The Mobile Chicane's historical reject documentaries

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dinizintheoven
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The Mobile Chicane's historical reject documentaries

Post by dinizintheoven »

I wonder if the FaceTube channel called The Mobile Chicane is secretly run by a member of this forum. Much like Peter Brook has done on numerous occasions, the channel has a spotlight on the wrong end of the grid. Only the other day I was whiling away painting my hallway with some Mobile Chicane commentary playing in the background - an assessment of Michael Andretti's ill-fated stint at McLaren, and another one about long-term F1R/GPR favourite Jean-Denis Délétraz. But the big one, that was released about a week ago, was this assessment of Prost Grand Prix. No stone is left unturned as to how and why The Professor made such a monumental cock-up of running the all-but-official Equipe De France into oblivion, when, if he was so good at out-thinking his rivals to three World Championships (and cruising to an effortless fourth), why couldn't he repeat that as a team boss?

A particular gem is found in the comments, and here's something I've thought about raising, on and off, for a while:
Christendom Baffler wrote: 1:04:32, I feel, is absolutely spot on. Prost being uncompromising all the way to the team's bankruptcy says to me that he was, past a certain point, at least half-ready to let the whole operation die a quiet death, not unlike how he went all in against the eternally shambolic disaster that is Ferrari in 1991. It's one of the worst faux pas imaginable for someone who's in charge of hundreds of people in a multi-million dollar operation, and he really owed it to them to make a better effort to sell the team off as soon as he realized that he wasn't cut out for the job.

His ruthless selfishness has always been in his nature, but that whole bit in the closing minutes of the video is why, if the story has to have a villain, then I don't consider him to be that. Peugeot wrote such a splendid chapter in the book of malicious sporting incompetence that Renault would go on to use it as inspiration, but even beyond that, France has always been and will always be, for lack of a better way to put it, France. Given that they'd always had a dim view of him dating back to his Renault stint in the early 80s, and that they're about as bad as the Italians in terms of needless sporting nationalism, I'd wager that that point 3 months into the 1997 campaign was when Prost's spirit, despite enduring for so long as a race driver, finally shattered, and that they're the ones who caused that. There was no winning in that scenario, especially after Panis's injury, and had he left he would've just been seen as a coward by the media that writes the story that others oh so readily readily gobble up.

Prost badly lacked the toolset needed to succeed as a team owner, and there's no denying that the team would've probably at least survived longer than Arrows did had he snapped out of his stupor for just a moment and treated the team as more than just his momentary toy. He would've probably at least earned himself some friends that way, just as he would've had he been more diplomatic in 1991 instead of airing his dirty laundry in public when the prancing horse was painting the bed a nice shade of brown and blaming everyone else for it like Ferrari so often does. Unfortunately, it's all easy to retreat inwards and just let everything slowly go down the drain when that mental dam, with all its cracks, finally gives way, and given his rollercoaster of a story as a driver, that moment had probably been a long time coming for him. Of all the parties that screwed up between his takeover and the team's downfall, Prost, to me, is the only one who's human.
"France has always been and will always be, for lack of a better way to put it, France."

That doesn't just account for the failure of Prost Grand Prix and Peugeot's F1 engines. There just seems to be something fundamentally wrong with the entire French automotive world. I've heard it asked so many times, "why have Renault / Alpine been so consistently mediocre since 2008?" And the answer seems to be, in the words of HubNut: "Because French". (He's owned so many Citroëns with bizarre engineering decisions and baffling problems that he is in an excellent position to judge... and there's now a t-shirt with his GSA on it that says "Because French". I own one.) Renault, for instance, consistently make mediocre cars with a poor reliability record, and the workforce will go on strike at the slightest provocation. And in the past, British Leyland also made mediocre cars with a poor reliability record, with a workforce... well, you know the rest. But whereas years of terrible mismanagement and asset-stripping slowly killed BL, Austin Rover, MG Rover (etc) over the last 25 years of its lifetime, Renault's alternatives, despite also lagging behind the competition, continued selling well enough to keep the company solvent - so much that even when they made massive, financially ruinous mis-steps like the Vel Satis and the Avantime, they were never threatened with extinction. They knew, every time the accountant had to reach for his red ink, there would be a massive, massive bailout from the French government, no questions asked, and with loud chants of "Vive la France!" and La Marseillaise blaring out over the top of it.

Who here would honestly choose to own a Renault Mégane, of any generation, ahead of a Ford Focus, a Vauxhall Astra, the (usually considered to be the benchmark, even if it's not entirely true) VW Golf, or any of the Japanese competition? I wouldn't. I've owned a Honda Civic for 15 years and 111,000 miles, it's barely given me any trouble, and I know damn well that the equivalent Renault - or any of its French competitors - would have long since gone tot he scrapheap. If everyone made their choices completely objectively, Renault should be dead and buried by now, and so should Peugeot after the steaming heaps of merde that was the majority of the "07" series. And yet, Renault is not only still thriving but also owns Nissan - whose cars are generally dull and a bit pensioner-ish but will thrash Renault for reliability, and Peugeot are one of the chief brands of Stellantis that's been buying up half the world's car makers. Where is the incentive for Renault and Peugeot to make cars that are anything other than mediocre? What does it matter to their profit margins? If they know they'll always be bailed out by the French taxpayer (who's just paid a load of the French equivalent of VAT on the engine repair bill for his Peugeot 308 after the engine went on strike), why bother even trying to making a car that's more reliable and uses less fuel than a Toyota Corolla and that could be its replacement as the world's most popular car? There isn't any. There is no meritocracy in the French automotive industry. Just keep on churning out the new models, build them approximately with "le spit et le Kleenex" as Lord Clarkson of Diddly Squat would say, watch as an overtly-patriotic French public buys them for no other reason than because they're French, watch as buyers from others also do so because "French equals sophisticated and chic" (despite the evidence that Nicole was yet again left stranded at the side of the road in the dark and the rain and her expensive Louis Vuitton stilettos were ruined), watch as their continual failure continues to not lead them down the path of extinction that befell British Leyland.

It has to be the same story with French F1. There was no incentive for Ligier to succeed: "even when they were winning, you always got the impression that they didn't know why", said... (insert who said that here, it was probably Nigel Roebuck - I went looking for the quote but it's escaped the search engines. Anyway...) Why would they need to win to get prize money from FISA when their sponsors' logos were all from French government-owned companies, and they knew that several million francs would be coming their way even if they scored nul points as they did in 1983? Renault should have been successful that same year but still found new and interesting ways to screw it up right at the crucial time, then blamed Alain Prost for losing the title when his only three retirements of the season were all car failures. The later version of Renault had some success at Fernando Alonso's hands... because they were a British team waving a French flag and knew what they were doing, but since Crashgate they've succumbed to the same rot and I can't ever see the current incarnation as Alpine ever being higher than fourth. I'm also going to confidently predict that both Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly will end their F1 careers as one-hit wonders if they stay at Alpine - yes, I know Gasly's only just arrived there, and it was the only move he could have made, but... it's not going to get him that second win.

Did any of this make sense or am I just rambling again?

Despite all this, I have much the same fondness for old French cars as Mr Hubnut. But unlike him, and the similarly "French Tat" obsessed Gavin Braithwaite-Smith, I'd never actually want to own one, because I know it'd drive me up the wall. I'll just have to watch HubNut videos, go to Festival of the Unexceptional and read Classic. Retro. Modern. (and drool over the SM featured on the cover of issue 20).
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Re: The Mobile Chicane's historical reject documentaries

Post by Alextrax52 »

I came across this guy’s video’s the other day and I must say his work while not frequent is absolutely incredible. The Prost analysis was his best yet. I’m still in shock as to how Panis went from being genuinely talked about as a title contender to not finishing higher than 9th in the space of a year (and that 9th being the opening race). Granted he still had the pins in his legs which only got taken out at the start of 1999 and was also probably disillusioned about how Prost got it so awfully wrong but still.

In hindsight as he says Alain inherited a ready made car and engine when he bought the team so didn’t have to worry about that short term so how much was down to him and how much was because of the foundations already there wasn’t clear until 98. With more hindsight the treatment of Nakano was perhaps the best indication that Alain probably wasn’t going to match his success as a driver when he became a boss.

I love his BMW and Kubica video as well, certainly one of the great what ifs of F1 on both sides.
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Re: The Mobile Chicane's historical reject documentaries

Post by Row Man Gross-Gene »

I'll definitely have to check out the video series, thanks for mentioning it!
dinizintheoven wrote: 17 Mar 2023, 00:13 Did any of this make sense or am I just rambling again?
It makes sense, but I just want to push back a little on it. Some of the French protectionism you refer to kind of mirrors a little bit the buy local movements here in the US. (I wrote a long treatise that I deleted because it would be boring to everyone but me...) So let's just say it's a use it or lose it situation. I respect that the French people seem to realize that if they don't buy their cars, eventually they won't be making any cars. Yes, they're getting worse cars out of it, but as long as those shitty cars keep reducing their CO2 output as much as everyone else, I'm fine letting them have it I guess. (I mean I'll keep driving my Honda, it was made in the US anyway).

As for Alpine/Renault in F1, long term they're going to finish where their budget leaves them, including their level of non-budget-cap spend (drivers, designer, engine development). Right now, that looks like about 4th in money, so about 4th in placement. I don't feel we can really blame their Frenchness for this fact, as much fun as it would be!
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Re: The Mobile Chicane's historical reject documentaries

Post by Butterfox »

dinizintheoven wrote: 17 Mar 2023, 00:13
Who here would honestly choose to own a Renault Mégane,
I'm feeling called out here :P

Contrary to popular belief, Renault and Peugeot make some of the most reliable road cars out there and at least where i live have a good reputation on that front. Hence why these brands have a very strong brand loyalty amongst its fans (including me, but also my dad before me)

And no we certainly don't go french for the 'chic' because French doesn't have that value here. We just know cars from germany or japan are objectively not necessairy better and a fair bit depends on your own style, the garage you go to for maintenance and the type of roads you use daily.

So what if i told you french cars are objectively good because of my experiences? It's a matter of personal experience and thus subjective, isn't it? So yeah i felt your attack on French engineering a bit too agressive. Like yeah there are some issues for management structure of the race teams but that also goes for most other brands who go racing who can't get rid of Corporate culture. And Ligier is Ligier, you can't compare that to anything else. Ligier was mostly a passion project and passion and rationale don't always mix. We all know that.

I find it kind of offensive that you assume nobody in their right mind would buy a French car for objective reasons, because i'm one of those 'nobody in their right mind' people by your defenition.And 15 years later i have not regretted that decision a single bit. My little Mégane has been a good car for me personally.
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Re: The Mobile Chicane's historical reject documentaries

Post by Row Man Gross-Gene »

Hey, sorry for contributing to the perception by saying they were bad cars, it seems they are not. My main point still stands that I understand why the French would support their own brands. Funny thing here in the US, my Honda was made here, but a lot of my vehicle’s ostensibly American competition are actually made in Mexico.
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Re: The Mobile Chicane's historical reject documentaries

Post by Butterfox »

Row Man Gross-Gene wrote: 17 Mar 2023, 22:29 Hey, sorry for contributing to the perception by saying they were bad cars, it seems they are not. My main point still stands that I understand why the French would support their own brands. Funny thing here in the US, my Honda was made here, but a lot of my vehicle’s ostensibly American competition are actually made in Mexico.
I took no offence by your comments, but i'm like, what have the French ever done to Dinizintheoven? :vergne: Like maybe offense is a big word, i don't need to defend my choice of cars. But i defo was bit like 'woah where the hell did that come from?'
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Re: The Mobile Chicane's historical reject documentaries

Post by Forti »

Off the topic of French road cars, I loved Mobile Chicane's "Michael Andretti and the McLaren Mess" video. Gave me further insight to why it could've gone that badly.
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Re: The Mobile Chicane's historical reject documentaries

Post by dinizintheoven »

Well... seeing as we're going by anecdotal evidence now, I'll tell you something. I nearly bought a French car myself. Nearly. While I was playing bass in Cambridge's worst band in 2001, clinging to the vain hope we would somehow get better, I saw a Peugeot 305 estate for sale - a year older than the MkII Golf I'd recently bought. We'd surely be able to get all our gear in the Pug, right? But I couldn't bring myself to do it. I knew damn well that it would let me down at some stage, and the Golf wouldn't, even if it meant most of the band going to our next fatefully-terrible gig by some other means. Now, the Golf - already 13 years old with 127,000 miles on the clock by the time I bought it - did let me down a couple of times, but one time was because of my automotive inexpertise, the fallout of which was fixable and I learned not to make the same mistake again, and the other was because a local mechanic had replaced the headlight control stalk in a slapdash way that would have seen him fired if he worked for Volkswagen. Why I ever went back to that garage I have no idea, other than, again, "inexperience" and that there was no such thing as onine reviews that I could read without an expensive subscription to Which?.

Ian Seabrook (of the aforementioned HubNut fame) may not see eye to eye with Jeremy Clarkson for many reasons, not least for the way he treats Morris Marinas, but they've both used the exact same words to describe the British automotive industry in the 1970s which ultimately caused its extinction: "That'll do". Build the cars with a sloppy, haphazard attitude to workmanship, look at the panel gap that's nonexistent at one end of the door and half an inch at the other end, say "that'll do", go for lunch and a union meeting. Machine the valve stem a sixteenth of an inch too long, not knowing or not caring that it won't close properly and might even hit the piston, say "that'll do", tea break, grab placards, stand round brazier. There's something positive that can be said about the Austin Allegro, the epitome of BL's own Malaise Era, and that was that it didn't rust anywhere near as much as other 1970s cars of any nationality - but that doesn't excuse all its other designed-in faults or the poor build quality caused by slovenly workers. France's equivalent of "that'll do" is "the Gallic shrug", as if to say "it's not my problem". Italy's equivalent doesn't really have a name, but it characterised by lots of waving of arms and shouting, and it's not just in the boardroom of Ferrari's F1 division that it happens. Clarkson calls this "passion and soul".

Why I get so frustrated is, why does it have to be this way? Why does it have to be that seemingly only the Germans, Japanese and - more recently - the Koreans can build cars properly? Even then, I keep on hearing "German build quality is a myth" - noting that VW and Mercedes both deliberately reduced their build quality around the turn of the century, but such was the Germans' reputation for reliability and superb build quality that they had to raise their game again. Anyone who'd said "that'll do" or who'd done "the Gallic shrug" at BMW would be fired on the spot, and in Japan, after being scolded for bringing shame and dishonour on the company, they'd be handed a katana with the unspoken expectation of how it should be used. Why can't it be that we can have Italian cars with their "passion and soul" and trouser-tent-inducing styling that don't have all manner of electrical gremlins? Why can't it be that we get French cars with their wacky dashboards and switches in all sorts of weird places and Salvador Dali-esque styling, or (if there still were any) British cars that are designed like a leather armchair with wood panelling everywhere, neither of which go on strike at the first provocation like the people who were supposed to build them? It's even more baffling because, once upon a time, Peugeot did build bomb-proof cars - to the point that thousands of them that are north of 50 years old are still puttering along the un-roads all over Africa.

Much like Row-Man, though, I also own a Honda - a 2007 8th-gen Civic that I've had since new, and was built in Swindon by a British workforce - although some cynics will say that the parts were build properly and shipped over from Japan and then the British workforce merely assembled those parts, when the multitude of ways they could have found to cock it up had already been bypassed by the Japanese who always do the job properly. The number of faults it's had in fifteen and a half years and 111,750 miles can be counted on the fingers of one hand, and the major job that was replacing the shock absorbers at 109,000 miles was because that's the age that they wear out - I've heard that from other owners with the same experience. And the 8th-gen Civic does at least prove that reliable cars don't have to be dull - it still looks like aliens have landed on my drive, even with some of the aggressively overstyled electric monstrosities coming from Hyundai and Kia in recent times (as if the Koreans think they should make up for their lack of design flair in the past). And where did Honda's chief stylist at the time learn his craft? Italy. Not Japan.

What did the French ever do to me? Same as the Italians did, and even my own countrymen - offered cars that I'd want to own, hypothetically, in my Dream Garage of Chod... but were so riddled with flaws that I'd find unforgivable on a daily basis that the Ideal garage of Chod will always have to remain in a dreamland. There'd be a Citroën GS, SM and CX in there... all hypothetical, idealised versions that start first time, every time, and the wacky LHM suspension never, ever leaks. There'd be a ton of Lancias and Alfa Romeos, again, all hypothetical because they'd also start first time, every time, never have any electrical troubles and the bodies would be solid steel with not even the merest mention of rust or the alleged myth about the Soviet steel. And there'd be a Princess, and a Rover SD1, and a Hillman Avenger, just to prove that it's not all BL that were at fault - none of them would ever go on strike, they'd be the cars that they were always supposed to be, engineered properly, built properly, working properly, and capable of putting the frighteners up the Germans.

And I haven't even mentioned 'MURICA yet... maybe I'll save that one for the day Andretti Formula One gets the green light.
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Re: The Mobile Chicane's historical reject documentaries

Post by Row Man Gross-Gene »

I definitely agree diniz, that there are better and worse cars (and car companies) out there. I also suspect we have similar opinions on a lot of the car companies. But I’m going to push back on the reasons a little bit. I don’t think slovenly workers have anything to do with it now (or maybe ever). Since the widespread adoption of poka yoke-style error proofing, I don’t think you’re seeing much of that kind of thing. Quality problems start long before a worker ever touches the car. With the jigs and fixturing, there won’t be a poorly fitted panel (at least not one that a worker can do anything about). Every car company uses error proofing. If there’s a problem, it’s likely that executives have encumbered designers and engineers with stupid requirements of either time, cost, or quality.

All that said, I do feel like most recent mainstream cars are at least “OK” in quality. I like my Honda Pilot because of the fit and finish inside and because I’m going to run that thing well over 200,000 miles. My brother wanted a Jeep, is that thing going to touch a quarter million miles? Unlikely, but it looks cool and will last him long enough. He’s not stupid, it’s just that good enough is good enough for him. And I think a lot of people are the same.
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Re: The Mobile Chicane's historical reject documentaries

Post by Butterfox »

Now you're just accusing a whole country's work ethic, Diniz.

You realise how problematic such statements are, right?

A lot of what you say is about assumptions. (and a bit of anti-union sentiment that can only be explained by misunderstandings about the real situations) If anecdotal evidence counts, then the most problems we had were with japanese and german technology. So let's remain objective then. The objective thing is: dude calm the bathplug down, you're free to buy whatever car you prefer but attacking a whole culture's work ethic is uncalled for and under no circumstances defendeable.
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Re: The Mobile Chicane's historical reject documentaries

Post by Forti »

We were referenced at 13:46 in The Mobile Chicane's latest video: https://youtu.be/faw-E0xAw98?t=827
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YouTube content about Rejects thread

Post by Forti »

TyDye Racing Gaming, who has documented reject tracks and rejectful teams outside of F1, has posted a video on Roberto Merhi's bizarre career: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O0wvGIS ... cingGaming

Given the presence of the already-mentioned Peter Brook F1, I think this thread should be opened to all kinds of videos about rejects, but apologies if this isn't allowed.
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Re: YouTube content about Rejects thread

Post by Alextrax52 »

GT_Forti1 wrote: 16 Aug 2023, 23:25 TyDye Racing Gaming, who has documented reject tracks and rejectful teams outside of F1, has posted a video on Roberto Merhi's bizarre career: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O0wvGIS ... cingGaming

Given the presence of the already-mentioned Peter Brook F1, I think this thread should be opened to all kinds of videos about rejects, but apologies if this isn't allowed.
Well if we’re going down this route another one of my favorites is Josh Revell’s video from a couple of years ago charting the adventures of the man, the myth and the legend that is Mahaveer Raghunathan

https://youtu.be/vFJl-00C_bw?si=aIXNzcm2B4SHodt0
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Re: YouTube content about Rejects thread

Post by Forti »

This YT comment (https://postimg.cc/yJrZ6X4b) suggests that TMC is officially not a GPR member, but an occasional lurker.
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