Boring Car Trivia - An Introduction
Do you lay awake at night fretting over the similarities between the Ferrari F40 and the Ford Sierra? Does the thought of playing chess in a one-off Rover 800 Coachbuilt Coupé gird your loins? Does your desire to know why the US Postal Service imported a bunch of right-hand-drive Subaru Legacys cause you itch?
If you have answered ‘yes’ to any of the questions above, then A Medium-sized Book of Boring Car Trivia and its successor, the recently-released Boring Car Trivia volume 2, are the books for you. Should you have answered no, then you have absolutely no reason to buy these books and you should stop reading this story now.
Both volumes of Boring Car Trivia are the brainchild of Richard Porter. If you’ve forgotten, this is your reminder that Richard is a motoring journalist, former script editor for Top Gear (and The Grand Tour), one half of Smith and Sniff, and the founder of Sniff Petrol.
It’s not unusual for personalities from the motoring world to release a book, but alongside the “kind of arcane information that will send you to sleep in an instant,” Boring Car Trivia Vol. 1 and 2 are - according to Richard - “very much a product of these very strange COVID times.”
In a recent online chat with Dyler.com, Richard - blending two decades worth of knowledge gained from working in the motoring industry with a healthy dose of schoolboy-esque, sweary, observational humour - explained that both books came from wanting to provide the online car community with some lighthearted relief from the general uncertainty felt by most people when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit in March 2020.
Boring Car Trivia as a Form of Covid-Driven Escapism
“When the whole COVID thing started and we hurtled into that first lockdown, I kind of got the vibe from the car geek corner of the world that I live in that people were getting a bit bored, a bit restless, and a bit unsettled with everything that was going on in the world,” he explained cheerfully. “So there was a part of me that thought, what can I do to become some sort of self-appointed Entertainment Officer for people who are interested in cars, so that’s where this all started, I guess.
“I started banging out these jaunty, upbeat tweets on the Sniff Petrol Twitter account which purposely didn’t mention COVID, and in fact, I said to Jonny when we started the Smith and Sniff podcast that we shouldn’t talk about COVID bollocks and lockdowns because I thought that people would enjoy some escapism. I think it’s fair to say that the books are part and parcel of that.
If you’ve listened to Smith and Sniff, it’s clear that booze is a bit of an underlying theme. After all, the show was born as a result of a day-drinking session and “tooling around on a golf buggy” at a Jaguar event in California’s Pebble Beach some years ago.
Boring Car Trivia and Mechanisms for Coping with Lockdown
Yet despite the show’s boozy background Richard revealed that he put the cork in the bottle for seven weeks as a way of coping with lockdown and completing the second edition of Boring Car Trivia Vol. 2. Sort of.
“I’d been meaning to go off the sauce for a while,” he laughs. “I think - along with most of the British population - that my wife and I fell into that trap of giddy lockdown drinking.
“You know what it was like - you’d be sitting there, look at your phone and say “oh, it’s nearly six o’clock” so you’d have a beer or make a cocktail or something. Then suddenly you’re getting started at 4:30pm and it’s a Tuesday, and you’re saying “Christ, we get through a lot of gin in this house, don’t we?””
“So yeah, there was initially cutting down on the booze, and I started running as a hobby to because it’s a nice, solitary activity to do - it keeps you in shape, you get all of those lovely endorphins going when you get out in fresh air, and you just generally feel better for it.”
“Then I hurt one of my legs by not rolling my calves out before heading out and tried to blame it on driving my old Land Rover Defender in town because it’s got a heavy clutch. I did my other leg in, though, so it turns out that I’m just an old fucker who tried to do exercise and broke himself along the way.
“Whilst I was hobbling around I got a presenting gig with Jonny for the Goodwood Speedweek event and I’m usually behind the camera, not in front of it.
“When I told my wife that I was doing this, she said “well, you’re not running at the moment and the camera adds a few pounds, so what are you going to do about it? The moment she said that, I took the beer away from my lips and said “I need to do something drastic”, so yeah, I stopped drinking for seven weeks and also managed to get running again in that time, too.
“I’ve spent the best part of my adult life not doing much exercise and doing quite a lot of drinking, so I’m not going to get all evangelical about it. In fact, I went out for a pub lunch with my wife the other day before we headed back into lockdown and I had a few pints, but it’s fair to say that I have cut back drinking quite a bit.
Boring Car Trivia and Retaining Useless Information
“I have lost some weight though, and I do feel better and I think the combination of these two things helped me really get on with the book because it became pretty much like a hobby - albeit one I did at my kitchen table with loose bits of paper all over the place and an absolutely terrible workflow much to the annoyance of my wife.”
On the face of it, Boring Car Trivia doesn’t seem a particularly difficult book to write. It’s 98 pages of obscure and niche car facts put together in the size of an A5 notepad. There are no illustrations - apart from the one on the cover hastily-penned by the author - and that’s pretty much it. As an author of over 20 books, Richard describes the car trivia series as “very much home-made.”
Yet speaking to him, it turns out that putting both books together was a fact checking exercise which required an almost James Bond-esque level of precision and a level of cross-referencing that would make even the finest of academic minds sit up and take note.
“Most of the information in the book actually comes from stuff I’ve retained over the years,” he chuckles. “I can’t remember birthdays of family and friends but I can remember worrying amounts of information about the Austin Montego. It’s quite troubling really, isn’t it?”
“The thing that’s difficult is verifying something I’ve just half-remembered to make sure it’s not “some bloke in the pub told me” type of bullshit.
“It could be right, but if it doesn’t stand up and turns out to be incorrect then the reader would start questioning everything else in the book.
“For example, I had a bloke on Twitter tell me something about a 1960s Honda which was the first Japanese production car to be available in red. I love to include that, but so far I can’t haven’t found anything online about it so far. That said, it’d be a pretty obscure thing to make up, wouldn’t it?”
Boring Car Trivia and the Rigorous Fact-Checking Process Therein
What Richard says next about the creative process is something that will resonate with any car person, and he indicates that we’ll have a third Boring Car Trivial book at some stage in the future.
“This whole thing has become a bit of a disease, actually,” he continues. “As anyone with a nerdy car brain knows, once you start doing this sort of fact finding thing, it’s really difficult to stop because you end up down an online rabbithole where you discover another really interesting fact which becomes more material, and there’s always something I realise I forgot to include.
“In the last book I wanted to put in a thing about how the Jaguar XJ-S was accidentally only made in three colours for about 18 months and why Volkswagen marketed the Golf as the ‘Rabbit’ in the United States because they wanted to attract younger buyers with something that sounded cute rather than like a game played by old dudes in horrible trousers.
“The beauty of writing these as a project is that there is no limit to how boring or obscure you can be and I think the stranger the better. Part-sharing is pretty fertile ground for this sort of thing, but it gets very dull, very quickly and it’s not exactly arcane knowledge. That’s why I think it’s worth throwing in Nigel Mansell’s middle name, or the fact that Charles Leclerc’s mum cuts David Coulthard’s hair - you need to keep the facts textured, because it starts to get very samey otherwise.”
Boring Car Trivia - Why You Should (or Should Not) Buy It
As the conversation draws to a close, Richard admits that his book is “very much the sort of book you keep in the bathroom” and that he wrote the facts as small, bite size pieces of information to “stop people from getting piles or falling asleep on the bog whilst reading.”
He does, however, warn prospective readers that given the grey nature of some of the facts he dug up, that slipping into a nap in “the smallest room in the house” is a real possibility.
To wrap things up, it seems sensible to ask why Richard believes that Boring Car Trivia Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 will make an ideal Christmas gift for petrolheads across the land.
The answer is as well-humoured as I’d hoped.
“It'd be like trying to convince me to buy a book called Caring For Your Horse - why the merry heck would I want that?!,” he concludes with a laugh. “There's nothing in my life that requires this in the slightest, and the same could be said for people who aren't interested in cars or even just a little bit interested.
“This is a fairly hardcore car person's book and in a weird kind of way, a printed safe space for people who are into cars and slightly nerdy about them. As we know, the nerdy brain's thirst for that extra bit of knowledge can never be quenched.
“To sum it up, if you feel you need several more facts about the Rover 800, then you should definitely buy my book, and I hope it haunts you at night knowing that you don't have those facts until you buy it.
“What’s more, if you know someone like that and you think "oh my God, they're so bloody hard to buy for because all they go on about is Rover 800s" then yeah, definitely buy it because it's got quite a few facts about the Rover 800, and many many more...
“There’s also an introduction by Jeremy Clarkson... who mentions the Rover 800!”
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