Sunday, April 20, 2008

History is for everyone no matter how ironic

I've been lacking in motivation lately. Maybe due to several bouts with illnesses. Sinus infection, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, they all take a toll. So now I'm way behind in my training for this season, but I'm sure that after a short break I'll be able recover and start anew. I have a few goals this season, and then I can take stock of racing from there. Almost 20 years of racing down, so it's getting time to step it back a notch.

So, onto something totally semi related in a random way. Related in that there are wheels on bikes, and wheels on cars.

I read a car magazine from England called Octane. It's chock full of great photos, interviews, features on awesome cars, etc. One of the columnists is Jay Leno, a first rate gearhead. Nick Mason of Pink Floyd fame is another columnist, but that's immaterial today. Jay always has interesting views, and this month he hit on something really cool.

Back in the stone age of sports cars, Britain was a sportscar superpower. Aston Martin, Lotus, Jaguar, Triumph, Austin Healey, MG, Morgan, AC, and many others. One thing was certain: the cars almost always looked great. Those were the days when an artist would design a car, and an engineer would then be like "right, this looks good, I think I can pretty much make it work, see you Monday.". Now it comes down to an engineer designs the car, and a group of yahoos approve or disapprove it. So what is my point?

Leno mentioned how when he drives his white Jaguar XK120 coupe, women are always drawn to it. Recently Penelope Cruz was visiting Jay's garage, and she was walking around, past the Lamborghini "Countach, the fire truck, and then all of a sudden she shouts, "What's that?!" She just ran to the white Jag and sat in it. I find it ironic that she has lots of money, has traveled all over the world, and yet didn't recognize one of the most iconic cars of the postwar era. Most people my age have no idea what many cars of the past are, and when a new car comes along, they ooh and aah over the new design, the features, etc.

Most don't know that such "new" features like self dimming headlights (Caddies from the 50's), disc brakes (1955 Triumph), all independent suspension (lots of sports cars from the mid 50's), have been around well before we were born. Now, this isn't terribly important, except that if we aren't aware of automotive history, what other history don't we know? What history are we bound to repeat? My father loves to say "history doesn't repeat itself, people repeat history" and he's right. I cringe at the thought of appeasement, and "Peace in our time". (Bonus points to who can name who said that quote.)

So here's my challenge: learn some history. You won't be fooled into thinking something old is actually new. You won't be fooled as politicians make the same mistakes again and believe it's a good thing. Being aware of the past will help you decipher the future. Besides, you might gain some insight into human behavior.

As a closing note, here's a picture of a white Jaguar XK120 coupe. Another bonus question: why was it named the XK120? Enjoy the trip through the past.

Special thanks to Jay Leno for his always entertaning and insightful columns, and especially Octane Magazine for publishing them. Go check out their website at:

1 comment:

David Amulet said...

I don't use this word often, but here goes:


I think the "those who don't learn history are condemned to repeat it" is overused and often misused, but the basic point still stands. History is the foundation for a rational, enlightened approach to the present.

And I love the fact that you make the point with this unusual example.