Gearhead Diary: I’m right, you’re wrong

PHOTO BY MATT BARTMANNN Trashed from sitting in the desert sun for 40 years. Not pretty, but most likely factory original

Matt Bartmann

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People on the internet are an invaluable resource for anything hobby-related. Raising chickens, knitting, collecting stamps? Plenty of folks will give you advice on what you should be doing.

Same goes for the old car hobby. Folks from around the world share in these talks from their living rooms or offices. Sometimes, the “I’m right, you’re wrong” attitude can rear its ugly head.

General maintenance issues are always very friendly. Even if several people disagree on the best way to get something fixed, queries are usually replied to with something like, “Yep, that’ll work, but this is how I did it.”

Folks helping each other.

But when it comes to “originality,” online talk can get heated. Factory original. And the more obscure or rare the car, the more “experts” there are to offer their “facts.” All too often, though, those “facts” are opinions.

I subscribed to an email list devoted to Jaguars, when I had mine. The Jaguar enthusiasts were mostly very kind. Mostly. On one occasion, though, a discussion culminated into threats of legal action. I’m glad I wasn’t involved. As much as I liked learning how the cars came from the factory, my car was too far gone to bring it back to that standard. I didn’t care. Heck, I even painted mine purple.

PHOTO BY MATT BARTMANN My pretty purple old Jaguar, not even close to factory original.

A couple of years ago, however, I found myself in the position of being one of these “experts.” I acquired a fairly rare old Volvo. Nothing especially weird, mind you. Just a limited edition of a normal 1967 model. A standard ‘67 Mustang compared to a ‘67 Mustang GT sort of thing. Fine cars, both. But factory original is, to some folks, paramount with the Volvo 123GT, the car that found a new home with me.

This Volvo looks like other old Volvos, the normal ’67 122S model, but to some enthusiasts, like myself, it is the pièce de résistance.

The car I got kind of intimidates me. I know its history dating back to about 1973. It’s a very original car, even if tatty from sitting in the scalding Arizona sun for almost 40 years. Almost all of its factory parts are still there.

The owners of these unique cars are serious about originality. Unique mirrors, lights and gauges are just a few of the special bits that set them apart. “Oh boy! A tachometer discussion! Matt’s favorite topic.” The tachometer discussion never ends, and I’ve been involved in most of them.

The extent of my knowledge is limited to what I can share in pictures. “Here is a picture of the tachometer on my car.” I’ll share, but I’m not going to argue the topic. I don’t know if the tachometer was replaced between 1967 and 1973 or not.

PHOTO BY MATT BARTMANN Trashed from sitting in the desert sun for 40 years. Not pretty, but most likely factory original

I’ve come to have the opinion that these low-production cars, Volvo or Jaguar, were built willy-nilly. I expect factory workers grabbed whatever tach happened to be in the tach bin that day. No two cars were the same, and nobody knows what’s truly “original.” Way too many variables.

I’ll just keep the Volvo as original as I can, based on what I know. I want to preserve the little slice of history that the car retains. I won’t paint it purple. It won’t be shiny. But if someone online wants a picture of how it looks, I’ll gladly share. And my pictures won’t be pretty. I prefer the “barn find” look.

And I won’t say “I’m right,” because I sure can’t say anybody else is wrong.

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