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What was the original ****box car?


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#1 SophieB

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Posted 14 June 2022 - 10:42

With Toto Wolff causing a minor fluttering in the dovecotes by being very blunt in describing the current Merc as a ‘shitbox’, I wondered what was the original? Is it possible to carbon date the term? Famously Gilles Villeneuve described his Ferrari in these terms (although was discouraged from repeating this using that exact word to Il Commendatore) but it sounds like he was also already using a term in existing use.
 

I guess it’s possibly so obvious a description that it was independently coined many times but nonetheless I was curious about the earliest recorded use?



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#2 Odseybod

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Posted 14 June 2022 - 10:54

Hopefully without straying into 'expletive deleted' territory, I wonder if it's related to the term used by some of my erstwhile colleagues, who would describe a less-than-pukka classic car as an old shitter?



#3 smitten

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Posted 14 June 2022 - 10:55

1962 the first recorded use on Google Ngram, for what that's worth.



#4 10kDA

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Posted 14 June 2022 - 10:56

I installed car stereos, air conditioning, and cruise controls in the mid-70s - "dealer installed options" but it wasn't the dealer doing it, it was us, working as outside service contractors - and I heard this term used by salespeople on a regular basis. They referred to the bare-bones econoboxes put out there by all the US manufacturers in response to the fuel crisis. Low markup = low commissions, so the sales staffers really hated wasting their time on a sale.


Edited by 10kDA, 14 June 2022 - 10:57.


#5 Risil

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Posted 14 June 2022 - 10:59

OED says "shitbox" has been used to refer to both automobiles and houses. The first usage recorded is 1966, although as Smitten says Google's spiders have found earlier ones. It draws a connection with "shithole", which obviously couldn't be used to describe a car but often is to talk about a dwelling.

 

https://www.oed.com/...28#eid202716915



#6 Collombin

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Posted 14 June 2022 - 11:05

I suppose the term was being used long before it would have appeared verbatim in any newspaper interviews?

Jack Beckley is quoted as using the term when he had to tell Valerie Bettenhausen of her husband's death, May 12 1961 - though the book that quotes the conversation was published in 1982. Incidentally that same car had won the 1959 Indy 500, so it wasn't always a shitbox.

I suspect the phrase was in use long before then anyway.

#7 SophieB

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Posted 14 June 2022 - 11:26

I suppose the term was being used long before it would have appeared verbatim in any newspaper interviews?

Jack Beckley is quoted as using the term when he had to tell Valerie Bettenhausen of her husband's death, May 12 1961 - though the book that quotes the conversation was published in 1982. Incidentally that same car had won the 1959 Indy 500, so it wasn't always a shitbox.

I suspect the phrase was in use long before then anyway.

Yes, in general words first discovered in print after searches tend to turn up in a context that suggests the usage would already be known, which is frustrating because it shows it’s even older. Some of it I guess is the word just isn’t written in print, maybe others are lost but complicated here by the fact it contains a word often deemed not suitable for print. So I guess I’m also interested in people’s memories of being around cars and memories of it being in use, as well as print examples.

 

As a prosaic example of this sort of thing, I was very interested in a tv show trying to find the origin of the Liverpool expression ‘made up’ ( to mean something like ‘very pleased’). At the time of making the show, the earliest recorded example was in a tv interview with Ringo Starr where, again, it is clear he is expressing himself in such a way that it was already in common usage. As it was part of my late grandmother’s lexicon, almost certainly the expression is waaaaay older but the proof is difficult.



#8 barrykm

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Posted 14 June 2022 - 12:06

Not the first use of the term I would say, but didn't Niki say something similar after his first Ferrari test?



#9 Michael Ferner

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Posted 14 June 2022 - 12:41

So I guess I’m also interested in people’s memories of being around cars and memories of it being in use, as well as print examples.

 

 

All very well and true, but if it appeared in print in the early sixties already, what chances any of us here have memories of it being in use earlier than that? All right, I get it ("let's go over and ask the old folks..."), but we're not THAT old, are we?!? :lol:



#10 Ray Bell

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Posted 14 June 2022 - 12:55

At the 1969 January Catalina Park meeting, Niel Allen and his mechanic Peter Molloy were both referring to the Elfin Traco Chev by that word...

 

Repeatedly. They were having problems, it was leaving big black stripes up the road through the curve in the main straight, it was no match for Matich's SR4.

 

But it wasn't the first time I'd heard the word used to describe a car. It was a reasonably firmly entrenched expression.



#11 Doug Nye

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Posted 14 June 2022 - 12:56

I recall my eight years older brother using the expression in the late 1950s - '57 or '58 - as a cheerful description of his Rover Hastings Coupe, I think a 20.  It was a startling looking thing with enormous headlights and it had been brush-painted in two-tone yellow and black.  It also had a long length of 4-inch council drainpipe as its exhaust.  If I close my eyes and think back I can still sense the leathery/fumey smell of its care-worn cabin interior...  In retrospect it was indeed a gem.  But it was still a ----box.

 

DCN



#12 Ivanhoe

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Posted 14 June 2022 - 13:56

Don't know about the history, but there's a shitbox rally twice a year since 2010 in Australia, so maybe there's some alternative future use for the W13. It's a charity event (funding cancer research projects), so for a good cause also  :up:

 

271446750-5061645567182015-7317862429631



#13 SophieB

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Posted 14 June 2022 - 15:15

I recall my eight years older brother using the expression in the late 1950s - '57 or '58 - as a cheerful description of his Rover Hastings Coupe, I think a 20.  It was a startling looking thing with enormous headlights and it had been brush-painted in two-tone yellow and black.  It also had a long length of 4-inch council drainpipe as its exhaust.  If I close my eyes and think back I can still sense the leathery/fumey smell of its care-worn cabin interior...  In retrospect it was indeed a gem.  But it was still a ----box.

 

DCN

I am grateful for all the replies but this is EXACTLY the sort of response I was hoping for.



#14 DogEarred

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Posted 14 June 2022 - 16:14

My first car was an old Mini.

It needed some rear brake work.

I jacked it up by the rear sub frame.
The jack promptly punctured the sub frame and the whole car slowly sank back down on the ground.

Does this qualify?…

#15 Jim Thurman

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Posted 14 June 2022 - 16:47

Hard to say exactly when it started, but there is evidence that U.S. sprint car racers used the term by the late 1950s to early 1960s. Any idea, Michael?



#16 Michael Ferner

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Posted 14 June 2022 - 17:30

Quite possible, Jim, but I don't recall coming by that word in my research (which is mostly through old newspapers, so no surprise there).

 

I'm also slightly miffed that, as soon as I stand up for the community and defend our collective yooffulness, someone comes up and proves that we are, indeed, old farts...  :well:

 

 

 ;)  Not!


Edited by Michael Ferner, 14 June 2022 - 17:31.


#17 SophieB

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Posted 14 June 2022 - 17:57

Lean into it, I say. I for one hope one day to be telling wide eyed youngsters all about the thrilling exploits of Alonso et al!



#18 Risil

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Posted 14 June 2022 - 18:38

Lean into it, I say. I for one hope one day to be telling wide eyed youngsters all about the thrilling exploits of Alonso et al!

 

The kids will find it strange that you're fondly nostalgizing about McLaren's new signing (for the fifth time).



#19 garoidb

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Posted 14 June 2022 - 18:56

The kids will find it strange that you're fondly nostalgizing about McLaren's new signing (for the fifth time).

 

... straight from the young driver programme!



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#20 chr1s

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Posted 14 June 2022 - 21:36

First person I actually heard say it was Keke Rosberg, about Paul Newmans Can Am car. I think he also said it about the Wolf too.



#21 milestone 11

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Posted 14 June 2022 - 23:09

Racing comments needs this thread. It could easily end up being seen in the same light as Lewis avoiding Croydon or What is Rich Energy.

#22 milestone 11

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Posted 14 June 2022 - 23:10

I had a shitbox once, the garage said it was a stag.

#23 Ray Bell

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Posted 14 June 2022 - 23:44

But it wasn't the original by a long shot...

 

The Mayflower had preceded it, and there was always the Trabant and the Wartburg.



#24 BRG

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Posted 15 June 2022 - 09:53

I feel - with absolutely no evidence one way or the other - that this expression might have first arisen in the USA.  I doubt it was used much at Brooklands back in Bill Boddy's days.



#25 Vitesse2

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Posted 15 June 2022 - 10:27

I feel - with absolutely no evidence one way or the other - that this expression might have first arisen in the USA.  I doubt it was used much at Brooklands back in Bill Boddy's days.

Probably not in the Members' Dining Room. Although it might have been heard in the Bluebird Cafe at the top of the Test Hill ... Chas Mortimer's memoirs have some tales about goings-on at the Bluebird, which was where all those grubby motorcyclist fellows used to hang out. Not the right sort of chaps dontchaknow ...



#26 Sterzo

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Posted 15 June 2022 - 11:59

Given that "thunderbox" was a common expression for a commode in the first world war, I'd be surprised if "shitbox" wasn't already used by frustrated motorists in the twenties. And if Freddie Dixon's language in Brooklands paddock was polite, I'd be even more surprised. This thread is educational, but pardon me for wondering, Sophie, which Swiss finishing school you attended.



#27 PayasYouRace

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Posted 15 June 2022 - 14:46

I’ve only ever heard the term “thunderbox” as a (translated to English) nickname of a certain type of German railway passenger carriage.



I suspect a slightly different origin of the term though.

#28 PCC

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Posted 15 June 2022 - 15:14

Not the earliest example by far, but I recall a story about pre-season Can-Am testing in 1973. Milt Minter was struggling with Vasek Polak's most recent iteration of the 917, and none other than Mark Donohue was invited to give it a spin. After doing so, he asked Minter, "Why do you drive that shitbox?" Milt then wondered the same thing aloud to Polak, whereupon an agreement was quickly reached that he would no longer do so.

 

Possibly apocryphal, but the source was pretty reliable: Milt Minter!



#29 amerikalei

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Posted 15 June 2022 - 18:21

Not the earliest example by far, but I recall a story about pre-season Can-Am testing in 1973. Milt Minter was struggling with Vasek Polak's most recent iteration of the 917, and none other than Mark Donohue was invited to give it a spin. After doing so, he asked Minter, "Why do you drive that shitbox?" Milt then wondered the same thing aloud to Polak, whereupon an agreement was quickly reached that he would no longer do so.

 

Possibly apocryphal, but the source was pretty reliable: Milt Minter!

I believe Brian Redman's autobiography mentions a similar disappointment with Vasek Pollak's race prep on one of these 917s as well. 



#30 d j fox

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Posted 15 June 2022 - 18:50

My first car was an old Mini.

It needed some rear brake work.

I jacked it up by the rear sub frame.
The jack promptly punctured the sub frame and the whole car slowly sank back down on the ground.

Does this qualify?…


Can I add my first car, a Morris 1100? One day the left side Hydro-elastic suspension leaked and the car tilted to the left,almost scraping the ground…the jack point was on the sill ( completely rusted through) and went straight through it!

#31 Bikr7549

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Posted 15 June 2022 - 19:16

Not the earliest example by far, but I recall a story about pre-season Can-Am testing in 1973. Milt Minter was struggling with Vasek Polak's most recent iteration of the 917, and none other than Mark Donohue was invited to give it a spin. After doing so, he asked Minter, "Why do you drive that shitbox?" Milt then wondered the same thing aloud to Polak, whereupon an agreement was quickly reached that he would no longer do so.

 

Possibly apocryphal, but the source was pretty reliable: Milt Minter!

 

Donohue also referred to his Lola T330-AMC as a **** box, 1973. That was the first time I had head this term used. They never really got that one working well-his book attributes the issue to them using a locked diff and the cars design not well adapted to that.


Edited by Bikr7549, 15 June 2022 - 19:19.


#32 milestone 11

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Posted 15 June 2022 - 20:02

Probably not in the Members' Dining Room. Although it might have been heard in the Bluebird Cafe at the top of the Test Hill ... Chas Mortimer's memoirs have some tales about goings-on at the Bluebird, which was where all those grubby motorcyclist fellows used to hang out. Not the right sort of chaps dontchaknow ...

Not quite as innocuous as shitbox. Agostini claims that Hailwood taught him to say **** my old boots and to use the phrase in the most inappropriate of places.

#33 opplock

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Posted 15 June 2022 - 22:09

But it wasn't the original by a long shot...

 

The Mayflower had preceded it, and there was always the Trabant and the Wartburg.

 

My dad's 54 Vauxhall Velox probably qualified but we called it the mobile slum. 



#34 PCC

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Posted 16 June 2022 - 01:21

I believe Brian Redman's autobiography mentions a similar disappointment with Vasek Pollak's race prep on one of these 917s as well. 

I didn't recall that he'd driven it! Polak was a series stalwart, but considering he had Scheckter driving in '73 and still managed to finish behind three other 917/10s in the standings, it's fair to suppose his prep was not stellar.



#35 Emery0323

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Posted 16 June 2022 - 05:23

I didn't recall that he'd driven it! Polak was a series stalwart, but considering he had Scheckter driving in '73 and still managed to finish behind three other 917/10s in the standings, it's fair to suppose his prep was not stellar.

I seem to recall reading (quoted from Brian Redman?) the 2nd Vasek Polak entry in 1973 outwardly appeared to be a 917/10, but a closer look under the skin indicated that it had 1969-spec 917PA running gear. Only the bodywork was up to date, which helped explain its disappointing performance.



#36 Charlieman

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Posted 16 June 2022 - 10:51

Probably not in the Members' Dining Room. Although it might have been heard in the Bluebird Cafe at the top of the Test Hill ... Chas Mortimer's memoirs have some tales about goings-on at the Bluebird, which was where all those grubby motorcyclist fellows used to hang out. Not the right sort of chaps dontchaknow ...

When I first read the opening post I was unsure whether the question was about etymology or the first car to which it might apply.

 

My nomination for both would be the 1936 Mercedes-Benz W25K. The car was rubbish (relative to expectations) and I'm sure that a working driver like Hermann Lang would express his opinion, discreetly but bluntly.



#37 nmansellfan

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Posted 16 June 2022 - 11:40

I seem to recall reading (quoted from Brian Redman?) the 2nd Vasek Polak entry in 1973 outwardly appeared to be a 917/10, but a closer look under the skin indicated that it had 1969-spec 917PA running gear. Only the bodywork was up to date, which helped explain its disappointing performance.

 

Yes Brian mentions this in his (superb) book.  IIRC he had multiple suspension failures in the same meeting at the fast left hander at the end of Riverside's back straight.



#38 Vitesse2

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Posted 16 June 2022 - 11:45

When I first read the opening post I was unsure whether the question was about etymology or the first car to which it might apply.

 

My nomination for both would be the 1936 Mercedes-Benz W25K. The car was rubbish (relative to expectations) and I'm sure that a working driver like Hermann Lang would express his opinion, discreetly but bluntly.

Good call. Just for once, the German language might be able to provide a neat and concise translation there too. The feminine noun Kiste can be translated into English as both 'box' in the sense of a carton and 'jalopy'. Scheißkiste would certainly add emphasis ... :cool:



#39 Michael Ferner

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Posted 16 June 2022 - 12:18

Yes, indeed. "Scheißkiste" is literally the same word, and it's used frequently in everyday German for malfunctioning or non-satisfactory vehicles. I'm sure it's a top ten hit in the "Fahrerlager", too. Isn't Toto Wolff German, anyway - his accent certainly sounds like.


Edited by Michael Ferner, 16 June 2022 - 12:19.


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#40 BRG

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Posted 16 June 2022 - 13:44

Wolff is a Wiener.



#41 Doug Nye

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Posted 16 June 2022 - 15:15

Which raises memories of a mistranslated "Ich bin ein Berliner"...   :cool:

 

DCN



#42 Jim Thurman

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Posted 16 June 2022 - 16:20

Quite possible, Jim, but I don't recall coming by that word in my research (which is mostly through old newspapers, so no surprise there).

 

I'm also slightly miffed that, as soon as I stand up for the community and defend our collective yooffulness, someone comes up and proves that we are, indeed, old farts...  :well:

 

 

 ;)  Not!

 

As Collombin wrote, "shitbox" isn't a term you're going to find in U.S. newspapers, particularly of the era   ;)  My assertion comes from oral history and talks with a couple of 1950s era U.S. racers, who freely and casually used the term when it was applicable. Granted, my conversations with them were well into this millenium, but clearly it was a term they had long used. I think Scalzo might have been the first writer to document the term, which brings much into question :lol:, but this might be the one case where he is accurate in using terminology, instead of creating it.



#43 Michael Ferner

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Posted 16 June 2022 - 18:33

Wolff is a Wiener.

 

Yes, I know, but where's he from?



#44 BRG

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Posted 17 June 2022 - 13:24

Yes, I know, but where's he from?

And BRG crosses the ball and Ferner pops it into the net!   :clap: GGOOOAAAAALLLLLLL!!!!


Edited by BRG, 17 June 2022 - 13:24.


#45 Ray Bell

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Posted 19 June 2022 - 08:34

Does this qualify?

0622mazda3withsign.jpg

 

Spotted this afternoon as I was driving home from work.


 



#46 doc knutsen

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Posted 19 June 2022 - 09:06

Which raises memories of a mistranslated "Ich bin ein Berliner"...   :cool:

 

DCN

Who is a doughnut?  I realise JFK got himself in a jam sometimes, but...  ;)



#47 BRG

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Posted 19 June 2022 - 13:47

The German-speaking world is a geo-culinary quagmire.  Telling people where you come from might lead them to imagine you are a doughnut, a small sausage, a beef patty or a hot dog sausage.



#48 Michael Ferner

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Posted 19 June 2022 - 15:29

So, it's our fault the English-speaking world is unimaginative when it comes to naming food?   ;)



#49 Ray Bell

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Posted 19 June 2022 - 22:21

You never heard of 'Shepherd's Pie"?

 

Or "Sweetbreads"?

 

Perhaps "Bubble and Squeak"?



#50 LittleChris

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Posted 20 June 2022 - 08:33

Or Toad in the Hole 😁