Back to basics

A triumph tr3a shows how to keep it simple. nearly.

I was woken this morning by the alarm on my iPhone. My current alarm of choice is Cissy Strut by The Meters. Starting with a male voice singing “aaaaaaaaaaah yuh” and then dropping in to a blues based guitar strum with a hip hop rhythm of drums, it’s a perfect way for me to wake up without having a bleeping sound that immediately puts you in a bad mood.

Why would anyone want that? I’ve done it. A metallic ping that makes you want to do nothing more than rip the alarm out of its housing and smash it against the nearest wall or floor. I mean, if I wanted to be woken by something whiny and annoying I’d have a child. Or I’d sleep with a Daily Mail reader.

I’ve tried waking to a radio before but it generally ends up with me lying there listening to a very nasal DJ working the graveyard shift, a young DJ who clearly loves their job and survives on mainlining caffeine drinks or some bad news report on a news channel that again, makes you not want to get up and at it in the morning.

So, having technology next to me that not only is reliable at going off at the correct time, also can be told how to wake me up puts me in favour of such things.

However, some technology isn’t enabling us to do anything but instead has me questioning whether it is moving us forwards as a race or actually sending us back to the dark ages. A lot of the technology I get to use regularly starts in the palm of my hand, usually on a phone. Being woken up by a great tune to one side, there’s a lot of stuff on here that I will a) never use and b) see no benefit in.

Firstly, the phone part. The clue is in the name. I would like it to be a phone. That means, I will need to talk to people. They are talking now about 5G but 4G doesn’t work properly, 3G didn’t get rolled out around the whole country and who the hell knows what H, E, G and g networks are that occasionally arrive on my screen yet cut off the person I was having a conversation with?

Secondly, emails. Now I know we all get them these days but can I point out that as a form of communication, it is still not considered to be a reliable form of communication. This basically means that legally, just because you sent me an email doesn’t then mean that you can sit there saying “well, we told you on June 16th at 3.04pm that we wouldn’t be able to accept your booking Mr. Mather”.

If it was legal, you could do away with a lot of the legal profession and just replace them with a message that clearly states you should think deeply about the environment before you print it out at the bottom.

And finally, the apps. Oh my good Lord, the apps. I can track where I’ve been and share how many steps I took so you can like it. I can let you know I’m in a queue for a drink so you can sit, riveted in place waiting for me to let you know that life is OK, my skinnymochafrappalattedoubleshotholdthecream has arrived and that I’m now off to a meeting. I’m at the meeting, quick selfie of who I’m with, how cool my hat/their beard/view from the window is. Then I’ll tweet it all again too before Instagramming my watch next to a Mont Blanc pen and a Ferrari key fob and confirm that #liferocks* and I head back into the world where I’ll share it all with you until I finally retreat to bed and set my alarm to do it all again.

Keeping the phone up to date so that all of this stuff works means you need to be an IT manager, software engineer, helpdesk and guru to yourself otherwise how will you keep people informed of your progress in the world? How will they cope if you should go offline?!

And all of these things are in your pocket. That’s before you’ve even got to the car. The technology that exists these days is starting to go down the app route for me. I’ll draw the line at Bluetooth for at least allowing you to have both hands on the wheel while you drive but if like me, you use your hands when your talking, all it means is that now I look to the outside world as though I’m piloting an out of control vehicle and arguing with myself instead of the old days when I looked like my neck had collapsed while I held the phone to my ear, turned on the wipers with my left hand and turned the wheel with my right. Ha, who says men can’t multi-task!

However, even Bluetooth can drive me insane. Partly when trying to connect for the first time and neither the car nor phone can locate each other but mainly for the amount of conversations I’ve had from outside a locked car while the other person can be heard muffled from inside the car while I try to find my keys and having to shout “hold on!” in the vain hope they can hear me. Thanks technology. Thanks for making me look stupid.

But now? Now your have ‘driver aids’ everywhere. They alert you if you drift out of lane. They light up in the mirror if a car is in your blind spot. They give you all manner of information about the vehicle and its live diagnosis while you drive. Its one step away from having its own twitter account and tweeting how its “just had a deeply satisfying fill up of Shell V Power while the owner scoffs a Ginsters pasty” #ruiningmyMPG

My issue is that they aren’t aiding the driver. If anything, they are taking away the drivers ability to drive. Stopping them from being a better driver. People are becoming reliant up on having these ‘aids’ and in some cases, not ordering a vehicle unless they have them.

So this week, it has been a delight, in fact a deep joy, to get behind the wheel of this Triumph TR3A from 195x. So devoid of technology was it that I struggled to open the door. Reaching in and locating a small lever inside the door pocket, a solid push and a mechanical click saw the tiny door swing open on hinges that bore more resemblance to those on my shed than any seen on a car these days.

And there before me was the interior. Now this is not a mint version but for me, that was part of the charm already. Seats that have been worn through use sing to me more than pristine versions that make me want to get a cover on them before I sit down.

Climbing in also reminds me how this hasn’t been anywhere near the word ergonomic. You literally need to climb in to this car and slide into the driving position in order to get behind the wheel. Facing back at me is a wooden wheel and dashboard that has an intricate carving at its centre. The car also has an aluminium optional dash that you can put in should you not be taken with the carving but even though I wouldn’t choose it, it does add to the theatre of this little car.

Familiarising myself with the cabin, pedal reach and gear box before starting her up is also something that I no longer do in a modern car. Normally, the first thing you’ll do is get out your technology and spaghetti, locate the cup holder, close the door and wait for some onboard system to power up and let you know you’re good to start. In this, I checked where the mirrors were and turned the key. See? The old way is quicker too!

So, how is this little slice of classic British motoring? Well, being nearly 50 years old, I didn’t expect it to feel so eager to please. With the wind in my bald spot and the sun shining on the countryside around me, all I needed was a cheery wave from a farmers wife or an overflying Tiger Moth pilot and I could be in 1950’s England.

The original TR3 had an updated full width radiator grille, exterior door handles and came with a full tool kit when it became the TR3A and had over 58,000 examples sold throughout its production run. Still having the standard disc brakes that were first introduced on the TR3, there is a good feel to them around the country lanes on my drive and it feels quite lithe and planted through the bends.

Upon reaching a hill leaving a very picturesque village, I change down and hope the incline is not too steep. Then instead of climbing, the revs begin to drop, the engine note deepens and she dies on me.

A few basic checks and it would appear that an age old issue applicable to cars both new and old has befallen us. We’ve run out of fuel. Slightly crimson faced, I speak with the owner who fortunately has a friend just down the road from where I’ve stopped who very obligingly arrives with a small can of fuel and a large dose of piss taking.

There is technology here that I could’ve used before I started and I’ll certainly check a lot more next time round. It’s available on most cars and has been for decades. On modern cars, it beeps at you. On old cars, it points things out to you. The fuel gauge just sitting there, pointing accusingly at me sneering “I told you so”.

Proves my point really. You can rely on all the things in the world to let you know whats what but in amongst all the noise, all the assists and all the aids, taking time to make time to check things before you start out is surely the best application of all.

*I do these things too.

Words: Ben Mather Photography: The Whitewall Director: Andy Bradshaw

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