Monday, May 9, 2011


David Blacker, in his comment on this post, mentioned carmanship. It's a word I'd never heard before and it caught my imagination by the balls.

For weeks I've been pondering on the word, on what exactly carmanship consists of and why it makes so much sense to me.

Firstly there's the fact that it's a word that does exactly what it says on the tin, kind of onomatopoeic, but not quite. We've got "car", meaning car. We've got "man", which seems right, even though, as you'll see later in this post, women score on the carmanship scale too. And finally we have "ship", in this referring to a form of transport rather than an ocean going boaty thing itself.

How would one define carmanship? Believe it or not but there's not even a Wikipedia entry for it, that's how obscure it is in one way. However, it's a word that just about everyone knows instantly, we all know in our heads what it means, but to describe it to someone is like suddenly having to describe a colour to a blind man.

I'm no different. I can't describe it, it's just carmanship. But, in my opinion, as well as the esteemed o of David Blacker and a few others, how highly one ranks on the carmanship scale depends on the following factors:

1 - Car history.

What cars have you owned during your lifetime? Fast cars, two seater sports cars, quirky ones like Beetles and proper Minis all earn good points. With a few exception Japanese cars will downgrade a driver significantly, as will French cars, even though I owned one once.

2 - Parallel parking.

This is a slightly contentious issue for, in my opinion, most Sri Lankan drivers are crap at reversing and so, by definition, most Sri Lankan drivers lose a few points on their carmanship score because of it. This isn't yet another example of the big bad west discriminating against the poor little Sri Lankan, bear with me and allow me to explain.

We Brits learn to parallel park as a part of our driving test. After that just about every drive involves us having to park in a tight space. We get used to it. You people in Sri Lanka rarely reverse and parallel park. You drive forwards into a space, then reverse out with some random guy in a uniform or a passer by standing behind your car and stopping the oncoming traffic. Or of course, your driver does it for you.

At the risk of alienating myself from some ladies here, as well as Sri Lankans, I think it's also a fact that women find it harder to deal with the spatial intelligence required in parking too. The end result is that the better you can parallel park in a tight space the higher your carmanship.

3 - Fuel

Diesel or petrol? We all know that diesel is regarded as being more friendly to the environment than petrol. Sadly that doesn't do you any good on the carmanship scale. Own a diesel? Go on about the better economy you get from a diesel, the impact on the environment? It's all correct and right, it just loses you a few points on your carmanship score. That's the way things are, sometimes life isn't fair.

4 - Top Gear

The ability to watch endless reruns of Top Gear is a definite plus. I was watching an episode with C the other day (romance isn't dead in these parts you know!) and she said something about Top Gear being so formulaic now. I agreed, adding "yeah but what a great formula". My words of wisdom there sum it up. Get bored of Top Gear and you lose points.

5 - Mechanical knowledge

It's not beneficial to be a total grease monkey as far as carmanship is concerned. You don't have to be one of the professional mechanics who can dismantle and engine and rebuild it with twice as much power in between breakfast and elevenses. But, a certain amount of practical mechanical knowledge is advantageous.

Knowing roughly how an engine works, how to change a tyre, why a six cylinder engine sounds sweeter than a four cylinder one or why oversteer and understeer happen are all good things. If you've ever dismantled, cleaned and reassembled the twin carbs on an MGB Roadster then that increases your score too. I have, but that's merely a random coincidence, not why I included that specific point.

Also, understanding the difference between BHP and 0 - 60 time helps, as does a realisation of what's important in a engine these days.

6 - Sex

Ever had sex in a car? Move up several notches on the scale if you have. Have I? Like fuck have I. Chance would be a fine thing.

7 - Indicating

Another slightly sore subject for many Sri Lankans. I know many of you don't believe in it, feeling that other drivers should demonstrate and work on their telepathic ability to guess where you're heading. The fact is that indicating, when used properly, is good and adds to safety. Effectively doing it raises your carmanship at once.

8 - Hating the BMW 1 series.

It's pretty self explanatory but true nonetheless. Anyone who likes these things, or God forbid actually owns one, shoots down the scale.

9 - Swarfega

If there's a tin of Swarfega in your garage that's good. If you instantly recognise the smell of Swarfega that's also good. If you think Swarfega is probably the name of something Indians use in their cooking, that's bad.

10 - Speedometer in the middle of the dash.

If you own a car that has the speedometer right in the middle of the dashboard, or if you think that's a fantastic idea then, not only are you immediately very low down on the carmanship rankings, but you're also likely to be a cab driver.

That's about it. How do you score on the carmanship scale? It is a bit sexist I suppose, as I can't think of many women I know who'd score highly. But that's because they're too busy multitasking. For what it's worth Vicki Butler Henderson and that German Sabine woman score higher than just about any man I know.

Are there any other criteria that you think should be included.

If you think your carmanship is good, try this.


Marc said...

what have you got against Japanese cars ?? Performance cars like the new GTR are rated highly by Top Gear and the performance figures speak for themselves :D

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Marc - I agree, some of the performance Jap cars are highly regarded and rated by all, including me. But, the average Jap car, the Nissan Sunny or Toyota Corolla, is crap. Those are the ones I mean.

Anonymous said...

Have you really not had sex in a car??? Am surprised. We might need to sort that out.

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Anon - G12 how are you? How are things in Oz?

Magerata said...

Only thing came to my mind when I read the title, was, our neighbour Carman, who is almost like a ship!

David Blacker said...

I think a more than passing interest in some sort of motor sport should also be deemed necessary.

Having visited Le Mans, the Nurburgring, or some other iconic road or track would add points too.

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

DB - Fully agree, but I draw the line at those tossers who wear T shirts or have car stickers with the outline of the Nurburgring. That's just pretentious!

David Blacker said...

Yup, anyone with a Ferrari or Lambo T-shirt/cap/laptop etc who doesn't actually own a Ferrari or Lambo gets major minus points. Scuderia Ferrari T-shirts are cool 'cos you're in fact supporting a team.

Marc said...

The average 'Jap sedan' ie. Corolla, Civic offer good value for money and bullet proof reliability. I personally know of a 80s Corolla that survived with no service for about 5 years :p

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Marc - "Good value for money and bullet proof reliability" are 100% correct. Only sensible people buy cars because of things like that!

It's hardly carmanship!