Which reader emails to run in AutoSpeed…

Posted on December 5th, 2004 in Opinion by Julian Edgar

In recent months there’s
been a change in our editorial policy of running letters from readers.

Over the last couple of
years we’ve tended to select just enough to fill about 1000 words. But after
thinking about it, we’ve now decided to run as many as possible.

That has two advantages:
you – the reader – are much more likely to have your right of reply – or right
of comment – published to the same audience who can access the other articles.
And secondly, by looking at the number of letters that we publish on different
topics, it’s clearer which articles are getting the greatest response. So if we
make a mistake, and one reader notices it, we’ll publish the one email. But if
four readers pick it out and write to us about it, we’ll publish all four

Reader democracy in action,
if you like.

But while we may have the
very best of intentions in publishing as many reader emails as possible,
there’re still plenty that are simply impossible to put on-line. Take one that
we received just today. With obvious omissions of detail, here it is:

Email: XXXX@optusnet.com.au
Country: Australia


I live near XXXX XXXX from XXXX
Performance, his cars have a very bad reputation for poor workmanship and work
being done by unqualified staff as XXXX is also unqualified himself. He was
sacked from XXX for the same reason and I would steer away from promoting his
product for this reason. Good luck with the rest of your online mag. It has been
good reading.

(advisor to Ferrari

Obviously, if the original
material now obliterated by X’s had been left in place, it would have been
legally impossible to publish the email. In the blink of an eye we would be sued
for defamation.

In fact, given that the
email refers to a workshop that we have recently begun featuring, our immediate
reaction is to write off the email’s author as a dickhead. Especially with the
‘advisor to Ferrari F1’ tag at the end….  (Me? Well I am an advisor to
DaimlerChrysler’s aerodynamicists – often, especially after consuming a lot of
port, I dream up an idea of how they can improve the drag coefficients.
Sometimes I even fall asleep having an animated conversation on the phone with

Whether the email’s been
typed by a disgruntled ex-employee of the workshop, an employee of a competing
workshop, a customer who has a grudge, a complete nutcase – well, who knows?

But….but… it might be
someone who has a point.

When we visit a workshop
and do a story on their modified cars, we ask lots of questions and look with
eyes that have seen a lot. And let’s be frank: sometimes we’re completely
unimpressed by what we see and the answers that we’re given. (A case immediately
springs to mind, where the son of the workshop owner told us that his
intercoolers were so good that intake temps measured less than ambient… true, he

However, in the case of the
workshop mentioned by the ‘Advisor to Ferrari F1’, we happened to ask a lot of questions and the answers were,
well, pretty good. And we also got to drive some cars modified by the workshop –
and again, they were pretty good. (Except an old fart like me always complains
about how loud the exhausts are – great for running around the block, but for
day-to-day use, no way!)

But let’s take the points
mentioned in the email.

Unqualified staff and an
unqualified workshop owner? ‘Unqualified’, I assume, as a mechanic. Sorry Mr
Advisor to Ferrari F1, but in my long experience of top performance car
modifiers, it’s often the case that the best never did a mechanics’

In fact, thinking aloud, I
can immediately name multiple good workshops where not one owner started working
life as a mechanic. Simon Gischus of Nizpro, Joe Beninca of Beninca Motors,
Craig Allan of Allan Engineering, Leon Vincenzi of Awesome Automotive – and
there are others. (Of course, it so happens that Joe and Craig have university
engineering qualifications, Simon has the best engine dyno room in private hands
in the country, and Leon is an industrial electrician by trade – but AFAIK, none
started their working lives as apprentice mechanics….) In fact, Lachlan Riddel
of ChipTorque is one of the very few top modifiers who is a qualified mechanic –
and I think he was Apprentice of the Year in Queensland… and did some mechanical
engineering at uni first!

So it doesn’t worry much
that no blokes in the workshop are qualified mechanics.

Hmm, what’s next in the
email? ‘Bad reputation for poor workmanship’?

Every workshop in the
country has made stuff-ups, every one.

In fact find me ten people
who will sing the praises of a modification workshop and I can guarantee you I can find at least
another who has a horror tale. Over the years I’ve decided it’s the nature of
the beast. Car owners with passion and excitement in their eyes, hoping for a
miracle. And yes, workshops learning on the job about new cars, sometimes making
mistakes and oftentimes with the customer paying.

But bad workmanship? One of
the best ways of judging is to look at the quality of the fabrication,
especially the welding. I won’t pretend that I am an expert welder but I have
looked at a lot, and often it’s not very good. Same applies to the fabrication
technique. Does it comprise lots of bits welded together or has the company
sprung for some dedicated castings? Are the fasteners high tensile? Are their
intelligent answers when we ask about grades of material? Has the installation
been thought through? Is the wiring neat and well executed? Are hose runs and
heat shields and intercooler and turbo and oil cooler placements logical and

And so it goes on. Without
pissing too much in my pocket I think we know quite a lot about workmanship –
that which can be seen with a visual inspection, anyway – and it’s something that we always look closely

And at that particular
workshop, we didn’t see anything awry. It wasn’t the best, but it was a long way
from the worst.

So what else is there in Mr
Advisor to Ferrari F1’s email? Someone was sacked from a job? Hmmmm.

To be honest I’ll think
about this email when we next visit the workshop – it’s a 90 per cent chance a
loser wrote it but that still leaves a 10 per cent chance that he’s right.

But publish it? I don’t
think so…

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