Some of the best websites have started as hobbies. One that springs most to mind is Austin Rover Online, formerly the Unofﬁcial Austin Rover Resource.
It’s now the most comprehensive destination for the history of BMC, BL, Austin Rover and MG cars, and it continues to cover Jaguar and Land Rover, as well as Tata.
Another angle to this story: in 1983, the father of a classmate gave me a copy of Classic and Sportscar, which I have kept to this day. Inside was the serialization of Michael C. Sedgwick’s guide to every car sold in Great Britain between 1945 and 1970.
Sedgwick died that year but there is no doubt that if he lived beyond his 50s, he would have continued authoring articles and books.
What intrigued me were the pithy summaries of each model and how it was a nice way to present automotive history. Wikipedia, Edmunds, The Red Book and even Austin Rover Online are excellent for their purposes in giving comprehensive histories, but what of those of us who want something quick and brief, and to trace the lineage of any particular model? What about cubic centimetre ratings and whether an engine is OHV or OHC?
I never lost that interest. When Your Classic started in the UK, I bought it largely because it had similar Sedgwick-style guides.
Michael Sedgwick was blessed with a photographic memory and instant recall, and his papers and work continue to have inﬂuence today. There is the Michael Sedgwick Memorial Trust, for instance, which funds automotive research and publishing, and some of his papers are with the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust.
In 2008, what if someone with a similar love of cars could further Sedgwick’s encyclopædia? The best tool is the internet, and Wikipedia has already shown that it is possible to have specialists in each area contribute.
As some of you have read earlier, I am not a big Wikipedia fan. (My fellow directors at the Medinge Group may know my feelings on that, too!) The few times I have been on it, I found it to be amateur night. But the car pages have merit thanks to those specialists who have contributed to it: what they really need is some professional editing to be a useful research tool. Presently it is not there.
I am not perfect nor am I even consistent in the pages I have put up on Autocade so far, but I think I can do slightly better than Wikipedia—simply because there is less to go wrong with the short summaries I envisage for Autocade.
I don’t think it is inaccurate to say that the only way we can match Mr Sedgwick’s memory is to use technology and the help of volunteer editors. Together we might be able to assemble something like his fascinating guides.
I’ve wanted to do this for a long time and ﬁnally I bit the bullet on Saturday and started a website called Autocade (www.autocade.net). It’s the name of one of my magazine columns, and I have been using it since mid-2006.
The site is in beta, built around Mediawiki. I do need it to pay its own way, hence the advertising, as I envisage it could up our hosting costs. And there is only a small handful of cars on it, but perhaps other car nuts will see ﬁt to contribute?
Autocade is a global guide, but aimed at historians and hobbyists. It is not Wikipedia, Global Auto Index or any of the others that are established. I’ll be interested to see how it develops and whether my dislike of Wikipedia will change!
I welcome fellow enthusiasts and their opinions to autocade.net. Posted by Jack Yan, 00:39
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