reversed and very embarrassing – I reversed a couple of times and damaged my car. Nothing serious, I didn’t hit anyone, I didn’t do any damage to myself, but it was a bit embarrassing. I wasn’t a good driver in reverse. Especially as a young driver.
There was one memorable time when I was just coming off a motorway, which is a big highway with… Well in Northern Ireland this particular motorway only has two lanes each way. But I was coming off it, and my accelerator cable broke. And it was scary.
The car… I was going quite quickly, I mean, it’s a high speed road, and I was coming off a motorway, and it broke. And I had to very quickly get out of the way of other spinning vehicles. And that was a bit scary, a bit shocking.
It wasn’t, if I remember correctly, it wasn’t the best day, it wasn’t very very cold, but it wasn’t particularly good weather. And I just wanted to get home. But I did have a mobile. It was not so long ago, I guess maybe ten years ago. And the mobiles were available and I called my parents and they were across town. And we got it sorted.
But it wasn’t so nice, it hadn’t been repaired properly. And it cost a bit fixed, but it didn’t do any serious damage to the car, but it cost a little bit fixed. And it was a bit of a shock, but nothing.. No tragedy. What is your ideal color for a car?
Well, I think black shows the dirt obviously. I don’t like black.
White also shows the dirt, but white…
…very easily. And dust especially. I think.. I like blue, dark blue, or red. It’s dark blue, I think is my…
Actually I’d agree with you. I’m a lover of green as a color, if you’re speaking about just colors. But for a car, I’m not in favor of a green, I think it just doesn’t look right. Blend in maybe too much. I like to have a nice…
My parents have a nice, when I talk about my parents’ car, I’m jealous. They have a nice dark blue, or they had a nice navy blue, and I think that’s a nice color for a car. Stands out a bit, but not too obvious. Are there any color you wouldn’t want?
Well I wouldn’t want yellow or something very bright. I do remember somebody drove a yellow car, it looked ridiculous. Like a canary coming out.
Bright yellow. I was gonna say the same actually. Bright yellow or pink.
It’s for ladies, right? And maybe even not for every lady, I think.
Pink is a little bit strange.
My mom wouldn’t go for those colors actually.
I suppose with an old classic car something in the 40s they were all black, they were….
I wouldn’t be against a nice bright yellow Capri, if you…
That would be, I think.. I think it depends on a car too, because I was told once, I had a Renault Clio from early 2000s, 2003 I think it was. It was my second car. And the only two cars I’ve had is the Ford Fiesta and this Renault Clio.
And that was… I was told that it was a girl’s car by someone in where I worked at the time. And I didn’t take it too… I didn’t put too much weight in that. But I think he was just trying to pull my leg, but it was a nice dark red, but I think it weren’t bright yellow, I would’ve felt very feminine. But a Ford Capri in bright yellow, I think I would’ve felt alright if I had that. Okay.
I think about cleaning cars, my grandfather always was a very particular about cleaning cars. Because a lot of chauffeurs when they’re waiting for their clients coming out of business, they’re always polishing their car. And you can always tell because the older car is scratched because you should never polish a car before you’ve washed it.
Dirt, right. And you get a little stone, and you polish it and you’re pushing it around and paint all…
They could see with a lot of big limousines, chauffeurs got nothing to do, he’s just polish… and start polishing…
What’s the world’s most iconic car? In your opinion. It’s the world’s, but in your opinion.
My grandfather always said it was an American Buick made in the 30s. It was a beautiful car.
I’ve heard of it, yeah. I’ve definitely heard of it. Can you describe it?
It was a big limousine, almost like a Rolls Royce, but more stylish and it had around it front with the grill, and it had a long coupe, chassis and a bull at the back. And it was really great car. They made them in the 40s. I think Buick still is an American company that…
I’ve definitely heard of these cars, yeah, definitely heard of them. And I think I know what you’re talking about. I would say…. Well I have a few options. First of all I would say maybe the Batmobile.
If you know, and maybe I would actually say the 1960s. Have you ever watched the TV show in the 1960?
That is a beautiful car. And I think a lot of the extras and the different things that the car did were actually real. And the car was certainly real. And it’s a beautiful car. I don’t necessarily think that the TV show, I mean, it was not supposed to be serious, but the car is serious. I mean it’s a beautiful car.
It did all kinds of amazing stuff and it is actually a beautiful car. I think it’s based on some other kind of real life car. I would also say… We’re both British, right? I would also say Mini.
Mini from…. And I’m talking about the old style from… My mom had one in fact. My parents had one, and they were very small, very compact if we want to be positive about it. But very maneuverable – if you’ve ever seen people driving straight and fast, and then spinning around and then driving at the same speed in reverse.
That’s what Mister Bean had.
Right. And Mister Bean had a mini, and in the ‘Italian Job’ film there were minis and they were iconic I think. From all of that too. And I very much associate it with Britain.
Yeah, they were very popular in the 60s. My mother had one. I remember when we went to Nottingham ice rink and we came back the gear stuck in first gear, and she had to drive 12 miles back in first gear at about 4 miles an hour.
Not so good, not so good. My parents had a, not a very nice color, but it was a very greeny-gold, and it was not a pretty color. I think they didn’t appreciate the color either, but it was, it’s a very nice car. And I was so impressed when I’d seen the stunt drivers driving in them, they’re amazingly maneuverable. Amazing.
One thing we haven’t mentioned about classic cars and old cars that people don’t get these days – that a lot of the old cars were susceptible to rust. It was a very big problem on a lot of cars. I mean, especially Morris Minors and some of the old Jaguars – they were rust traps, as we used to…
And then they became galvanizing the metal, and then nowadays there’s a lot of plastic.
That’s right. But they use a different treated metal now. It doesn’t, it resists the damp.
So I guess we’re kind of in favor of modern cars from a mechanical and maintenance point of view.
Yes. If you’re doing a lot of traveling and you don’t want to be going around in a 1984 Javelin, you’ll be calling the AAA every 5 minutes.
And another iconic car, and we’ll finish I think, is Volkswagen Beetle. And there have been a lot of Herbies, and there’s a film called Herbie from, I think from the 60s or 70s.
And really funny films, and good films, I grew up with them. But very iconic cars as well.
It was the car that Hitler designed.
He wanted everybody to have it in Germany. But he never produced until after the war.
It’s probably better for Volkswagen not tell that. Right. But they’re still popular in some form today as well, aren’t they? The beetle.
Still in the modern form.
But if you’re asking me about a Russian car, I would like a Pobeda. The victory.
It’s beautiful car. I saw it in Moscow. I sat in it.
Nice style… So there you go. We’ve talked quite a bit about cars and that was the craic about cars. We discussed about our first experience with cars, our first car, our first driving. Top Gear and what’s that about.
We talked about modern and classic cars and we had kind of debate about which are better. And we talked about problems, colors even for those of you that aren’t so interested in the actual car. And some of the most iconic cars in the world. So that was the craic about cars.