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The Old Wizard’s Ways

The Wizard sat still, trying to shake off the sluggish mind of sleep, trying to move slowly every little muscle starting at the toes and working up. This seemed the safest way to get all the old parts moving and prepare himself for a day of the new spells, “Ha the new spells!” What a far cry from the magic of his childhood, so sad an excuse for magic; again he could not move.

Sitting another 10 minutes and moving all the parts of his fingers, he finally got up for a small breakfast to stop the hunger. This simple act brought up the courage to get on with it; the coffee brought about some more thinking but it was mostly sad. He looked about the room and there were not more than a few inches anywhere on the walls where there did not hang a tool or a part and all the available shelves were filled to overflowing with the potions of his craft.

There were of course the favorites: the degree wheel, the porting and polishing tools, the CC’ing rig with its clear glass so covered with dust it was no longer transparent, the scales so long unused they had taken on the appearance of a prop in a movie. This was a shop of the old magic and every corner proved it.

The decorations were all of old magic from the time of glory, the time of pride and the time when all that magic had a feeling of permanence. Now there is none of that and the children know not of what he speaks. Talking to the young he can tell he speaks to them in an old tongue full of words they do not comprehend: “end for end and total weight,” “setting the cam timing with offset keys.” The tools around the shop were bizarre to them too. “Fettle”…it trims sharp edges from combustion chambers?! Why?? … No need to go to the trouble to do this lesson again for some child who will never need it.

The Wizard slumped over his desk and wondered if the coffee was still warm—the only pleasure he would likely have today. Then on the phone a familiar voice and a request for old magic—an MGA needs a fresh engine—oh how fun! A real job and being allowed to do some of the old spells.

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The Wizard fantasized for a while about a patron who would have him build a Lotus Twincam like the old days when they would be waiting in line for a build complete with all the magic spells and some of his own making.

The Wizard caught himself and proceeded with the paperwork and parts chasing, seeing that the cost of old Magic is a bargain compared to the new, plastic parts more costly than steel! Amazing how the world has changed. He cursed the tiny computers that so many had polluted the old cars with—an ignition module in a 50s car? What a foolish move! Not even a puff of smoke when it fails and they all believe when it does that it must be the only one that ever failed.

The Wizard would always nod at the glass jar on the shelf he kept full of the dead modules to try to make them understand: “the new magic is not good magic for the old cars.” If he saw any glow of understanding in the customer, then he would point out the other atrocities that had been wrought on their car: alternators and the ground conversion it required, modern headlights to see pointlessly farther than necessary, LED lights which look so wrong and require so much change to the car that any failure in the system now requires a fantastic amount of work to correct (compared to the simple act of replacing a bulb), the gear reduction starters (a curse indeed!). What foolishness to put a thing like that on a wonderful car; a pile of those also live here under a bench.

The Wizard feeling better now remembered some of the good jobs, where a wise owner removed all traces of modern equipment and made his car correct; the only failing in a totally correct car is that it is much less likely to come visit his shop! But still this is not a problem.

What is a problem is when so many insist, ”I need AC.” “Put the top down.” “I need iPod interface…” “Are you mad? Get earphones and don’t modify the car!” and with this admonishment that fell on no one’s ears he realized he had again been talking out loud to himself.

He settled in again to reminisce. He closed his eyes and in his mind he could see his mentor the great Wizard so many years ago—when all the great marques were still sold new—and feel the importance of his teachings. He remembered that the other apprentice went on to work with the Bentley Le Mans team. How he would have loved that! He thought of another wizard from where he studied and the great stories of F1 adventures that wizard told, the engine building magic he learned from him, magic used by the greats—Colin Chapman, Enzo Ferrari, McLaren, and so on.

He opened his eyes and and saw across the shop a ’67 Lotus, ’53 Aston Martin, and the start of it all—his ’62 TR4. A smile of contentment spread across his face. MM

By Robert Morey

Robert Morey owns British Sports Car Consulting and is a member of the British Car Club of Charleston. This story was featured in their newsletter, “The Windscreen.”

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