Four Speeds and Drum Brakes: Instructions

by Tom Tate

I have never been big on reading instructions. I always thought that instructions were something that you looked at if you got stuck when putting something together. If the picture on the box wasn’t enough to assemble the legs on a new stool or wheels on a cart then the instruction book was the fall back guide.

 I figured that written instructions were a modern device that lawyers wrote up with lots of disclaimers  to reduce the liability of the manufacturer.  Ladders always came with stickers all over them telling you how to unfold it, where to step, and how high you could go. Check any step ladder at the hardware store, they have a minimum of 8 stickers.  How about the instructions on the plastic bags from the cleaners? Does anyone really believe that the store sends you home with a toy along with your clean clothes? Really ? I know that it’s not a toy, they don’t have to print that on the bag 27 times.

A handy gift that I got for Christmas last year was a handful of bungee cords. I have a bunch hanging in the garage, many are old and limp but I keep them around just in case. Some are from what we used to call the “supermarket of the highway” which is anything found on the side of the road. To this day I’ll pull over if I spot a discarded tool or hold down strap if it looks decent. The bright red bungee cords came in a nice clear plastic tube and had instructions attached. The instructions were actually warnings, a little list to keep them out of Court. The warnings made them sound like they would be dangerous to have around the house. It talked about personal injury and /or property damage.

The first thing it said was “DO NOT stretch the cord more than 50%”. That’s not even tight. We always doubled their length or else it wasn’t tight. The second line said the same thing but warned of hook or cord failure. Then a line about “uncontrolled release”. That’s when it snaps back and hits you in the back of your hand or in the face if you’re up too close. Been there, done that, don’t need to relive that. Line 4 says inspect regularly and discard if worn. What? Throw out a bungee cord? No chance, if it breaks just cut off the end, put it back through the hook, tie a knot back on, and it will be tighter next time. Last line: don’t use for heavy or large loads. If it wasn’t a large load I wouldn’t need a bungee cord. Who writes this stuff? Have they even used a bungee cord? I don’t think so.

 Instructions like the above have been around longer than you think. I was going through some old files of Porsche literature and came across an instruction booklet that came with cars that were equipped with Hirschmann radio antennas. Tied to the booklet with a red string were two antenna keys since these early manual units could be locked down for safety.

The booklet was 8 pages, written in three languages, with many drawings showing exactly how it worked. With the plastic cap in place it could be compressed into the fender and then pulled up without the need for a key. In fairness, this was the ‘50’s and I would say this device was at the cutting edge of technology.

 If the owner was someone who wore suspenders and a belt and wanted to be safe when the car was parked, the plastic cap could be removed and the antenna pushed all the way down into the base and locked in place. Only the small key could catch the inside of the parked tip and pull it back into service. That was high tech in 1955.

 Simple instructions like those above got me thinking about the instructions that were given to new Porsche owners back in the ‘50’s as compared to todays new cars.

The owners manual from the 356 days was  96 pages and included a lengthy section on care and maintenance. The maintenance section explained how to change a tire, adjust carburetors, change a fan belt and do an oil and filter service. Brake and clutch adjustments were described in great detail along with many photos.  The manual was so complete that for many mechanics it was the only repair book that they needed.



Todays new cars are so full of technology  that the books that come with them all but fill what we used to call the glove compartment.  BTW, it’s now a Glove Box according to page 190 and there is a WARNING that says “An open glove box may cause injury during an accident. Keep the glove box closed while driving”.  

The owners books, I don’t think it’s fair to call them manuals, also include a PCM (Porsche Communication Management), a warranty book, and a maintenance book. The owners book looks familiar as it shows pictures of the dashboard, seat controls, things like that. It also has a section on settings, not unlike your phone. Do you want the outside mirrors to fold in when you lock the car? Do you want the seat to move back when you get out of the car to make your exit more graceful? What would you like to show up on the multi function display? G forces? Tire pressure ? Navigation? Map?  Engine / oil temps?  The choices seem endless.

The PCM is a descendant of the 4 page radio manual  that Blaupunkt used to include with their stereos back in the day. Now it includes forty pages on just the phone and accepting Bluetooth. Maps is in there somewhere with Navigation and takes up another 20 pages. It’s no wonder that people don’t read these books, besides there is a Quick Reference Guide for both the PCM and Owners Manual that is a fold out with only 9 pages each that will get the music on and the car moving.

There is a Warranty book that is waiting for the Dealer service stamps and maintenance records but it’s only 27 pages and easy to miss. Another labeled “Warranty Book and Customer Information” is bigger and has things like towing instructions and a notice from the state of CA that talks about arbitration and why you go there if you’re not a happy owner (not exactly in those words). Below are the totals:

                                                                                   2015   Porsche Macan S                            2015 Porsche Turbo S      
                      Owners Manual                                         352                                                                298
                      PCM                                                           200                                                                200
                      Warranty Book                                           84                                                                  84  
                      Maintenance Book                                      27                                                                27
                      Quick Start PCM                                          9                                                                  9  
                      Quick Start OM                                            9                                                                   9
                      Roadside Assistance folder                          7                                                                   7   
                      Emissions Parts Warranty                            4                                                                    4
                                                                                            ——-                                                             ——-   
                               Total                                                    692  pages                                                   638 pages



I don’t suppose that I need tell my readers that there are no sections on how to do any kind of maintenance on modern cars. Since there is no spare tire or jack you’re not going to be changing any flat tires on the side of the road but there is a page on how to use the tire sealant that is in the right hand box in the luggage compartment. Instruction number 7 is to get all passengers out of the vehicle. What ? That was when I stopped reading. I know that modern cars are a lot more complicated in 2022 than they were in 1958 (the year Blackie was built) but really, over 600 pages? Most of which are pages filled with red blocks labeled WARNING. See above.

 I believe that my original method of reading the instructions when I get into trouble has worked pretty well all these years so I will stay on that path. That and continuing to drive old cars every chance I get will keep a smile on my face.