Why we love… Owners’ handbooks

Why we love… Owners’ handbooks

Can you imagine a cartoon like the one on the right appearing in an owner’s handbook today? Amazingly, the stiff-upper-lip marque that was 1940s Rover used this drawing – and many similarly witty illustrations – in its first handbook for the new Land-Rover. That’s one of the joys of the traditional handbook: they were as idiosyncratic as the people who wrote them.

My personal favourite is the Gordon-Keeble handbook I found by chance in the longestablished library of a car magazine I used to work for. It included this immortal statement:

‘When starting the car from cold, resist the temptation to leave the engine idling while you return to kiss your wife or mistress goodbye.’ Talk about knowing your target customer. Good old-fashioned printed handbooks have not yet disappeared from the gloveboxes of new cars, although it is surely only a matter of time; already, some are mere pamphlets that have QR codes you need to scan to obtain more info. At the other extreme, certain German marques have books running to 500-600 pages.

Pernicious litigation has a lot to do with the excess verbiage. As the popular meme has it: ‘In the old days, car handbooks told you how to set the tappets. Now they warn you not to drink the battery acid.’

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