Nothing Lasts Forever


Beautiful on the outside..sick on the inside…

In 1975, when I was 21, I bought a Triumph TR6.

British racing green. Brown leather seats.  A straight-6 with dual stromberg carbs.

What a car.

What a piece of junk.

You could not drive that thing more than 20 miles without something falling off.  The Lucas electrical system was a mess. Every time it rained, the electricals simply shutdown.  Once, while cruising up the Taconic State Parkway on my way back to school, there was a loud bang and a billowing cloud of black smoke enveloped the car. I had blown the head gasket at 90mph. Great.

Sitting in England, I am reminded that this country once had one of the greatest auto industries in the world.  Rolls Royce, Land Rover, Triumph, MG, Jaguar, Bentley. The best of the best all came from this small island.  And now….  Last month it was announced that Tata, the Indian car company, was going to buy Jaguar and Land Rover.


There is something to be said for brand, but there is also something to be said for keeping up with technology. This week we have rented an Audi A8. What a car! I have not owned a car for the past 10 years.  My last one was a 911.  But I have found it is much easier simply to rent one when I need one. (The benefit of living in Manhattan).  So I get exposed to a wide range of automobiles, both US and European.  The German cars beat the crap out of the American ones, hands down, every time.  Why is that?  They simply seem a decade or more ahead of the US models (and let’s not even talk about design).

And now the US automakers are saying they are going to go bankrupt. They are at the end of their tether.  Just like a lot of newspapers.

All of which leads me to conclude that just because you have a successful brand today, it does not mean you are going to have one tomorrow. Not without a lot of work and innovation.

I am more than happy to buy (or rent) a German car.  I will be less happy when the only paper I can get is Die Zeit.


16 responses to “Nothing Lasts Forever

  1. Very funny.

    Your preference is decided over quality of the product.

    Not over how cheaply something can be made.

    That’s why GM and Ford are where they are today!

    They thought just like you!

    Why build for quality?

    Just build “good enough”!

    As has now been proven, again, that kind of thinking fails.

    The Germans have always built with one thing in mind.

    Long term quality.

    The Brits never built a reliable car.


    I must admit, like you, I once owned a Triumph, but an old Spitfire, and had many similar experiences to what you did with yours.

    It’s nice to see that you too appreciate quality.

  2. Aaaah I had an Austin Healy 3000. Also Racing Green. When it went – fabulous. But F***ing Lucas – known by the way as the Prince of Darkness – any dampness – would not start. I got to longing for a VW Beetle that I knew would start when I turned the key.

    Expanding on your point – Growing up in England just after the war, the sense of end of empire was palpable.

    All great things have a life cycle

  3. Take a break Michael, you are again comparing apples to broccoli. The downfall of British import cars that included the Triumph, MG, Austin and I believe was the Rover sedan wasn’t because of progress, it was bad engineering. A poorly designed products that could not keep up with car manufactured in the US or Japan, actually Japanese cars were not very good back then either. Even Jaguar was a disaster back then and wasn’t until I believe it was bought by Ford that made a successful come back in the US. Add to the mix Italian’s Fiat and Alfa Romeo as well as all the French manufactured cars, Renault, Peugeot and Citroen, they all failed in this country because of poor engineering and high maintenance and repairs costs. The main failing cause however was the mandatory emission requirement imposed by the US and unheard in other countries, none of the imports could meet the clean air requirements and their engineers were not able to create an emission system and still maintain a reasonable price.

    What all this analogy of your have to do with has to do with newspapers remains a mystery. Newspaper are victim of progress not poor engineering, they have an excellent product but are victim of a natural course of progress, just like photographic film and papers. Their only fault is not to move into the web earlier but they are not doomed like you would like to make believe, according to Nielsen newspaper are getting some of the highest traffic on the web

    “Record Audiences to Newspaper Web Sites

    According to a custom analysis by Nielsen Online for the Newspaper Association of America, newspaper web sites attracted more than 68.3 million unique visitors on average (41.4% of all Internet users) in the third quarter of 2008, a record number that reflects a 15.8% increase over the same period a year ago,
    In addition, newspaper Web site visitors generated an average of just over 3.5 billion page views per month throughout the quarter, an increase of 25.2% over the same period a year ago (2.8 billion page views). These figures are the highest for any quarter since NAA began tracking the data in 2004.

    NAA President and CEO, John F. Sturm, said “… record audiences are trusting newspaper Web sites for comprehensive, up-to-the-minute reporting and analysis on the events that impact their lives… newspapers are the top local brands that readers turn to for information… (to) help (with) challenging issues… ”

    The third quarter also set records for active reach percentage (the percentage of active Internet users that visit newspapers on an average month), page views, pages per person, time per person and visits per person.

    Randy Bennett, NAA’s senior vice president of Audience and New Business Development, concludes that “The dramatic increase in page views suggests users are visiting newspaper Web sites frequently throughout the day.”

    Source: Nielsen Online Custom Analysis”

    Their problem is how to convert this success into money, and isn’t going to happen by teaching the public how to become VJ as per one of your suggestion in your previous video you.

    One of the biggest mistakes that a newspaper can do is waste their valuable resources into making cheap videos, as it had already been proven to be a failure.

    They must continue to inform and educate the public with in depth issue of event that will impact the readers, not wasting their resources with insignificant and useless videos.

    Multi media capability of the web is not video only, is a lot more than that.

  4. The recent articles on American Journalism Review begins to shed the light on the paradigm shift around branding and then the shifting of that brand to a new business model.

    The article “The Transformation of NPR” speaks about how their branding (audio) is being transformed to utilize their core competency and adding audio slideshows as an additional story telling element – the article goes in depth into how NPR is rebranding itself.

    The move by The Christian Science Monitor is another major shift within the industry – making the move to online only by April 2009 with a printed Sunday magazine – that is again, a major “Whoa” since they have some of the finest writing and photography available.

    Lastly, AJR posted an article entitled “The Elite Newspaper of the Future” and looks at the concept of and I quote:

    A smaller, less frequently published version packed with analysis and investigative reporting and aimed at well-educated news junkies that may well be a smart survival strategy for the beleaguered old print product.

    Although less frequently published is a step in the right direction, the reality is that as the older generation is replaced with the Gen X and Y population, one that is more accustomed to digital delivery of content, devices will replace the printed publication – it’s an eventuality. When companies like Amazon offer the Kindle as a device for not only reading books, but electronic editions of major magazines like Time, etc, that is the future of publishing. The move by Adobe to make Flash video the defacto delivery format for visual content and ads on all devices is also a key indicator of digital delivery being the future.

    The notion that video is somehow to be left to the gatekeepers is a fallacy – the quality of content being produced by newspaper shooters is growing, some of the finest work I have seen so far has been produced by the so called wannabe’s shooting with consumer grade cameras. The same worn out drivel by the same ol detractors is the same as reading the trolls on various social networking/news sites (Huffington Post is but one example) – they come along just to stir up the hornets nest and in reality have nothing to contribute in a positive way – instead they banter their dogma hoping to cause divisiveness in the process.

    How money is to be made with digital content delivery is still the golden fleece that has yet to be found – but to rant that people like Michael, David Dunkley-Gyimah and others who don’t hold to the dogma of b-roll is outdated.

    With the opening by the FCC of the white space broadcast spectrum is going to open the airwaves in a way that the GOB broadcasters fear – they will no longer have a hold of the airwaves – digital content delivery via wireless net connectivity is beginning to remove the stodgy MSM’s hold on the viewing public.

    “Now Go Away Or I Will Taunt You A Second Time”

  5. Cliff, still where I left you, how long has it been? Two years that I know that you’ve been saying the same things over and over and over. By now your work must be displayed all over the place. Care to share some of you successes? I haven’t seen any of your blog but I know how you don’t like to show off.

  6. I had a Triumph TC 2000. Actually a very good car. I travelled all over New Zealand in comfort and speed for 5 years. I loved that car. Then one day I stopped for petrol and the forecourt attendant said “can I check your oil?”
    I’m not sure if she was incompetent or just trying to rip me off by selling me oil I didn’t need but she overfilled the oil and a week on the oil gaskets exploded and my poor car was never the same.
    I guess what I learned from that is it doesn’t matter how much of a good thing you have there is always someone who can ruin it with too much of the good oil.

  7. 4-xke’s (2+2 and convert, all 1969), 1-xjs 12 cylinder, 1975 (sold via hemmings motor news to some guy in south africa. yes, the car was that nice! ) and over 30 vw beetles (ranging from ’56 to ’79).

    rebuilt s-u side draft carbs like tieing shoes. lucas electric wiz. back then jc whitney even sold fairly decent quality resonator sets (mufflers) for the xke’s!

    those were the days.

    never got 1/2 the amount of tail i did when driving any of the jags, but a 1968 powder blue beetle with the dreaded auto-stick (and hand crank sunroof) was the most dependable of them all. adjust your valve lash every month!!!

  8. Oh man.. I DREAM of getting an e-type.
    I would love to buy a convert with rt hand drive here in the UK and bring it back to NY, I am just terrified of the repairs.

  9. My dad, who lives in France, recently bought an old but beautifully preserved LHD Jag XJS. Black body, whie leather trim, it looks the business. He bought it for sentimental reasons, and takes it out every so often, when the sun shines, and it brings a smile to the face of an older gentleman.

    And that, I suppose, is how I feel on the odd occasion when I buy a local newspaper. I do it because there is an intrinsic pleasure in holding a publication. When I go to London I pick up the free newspapers for the same reason, and because getting a WiFi or mobile signal on an underground train just doesn’t happen here – unlike in Paris.

    I agree with the other posters who have pointed to the takeup of online newspapers. I read those daily, because it suits how I work, I don’t have to pay, and I like multimedia content.

    I’m not convinced local papers will survive in the UK in print, and I imagine they’ll migrate to online sooner rather than later.

    As for the nationals, well, I like to buy print from time to time, because I find it easier to digest longer form content in a print format.

    Experts do say a mixed diet is the best, don’t they?

  10. A British mechanic I knew said the unions killed the British car companies.

  11. TR6 junk, guess you got a lemon.
    As the ower of 2 4’s, a 250 and 2 6’s they were great cars. Yes, you had to matain them but that was the fun of being a TR owner.
    I still have a 76 TR6, drive it about 3000 miles a year, go to Bridge Hampton yearly for the TSO rally.
    When I’m not deiving my TR, I drive a 09 650i BMW convertible. Not as much fun as the TR, but a totaly diffrent breed of car.

  12. The Brits NEVER built a reliable car? We drive 6 cars in our household. Recently, when we had 25 below zero in New Mexico for a few days, only two cars would start. The 1958 Morris Minor, and the 1998 Land Rover.

    • I didn’t say ‘never’. On the contrary, I said, (and I quote) “Sitting in England, I am reminded that this country once had one of the greatest auto industries in the world. Rolls Royce, Land Rover, Triumph, MG, Jaguar, Bentley. The best of the best all came from this small island. And now…. Last month it was announced that Tata, the Indian car company, was going to buy Jaguar and Land Rover.”

  13. Hey, Die Zeit is probably the best German paper! Although it is too large. 😉 Sorry to hear that the TR 6 was crap though. It’s on my wish list, in British Racing Green of course. One day…

  14. I once posessed one of these delightful vehicles. This was the one that ended my desire to ever own another Triumph. I started with a Herald sedan in the ’70’s, (quite the ugly vehicle), then I had 2 TR10 vans, then the TR4a (loved it) and then this TR6 piece of crap. I share your sentiments. I truly learned to hate Lucas electrical. As one other post said, Prince of darkness.

  15. I’ve heard it all before, another anti British rant. Triumph built a great breed of sports cars before and after the war, the Coventry factory was totally bombed out and the company, thanks to Standard motors managed to reincarnate itself post war. The US couldn’t get enough TR’s. Nobody else was building sports cars like the Brits. Healeys MG’s Triumphs. I hate it when people go on about how great the Germans and Japanese are at building cars. Not sure what the Japs built in the 50’s and 60’s but I thing Auto Union and DKW were making rubbish then. Remember that it is only in the last 20 years that Britain repaid its war loans to the US. And how much has the US sank into German and Japanese industry after the war?
    I honestly have never had an ounce of trouble from any of my 21 British cars over the last 20 years. (This includes 7 Triumphs). Currently driving TR6 with Lucas fuel injection, totally happy. (Oh, the Bosch pump over heats now and then in hot weather.

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