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Tail Lights: Better

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Tail Lights
Automotive History from a Different Perspective

Volume 6, Issue 4: Better

Bill Crittenden
31 December 2017

A first generation Honda Prelude in Porto, Portugal. Photo by Max Kaharlytskyi on Unsplash, a great new source of high-quality photography that's free to use. We'll be incorporating more of the automotive photography into The Crittenden Automotive Library in the coming months.

There’s no way to sugar coat this: most of 2017 sucked.

The year started with a transition at work that took away 3 weeks of accrued vacation, and at the time I hadn’t had a real vacation since 2003. Then there was Heidi’s emergency back surgery, followed by me getting sicker than I ever have been before as an adult.

My jobsite lost people in that transition and I went from working 6-day weeks all spring to having only four days off in three solid months over the summer. One of those days off was only because I couldn’t get up out of a chair and spent two hours stuck on my living room floor. When working 7+ shifts per week I didn’t have the time or energy to go to the gym and I’d been eating out of drive thrus again. My back didn't take the weight gain well.

In the middle of that busy summer something I couldn’t fix finally broke on our trusty (and paid-off) Pontiac Vibe and we had to take her to the Kia dealership in an act that felt like taking a beloved family pet to be put down. Then we started payments again, but on the positive side I haven't had any transportation worries since.

I finally took that vacation at the end of November, now reduced to a week and a half instead of the three I would have gotten before the transition. But instead of traveling or relaxing at home I took it to help someone recover from their third surgery in my immediate family this year and to clean up after letting the housework go undone over the summer.

This was all done with the background trainwreck noise of the news in 2017. It has been fifty-two solid weeks of distraction, depression, and demotivation. I’ve learned a lot, but I’d rather be listening to automotive podcasts.


The most demotivating story was the deathblow to net neutrality. The repeal still has to make its way through the federal rulemaking process before it’s officially dead. We’re all just waiting to see what happens, but based on other countries without it it’s not good for small operations like this.

Business partners of ISPs (i.e. companies that pay for fast access) are prioritized in various ways. We don’t have the budget to buy ourselves into the fast lane. That means it’s up to customers that can afford to pay for fast access to all corners of the internet on their end to get unthrottled access. That probably means a drop in visitor traffic. How big of a drop? That's what we're waiting to see.

I’m in this for the long haul. After being in love with the automobile for as long as I can remember I’ve dedicated much of the past dozen years of my life to laying the foundation for something really great. I’m in this for the long haul. I’ve said that if Mercedes can survive two World Wars, my little library can survive Ajit Pai or whichever interchangeable telecom flunkies come along after him until we get this fixed.

In the meantime, I’ve got a day job that pays the bills and plenty of work to do offline to keep me busy. But for small business owners who depend on an inflow of customers from the internet for the paycheck that keeps a roof over their heads, they may need to just shut down and find different employment. Margins are thin enough as it is for so many startups and small businesses that the added cost of paying for their customers to be able to access their websites may be what breaks a business model.

So even if you can pay to have fast access to anywhere you want to go on the internet, there’s going to be less there than there would be with net neutrality. Some of the sites that shut down may be contributors or sources for The Crittenden Automotive Library. That means that even though we’re sticking around we’ll have a narrower range of information to republish.

The next few years stand to be the “dark ages” for the internet in the United States. The greatest tool for the dissemination of knowledge ever conceived is going to be commercialized like never before, and those who are online for reasons other than profit might take their activities back offline. That’s a setback for a population who has come to depend upon free knowledge on almost any topic from all types of sources being a few keystrokes away.

It'll Get Better, Though

After that last surgery the end of 2017 had a slightly positive trend. With the fight over net neutrality on the TV in the background, I was finishing off an inventory of all of my automotive books and a remodel of the office that should be the last such tweak for several years. That will give me a lot to do offline should my ISP be especially difficult to work with.

The new work area includes an expanded gaming area for my now teenage son and his new Xbox One. There’s something automotive-related about that in the History Beyond the Bumpers section, I'll just preview it by saying it was a very Merry Christmas!

The new manager that came with the new company at my regular job wasn’t working out well and it was the push I needed to finally consider a career change. I had gotten a bit complacent after several years of valuing safety and stability in my employment since the recession, and it was time to take a chance. After the first week of 2018 I’ll be starting a new career!

This will be a big change for The Crittenden Automotive Library as I’ll have Sundays off this coming summer as to take pictures at car shows in the morning and keep up with NASCAR in the afternoons. In the long term it will be great for my family’s finances, which should mean better computer resources and investments that will in the coming years help narrow the gap between what I need to make to support the family and what I can earn from home. Someday this may help me retire to working on the Library full-time, so it's worth the extra commuting time and effort I'll have to put into my new career.

Personnel Manager Heidi’s crafting friends all have words of inspiration for 2018, and Heidi picked the word “better.” It seems so easy because 2017 set a very low bar, but 2018 will be better. Better health, better family time, and for me time better spent on building The Crittenden Automotive Library. I've found a great new source of photographs (that's where this month's image comes from), I've organized my files and done a lot of the inventorying I wanted to do, and remodeled the office to get my old tank of a metal desk back. I’m not setting specific goals because Heidi tells me that I set unrealistic ones and inevitably disappoint myself, so I’m not setting anything specific beyond this: 2018 will be better.


Despite lower visitor counts 2017 was the third best calendar year for advertising revenue in the 12-year history of The Crittenden Automotive Library. Having gotten through the Great Recession, job issues, and now medical problems, we're ready to get back on track for 2018 with long-term plans to be able spend even more time accumulating and publishing all kinds of automotive history.

Without getting into the specifics of my family's finances, we're setting some long-term goals for my new job, second job income, and Library revenue:
  • Paying down debts medical and otherwise (3 surgeries in one year!). Getting rid of interest charges will accelerate all of our progress.
  • Library "infrastructure" including heavy-duty bookshelves and a new backup hard drive.
  • Paying off our used Ford C-Max & base model Kia Soul. The lower our monthly payments, the less I need to make from The Crittenden Automotive Library per month to reach the ultimate goal: to be able to organize and republish more automotive history for you full time.
  • Build an "endowment" of investments for a more steady source of revenue. This makes success or failure less reliant upon the ups & downs of the advertising market.

  • We could use some help on those infrastructure projects. Every $90 or so buys us a new bookshelf, $150 would buy a new hard drive and another $230 for a USB-connected fire/water safe to keep it in.

    We welcome contributions in any way possible. We're currently connected to the following accounts, but contact us at admin@CarsAndRacingStuff.com if you have another way to send contributions. Just note that we're not a 501 charitable organization. Think of it as a tip given for good service provided.

    PayPal: admin@CarsAndRacingStuff.com
    GoFundMe link: https://www.gofundme.com/3gll734

    Major Additions

    Yet again most of the past few months' work has been offline. I did post a couple of vintage magazines, just to show "signs of life" online while I remodeled, inventoried, and plowed through stacks of old magazines for automotive content. This work will result in more online content, just not yet. Once all the pages are plucked and organized I've got hundreds of old clippings out of copyright to scan and post.

    1966International Trail
    International Harvester
    JPG - 60.4MB - 24 pages
    1969International Trail
    International Harvester
    JPG - 59.4MB - 24 pages

    History Beyond the Bumpers

    Still covering automotive culture in all its forms, now with added alliteration!  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.

    Video games were invented in 1971 and ever since Gran Trak 10 & Speed Wheels were created in 1974 “racing” has been one of the major categories of video games through every generation.

    I was born in 1980, so racing games started for me with Rad Racer, Days of Thunder, and Bill Elliott’s NASCAR Challenge on the original Nintendo. Since then I fell in love with the R-34 Nissan Skyline on Gran Turismo 2 and I’ve fiddled a bit with CSR Racing 2 on my iPhone.

    Busy with trying to support the family through the recession, I’ve put my time towards more productive pursuits. The gift cards we received and money we spent on games was all directed towards Eli, for whom the Wii was a better fit at his age. Skylanders began taking over a corner of the house. The artificial sounds of engines and tires faded into distant memory.

    And now they’re coming back. We decided to upgrade Eli to an Xbox One as he’s officially a teenager now, watching Twitch, playing Minecraft, and wanting to hunt some monsters in Evolve. Heidi decided it was time for me to relax more and spend get back into games. I wanted something more affordable, like Forza Horizon 3 or NASCAR Heat 2. Instead she bought me Forza 7 Motorsport Ultimate and then coordinated with the rest of the family to get me the other games I was looking at, too. Thanks Heidi, Laurie & Aaron, and Leslie & Paul!

    Earlier in 2017 I created a big list of all of the car, truck, and motorcycle racing games I could find for just about any video game system available. As real race car drivers “play” on ever more realistic racing simulators, people watch gamers’ video streams and turn them into niche celebrities, and “esports” becomes a multimillion-dollar business, this will become an ever more popular way for the masses to enjoy a pursuit that’s been out of the reach of most of the working class for at least a few decades.

    I’ll be on Xbox Live as Bill0059 starting in the new year, and I’m sure more racing game content will make its way onto CarsAndRacingStuff.com as I dive back into the gaming world and come across sources I can republish. I'd love to have gotten started already, but I've yet to pry the controller from Eli's fingers long enough to put the Forza 7 disc in the system yet!


    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.

    As I mentioned before, I completed an inventory of the books when remodeling the office. There were 465 total, and I added most of them to the Reference Desk. Of course there were some new additions because it’s been so long since I last checked in, but not much towards the end of the year.

    Thanks to John & Shelly Walczak for the Christmas gift card that will allow me to buy the first of many new bookshelves for the new storage area organization. Right now the full collection is in file crates and file boxes stacked in a corner of my basement. Soon this will be a fully organized mini-library with rows of heavy-duty metal shelves of books & other materials.

    1952 BookBeany and the Beckoning Road by Lenora Mattingly Weber; Berkeley Highland Books
    1960 BookBehind the Scenes of Motor Racing by Ken Gregory; MacGibbon & Kee
    1969 BookAuto Mechanics Fundamentals by Martin W. Stockel, Goodheart-Wilcox
    1969 BookHandbook of Gasoline Automobiles 1904-1906by the Association of Licensed Automobile Manufacturers; Dover Publications, Inc.
    1976 Book1976 Chrysler Plymouth Dodge Chassis-Body Service Manual; Chrysler Corporation
    1976 Book1976 Chrysler Plymouth Dodge Electrical Service Manual; Chrysler Corporation
    1983 BookThe Classic Corvette by Richard Nichols; Exter Books
    2003 BookCar Smarts: An Easy-to-Use Guide To Understanding Your Car & Communicating With Your Mechanic by Mary Jackson; Avalon Travel
    2006 BookMustang: An American Classic by The Auto Editors of Consumers Guide; Publications International Ltd.

    Current Library Statistics (+/- since 30 August 2017)

    Articles: 39,341 (+545)
    Images: 33,003 (-1467 correction to more accurate estimate, removed double counting of document pages)
    Publications: 718,955 pages in 9,506 documents (+141 pages in 21 more documents)
    Video: 2 weeks, 2 days & 21:45:23 (+27:47:12)
    Audio: 3 weeks, 3 days & 29:12 (+ 4 days & 5:03:47)
    Event Photography: 192 sets (+1)

    MonthTotal Page ViewsPage Views/Day AverageTotal UsersUsers/Day Average
    December 20178,442272.34,239136.7
    November 20177,727257.54,211140.3
    October 20178,615277.95,011161.6
    September 20178,752291.74,594153.1
    Page views and user information provided by Google Analytics.

    Alexa Traffic Ranks (+/- since 5 September 2017)
    1,221,691 worldwide (+233,874)
    400,971 in the United States (+142,047)

    Current Social Media Statistics (+/- since 30 August 2017)

    Facebook: 478 Likes (+1)
    Google+: 81 Followers (+7)
    Instagram: 672 Followers (+20)
    Pinterest: 56 Followers (+17)
    Tumblr: 272 Followers (+29)
    Twitter: 1,903 Followers (+36)
    YouTube: 563 Subscribers (+103)

    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 718,000 pages of books, periodicals, and documents, over 39,300 individual articles, more than 16 days of video & 24 days of audio, more than 33,000 photographs & other images, and offline reference materials including 465 book volumes and thousands of advertising brochures & documents.

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