"Skipping the Ignition Spark to Fire the Points" – Say What?

Ronnie Schreiber
by Ronnie Schreiber
skipping the ignition spark to fire the points say what

One of the things that I’ve learned from going to car shows is to try to remember to not act like an expert, to listen more than talk. That way I might actually learn something, or at least not embarrass myself in front of someone that’s a real expert. That’s a nice way of saying that it’s better to keep my mouth shut and have people think that I’m a fool, than to open my mouth and prove their point.

Yesterday, novelist Bruce Holbert published an opinion piece on guns in the New York Times. Apparently Mr. Holbert mishandled a gun and accidentally killed a friend when he was a teenager. If you want to debate the firearms issue, you can go over to this site’s founder’s newer digs, but this is The Truth About Cars and Mr. Holbert does touch upon car culture at one point in his op-ed piece.

Discussing his upbringing, Holbert says,

Where I grew up, masculinity involved schooling a mean dog to guard your truck or skipping the ignition spark to fire the points, and, of course, handling guns of all kinds. I was barely proficient in any of these areas.

Skipping the ignition to fire the points? I’m not sure that even rises to barely proficient. I’m not even sure what the heck he means. Perhaps Holbert is a artist whose medium is bovine fecal material and he assumes that the average reader of the NYT opinion section knows as little as he does about cars. Or, perhaps there’s some tiny kernel of automotive knowledge underneath that gobbledygook.

What do you think? Was it just an overwrought way of describing “hotwiring” a car, or is it akin to installing a forged Knutson valve in your muffler bearing?

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks – RJS

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  • West-coaster West-coaster on Apr 30, 2013

    Love the illustrations with automotive gobbledy-gook. Too bad you don't have a clip of George Costanza saying the infamous "You need a new Johnson Rod" line from Seinfeld. When I was a kid I used to love to read Mad Magazine, and they'd publish some of their old articles into compilation books, one of which was all about cars. There was a funny send-up of auto repair rip-offs, and they had an illustration of a repair bill. I'm guessing here on the charges listed, since the original article was back in the 1950s, but I'll never forget the text: Plugs and points pitted: $25 Pits and points plugged: $25 Plugs and pits pointed: $25

  • Daveainchina Daveainchina on Apr 30, 2013

    Probably thought the relay module on an old ford was the "points" and using a screwdriver to bypass it and get the starter motor spinning. Was always fun doing that to people who had no clue what you were doing. They always thought it was something akin to magic.

  • Alan I blame COVID, the chip shortage, container shortage and the war in Ukraine. This aggression is evident in normal daily driving of late.
  • Alan $10 000 is a bit rich for a vehicle that most likely been flogged all its life, plus it's a VW. Lots of electrical gremlins live in them.
  • Alan Mitsubishi, Hino and Izuzu trucks are quite common in Australia. Another factor that needs to be taken into account are the cheap Chinese trucks and vans that are entering the market in Australia and becoming more popular as reliability improves, with huge warranties. Businesses want the cheapest logistics. Plumbers, concreters, builders buy many of these in their lightest versions, around 2.5 tonne payload. Hino/Toyota could use the cheaper competitor in Mitsubishi as a competitor against the Chinese. You don't see too many of the Japanese/Asian trucks in the rural areas.
  • 2ACL I think it's a good choice. The E89 didn't get respect due to its all-around focus when new, but it's aged well, and the N52/6HP combo is probably more fun and capable than it's given credit for.
  • Wjtinfwb I can hear the ticking from here...