When I began driving all I could afford was simple transportation. Back in the 60s that meant things like caring for points, plugs, condenser. To save money I learned how to do my own brake jobs and change the oil. There were times when a more serious issue arose and you just began troubleshooting with common sense, a screwdriver and wrench set. Maybe you could get lucky and your local library had a copy of the Chiltons Manual with your car in it. No matter you had only your two hands, limited resources and the need for transportation to drive you to learn and maintain your car.
This seems like a description of the Flintstones car but that is what was called basic transportation not that long ago. Today you have touch screens to run every device in your car from the GPS, to the radio, heater and an assortment of other items. No one pops the hood any longer because if you did there is an engineering marvel under there that can no longer be maintained by the back yard mechanic. The device to plug in and analyze your car cost more than my first car did. Yes they are safer, more economical, reliable and very convenient. For all that, I miss the actual hands on aspect of maintaining a car. Today you can push a button and change the whole personality of a car and how it drives but you have no idea what made it all happen. Back in the day, if you made an improvement for performance, you did it with your two hands and not by swiping your smartphone. If the car handled better after you put in new springs or shocks you knew exactly what happened to increase your performance because you did it.
This is where my Triumph TR3A come in play. It is a basic as you can get. No electronics per-se, not even a radio. Just you and your wits to get from point A to your destination. When something is not working right, I know from experience and can already picture in my mind what has to be done to get it back in top shape. The TR3A has one button and it is marked START. Yea we had start buttons way back then also. The engine is a simple 4 cylinder with points, condenser, manual fuel pump, simple coil and mechanical voltage regulator. Every device in this car can be maintained by hand with very basic tools. I know one thing, if my car breaks down somewhere, there is a good chance I can fix it and be back on the road before a tow truck would show up. Try that with one of the newer cars. If you new car stops working you are calling for road service no matter what. Gone is the simplicity and skills that allowed you to be in charge of your destiny. Back then, if the car acted up and needed more than just a simple fix, you could call on your best friend to come help and he had many of those same skills because he had to keep his car going. Today, you best friend is at the dealership where you bought the car. When there is a problem, he takes possession of your car and you cannot pay him off with a six pack.
By now you know my age group. Still, thanks to my Triumph TR3A, I can relive those days by being part of a car club. Me and like minded folks come together at events and can still talk cars with a full knowledge of the mechanicals involved. I belong to the New Jersey Triumph Association, in fact, I have just been elected their President. This is how I keep sharp and in touch with the hands on experience that only a vintage car can give you. Next time you see a kid swiping on his smartphone, think in about 60 years from now, he will probably be nostalgic for that swipe technology.