Sunday, 21 December 2008

One thing I’ve learned from many years in the media is that you underestimate petrolheads at your peril!

Take, for example, Teretonga locally, Bathurst across the ditch, Indy Car racing in the States or the lure of Formula One anywhere on the planet. Man is fascinated by cars and has been since the late 19th century.

One of the more interesting radio interviews I’ve conducted recently on the Farming Show was with the author of The Dog and Lemon Guide, a fellow by the name of Clive Matthew-Wilson. His book is like a Lonely Planet guide to the world of cars.

It rates most vehicles manufactured from 1993 to 2009. You’ll have to buy it for $24.95 to find out how your car, ute or SUV rates, but I thought I’d share with you some of his fascinating insights into the history of the motor car. He writes:

Despite what you may have heard, the world before the car wasn’t clean, green or particularly pleasant …

# Horses lived about four years. They worked hard and often died on the job, causing hopeless traffic jams as they collapsed from abuse or exhaustion. In the 1880s, 15,000 dead horses a year were being hauled off the streets of New York. However, it often took a few days to get around to picking up the latest corpses, so the dead horses lay in the sun for a few days, which was fun for the flies but not for anyone else …

# The brakes on the early motor cars were less effective than the brakes on a modern bicycle; not that brakes really mattered. The rich and reckless car drivers often simply ran other road users of the road, or, if the other road users were not quick, they ran them over…

# The lack of rural roads and crowded city streets did little to deter America’s upper classes from exercising their natural rights to a little spontaneous freedom. In New York alone, over a thousand children were killed by cars before 1910…

So there you go Southland. As you’re battling the late-night Christmas traffic and cursing the hoons in Dee Street or the Gorons in their Valiants on Main Street, spare a thought for those who bravely went before you when life’s road was really rocky.

Besides, ‘tis the season of goodwill to all men. Even the bogans!


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