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Tail Lights: You Can't Know It All

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Opinions expressed by Bill Crittenden are not official policies or positions of The Crittenden Automotive Library. You can read more about the Library's goals, mission, policies, and operations on the About Us page.

Tail Lights
Automotive History from a Different Perspective

Volume 5, Issue 6: You Can't Know It All

Bill Crittenden
2 December 2016

1951 Dodge Meadowbrook at the 2016 Lakemoor Charity Car Show.
A few months ago I came across a Dodge Meadowbrook at a little local Sunday charity car show. Despite building this library and creating an extensive index of vehicles, I had not only not yet had the opportunity of creating a Meadowbrook page, but I hadn't even heard of the model. Just a few weeks later I came across a video of a Ford Customline, another 50's car I had yet to encounter in real life or online.

These were timely reminders of just how huge this topic of automobiles is. Not even counting the related subjects of trucks, motorcycles, racing, etc. (any of which is large enough to warrant its own information resources larger than one person can manage) that I've decided should go along with it, "automotive" includes massive industries in both manufacturing and maintenance, with international cultural differences across six continents, and dozens of genres of enthusiasts and hobbies.

How many of us knows someone who really "knows cars?" Yeah, don't we all know at least a few guys like that? One in particular I know can rattle off every engine displacement and year-by-year change in the golden age of American muscle cars, but he mistakes Honda S2000's for Porsches and thought that the Nissan Skyline & NX2000 were the same car sold under different names.

On the flip side, I can tell a Honda from a Porsche and I know damn well that the Nissan NX2000 isn't a Skyline but I can barely remember who made what and in which years in the 1960's.

I've heard comparisons between being an auto mechanic and being a doctor when I was in tech school, and it's inspired this analogy: knowing about automobiles is similar to having knowledge in an area of the medical field.

There's some basic knowledge all people in the medical field have, but beyond the fundamentals, you can be a general practitioner, cardiologist, physical therapist, proctologist, podiatrist, chiropractor, and so on and so forth.

In the field of automobile knowledge, there are some universal basics: internal combustion engines, the differences between & fundamentals of carburetors & fuel injection, drivetrain basics, and a passing knowledge of the major automakers.

Beyond the basics? Just off the top of my head, your area of expertise could be classic American muscle cars, modern American muscle cars, Brass Era, European performance cars, JDM, custom pickup trucks, stance, vans, antique cars, modern performance, Italian supercars, the American auto industry, lowriders, drifting, fifties cars, military vehicles, classic air-cooled cars, electric vehicles, automobiles in television & Hollywood films, bōsōzoku, heavy duty trucks, off roading, classic British cars, the Chinese auto industry, hot rodding, plus all of the people who specialize in a particular marque or vehicle, plus all of the genres of motorcycles: cruisers, touring bikes, cafe racers, sport bikes, choppers, scooters, and then there are all of the kinds of competitions that one can specialize in as an occupation or as a fan: NASCAR & other stock car racing series, Formula 1, IndyCar, Le Mans, United SportsCars, SCCA, NHRA & local drag racing, autocross, Dakar, stadium supertrucks, World Rally Championship, rallycross, motocross, MotoGP, Australian touring cars, sprint & midget car racing, dirt track racing, banger racing, vintage racing, D1GP, demolition derby, and then there are car-related hobbies like model car building, Hot Wheels collecting, R/C racing, and video game racing.

Side note: if I were doing this in video format I would have loved to recreate the "different kinds of shrimp" scene from Forrest Gump.

Anyway, I've discovered that the more I know or upload to CarsAndRacingStuff.com, the more I realize what a minuscule sliver of the total volume of available information I or anyone really knows or has. Bill Nye said "everyone you will ever meet knows something you don't." Just remember that every "car guy" you meet knows something about cars that you don't. You may think it trivial or uninteresting because it's not your particular area of interest, but they will know something you don't. It's impossible to have a really deep knowledge of all areas of the automobile hobby, the auto industry, and all kinds of motorsports.

My advice is to act accordingly. Don't be "that guy" who has to have the answer to every car-related question even if it's a wrong guess. Sometimes the smartest answer really is, "I don't know" because it means that you're acknowledging the limits of your knowledge. Knowing where your limits are is the first step to expanding them.


With all of the indexing needing to be done, financial contributions and advertisers are the key to getting this information accessible and browsable. It takes a lot of time to scan, edit, and upload, and I've never had this much to process all at once. Help us by contributing at https://www.gofundme.com/df3mos.

Every $100 in contributions allows me to take a night off of the "regular job" and put more time into building The Crittenden Automotive Library.

PayPal address: admin@CarsAndRacingStuff.com
GoFundMe link: https://www.gofundme.com/df3mos

Major Additions

It's been a few months since the last Tail Lights, and in that time I've shuffled around dozens of gigabytes of video files to add 40 hours and 34:10 of video from the Internet Archive's Prelinger Archives of vintage ephemeral films.

These include another huge batch of Jam Handy's Chevrolet films, a bunch of driver safety films from the 1930's-1970's, home movies, travelogues, early TV commercials, and much more.

One interesting find is an advertising film for Weather-King Corporation called "The Case of the Blurred Image." Weather-King was selling heavy-duty uniforms for cold & rainy days to service stations. Remember the good ol' days of full service? That was before my time. But this film shows in classic subdued colors what they used to do at a vintage 60's Mobil station.

Another little gem was a Simoniz commercial featuring the Three Stooges!

As a bonus not from Prelinger I did also find a biographical film on Richard Petty in the Internet Archive's main feature films archive. For those who don't remember or who aren't old enough to have seen it, 43: The Petty Story is a 1974 made-for-TV recounting of The King's rise to stock car greatness. It feels to me like the 1970's Petty version of ESPN's 3.

While all those video files were downloading to my archives for safekeeping and being re-uploaded to YouTube for embedded video on CarsAndRacingStuff.com, I processed almost 2,000 press releases from PRweb into the main article indices. I can't even begin to describe how wide-ranging the topics are from the incredible number of individual companies both in and outside of the traditional auto industry, but I'd like to mention that creating all of those new pages for dealerships, accessory manufactures, and tech companies is going to take some time. Contributing to The Crittenden Automotive Library would help speed up that process!

History Beyond the Fenders

The Crittenden Automotive Library includes information from all aspects of automotive transportation and competition. This section highlights some new material added to the Library about a topic other than vehicles themselves.

Well, the 2016 election is finally over. As exhausting as 2016 has been, our new President Elect is just getting to work assembling a new cabinet while Congress is finally back in session.

This was an election marked by deep disappointment in the choices on both sides. Republicans had #NeverTrump and liberals had "Bernie or Bust." Both sides were furious at the mainstream media, each side seeing a media that favored the opposition in various ways and each side clinging to their own sources of partisan "fake news" for at least some of their information.

The Crittenden Automotive Library doesn't take a partisan side in politics, but on particular issues of disseminating information we will take the side that an informed electorate is a better electorate. The famous quote that comes to mind is "eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." A free press (with the exception of purposefully lying), information easily accessible by every voter, and an educated public willing to take the time to avail themselves of these resources are as necessary to a free state as a strong military, because nations can be subjugated without firing a shot if their political process is subverted by misinformation and propaganda.

I know The Crittenden Automotive Library's scope is narrow in terms of politics and the government's overall business, and that the future of the free world will never hinge on highway policy.

However, we have already seen the auto industry bailout play a major role in the 2008 and 2012 Presidential elections. Ford's plans to shift production of the Focus & C-Max to Mexico was a semi-major issue at times in the 2016 Presidential election.

The kerfuffle over Ford's plants seems to have settled down, but that doesn't mean we're out of topics to cover. The new Administration's new direction for America could generate a ton of news if they follow through in deregulating automobile emissions, renegotiate foreign trade deals that affect the auto industry, if there's new evidence of Volkswagen emissions cheating and further action against them, also President Trump's planned increase in infrastructure spending for rebuilding highways & bridges, the actions of our new Secretary of Transportation, folks are wondering who will be running the EPA, and I've seen people speculating as to whether or not electric vehicle subsidies could be at risk just as all of the Tesla Model 3 orders are about to be fulfilled. There's also a brand new Cadillac presidential limo that will go into service at the inauguration.

All I can say for 2017 is: "buckle up."

See what I did there?

So what we're hoping to do is just to set a good example of what can be done on the few issues we can cover. Towards that end, I already have the even-handed coverage of Voice of America in the Library, and this year I began adding speeches and snippets of the Congressional Record to the articles section (which already included speech & interview transcripts).

I've been poring over the archives of ProPublica and FactCheck.org for more serious political material to add, and that will be ok CarsAndRacingStuff.com soon.

In preparation for more new material, the American Government section's main page will probably get split up and reorganized a bit. More on that likely coming in a special Inauguration Day issue of Tail Lights.

In getting ready for 2017, the American Government section image featuring Donald J. Trump is ready to go sitewide on Inauguration Day. Here's a preview:

To create this I had to find a public domain photo featuring our incoming President in front of an American flag. It's not 100% what I was hoping for, but new pictures will be available as the months go on, so hopefully I'll find a better picture by the end of next year.


The Dewey Decimal System's designation for automobiles, trucks, motorcycles, and driving fall within the 629.2 range. In addition to the online collection, Library Owner Bill Crittenden's personal collection of books, magazines, and miscellaneous papers is available for reference, and this section highlights new materials available on the online Library's Reference Desk and notices of new books being published.

Things are a bit cramped in The Crittenden Automotive Library's office, I've got piles of magazine clippings laying around from an ongoing project, and I've been busy moving my desk around, so I've been staying away from the bookstores in the interest of not adding to the clutter. But getting through inventorying more of the collection and adding more to the Reference Desk is a priority for the coming long winter nights.

However, here's the October/November list of new books from Veloce Publishing...
Car-tastrophes – 80 Automotive Atrocities from the past 20 years by Honest John & George Fowler
Porsche – The Racing 914s by Roy Smith
Royal Enfield Bullet – The Essential Buyer's Guide by Peter Henshaw
A Darracq Called Genevieve – Veteran Motoring's Most Famous Car by Rodney Laredo
Rootes Cars of the 1950s, 1960s & 1970s – A Pictorial History by David Rowe
Pontiac Firebird – The Auto-Biography – New 3rd Edition by Marc Cranswick
A Darracq called Genevieve by Rodney Laredo

New Reprints from Veloce Publishing
Jim Redman – Six Times World Motorcycle Champion – The Autobiography
Coventry Climax Racing Engines – The Definitive Development History by Des Hammill
Triumph TR – TR2 to 6: The last of the tradtional sports car (Veloce Classic Reprint) by Bill Piggott
Austin-Healey – A celebration of the fabulous 'Big' Healey (Veloce Classic Reprint) by Bill Piggott

New to eBook Format from Veloce Publishing
RX-7 Mazda's rotary engine sports car – Updated & Enlarged 3rd Edition by Brian Long
Jeep Wrangler from 1987 by Robert Ackerson
How to Modify Volkswagen Beetle Suspension, Brakes & Chassic For High Performance by James Hale

To get a mention here, just email admin@CarsAndRacingStuff.com and let us know what's being published and when it'll be out.

Current Library Statistics (since 30 September 2016)

Articles: 36,412 (+2,090)
Images: 34,295+ estimated (+70)
Publications: 716,282 pages in 8,963 documents (+43 pages, +11 documents)
Video: 1 week, 63:57:12 (+40:34:10)
Audio: 2 weeks, 5 days, 8:31:08 (same)
Event Photography: 188 sets (+1 set)

September 2016: 12,976 page views from 6,905 total users for month, daily average of 432.5 views from 230.1 users.
October 2016: 12,207 page views from 6,781 total users for month, daily average of 393.7 views from 218.7 users.
November 2016: 12,228 page views from 6,274 total users for month, daily average of 407.6 views from 209.1 users.

Page views and user information provided by Google Analytics.

Current Social Media Statistics (since 30 September 2016)

Facebook: 441 Likes (-1)
Google+: 67 Followers (same)
Instagram: 535 Followers (-2)
Pinterest: 24 Followers (same)
Tumblr: 178 Followers (+8)
Twitter: 1,675 Followers (+43)

About The Crittenden Automotive Library

The Crittenden Automotive Library @ CarsAndRacingStuff.com, based in Woodstock, Illinois, is an online collection of information relating to not only cars, trucks, and motorcycles, but also the roads they drive on, the races they compete in, cultural works based on them, government regulation of them, and the people who design, build, and drive them.  We are dedicated to the preservation and free distribution of information relating to all types of cars and road-going vehicles for those seeking the greater understanding of these very important elements of modern society, how automobiles have affected how people live around the world, or for the general study of automotive history and anthropology.  In addition to the historical knowledge, we preserve current events for future generations.

The Library currently consists of over 716,000 pages of books, periodicals, and documents, over 36,400 individual articles, more than 9 days of video and 19 days of audio, more than 34,200 photographs & other images, and a Reference Desk with more than 225 book volumes and thousands of advertising brochures & documents kept available for the information they contain but can't be copied into the online Library for sharing due to copyright.

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