Sunday Column: Peter Griffiths’s – Stainless Style

The noble pursuits of televised snooker and darts have lost their appeal in recent years, though I know for sure that they are no less exciting to watch. What more do I want? More excitement? The thing about these two games is that they have very fixed parameters which reduce the excitement of the match to the core of player versus player. The fact that, unless it were possible (or within the rules) to suspend oneself upside down and then take the shot with your left hand (if right-handed), there’s really not much more you can do with a cue or a dart except be more consistently accurate than your opponents.

I said ‘reduce’ back there, didn’t I? That is clearly incorrect as snooker is so refined that the nuances are there to be found and the enthusiasm from all involved is tangible. Darts is less refined but no less thrilling given the similar enthusiasm and passion. Neither game requires fitness or athleticism in order to be successful, neither does a campaign in either pursuit require much financing. All you need is passion, a brain for numbers and angles, the ability to combine the two and then to channel them through your body.

The recent return of Thierry Henry to the Premiership ranks stirred up among my fellow football consorts the old question of style, again. We looked around at the current crop of top players in the Prem and decided that nobody could match Henry for pure natural style and, well, just effortless cool in the heat of the moment. Nobody else danced and glided past defenders and keepers like Henry – it’s great to have him back, no matter how injured he is now, and I’ll be tuning in to every game he might play in for a glimpse of the magic he commands.

Well, yeah, I love sports and all that, but I can’t fill a very large amount of minutes with such banter and knowledge, so you’re safe for now. The fact is that, after having read a few popular classic car magazines recently, the modifying scene in the realm of classic cars has some parallels with the aforementioned sportsmen and athletes.

Basically everybody who has a classic motor (be it two or four-wheeled) loves it and wants to keep it on the road. To this end they put thought and time into either modifying it or maintaining it and that is the biggest variable of course, the infinite differences between one person’s opinion of quality next to another. Oddly enough, out of this infinite variety there emerges patterns and fashions because, after all, it’s only bits of metal built to patterns and fashions, and people are a bit like sheep on the whole.

The aforementioned magazines obviously feature the cream of the crop and it is interesting to see what details stand out between projects such as re-routed fuel pipes, wiring tucked away in the wings for cleaner engine bays, or the invisible appropriation of modern parts into old cars (one of my favourite things to read about and something I aspire to). Each project has a different budget, each owner is a different size and shape, but they’re all constrained by the metal they’re manipulating.

Now, I have been through this phase of being into cars before in my life, but this phase is lasting a lot longer than it did last time due to the excellent scene that a lot of us are so lucky to be involved with on Twitter. Had it not been for this then certain other factors in my life might have told me to shut down any interest, turn away to avoid torture, but it seems there are so many more in the same boat but who still cannot get away from their love of old and new cars looking and sounding great.

I went off snooker and darts in a similar way – just too samey, and it just keeps rolling on so it’s difficult to keep up to date. As soon as you lose track you lose interest and this subject has become  quite complicated so requires breaking down with an equal measure of simplicity: the snooker players and darts players are on a par with the restored Dolomite Sprints and motorbike-engined Fiat 126s of the modification scene.

They are humble and ancient sports and cars which don’t need much budget to get into but do need a huge amount of skill, knowledge, time and patience to get perfect and so many toil away at both for not much gain but gleaning enormous satisfaction and pleasure from their passions. The darts players in particular are fantastically down-to-earth types who would mostly balk at rolling in a chromed-up glitzy piece of modified ancient metal. For them the fags and bitter of the Capri or XJ6. Keep it simple.

When it comes to the footballers we all know the horror-stories of cars bought for girlfriends (we’re pointing accusingly at you, Stephen Ireland), and Italian horses and bulls jousting at junctions with bollards and kerbs getting a shiny new patina. They thrash about as they do on the pitch, playing up and showing out as if they didn’t know that so many cameras are glued to them. This is why, when it comes to money, you can’t guarantee style or taste. This is why the humbler budgets often produce the finer results but are so subtly nuanced that we don’t notice them.

It is difficult to spot the real quality in this area, where such money is thrown around and just plain wasted, but it is here that the gems shine out that much better. The best example of this that has emerged recently is the Singer 911, that lime-green, hunkered down, widened and just properly sorted-looking beast that appeared last year. This is because it is properly sorted, beyond reason some might say, and the price reflects this as you can expect to shell out hundreds of thousands of pounds sterling.

Singer 911 – The perfect Pork?

This thing has so much style and integrity (borne of the obsessional attention to detail of its designer) that it stands out in a huge crowd of monied pretenders. Henry stood out because he kept it simple, rarely thrashing out rashly, preferring to gently tuck the ball away with a balanced stroke. The Singer products are not produced with any little effort but the finished product deftly belies this, we shall forgive them their price-tag.

Fortunately my love for cars has never waned, you may have got that impression, it’s more that I had to force my eyes away from them to concentrate on other priorities for a while. Now, to get right back into the exploits of Rocket Ronnie, Barney Barneveld, The Count, Wolfie and Wee Dott, I’m sure there’s a similar scene to the automotive one which can reignite my interest in their efforts but – still – shout it loud and clear: long live the lock-up!

Image taken from SeriousWheels.com
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