PH Blog: is Shed motoring doomed?

Yes, this blog contains a picture of my Mazda. Yes, it will contain a degree of 'answer to everything' propaganda, though not exclusively MX-5 related. Disclaimer out of the way, let me begin.

Even a bust horn required professional help
Even a bust horn required professional help
Our journey starts with the press release for the new E-Class I was going through in preparation for a news story last week. And though it's perhaps unfair to single out Mercedes for this - they're all at it - that ridiculous line about some sort of 3D stereoscopic camera using complex algorithms to evaluate road signs, traffic, pedestrians and all the other stuff you might expect the driver to be looking out for made me think this tech-fest thing has finally jumped the shark. Another premium maker I was seeing recently was talking about forthcoming next-gen headlights that seek out and identify wildlife in the undergrowth. I kid you not.

Mocking this, of course, dooms me to an unpleasant vehicle/unseen livestock interface in the near future but these are the kind of sacrifices we have to make.

Anyway, I was pondering this as I tried, and failed, to fix the horn on the Mazda ahead of its MoT. Now, I'm no god with a spanner. But I'd have hoped being able to fix such a simple electronic component was within even my meagre mechanical repertoire. Nope.

This, with some Renaultsport cast-offs?
This, with some Renaultsport cast-offs?
What hope the Shedman 10 or 20 years hence, then, trying to bodge his stereoscopic pedestrian detection system to scrape his E-Class bargain barge through some heightened MoT test? Will such a thing as Sheds still exist or will or will junkyards fill with mechanically sound cars knobbled by some failed relay or sensor? The Mazda has taught me a few basic spannering lessons over the years and it's felt suitably empowering. That an electric component as simple as a horn meant taking it to a man doesn't bode well for aging tech-laden cars.

Unless it's a Dacia of course. Chris's drive in the Duster and the perhaps unexpected PH enthusiasm for the Ronseal approach to motoring of this and its Sandero brother offer a glimmer of hope. We need to convince Dacia to make a hot hatch. A very Dacia type of hot hatch. Having successfully reinvented the basic French cars of parent Renault's past there could be something in this.

Now if Dacia could do something like this...
Now if Dacia could do something like this...
So let the high tech new Renaultsport Clio play the mainstream and let's have a three-door Sandero, or something like it that brings Dacia back-to-basics affordability to the hot hatch genre. Dig out some old Renaultsport chassis bits from the 172/182. Pare it back like my old 172 Cup, whose lack of weight and general gubbins meant it'd do 40mpg on a cruise and scare the living bejeezus out of you were you to lift-off mid bend. Keep it so simple future generations of cash-strapped PHers can run it with little more than a socket set, have-a-go enthusiasm and skinned knuckles. Hell, even go for the steel wheels and grey plastic bumpers schtick of the tuner-ready GT86 they sell in Japan.

As luck would have it I'm attending an industry dinner later. At my table some top brass from Dacia. Wish me luck...




Comments (107) Join the discussion on the forum

  • scubadude 09 Jan 2013

    Complexity not withstanding its the parts and availability that kills modern cars IMO.

    When the electric windows on my car packed up it wasn't hard to strip off the complex doorcard, speakers, switches and lift mechanism but the tiny controller wasn't available anywhere, no breaker had bothered retaining such a tiny component and the manufacturer would only supply it as part of the £300 lifter mechanism. At one point I had to drive to a main dealer to get the window closed because there was no other way to close it!

    Its highly likely IMO that the shed's of today are the sheds of tomorrow, if they are simple enough to maintain they always will be.

  • Greg 172 09 Jan 2013

    Regrettably, Renault are one of the worst offenders when it comes to dodgy electrics, particularly with the Clio 2, which I think the Sandero is based on? (or at least shares an engine with?). Maybe they've cured all this now, but even a poverty spec Dacia has to have electrics for lights, engine management, heating, and so forth...

  • W124 09 Jan 2013

    Brilliant idea. Mash-up of Sandero and old Clio RS. Hah! Brilliantist! Steels - wind ups - flat colour. You know - you might make a half decent business case for that.

  • RichTBiscuit 09 Jan 2013

    Far too pessimistic man!

    People said the same things about cars like my old e38 BMW... The old barge has literally about 30 different electronic 'black boxes' to control the TV, phone, sat nav, etc etc

    The reality is that future shedmen will continue as they always have done - buy replacement electronic black box from ebay\scrapyard and carry on their merry way.

    In many ways fixing electronic components can easier than mechanical ones..... simply unplug and replace!

    The difference being that future Bargeman will probably need more than a passing knowledge of diagnostics software, and a suitable laptop. It's simply new stuff to learn... no worries! smile

  • mrclav 09 Jan 2013

    I think this extends much much further than cars. We've been living in a disposable era for some years now and product manufacturers know that getting us out of the old and into the new means more profits. I mean, let's face it, no-one REALLY needs to upgrade their mobile phone every year do they!? So of course in 25 years time when pretty much all the cars on the roads today will have died out no, we won't be able to take a spanner to the latest model. And for the most part, why would we want to? Outside of the hallowed pages of this site, people don't want to get their hands dirty, they just want reliability and convenience; the word "appliance" comes to mind. Who for example on here would want to fix their washing machine or fridge/freezer themselves rather than calling out a plumber for example? Not too many I'd wager...

    Does this mean shed motoring is doomed? Yes, for the most part I'd say it is. Just as today running a car built in the 1920s would require a true "specialist" as opposed to a normal mechanic so it will be in the future. In other words, whilst it may be entirely possible to own a vintage car, one will need to really want to do that in addition to having the required funds to do so.

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