Opinion: The Subtle Art of Caring Just Enough

Opinion: The Subtle Art of Caring Just Enough

It may have already occurred to you by now, but not everybody is reading from the same page when it comes to their four-wheeled transport. By which I mean, we all have differing standards when it comes to evaluating whether a car is ‘right’ or ‘good’ or not. Or ‘roadworthy’. Or, even more fundamentally, just ‘worthy’.

Should this pearl still not be apparent to you, may I suggest you are yet to buy your first car from a classified advert. I, on the other hand, have spent, oh I dunno, years of my life chasing cars from the small ads, so I know only too well the disparity between what is stated as fact in nine-point Helvetica and what serves as reality.

I cannot hope to recall the number of times the classified has assured me that the vehicle on the block is not only utterly desirable to anybody with even one functioning eye, but is also a 100-point concours car. I have often arrived to inspect same and been forced to walk past a pile of mouldering crud in the driveway to get to the car I had come to see. Only then to be told that the bucket-o-shite oozing its last on the driveway IS the 100-pointer in question.

Of course, folks can flip the other way, too, and conjure up a long list of faults, the most dire of which is ‘that number plate would look better if the G was an S’. Folks like this can not sleep at night knowing their car is grotty from the day’s drive. The slightest hiccup in acceleration has them running to the nearest dyno for a full diagnosis and tune when, in fact, the blip was nothing more than the sole of their shoe compressing against return-spring pressure about half way through the throttle pedal’s travel.

I know plenty of people from both camps. MOTOR’s sister publication, Unique Cars, employs (and, indeed, would not function without) a character known only as Uncle Phil who never ceases to amaze me with his attention to detail. Phil is the sort of bloke who refuses to use a toothbrush to detail an engine bay if it’s already been used on anything else. Like teeth, for example.

The cars that fill his garage are beyond immaculate; they make a virgin birth seem somehow schoolboy-humour-dirty. And it doesn’t matter when or where they’ve been driven (and they do get driven) Phil’s cars need a detailer like a tortoise needs a front splitter.

Then there’s my mate the Mad Wop. Now, Mad Wop has a driveway that is precisely three shitboxes deep. Sadly for Mrs Mad Wop, it is a wide driveway, so the turds are stacked two abreast, for a total of six.

This dirty half dozen includes a Chev ute so totally rusted out, even the rust doesn’t want to hang around, an elderly Holden Caprice that is j-u-s-t about to shed its entire butt from the rear screen back thanks to a similar level of tinworm, and an LJ Torana that is even rustier. But to hear the Wopster tell it, each one of these classics can be resurrected at any time with minimal effort, some cutting compound and a small amount of welding.

Which is odd, because the Torana will require input from a shovel since it’s only really from the doorhandles up that it’s still above ground.

Me? I reckon I’m somewhere between Phil and Mad Wop when it comes to obsessing over clean and recognising a lost cause. I number both these characters as my good friends and refuse to let our differences of opinion on this one subject define our relationship. Which is another way of saying I have no idea what drove them to their current points of view. But I do know one thing: I know for damn sure which one I’d rather buy a car from.

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