graphics, Illustration, Images, stuff'n'fluff, type, Typography, Uncategorized

What the F…riday!


I picked this poster up at a car boot sale earlier this summer for 30p! Its a lubrication chart for the Austin A30/35 showing what needs doing, where and when. There was an awful lot of faffing about in those days. As a man firmly won over by the sheer reliability of modern Japanese cars, seeing this shows just how far the technology has come since 1951 – cars were machinery which needed regular maintenance to keep them going. Click the image below for a good enlargement of the whole thing.


austin 4

The car itself was quite stylish when it was first launched (see the link above for a potted history) and paved the way for others, such as the Saab 92 below:


It has been set in that old chestnut of British typefaces, Gill Sans and printed in black and red (the printers choice!) on a stiff cream paper stock. As you can see from the whole picture, it’s in great condition, and conjures up a different age, where cars were cared for and ‘fettled’ by middle aged men in middle class garages. I’d love to see how the modern driving theory test would handle this type information!

austin 3

I love the language of old technology, and particularly bemoan the loss of grease nipples, for the obvious (and very childish) reasons. Check out this great sketch from Fry and Laurie from about 20 years ago – it reminds me of going to the hardware shop with my Dad as kid and listening to all this strange language spoken by adults! And it’s really funny!



2 thoughts on “What the F…riday!

  1. I own a 30 year old Land Rover, so still have to deal with grease nipples on occassion!

    Putting design aside for a moment if I may, I believe that if people we subjected more often to the oily undersides of their daily transport, they may not take it quite so for granted, and may start to recognise more clearly what it is they’re doing when they take to the road. I definately think there’s an argument, societally and environmentally, that motoring shouldn’t be the easy option it currently is.

    But back to design…

    The reliabilty of modern cars is great, but I can’t help but feel that it comes at the cost of good design. Cars aren’t special anymore, they’re mudane and generic as a result of the platform and component sharing. Today everything down to the smallest detail is reliable because they’ve had huge development budgets thrown their way. Entire teams can dedicate their time to designing door latches, cup holders and oil-damped sun visor hinges. Which is great for reliability and usability. But to justify the costs they have to make and sell millions of units. Which is bad for design. Because everything is watered down.

    That old Saab is a gorgeous looking thing. Modern Saabs however have lost thier unique Saabiness and are now just another generic car. They look nice, but they’re not… Saaby.

    It’s the same with Citroen. Those old whacky, Frenchest of the French space age oddballs are history, and have been replaced by perfectly capable but ultimately boring euroboxes.

    Modern business models require huge profits, so anything a bit unique is pushed aside in favour of generic, mass market appealm and I think it’s a shame. Sure, I don’t want to live in a time when cars overheated at 53mph on the new fangled motorways and I don’t want to have to spray WD40 into the dizzy and resort to a bump start every winter’s morning, but when I look at modern cars I feel complete indifference to their design. They look nice, sure, but there’s nothing genuine in there. No substance. The design is too compromised by the marketeers and the accountants.

    There are very few genuine, true to themselves options out on the market today. Beyond the Land Rover Defender (of course) and the Bristol Blenheim, I’m struggling to think of any.

    I often wonder how many of the present day cars will in the future be considered true classics.

    It also makes me wonder, can mass market appeal and truly good design ever go hand in hand? Can todays ubiquitous ever be of truly unique design?

    Dyson vacs? iPods perhaps?

    1. Stu,
      you are absolutely right of course, especially about how much people take their vehicles for granted, and subsequently gain a broader understanding of the ton of metal they are moving around in.

      Citroens were always weird – odd bits of technology popping up way before their time – swivelling headlights, self levelling suspension etc, as well as those incredible design features – the one spoke steering wheel of the DS, the canvas deckchair seats in the 2CV, the inverted rear window of pretty much all of the big Citroens. Renault had a few good moments along the way – remember the Fuego or the Dauphin?

      As a classic car enthusiast (I’ve had many Triumphs and Alphas) and a recent new car convert (I have recently bought a new Toyota) I feel pulled in both directions. Like you, I know that there is something very satisfying about keeping an older car going, which is often compared with having an affair! But I now am very pleased about the reliability of cars, if a little underwhelmed by what is on offer these days.

      I ought to have a Morgan.

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