Reflections on “The Motoring Historian” Podcast

It took awhile, but over the last year “The Motoring Historian” has become my natural way to disseminate ideas about cars.

That is to say where once I would share thoughts about cars/bikes/motoring in print (either here, for the esoteric stuff, or for various paid outlets for the roadtest/review/auction catalogue) now I find it more natural to share them in the pod. This is surprising, because writing was my default medium for probably forty years. However I’ve always seen myself as a storyteller, and my work as a tour guide and teacher/lecturer made me open to telling the story, sharing my ideas in a different way now the technology is available. It can be argued this way of presenting information is more natural, since this is the way of Shakespeare, of the Romans and Greeks, with their rhetoric.

A few years ago I did JustGoDrive. Looking back at it I don’t think it is too bad; we moved on because we prioritized another project (please go and buy the books I edit The Chronicles of Halvar and Clarence ). My main learning from JustGoDrive is that YouTube is a visual medium (duh). I mean that I had not realized before that I don’t want to think about the visual staging of the story, I just want to tell it. I’m not a theatre actor performer dude, up on stage look at me, I’m a historian/storyteller, keen to share my tale.

I have tried hard to be natural. You’re in a pub with two blokes who know cars and driving, listening to their conversation, learning from and laughing at their experiences. Like a watch where you can see the inner workings, I have broken down the “third wall” to talk about how the thing is produced, even as I have no script or proper structure. I compare my rambling style to Tristram Shandy even though I have not read the book all the way through, nor even seen the movie. You might say it is a copy of Seinfeld’s Comedians Getting Coffee In Cars but actually it owes more to Smith and Sniff. They made me appreciate the value of a good digression, credit where credit is due. Their music digressions – I hate the bands/genres they love – galvanized me to learn the podcasting app. 

It is any good? I’m not sure. There is useful information, expert user experiences and thoughts, but it is hidden amongst much rambling.  After 12 episodes, I know I can stand to listen to myself prattle on, and that’s surprising given I do not enjoy watching myself or editing video Jon. Maybe my disembodied voice is tolerable because that’s the voice inside my head all the time.

This WordPress platform, the written word, will remain the outlet for more formal (haha) content, where ideas are expressed with clarity and fact-checked. Because to fact check a conversation is to introduce a level of editing and hence unnaturalness which is at odds with the ethos of The Motoring Historian.

My partner in crime, as with the Halvar and Clarence books project and JustGoDrive, is Mark Gamme. Thanks Mark.

A friend, since gone, once observed that personalized plates are silly: either they’re the obvious (E39 M5, REDHEAD, ZL1, GO49ERS ) or an in-joke which nobody except the person owning the car gets. Is The Motoring Historian like a personalized plate – an in-joke only I get? 

My better half opined, with an eyeroll, that “People only listen to Smith and Whoever, or Seinfeld, because they already know the people,” and she’s probably right. But is lots of listeners/subscribers/likes/cheapthrills even a goal here? Popular art isn’t necessarily good art. Often the opposite, in fact. 

To judge by current internet search engine results, in decades/centuries to come, The Motoring Historian might well be the most significant, easily found part of my necropolis. Perhaps it’s that pretentious thought which is why I keep The Motoring Historian so pretension-free.