Daily Archives:April 12th, 2009

Quote of the day

From Christopher Hitchens:

What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.

which is, I suppose, a corollary of Carl Sagan’s classic: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”.


John’s musings about his old cars, and Sean and Nicci’s post about double-declutching, reminded me of something my father taught me many years ago which few people probably know: that you can change gears without using the clutch, as long as you get the engine speeds right. You shift into neutral, rev the engine (or let it slow down) to the right point for your speed, and then shift into the next gear. It takes some practice, but if you know the car well enough, it is perfectly possible.

Since I’ve been married I’ve been driving automatics (which, I remember being horrified to first discover, you can’t even bump-start!) But growing up with a sequence of elderly second-hand cars, techniques like these were often of real practical use. I remember driving one of my first cars several miles back home after the clutch cable had broken.

There is a real problem, though, with this technique. Because it’s dependent on matching engine speed to road speed, the one thing you can’t do is to stop, or you’ll never get out of neutral again. Fortunately, I realised what had happened to the cable while I was still moving, and so could plan a route home that involved very few traffic lights and where the majority of other places I might have to stop were on downhill slopes…

Half-timbered cars

A Mini TravellerThere’s a post on Sean and Nicci’s site about the family Morris Traveller.

Well, the earliest car I can remember was also, I think, half-timbered. When when we first came back from Africa in 1970 my mother had a Mini Traveller. I was three years old at the time, but amazingly, I can remember its registration number: TBB 571G.

The brain works in mysterious ways…

© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser