Archive for the ‘Motors’ Category
Story and photos by Ronald Ahrens
Not long after arriving in Douglas for last month’s Isle of Man TT, I was browsing in a bookshop on the shopping street and came across My Autobiography, by Guy Martin. At the time I knew nothing about him or any other TT racers. They might have all come from Mars. By this time, Martin had already started race week on May 31, finishing second in the Superbike TT. He would come in sixth, tenth, and third in races to come.
Reading a few lines of the book was enough: the prose is as flat as a cracker. As it turns out, though, Martin’s motorcycle racing, combined with the native inquisitiveness that he describes and what Amazon commenters agree is a down-to-earth character, contributes to his celebrity status, with innovative shows (so I gather, not having seen them) for the BBC. He has a couple of other books, neither of which I can imagine is readable without help from a powerful ghostwriter.
Little did I know I would be getting more of Martin by month’s end.
On Sunday morning, June 29, I was at Pikes Peak, and who should be pushing his motorcycle out of the pits at 6:45 a.m.? Mop-topped and mutton-chopped, Martin emerged in the dust beneath Ponderosas, leading his men to battle.
The crude-looking bike, listed as a 2014 Martek Suzuki, was reportedly the result of three years’ worth of tinkering. It had a turbocharged Suzuki GSX-R1100 engine making 320 hp and causing the bike to lift its front wheel in high gear. But raw power isn’t the answer at Pikes Peak, which presents 156 turns in 12.42 miles. Cal Collins, of Glendale, Arizona, proved it on race day’s slick course. He raced a relatively anemic Honda 450 up the hill in 10:58.203, finishing 32nd overall and more than 34 seconds ahead of Martin, who crossed the line in 11:32.558.
“It’ll end in tears I’m sure,” Martin wrote of the motorcycle in his blog.
It did not end in Champagne.
Mr. Elon Musk
Dear Sir: –
Before the nurses change my bandages again, and while I still have lithium residue in my lungs, I will oh-so-calmly tell you what a dandy car you make. Even before the early fireworks show in WeHo, I have drove Teslas exclusively when I could get away with one. For sustained mashugana and wide dismemberment, the Model S has got ever other car skinned. Even if my business hasen’t been strickly legal, it don’t hurt anything to tell you, no matter what the range indicator said, that I truly believe we could have outrun those coppers clear to San Berdoo in the Model S.
Champe Barrow, indireck relation to Clyde
Motorcycles have to make pit stops during the Isle of Man TT, so I ducked down pit road on the Honda VFR1200F DCT
Story and photo by Ronald Ahrens
During the 2014 Isle of Man TT, Honda UK lent me the VFR1200F DCT for a test. The bike has a mighty V-4 engine, a dual-clutch automatic transmission, and shaft drive. At first, my left toe searched for the gear lever, but there isn’t one. No clutch lever, either. Even without the latter, the big VFR is easy to maneuver at low speed, when a bike’s momentum is normally controlled by feathering the clutch. An interesting quirk is that the transmission goes into neutral when you shut off the engine, so a parking brake is provided; it’s operated by a lever on the left handlebar.
There are three riding modes, selected from a button at the tip of the right thumb. Normal mode worked great around town and during relaxed riding on the coastal highway. Sport was more appropriate on the TT course, especially on the uphill section leading from Ramsey and over the slopes of Snaefell, which is the Isle’s tallest mountain at 2037 feet. The DCT always anticipated my next move and geared up or down accordingly. Honda engineers did a fine job of integrating the technology to this excellent motorcycle, and I’m told others will have it as well.
Story and photos by Ronald Ahrens
Last December when I first beheld the 2014 Indian Chief Vintage at the Long Beach Motorcycle Show, I wouldn’t have nominated myself as a candidate to ride it just three months hence.
But the call came from Robb Report to write a review. That’s how the Chief ended up adding its luster my garage for a week in late-March.
I put about 500 miles on it then. Nearly half came on a reporting trip from my place in the desert to a TV studio in Long Beach. The 125-mile homebound leg after dark was a fine experience. With its powerful driving lights and winking indicators, the Chief is as bright as an artificial offshore island.
The Chief gobbled up the freeway as if skimming for plankton. Because it’s the size of a runaway steer, if not quite a cetacean, I felt confident about my noticeability to other drivers. In the unlikely event they failed to see me, a blast from the mighty horn would put them in their place.
A comfortable ride and low-end power
With its long wheelbase of 68.1 inches, stiff cast-aluminum chassis, and premium suspension components, the Chief achieves its primary mission: delivering a comfortable ride. The enormous 1.8-liter V-twin makes its claimed 119 lb-ft of torque at 3000 rpm, and revving beyond this level is as pointless as arguing whether the hailstorm brought stones the size of golf (42.67 mm) or Ping-Pong (40 mm) balls. I revved anyway, which made me think the cylinders were trying to commit fratricide. Trimming your toenails with a Howitzer is about as efficient as this engine.
Going 80 mph on the freeway is relaxing, though. The Chief ambles along. I sat up straight in the well-contoured, soft, and leathery saddle—or else my lower back stiffened up. Then, with the U-shaped highway bar and the broad floorboards completing the three points of the basic riding position, I engaged cruise control, and the miles melted away. But when I parked at journey’s end, the left floorboard made it a pain to find the sidestand with my toe.
Whether galloping along or pausing at an intersection, the Chief was always the object of admiration. Bystanders marveled, people in cars gave the thumbs-up—and I gave myself a compliment after stopping this 801-pounder on the mark. Let’s face it. Delicacy and maneuverability aren’t the long suit of such an XXL bike. Legislation passes through Congress quicker and easier than this cruiser over a mountain road.
But a female friend who sat on the back became uncustomarily giddy.
Convenient features, appealing trim
The Chief pleases with features like keyless start and a useful information display, although the latter draws the eyes far from the road. It’s better to wait for the news that fuel economy is 36 mpg. The detachable bags are easy to use, although my helmet wouldn’t fit inside and my computer satchel barely did.
The optional heated grips would have been welcome on the 51-degree morning ride to Auto Club Speedway for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ Auto Club 400. (Heated grips are standard on the ’14 Honda VFR Interceptor DLX for $13,499.) Although the hands were exposed, the Lexan shield rerouted the wind away from my body. Optional lower deflectors seem unnecessary.
Bringing back the Indian brand with a line of three Chief models is right on target. The Chief Vintage excites the senses and stirs emotions.
As a sage who owns a Honda Gold Wing put it, in an ideal world we would have four or five bikes, each for a different purpose.
When I can spare $20,999, the 2014 Indian Chief Vintage would be in the pack with a standard and an ADV bike, ready to make a long dash down the freeway or just chug along Palm Canyon Drive at sunset, reflecting the last twinkling light on a warm evening.
In second NASCAR Nationwide race, Dakoda Armstrong comes home 15th, but not unfettered, at Auto Club Speedway
On March 23, 2013, making his second-ever start in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, Dakoda Armstrong finished 15th in the Royal Purple 300 at Auto Club Speedway.
Q. Fifteenth position—pretty good for your second race.
A. Yeah, I mean, we were better than that, but we were struggling on restarts there. I think we restarted ninth on that last one. Those people that had new tires behind us—you get stuck three-wide between everybody, and it’s really hard to get this thing to handle right. You get spread out. We just lost too much ground there to make up. We were hoping another caution was going to come out so we could come back in and use our last set of tires. Everyone else that took them was going to be sitting ducks. Didn’t work out that way.
Q. Overall was it fun or frustrating?
A. For a while there it was fun. I thought we were getting it, and I thought we were going to have a good finish. I’ve just got to get my restarts down and figure out what it needs on those.
Q. Your boss, Richard Childress, has to be fairly impressed.
A. Well, at least we brought it home in one piece. That’s one good thing.
Whenever I clean out my clip files, there’s the problem of what to do with this story from the Omaha World-Herald.
I don’t have a file for wooden-bodied cars. Nor one for auto bodymen-versus-carpenters.
Maybe “Puns” would be appropriate. But I’ll hold my tongue-in-groove.
Dean Haden built the custom wooden body after his wife Marlys complained about their rusty 1968 International Scout. The former postal vehicle had been in the family ten or twelve years.
“Now Haden’s portable sundeck (with matching aerodynamics) is saluted by Weber grills and patios everywhere,” the Associated Press reported, adopting an unusually waggish tone.
“But there are worries. Like termite insurance. And you’ll note a unique vulnerability to penknives and young love.”
Maybe so. The vulnerability I see is in stopping the thing. With such a heavy body, you’d better hold brake the pedal to the floorboard.
Only a sap would push past 50 mph on the open road.
Oh well, no telling where the Redwood Runabout is now. The number I had for the Haden residence is out of service.
Maybe it’s on an errand at a nice lumberyard somewhere.
The Petersen Automotive Museum hosted a gala to celebrate the Corvette’s 60th anniversary, and Kirk Bennion, exterior design manager, presented the new C7 ’Vette, making its West Coast debut. Beforehand, a panel of important figures in Corvette racing history told battle stories and signed autographs. And the museum opened an exhibit of significant examples.
The first Corvette in 1953 excited some people with its advanced styling but disappointed others with its weak six-cylinder engine and Powerglide transmission. In any event, it was a remarkable product offering from a conservative corporation. The ’60 ‘Vette in the background is known as Big Tank.
“The American kid was out there racing that car,” Dick Guldstrand said. “You had to take your lunch money and do it yourself.” He drove his own ’56 Corvette to the track at Santa Barbara, taped off the headlights, stuck in a roll hoop, qualified for the race and won it.
Doug Hooper, left, remembered the early bias against Corvettes. “That was not the true sports car,” he recalled people saying. Only European makes qualified as such. “Thank God for [Zora Arkus-] Duntov. If it weren’t for him, there would’ve been no Corvette.” The engineer kept introducing new parts and features each year. “He kept it alive.”