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Thread: How do you define the "soul" of a car?

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    Jedi Trainee Joe Reed's Avatar
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    How do you define the "soul" of a car?

    i asked this question elsewhere after someone comparing the MGB to the Miata stated that the Miata had no "soul". I've often seen that comment used in that comparison, but have always been a bit bewildered about exactly what that means. It's not performance related....the Miata is certainly superior in that respect...so what is it? Mickey suggested that I ask the same question here to get your responses.

    Does it have to do with the MGB having lots of mechanical noise getting through to the driver, while the Miata is substantially quieter?

    Is it related to the fact that the MGB needs more attention from the owner when it comes to maintenance....therefore you spend more "hands on" time with the car?

    Maybe it's because the Miata is possibly a bit easier to drive (more supple suspension, maybe power steering, air conditioning and actual heat on demand, etc.)?

    Or is it maybe that you feel a sense of accomplishment if you make a 500 mile trip in the MG, but doing it in a modern car is just a ho hum experience?

    Is it just because the MG is 40+ years old? If that's the case maybe all old cars have more "soul" than the current ones?

    Having had both a Miata and an MGB at the same time, I enjoyed both cars....but they certainly are a different experience. I just never related that experience to one having "soul" and the other not having it. It was simply the difference between a modern sports car and an antique. I wonder if Mustang enthusiasts find that an early Mustang has more "soul" than a new one?

    Please enlighten me

    Joe Reed - Brooklands Green '78

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    Moderator Mickey Richaud's Avatar
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    Re: How do you define the "soul" of a car?

    This is a great topic, and I hope plenty of folks chime in.

    For me, it's whether or not the car "speaks" to me. Hard to nail down what I mean by that, but I'll bet most here can relate. And cars have lots of ways of speaking.

    For example, I restored a '57 TR3 and won several awards with it, but what it "said" to me wasn't a language that I quite understood. So I sold it.

    Bought a TR8 that spoke volumes, and was on my wavelength. But a stronger voice in the MGB GT I got from Tony Barnhill's estate was beckoning, so made the switch.

    The '73 B I restored for the wife. It apparently doesn't talk to her, but every time I drive it, I get an earful. 'Nuff said there...

    And now the Victor TF. It's still talking to me in the garage, and I can't wait to see what it says on the road!
    "There are three kinds of men. One who learns by readin'. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on that electric fence for themselves." Will Rogers
    Mickey Richaud '73 MGB, '69 MGB GT/V6, Victor TF
    ------------------------------------------------------------

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    Re: How do you define the "soul" of a car?

    I've restored a few cars over the years, and I can safely say that I've said a lot to them , while restoring them, but never had one answer back! I do have some little Leprechauns in my shop that hide my tools though! Can't catch them!

    Remember, Never Forget
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    Great Pumpkin NutmegCT's Avatar
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    Re: How do you define the "soul" of a car?

    I'd bet that for many of us, the "soul" isn't just engineering, performance, or design. The "soul" could be determined by having a personal connection with the car. In my case, the 1960 Mercedes-Benz "twin" of the one my parents owned back in the day.

    I made the trip they had planned over 30 years before.

    Cover.jpg

    The car had "soul".
    Mac & Phyllis Take a Trip: http://nutmegflyer.com/trip-details-daily-updates/
    History: 1976 MGB, 1959 Triumph TR3A, 1960 Mercedes-Benz 190b, 1958 Rambler American.
    Current: 1953 MG TD27318.

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    Administrator Basil's Avatar
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    Re: How do you define the "soul" of a car?

    For me it's how I feel when I'm driving the car. I can't explain it, but I feel more like I'm "driving a car" when I drive my Triumph Spitfire that when I would drive my Wife's Miata. Yes, the Miata is a fun car, but there is something about the sound, feel and even the smells of an old British classic that newer cars just can't replicate.
    “The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.” - Oscar Wilde

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    Great Pumpkin DrEntropy's Avatar
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    Re: How do you define the "soul" of a car?

    I'm with Basil on this. It's visceral for me. The more modern cars like the Miata are more "comfortable" than an MGB or equivalent older car. The feedback from steering, suspension, just don't have the feel of direct connection in the more modern vehicles.

    If you're at speed in an Elan and sneeze, you're gonna change lanes. Not so in a Miata. Newer cars have less reaction to subtle driver input, dampened out, IMHO. So a car's "personality" or "soul" is that and with an MGB specifically, I like the rugged simplicity. Stout and sturdy. A Spitfire or Elan are "fragile" by comparison and that is reflected in the way they "feel" compared to modern cars.

    A good line in a Star Trek movie: "Be one with the horse, Spok."
    '64 MGB, '67 Lotus Elan S-3 DHC,'69 Lotus Elan +2
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    Administrator Basil's Avatar
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    Re: How do you define the "soul" of a car?

    Quote Originally Posted by DrEntropy View Post

    If you're at speed in an Elan and sneeze, you're gonna change lanes.
    In other words, never ever drive an Elan during allergy season!
    “The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.” - Oscar Wilde

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    Luke Skywalker
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    Re: How do you define the "soul" of a car?

    I think any car can take on a "soul" after a time because it has gone through some bad times with the owner - sort of like a dog or cat as a pet. Given a old ratty Miata (is there such a thing?) that the owner works on and he would probably rather have that car than a perfect new car. For him, it has soul. MG has had a long history of racing and rallying and therefore a pedigree that a newer sports car does not yet have. It - and all LBC's - have certain flaws, but its owner loves it anyway - until he trades it in on a new love. You may have dated Marilyn Monroe but you married the girl next door. You looked at a slick modern house but bought that old thing, fixed it up and made it your home. Its the difference between a house and a home. One has soul - the other doesn't. As I've said, I drove a friend's Prius and it said nothing to me. I felt very uncomfortable in it-like I didn't belong in the driver's seat.

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    Jedi Trainee Joe Reed's Avatar
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    Re: How do you define the "soul" of a car?

    I suppose it has to do with the way the old cars have a feel, a sound and a smell that you don't get in the newer cars. Those sensations take us back to the time of our youth with cars weren't nearly as "perfect" as they are now...

    Joe Reed - Brooklands Green '78

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    Great Pumpkin DrEntropy's Avatar
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    Re: How do you define the "soul" of a car?

    I.O.W... you actually have to DRIVE them. A cellphone is a deadly distraction.
    '64 MGB, '67 Lotus Elan S-3 DHC,'69 Lotus Elan +2
    '78 Alfa Romeo Spider-undergoing surgery: O=\*/=O
    '84 300D Turbo-"Diesela"-Now my Daily: Oo|≣|oO
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    Re: How do you define the "soul" of a car?

    Soul = Every outing is an adventure (and not always in a good way)!

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    Administrator Basil's Avatar
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    Re: How do you define the "soul" of a car?

    Quote Originally Posted by catfood View Post
    Soul = Every outing is an adventure (and not always in a good way)!
    That's a good observation!
    “The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.” - Oscar Wilde

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    Yoda John Turney's Avatar
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    Re: How do you define the "soul" of a car?

    I've noticed that cars with soul will respond to attention, whereas refrigerator cars don't. For example, my Healey runs better when washed and polished. The Acura doesn't care; it runs anyway.
    John, BN4

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    Re: How do you define the "soul" of a car?

    Tough question for sure...

    I think for me it has a something to do with how well something mechanical responds to conditions that SHOULD make it fail. but it doesn't. My old MGB blew a head gasket and shot steam out the exhaust pipe all the way home like a James Bond film smokescreen....a modern computer controlled car would have triggered a fault detection and shut down, thus requiring a tow truck. I got it home, new head gasket and it was good to go again without any walking or tow involved. Or the time it broke one of the little tubes from the SU float bowl to the jet - was able to just by pass that carb and drive home on 1. No way to pull off a trick like that on a computer controlled engine. My 1989 truck has a soul too - it must because I am convinced at times it is possessed. The timing randomly jumps around at idle, and no one or nothing can figure out why. My old British Seagull outboard motor cracked the block out on the water....shot water all over the place like a deranged showerhead but it just kept keep pushing like a diesel...never lost power and never failed. Can think of a lot of times that old motor did things that really should have been impossible to save an idiot like me.

    I let someone else drive my MGB once - they managed somehow to run it several miles with the starter engaged before it stalled out. They were convinced it would either never run again or require a tow to get home. A couple thawks with a hammer while rocking it back and forth in gear got get the starter gear to release but of course the starter motor was grilled substantially past "well done". But with it disengaged I was able to push start it and bring it in on its own power. Managed to not even trash the ring gear on the flywheel...replaced the started and it was good to go again.

    I think there is something to be said for not feeling insulated from the mechanicals too...I could tell when a tire was low or a bushing was worn in the MGB just by the way it felt, could almost tell how well the alternator was working from the brightness (or lack of) in the instrument lights at night. You could start to feel when it was getting to the limits of traction in a turn - it made no attempt to hide anything from you. I have a Mazda2 that is actually a lot better than I expected it to be as a driver, but it still doesn't have the same level of feel and touch that the old MGB did. The suspension is more sophisticated, the cabin is light years improved in terms of quiet and comfort but what you lose is the subtle hints of what is happening (or about to go wrong). I never had the chance to try a Miata although they look like they would be fun.

    I do miss the direct simplicity of the MGB and hopefully won't be disappointed if or when I finally manage to complete the reassembly/body transplant on mine. That is also one of my favorite things about the old Seagull outboard - simplicity and purity of function. It (like the MGB) was made to do 1 thing reasonably well and reliably. Not try to be a one size fits all solution.

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    Darth Vader Rut's Avatar
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    Re: How do you define the "soul" of a car?

    If I can open the bonnet and recognize everything, work on it and get it running properly, it has soul. Same thing for the driving experience...if I can feel what the cars telling me, it has soul. My wife drives a Toyota Venza and I like it for what it is, but I can’t tell you anything about it...same thing for my GMC pick em up truck. I like LBCs because they are a part of my past, my youth, and I had a blast with them. My favorite of all the cars I’ve ever owned was a 67 TR4a solid axle and I’ve got a couple in the barn waiting on me and they really speak to me. I’ve got a few more on my bucket list and they have one thing in common.
    Rut
    Rut, '60 Bugeye, '70 MGB, '62 TR4, '66 TR4a IRS, '67 TR4a IRS, '68 TR4a IRS, '72 TR6

    When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down 'happy'. They told me I didn't understand the assignment, and I told them they didn't understand life. John Lennon


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    Great Pumpkin DrEntropy's Avatar
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    Re: How do you define the "soul" of a car?

    A pal of over thirty-five years, ex-pat Brit and London Guilds certified, has said of MGB's: "These things even haf right'll run inna bottom of a bucket o' s**t!"

    When I brought home my first MGB in '69, Dad looked at it and walked away shaking his head. Many years and 250K miles (with two total rebuilds) later he said: "Those cars are amazing. Dam'dest things I've ever seen." This from a devoted Lincoln owner since coming back from WW-II Europe.

    Of all the cars I've had in fifty years, the only ones never to have come home on a hook are the Series-3 Elan and the four MGB roadsters. If there was a problem with one of those, it was something I could "MacGyver" to get home. The Spider had to have transport once and Diesela has had two Jerr-Dan rides.
    '64 MGB, '67 Lotus Elan S-3 DHC,'69 Lotus Elan +2
    '78 Alfa Romeo Spider-undergoing surgery: O=\*/=O
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    Re: How do you define the "soul" of a car?

    I don't think it's so much the car's soul as what the car does to yours. I bought my first Healey for $300. It had bald tires, paint flaking off and the driver's seat back blocked up with a wooden coke case. But on the way home with the top down (actually it didn't have one,) a couple of cute girls in a red Mustang convertible started flirting. That has to have a lasting effect!

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