Cold Fury

Harshing your mellow since 9/01

Sayonara, suckers

Just another lie from (NotMy)pResident Pinocchio.

Six years ago, President Barack Obama promised to buy a Chevy Volt after his presidency.

“I got to get inside a brand-new Chevy Volt fresh off the line,” Obama announced to a cheering crowd of United Auto Workers activists. “Even though Secret Service wouldn’t let me drive it. But I liked sitting in it. It was nice. I’ll bet it drives real good. And five years from now when I’m not president anymore, I’ll buy one and drive it myself.”

Now it looks like Obama will not get his chance to make good on the promise. General Motors announced Monday that it would cease production of the hybrid electric plug-in Volt and its gas-powered sister car the Cruze.

Meh, it wasn’t as if he ever intended to anyway. Barrack Obailout was just saying whatever he thought he had to to get himself through the next five minutes, then it was on to the next lie.

The Volt and the Cruze were two of the signature achievements of the partnership between the Obama administration and General Motors following the auto-industry bailout.

And they worked out just like all the rest of Barky’s “achievements” did, looks like.


Electrified Harley

Not so much in the battery-powered-bike sense, more in the Ol’ Sparky sense.

It was a child of the 1900s, a warhorse of the 1940s, a Boomer icon of the 1960s, a lucrative source of nostalgia in the 1990s. Today, though, it’s just another shrinking piece of Americana.

Harley sales in the U.S. peaked at over 260,000 motorcycles in 2006, but have dipped to 147,972 last year, a number that is the lowest since 2010 and, before that, the lowest since 1993. (Retail sales fell 13 percent in the U.S. in the third quarter of 2018 compared to 2017, Harley said late last month.)

Harley’s longtime bread and butter has been Baby Boomers, those who grew up enamored with the outlaw image to the point that they were willing to spend $20,000 or more on the bikes and leather to live out that image. But the Boomers are getting older, increasingly physically unable to ride or dying out entirely. And Harley’s response—an electric bike called the LiveWire set to debut next year—isn’t so much of a Hail Mary as it is a capitulation. It also won’t be nearly enough.

“I think they have to completely reinvent the brand, and I don’t know if they can do it,” Erik Gordon, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, said. “The jokes are true. When I go down the freeway, I always look to see if this cliche about Harley riders is true. And the crazy thing is that it is true. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone under 55.

“My generation viewed Harleys as American fast, loud, muscle. We liked that stuff,” Gordon said. “[My students] view it as the tired old folks who screwed up America.”

Actually, those “tired old folks” are the ones who tried mightily to save it, whippersnapper. You student twerps are the ones screwing it up. May you have joy of your ignorant, arrogant choices, kids. Now, get the hell off my lawn. Meanwhile, I can’t help but mention this bit.

In 1925, the company built a motorcycle with styling in mind for the first time; eleven years after that came the Knucklehead engine, the V-twin look that still defines Harley today.

He has a picture. Go look at that beautiful thing. Go on, I’ll wait. What a gorgeous beast.

See? Was I right, or what? They just don’t make ’em like that anymore. Yeah, sure, the old Knucks were slow, leaky, shaky, and just a pain in the ass generally compared to today’s Harleys. But I can’t help but wonder how many Knuckleheads they’d sell if they made a decent repop today, genuine and true, with maybe a modicum of practical improvements. Not many, I guess; that’s kinda the point of the whole article, really. Too bad.

Much as I’ve studied Harley history over the years, here’s something I didn’t know about:

After the war, motorcycle clubs proliferated because of veterans’ experiences with them overseas and because so many of the WLAs were sold back to them on the cheap. The reputation of those clubs quickly took a hit, though, after an apparently staged photo appeared in Life magazine in 1947, showing a motorcyclist double-fisting beers while sitting on his ride surrounded by empties.

The actual events of the so-called “Hollister riot” were more tame, but the sensationalized version is what America heard. The question of whether or not the reputation would stick was put to rest six years later after The Wild One, starring Marlon Brando, was released. Brando rode a Triumph in that film, but Harley was so dominant postwar that it was cited by the Federal Trade Commission for “monopolistic” behavior in 1949, by allegedly forcing dealers to exclusively trade in Harley bikes and parts. (A little less than three years later, the FTC told them in no uncertain terms to stop.)

Interesting. Seems kinda strange that Harley would be told by the government that it couldn’t insist on exclusivity from its dealer network, but maybe that’s just me. Then again, my first Sporster was purchased at Hamme H-D in Gastonia, which for years had been Hamme Yamaha, and still offered the Yammies on the showroom floor right alongside the Harleys. And there are a couple of mega-dealerships in Charlotte that offer pretty much everything under the sun except Harleys. What the heck, I dunno. Here’s a funny, and painfully accurate (quite literally) quote:

By 1982, a year after the company went private again, Harley had reached a nadir, laying off hundreds of workers amid slowing sales and a nationwide recession. Fearing the worst, Harley lobbied for—and received— tariffs imposedon the Japanese manufacturers thanks to the Reagan administration. Taking effect in early 1983 and scheduled to wind down over five years, the tariff was initially 49.4 percent on imported heavy bikes. It was, at the very least, a chance for Harley to catch its breath.

Indeed, finally things seemed to be looking up; later that year, the California Highway Patrol said they would be switching back to Harley from Kawasaki, with the tariffs tipping the balance. The symbolism at the time was potent, since 94 percent of motorcycles sold in the U.S. at the time were Japanese.

The company also rebuilt its relationship with its employees, and put a new emphasis on quality. Harley’s ’70s bikes were leaky and vibrated so much that they were uncomfortable to ride. By the mid-’80s, those problems were gone.

“It’s amazing, the difference,” Michael “Irish” O’Farrell, president of the Hell’s Angels chapter in Oakland, California, told The New York Times in October 1985. “They don’t beat you to death any more, and your kidneys are still intact.”

Heh. Been there done that, buddy; got the tingling hands, the blood-streaked urine, the loose teeth, and the aching back to prove it.

Actually, though, I don’t know how much real improvement there had been back in ’85; the bikes were better put together from the factory right enough, after HD bought itself back from AMF—which actually was an acronym, as the old joke went, for Annoying Manufacturing Flaw. But substantial improvement, especially in things like rider comfort and ergonomics, was still pretty thin on the ground.

In October of 85, we’re still talking about the old four-speed swingarm frames with minimal suspension travel front and rear, and piss-poor handling and stability. No rubber mounted engines, thanks, except on the FXRs, which were pretty widely scorned at the time for being ugly as a mud fence and most un-Harley-like, although they’re highly prized and collectible bikes now. The Evos had only just been introduced and were suffering from the usual issues Harley has always had the first couple of years after bringing out its next generation; the trannies were still the four-speed with the weak-ass, grabby clutch. Worse still, the Sportsters were still afflicted with the accursed Ironhead motor, if I remember right; they wouldn’t get the Evo upgrade until a couple of years later.

All in all, then O’Farrell’s statement is a testament to just how bad the AMF-era Harleys really were. Read the whole thing, if you’re interested in Harley-Davidson at all; it’s a damned good article. The writer’s prognosis for Harley’s future is grim indeed, but HD has faced seriously tough times before and gone on to not only survive but thrive, against everybody’s expectations.

Myself, I’d say the real long-term threat to Harley isn’t so much the dilemna the company faces in trying to square its history and heritage with its technological future (if any); it’s the whining dweebs in the Jalopnik comment section—a good many of whom admit to not being motorcyclists in the first place—bitching about how “loud” and “obnoxious” Harleys are, and how disgusting they find the “fat old potbellied white men with grey hair” riding them. If the Motor Company does somehow end up being killed off for good, it will be precious, overwrought, risk-averse little twerps like these that do it. And I’d bet it won’t be just Harley-Davidson that’s done in by them, but motorcycling in general. What such as they are doing infesting a website like Jalopnik, which used to be pretty good, I’m sure I don’t know. It’s kinda disturbing.

To the sniffing and retching of Jalopnik’s wee, twee HRLY H8R folk I can only respond with a slogan straight off an old HD T-shirt of mine: For those who understand, no explanation is neccessary. For those who don’t understand, no explanation is possible. Also: go piss up a rope. Alternatively, you could go take a flying fuck at a plate glass window, should you be feeling particularly frisky and full of vim.

Yeah, I got a million of ’em. But I can sum it all up easily enough with: Suck on it, Poindexter. And kiss my baggy old lily-white Harley-loving ass while you’re at it, too.



I knew right away this Walsh column was gonna ring a bell with me.

In any case, the joke’s on us. The nominal reason for introducing technology that absolutely no red-blooded American male could possibly want is that cars with no drivers and no steering wheels are somehow going to be safer, and that by eliminating human error—stupidity, drunkenness, distracted driving, texting and a million other crazy things people do in their cars while in motion—we’ll all get where we’re going in one piece. But given the still-imperfect state of the technology, how could driverless cars be perfectly safe? We don’t even have consistent cell service yet.

But even if Johnny Cabs were perfectly safe the moral argument against them would be strong.

We know, for example, that roughly 30,000 Americans will die in traffic accidents every year—a number that has been steadily declining for decades, by the way, even as the population has increased—and yet that minuscule risk is one we all willingly assume every time we get behind the wheel, whether it’s to run to the store, take the kids to after-school activities, or to drive across country just for the hell of it. Are the tech giants and the auto manufacturers really arguing that this number will now magically and precipitously fall?

Further, the point of driving for many of us is not simply to get there alive, but to enjoy the trip; that’s why some folks prefer to saddle up a Mustang or lasso a Jaguar. Driving is supposed to be fun and, for most men of my acquaintance, it’s never any fun being a passenger, or piloting a Prius. The lure of the open road created the American muscle car, while the joy of a Sunday drive in the country paved the way for generations of touring sedans, as ordinary Americans decided to see the U.S.A in their Chevrolets.

There are more sinister reasons to be wary of driverless cars, however. In the post-9/11 age, the government has a limitless appetite for surveillance power—law enforcement is now able to track every American carrying a cell phone—a robocar is a “convenience” just waiting to be exploited and abused. Who, for example, programs the ride? Who controls it? Should the police decide that they have a few questions for you, what’s to prevent your Johnny Cab from detouring from grandma’s house to the local precinct station? And if it does, what are you going to do about it?

These are not idle questions. The assault on the Fourth Amendment is by now nearly complete. “Terrorism” is the all-purpose excuse for monitoring the innocent along with the potentially guilty, and just about everybody can fall under suspicion. The very act of boarding a plane now exposes to you formerly unreasonable search and seizure, and there’s not a thing you can do about it. So why would you climb into a robocar and take yourself hostage on purpose?

As always and forever the Left, their Leviathan State, and its helpful propaganda arm will provide as many justifications for our incremental enslavement as they can manufacture, the bitter pill of tyranny candy-coated with “safety” or “security” or “health” or “sustainability” or “fairness” to sweeten its taste and smooth its course as we choke it on down. But when you reach the end of the Yellow Brick Road and pull the curtain aside, the fact remains: it’s all about power and control.

Continue reading “Auto-nomy”


The need for speed

And rationality.

Every year, traffic engineers review the speed limit on thousands of stretches of road and highway. Most are reviewed by a member of the state’s Department of Transportation, often along with a member of the state police, as is the case in Michigan. In each case, the “survey team” has a clear approach: they want to set the speed limit so that 15% of drivers exceed it and 85% of drivers drive at or below the speed limit.

This “nationally recognized method” of setting the speed limit as the 85th percentile speed is essentially traffic engineering 101. It’s also a bit perplexing to those unfamiliar with the concept. Shouldn’t everyone drive at or below the speed limit? And if a driver’s speed is dictated by the speed limit, how can you decide whether or not to change that limit based on the speed of traffic?

The answer lies in realizing that the speed limit really is just a number on a sign, and it has very little influence on how fast people drive.

And that our current speed limits are based not on reason or the limits the highways themselves were designed to safely sustain, but on the Left’s will to absolute power over its subjects and its lust to make driving as miserable and inconvenient as possible, carefully masked by their desire to Save Gaia™.

Traffic engineers believe that the 85th percentile speed is the ideal speed limit because it leads to the least variability between driving speeds and therefore safer roads. When the speed limit is correctly set at the 85th percentile speed, the minority of drivers that do conscientiously follow speed limits are no longer driving much slower than the speed of traffic. The choice of the 85th percentile speed is a data-driven conclusion—as noted lieutenant Megge and speed limit resources like the Michigan State Police’s guide—that has been established by the consistent findings of years of traffic studies.

Yet most speed limits are set below the 85th percentile speed. We first investigated this topic at the urging of the National Motorists Association, a “member-supported driver advocacy organization” that has made raising speed limits to the 85th percentile one focus of its efforts.

One member pointed us to a 1992 report by the US Department of Transportation on the “Effects of Raising and Lowering Speed Limits,” which, beside making the same arguments described above, noted that the majority of highway agencies set speed limits below the 85th percentile, leading over 50% of motorists to drive “in technical violation of the speed limit laws.” lieutenant Megge believes the compliance rate in Michigan to be well under 50%.

It seems absurd that over half of drivers technically break the law at all times. It’s also perplexing that speed limit policy so consistently ignore traffic engineering 101. So why do people like lieutenant Megge need to spend their time trying to raise speed limits?

A very interesting article, all of which you should definitely read—including, as it does, this subhead: “HOW SAUDI ARABIA GOT US ALL DRIVING 55 MPH.

Yep, we all have so, so much to thank Our Friends The Saudis for, don’t we?

(Via Insty)


Ahh, cars

Zman tackles a topic near and dear to my heart.

The other thing I see, something that turns up in the comments of car posts like the Sailer one, is the car scold. Whenever someone starts showing enthusiasm for buying or owning a car, car scold comes along to tell them he thinks owning a car is a great burden that he suffers through for the good of mankind. This guy has a lot in common with TV scold and music scold. It’s as if enjoying life is such a great sin that the righteous must always be letting everyone know they are in constant pain.

There are, needless to say, a lot of these vinegar drinkers on the right. It is an affectation and a silly one in my opinion. You have but a short time on this earth. Making the most of it, including the fun bits, strikes me as the heart of conservatism. It is the ultimate acknowledgement of reality. Every man has his tastes, but if owning a snappy car brings you pleasure, best of luck with it. I may not share your passion, but I do share your desire to make the most of our time on earth. What’s wrong with that?

The root of this, I suspect, is the dominance of the Left in American culture. The neo-Puritan hags have been screeching at us about how form must always follow function for so long we have lost our sense of style. You see that in cars where the goal of designers is to make them more aerodynamic and pack them with useful functions. The result is a fleet of well-built cars that look like they came from East German film noir during the Cold War. Our cars are ugly because inside, we have become an ugly people.

If you doubt this, look at pics of parking lots from 40-50 years ago. They were a carnival of colors, shapes and sizes. A person’s taste in cars said something about him, a form of advertisement. A people embracing life and its potential were out buying all sorts of cars in all sorts of colors. We are now a people marching to the inevitable end of our miserable existences so we buy cars that are suited for the task. The top three car colors in America are black, grey and white, with dark gray the top interior choice.

Grey cars for grey men. Although I will admit that new cars are pretty amazing machines and I like them just fine, personally, I’m dying to get myself one of these someday:


I’ll probably go right on dying to get one forever; they’re getting very scarce, and even a fairly clapped-out example sells pretty dear these days—which is only going to get worse, seeing as how they ain’t making any more of ’em. But Z goes on to strike at the very heart of it:

Even so, we have become a cautious and frightened people, like herd animals waiting to be processed. The sports car buyer in 1965 was looking for risk. He wanted to rocket down the road in something that was probably not entirely safe, but that was part of the thrill. Today, sports cars are packed with safety features intended to let the buyer know he can have the kind of fun that is permitted today. It is part of the overall feminization of the West. Engineers today care about you like a mother.

I saw the other day that a company now sells an add-on for cars that allows parents to spy on their kids and even take control of the car, from their smart phone. The ad is not all that clear on the particulars, but it appears to be a GPS system that also provides some ability to disable the car, sound the horn and flash the lights. That way, if your son is out enjoying himself, you can put an end to it from your couch. Nothing says freedom like having mom watch you as you make out with your girl in the backseat.

The ultimate expression of this is the self-driving car. The quest to take all the fun out of life, and all the risk, leads inevitably to the nanny-state providing a ride service so that you not only get to your destination safely, you get to the correct destination. People naturally think the surveillance state will be Orwellian. No, it will be run by Google and Apple, sold as a market solution to public safety. After all, when it comes to your safety, we can’t let things like freedom, pleasure and privacy get in the way. You’re too important to us!

When Hell freezes, motherfuckers. That’s when I’ll give the government that much control over my car, and not a moment before. I’ll fucking walk first.

Which, the way things have been going in recent years, is probably exactly what I’ll end up doing. It sometimes sickens my heart to contemplate the world my 7 year old daughter will end up inheriting. What makes it worse is that it will all seem perfectly sane and normal to her, never having known anything else. I see a big part of my job as a father as making sure she remembers what once was, which is why I had her out driving my 56 Fairlane through the pastureland up at my mom’s place in the country from her perch on my lap from a VERY early age. Even now she still just loves that car. Hopefully, she always will have a soft spot in her heart for the old vintage iron. If she does, I can die a happy man, knowing that despite all his flaws, her daddy done good.


Wherein I helpfully solve a problem for Scott Adams

No, it’s not about Trump.

I’ve been trying for several months to buy a Chevy Truck, for a variety of functional and recreational purposes.

It turns out you can’t do that. Yes, I was surprised too.

To be fair, I do see people buying Chevy trucks all the time, but I call them victims, not customers. That’s different than what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to identify the truck I want, then buy it, without being a victim. I’m aiming for more of a “customer” situation.

You think that’s easy?

Try looking at the thousands of options for each truck. Then notice how little you know about each option. The infinite options guarantee that you will feel bad about whatever you pick. Science says people get anxious when they have too many choices. Chevy gives you infinite choices for features, and most of those choices matter, because trucks are tools. So there’s no real way to be happy about buying a truck because you’ll always think you could have done better picking options. And you would be right. No one can pick the right feature set out of a million options. So buyer’s remorse is guaranteed at step one, before you even start.

Well, I can think of one option that would almost certainly eliminate the buyer’s-remorse problem: buy a Ford.

Ahem. Yeah, I know; sorry, Bowtie guys. But you CF lifers already know I’m a dyed-in-the-wool, born-and-bred Ford guy, so there.

On a slightly more serious note, though, I do miss the old days, when a ton of good-natured ribbing went on between devotees of the various American marques. Now, who really cares? One anonymous egg-mobile is pretty much like another. Granted, new cars are superior to the old ones I love so much in pretty much every way, at least in terms of technology, ease of use, handling, gas mileage, etc. But I still say they ain’t got no soul, and I do miss all the back and forth about which rules and which drools between Ford, Chevy, and Mopar. Not to even mention all the snickering we all did about the danged rice-burners.

While we’re at it, somebody ought to bring back the Packard, too.


I mean, come ON, people. Tell me that ain’t slicker’n owl shit.


The “fuck you” government

They’ll never, ever stop. They’ll have to BE stopped.

The Environmental Protection Agency wants to increase the amount of renewable fuel in the nation’s gasoline supply by about 700 million gallons in 2017.

The agency proposed adding 18.8 billion gallons of renewable fuel to gasoline in 2017 in the newest Renewable Fuel Standard announced Wednesday afternoon. That would cause renewable fuel to make up 10.44 percent of the nation’s gasoline supply in 2017, the EPA said.

The proposed standard could push past the blend wall, which oil companies characterize as the point at which a car’s engine can be harmed by having too much ethanol in gasoline. About two-thirds of the vehicles on the road are covered for the damage in their warranties, according to biofuel groups.

And that other third? Hey, fuck you. Not to mention the damage this piss-water swill does to small engines—mowers, string trimmers, leaf blowers, generators, etc—which is even more severe than the way it gums up your car*. But again, the typical government response: fuck you, do what we say. It’s for your own good. Trust us on that.

The EPA has announced previously that it anticipates lower gasoline prices will drive up demand, which would dilute the percentage of ethanol in gasoline. Congress requires the EPA to regulate the volume of renewable fuels in the nation’s gasoline supply rather than requiring it to be a certain percentage.

As is specifically required in that irrelevant and useless dead letter, the US Constitution. I mean, I haven’t seen it myself, but it’s bound to be in there somewhere.

The first public hearing on the proposal is set for June 9 in Kansas City. Public input and comment is open until July 11.

And won’t make one thin dime’s worth of difference. Fuck you, do what we say. But hey, at least they’re keeping up the thin pretense, right? They do respect their prostrate subjects that much, I guess.

Frank Macchiarola, director of the downstream group at the American Petroleum Institute, said the EPA was not protecting consumers.

“Consumers’ interest should come ahead of ethanol interests,” Macchiarola said. “EPA is pushing consumers to use high ethanol blends they don’t want and that are not compatible with most cars on the road today. The administration is potentially putting the safety of American consumers, their vehicles and our economy at risk.”

So? Fuck you, do what we say.

There are now two operative phrases that underly nearly everything this government does: fuck you, do what we say, and fuck you, pay me. But the truly important part of it is: fuck you. Now run all that codswallop about the “land of the free, home of the brave” again for me, whydon’tcha.

It occurs to me that rather than being the celebration of a hazy, distant fantasy that it is now, it would be far more appropriate and meaningful if the Fourth of July became something more like a national day of mourning, with flags at half staff, black armbands, symbolic burials, somber eulogies, and the whole funereal megillah.

Yeah, yeah, I know, buzzkill. But the bumper-sticker truth remains: the Founders would have been shooting by now. And the EPA and its fascist edicts are but one of many reasons why.

*This is a good article by a small-engine specialist that explains the damage ethanol does to these things, with pictures to demonstrate it.



I love awful-car reviews. You don’t really see all that many of them, but when you do, they’re almost always great fun. They provide a good writer an opportunity to really stretch out and enjoy himself in a way that only spewing invective about ugly, annoying, unreliable, or otherwise inferior inanimate objects can. CapLion, being both a writer who has a real way with invective and a seriously knowledgeable car/bike guy, will know exactly what I mean there.

Well, it’s probably not fun for the makers of the car, I guess. But they shoulda thought of that when they built these atrocities.

This is the Leata Cabalero, and it is probably the worst automobile in America. Actually, there’s no “probably” about it: This feculent lump of eyesore has actually won an award for being terrible, the zero-prestige Worst of Show trophy at Concours d’Lemons. Built in Idaho for a single year, 1977, the car is utterly horrible and entirely without merit. So I’m going to drive it.

There are any number of things wrong with the Cabalero. Take, for example, the appearance, something like a malnourished, stunted Chrysler Cordoba. Also, it’s based on a Chevrolet Chevette, which is never a good place to start anything. More than 350 pounds of Bondo, fiberglass, and despair haven been added to craft this lumpen turd of an automobile, making an already slow and crumbly rear-drive vehicle even worse. It was built with an obvious indifference. The brakes don’t work. Oh, and, that’s not even the correct way to spell “Caballero.”

Fewer than a hundred Cabaleros were ever made—proof of divinity, if there ever was such a thing—each hand-built in a place called Post Falls, Idaho. The tenth largest city in the state, this is actually a fine little village, nestled between the desert glory of Montana and the damp and verdant splendor of Washington state. People come here to play in the lakes, hike, and generally enjoy themselves.

There’s little enjoyment to be had in a Leata Cabalero. And the closer you get, the worse it all becomes.

Lots of enjoyment to be had from this review, though, and it has me wondering why I haven’t bookmarked The Drive before now. It’s all too brief, that’s my only gripe.

(Via Insty)


Rules of the road redux

I posted some a while back (reachable via the link in the Greatest Hits section above), and now here’s more. The author seems to think he’s writing exclusively about Memphis, but I assure him it just ain’t so. They’re damned near universal.

At any rate, after careful observation, I put together ten rules of Memphis driving, to wit:

  1. Brakes are a sign of weakness. Don’t even consider using them until it’s too late.
  2. All turns should be made from the opposite side of the road. If you know your destination is on the right, stay left until you get there, then have at it.
  3. Turn lanes are for the front of your vehicle only. Hang your rear into oncoming traffic. I don’t know why. It’s just what we do, and we’ve apparently been doing it since Pharaoh held Charlton Heston and the children of Israel captive.
  4. Avoid looking in the direction you are driving. Do some sight-seeing instead.
  5. Courtesy is a sign of weakness.
  6. If yours is the first vehicle in the herd, drive fast enough to cut off and delay the driver who is waiting to turn onto the road. If you are last in line, slow down so the pack behind you can catch up and keep blocking him.
  7. Remember, during hours of darkness at least one vehicle in every quarter-mile must have its headlights and tail lights off in honor of the Patron Saint of Memphis Drivers, Helen Keller.
  8. When possible, bury your foot in the floorboard and double the posted speed limit.
  9. What blinkers?
  10. If unsure, just drive like a cop.

If the local nightly news broadcasts around here are any indication, number 7 is considered absolutely inviolable by illegal aliens from Mexico, especially when they’re driving drunk the wrong way down I-485 at 4 AM.


Now here’s some inequality I can REALLY get behind

For reasons I’ll be disclosing at a later date–in great detail, probably–I’ve been researching Sportster cams of late, and ran across an interesting article on the tech behind ’em. Cam 101, folks, for those of you who find gearhead stuff as intriguing as I do:

The next cam timing event to look at closely is actually two of them together: the intake open (degrees before top dead center) and exhaust close (degrees after top dead center) events. This period of time is called “overlap”. It’s the window in time when the exhaust cycle is finishing and the next intake cycle is beginning. During that small window of time, both valves are open at the same time. What that does is basically connect the intake and exhaust tracts together, and this gives the exhaust system a HUGE opportunity to affect the intake flow.
Overlap happens as the piston is passing through top dead center, finishing it’s exhaust stroke and beginning it’s intake stroke. If the exhaust system can pull right then, it’ll get the next intake charge moving before the piston can even start pulling on it. This can greatly help cylinder fill! Likewise, if the exhaust pushes back right then, it shoves the intake charge (that’s sitting in the ports and manifold and carb) right back out the carb. Then the piston goes down and sucks it in again. Not only does this hurt cylinder fill, but it triple carburetes the intake charge, because it got sucked in, pushed back out, and sucked in again. We call this condition a “reversion” and it’s easily identified by a dip in the torque curve accompanied by a rich condition and you’ll generally see a fog out the mouth of the carburetor at that rpm, referred to as a “stand-off”.
Why you get positive or negative pressure waves gets into a whole bunch of exhaust theory, but the main thing to know is that these pressure waves in the exhaust system are traveling up and down the pipe, reflecting off each end, and they’re moving at a pretty constant speed (the speed of sound) regardless of the rpm of the motor. So as you can imagine, as the motor changes rpm, so does the type and size of the wave that’s arriving during overlap. Diffusion devices in the exhaust system (baffles, megaphones) can broaden and time the wave to work over a wider rpm range, albeit with a somewhat smaller wave intensity. The real key here, though, as it relates to the cams, is that the more overlap you have in your cams (exhaust close point plus intake open point), the more opportunity you give the exhaust system to influence the powerband. What you’re after is what we call a “happy marriage” between the pipes and the cams: enough overlap in the cams that the exhaust system can play a role, and an exhaust system that’s pulling during overlap at the same rpm that the intake close point is timed for. Now you’ve got the exhaust system helping on the front end of the intake cycle and the fuel’s inertia helping on the tail end. That’s a recipe for power.

Yes indeedy. As I said, this is fascinating stuff to me, and it points up something I’ve mentioned before here: it annoys me no end when people talk about the “failure” of the internal combustion engine, or dismiss it as “archaic” while pimping for “new technology” like the electric cars which have been “the way of the future” since around 1908, or–gads!–fucking windmills. The internal combustion engine is probably the single most successful piece of human ingenuity in all history, and is as mature, carefully thought-out, and well-designed and -engineered as it’s possible for any technology to be.

The problem Lefty eggheads have with the internal combustion engine isn’t its failure, but its success. It’s had about as broad and as positive an impact on human life as learning to control fire did, and has made so vast an improvement in our collective lot as to be nearly impossible to catalog. It took freedom of movement (which, after all, is REAL freedom) from an aspiration, a mere idle daydream, and brought it into the reach of the common herd. And that’s what the libtards really hate about it, see. A bit more:

The final exhaust timing spec to look at is the exhaust open point. The exhaust valve actually opens during the power stroke, while the piston is still moving down. Why? Because to overcome pumping losses in the exhaust system, it’s necessary to use some of the pressure from combustion to help push the exhaust out. The faster the motor is turning, the less time is available to remove the exhaust, and therefore the earlier the exhaust valve should be opened. So earlier exhaust open points are associated with higher rpm ranges.
Often you’ll see cams with more exhaust duration than intake duration. This is known as a “dual pattern” grind, and it’s done largely to overcome the pumping losses of typical street exhaust systems that use a backpressure inducing device (like a baffle) to provide wave diffusion. A zero backpressure diffusion device, like a reverse cone megaphone, won’t benefit nearly as much, if at all, from a dual pattern cam grind.
The lift specs of the cam tell how far each valve gets opened. The main thing to know about lift is that it’s useful to match it to the flow characteristics of the heads. An engine of a given size at a given rpm has an airflow requirement that can be calculated. What you’re after with the cams and the heads is to meet that requirement, and the flow characteristics of the ports along with the lift of the cams plays a big part in that. Also important is when that lift is achieved. In the ideal world, you want the port flowing it’s maximum (i.e. valve open to the point of max flow) by the time the piston is pulling it’s hardest on it. The lobe center, which is generally halfway in between the open and close events, tells you where that point is. You want the ports sized to not only deliver the required airflow at this point, but also to provide the optimum velocity for the charge; too much or too little velocity will reduce cylinder fill, and the velocity through the ports also needs to be adjusted with consideration for the intake close timing.

Confused? Don’t be.

Um. Well, okay. If you say so.

Actually, though, that’s another of the beauties of these things: they really are pretty simple to understand, once you’ve got the physical principles underlying their function down. It’s really a matter of just looking at them and pondering them out; they ARE just mechanical devices that operate under some very basic and easy-to-grasp rules, after all. Which pondering out I will now leave you interested parties to; I got more research to do here, myself. More later…with pictures.


Paean to the 56(s)

Sorry for the pause there, folks. Been very danged busy getting the 56 back up and running, working at the shop, trying to work on some new tunes, and…well, the usual, I guess.

But out of it all comes a great story. Sunday, we did our usual show/car club meet at the venerable Diamond, and it was the first one all summer where the 56 was up and running. So I was already excited, but completely unaware of the treat I was about to get. I pulled up, and right behind where we usually set up to play was parked…a 56 Ford Fairlane. Black, the near twin of the one I have now, except for being a Club Sedan and therefore having two fewer doors. The hood was off it, and a big-block Chevy (ugh) with twin-tunnel ram intake was poking up out of the engine bay. I instantly thought, hey, that looks like my old Club Sedan. As I pulled up alongside, I looked into the interior and saw that some fool (ahem) had painted the dash white on top, black wrinkle on the bottom, with a red pinstripe down the middle.

Just like my old one.

I about died. Around, I dunno, ten-twelve years ago, I had sold the car to a friend of mine, who had done the engine swap and then let it sit for nearly a decade. I had long since despaired of ever seeing the old gal on the road again. I loved that old car and considered it a damned shame for it to just sit and rot away like that; the reason I sold it in the first place was because I had gone about as far with it as my skill level and bank account would allow. There were some body-rust issues, the motor was a leaky, tired old 292 (although it still ran great, actually), the tranny a leaky, tired old Fordomatic, and I just didn’t have either the funds or the ability to do the car justice. I knew Chuckie, who is a good welder and has experience doing body work, would be just the guy to put things right.

Only thing is my friend Chuckie, while a great guy and a talented gearhead in his own right, is also the kind of guy who always has about four different projects going at once. Some of these projects see completion, and the ones that do are usually glorious. And then, some don’t. For reasons I refuse to believe are remotely fathomable, the ol’ 56 was looking like one of those that wouldn’t. What the hell, Chuck’s a Chevy guy anyhow, what does he know?

So imagine my surprise to see the old girl up again, with that horrid big block in it and sporting a nice new Fat Man Fabrications front end. And then seeing that same old crappy dash paint job I did, and the dent in the roof where a cherry-tree branch fell on it up at my mom’s during an ice storm. As I say, I about died.

Chuck’s brother, also a friend of mine, ran up and started explaining: he had bought the car off of Chuckie and got her going again. Chuckie, who I hadn’t seen in a good while, was back working at Fat Man and doing well, new girlfriend he’s all wrapped up in and all that stuff. He finally realized that he just wasn’t going to get the thing going again–hey, it happens–and unloaded it on his brother for a decent price. She’s back in the breeze again, and Sunday night, she got to meet her near-twin from a different mother–actually, the same mothers, two of ’em: Ford Motor Company…and me.

Ride on, girls. Long may y’all wave.



You go, girls!

A lovely story about some lovely Harley-riding ladies that I stumbled across via a radio station that’s sponsoring a show I’m doing this weekend down Atlanta way:

In 1915, Avis and Effie Hotchkiss embarked on a road trip that no woman had ever tried before. The mother and daughter duo drove across the entire country on a three-speed twin cylinder Harley Davidson motorcycle and sidecar. Back then, women couldn’t even vote.

One hundred years later, Portland-based photographer and women’s motorcyclist advocate Lanakila MacNaughton and four friends followed in the trailblazers’ path. They recorded their journey on Instagram in an effort to inspire a new wave of women riders.

MacNaughton, 26, and her friends, who are also known as the “Highway Runaways,” set out to ride from Brooklyn, New York, to San Francisco, California, at the beginning of July. Their 4,500-mile journey, which was peppered with stops along the way to connect with other communities of riders, took four weeks to complete and was chronicled in photographs posted online and in the Women’s Moto Exhibition.

While most motorcycle riders are men — or men who prefer that their ladies ride on the back — the Women’s Moto Exhibition highlights portraits of women who ride their own bikes. The goal of the traveling photography show was to encourage women to take the plunge and ride for themselves.

HuffPost spoke with MacNaughton days after she completed the journey. Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Some real purty pictures–REAL purty–accompanying. Hey, you meet the nicest people on a Harley, right?


REAL news: Williamson gets one wrong!

Well, a little bit, anyway. Kinda-sorta.

The shootout between members of rival outlaw motorcycle gangs in Waco has brought out a great deal of stupidity on the left — too much stupidity to catalogue, in fact. But let us look at a few lowlights.

Making the comparison with Baltimore, many on the left — Salon’s Jenny Kutner, to take an example — demanded to know why the media did not describe the events in Waco as a “riot.” The answer, obviously enough, is that the event in Waco was not a riot — it did not represent a general state of civil disorder, there were no mobs targeting property for destruction, etc. What happened in Waco was accurately described — in the New York Times, the Waco Tribune, USA Today, and many other outlets — as a gunfight. Also chaos, biker gang shooting, the work of very dangerous, hostile criminal biker gangs, and, in case that is not strong enough for your taste, something akin to a war zone. What happened in Baltimore was not a gunfight. (It might have been a gunfight if it had been attempted in or around Waco.) Which is not to say that bikers are never involved in riots: The modern outlaw biker mythology is very much rooted in a riot in Hollister, Calif., known in the history books as — can you guess? — the “Hollister riot,” during which such forerunners of the modern motorcycle gang as the Pissed Off Bastards of Bloomington and the Market Street Commandos treated Hollister as though it were Baltimore. There is a great deal of mythology surrounding motorcycle gangs, but the (almost certainly apocryphal) story is that after the Hollister riot, a spokesman for American Motorcycle Association insisted that 99 percent of all motorcycle enthusiasts were decent, law-abiding people — hence the adopting of the “1%” iconography by the outlaws.

Actually, the Hollister “riot” was pretty much a trumped-up pile of nothing, an early case of the media attempting to create hysteria and fear out of whole cloth, almost all of which boiled down to this one famous Life magazine photo:

Phonus balonus

There’s been a fair bit of debate about whether the guy on the bike in the photo was ever even a biker in the first place, but there’s no serious debate at all that the photo was anything other than staged, a pure fiction. But hey, at least we got a great movie out of it, right?


Auto snobbery

Now you guys all know there’s no way I can agree with this assessment. But I like it anyway.

In transportation, the ox cart and the rowboat represent the first stage of technology.

The second stage might well be represented by the automobiles of the middle twentieth century just before the opening of interplanetary travel. These unbelievable museum pieces were for the time fast, sleek and powerful -. but inside their skins were assembled a preposterous collection of mechanical buffoonery. The prime mover for such a juggernaut might have rested in one’s lap; the rest of the mad assembly consisted of afterthoughts intended to correct the uncorrectable, to repair the original basic mistake in design – for automobiles and even the early aeroplanes were ‘powered’ (if one may call it that) by ‘reciprocating engines.”

A reciprocating engine was a collection of miniature heat engines using (in a basically inefficient cycle) a small percentage of an exothermic chemical reaction, a reaction which was started and stopped every split second. Much of the heat was intentionally thrown away into a ‘water jacket’ or ‘cooling system,” then wasted into the atmosphere through a heat exchanger.

What little was left caused blocks of metal to thump foolishly back-and-forth (hence the name ‘reciprocating’) and thence through a linkage to cause a shaft and flywheel to spin around. The flywheel (believe it if you can) had no gyroscopic function; it was used to store kinetic energy in a futile attempt to cover up the sins of reciprocation. The shaft at long last caused wheels to turn and thereby propelled this pile of junk over the countryside.

The prime mover was used only to accelerate and to overcome ‘friction’ – a concept then in much wider engineering use. To decelerate, stop, or turn the heroic human operator used their own muscle power, multiplied precariously through a series of levers.

Despite the name ‘automobile’ these vehicles had no autocontrol circuits; control, such as it was, was exercised second by second for hours on end by a human being peering out through a small pane of dirty silica glass, and judging unassisted and often disastrously his own motion and those of other objects. In almost all cases the operator had no notion of the kinetic energy stored in his missile and could not have written the basic equation. Newton’s Laws of Motion were to him mysteries as profound as the meaning of the universe.

Nevertheless millions of these mechanical jokes swarmed over our home planet, dodging each other by inches or failing to dodge. None of them ever worked right; by their nature they could not work right; and they were constantly getting out of order. Their operators were usually mightily pleased when they worked at all. When they did not, which was every few hundred miles (hundred, not hundred thousand) they hired a member of a social class of arcane specialists to make inadequate and always expensive temporary repairs.

Despite their mad shortcomings, these ‘automobiles’ were the most characteristic form of wealth and the most cherished possessions of their time. Three whole generations were slaves to them.

Bonus points for guessing who wrote it.


Check your privilege!

Every “liberal” ought to be forced to drive one. At gunpoint, if necessary.

At Envia Motors, we set out to make a car without concessions to speed, performance or handling because we put the environment first.

Fueled by a dream and two billion dollars in government grant money, we challenged ourselves to see whether four community organizers with no technical knowledge or skill could create a car that would become a compulsory driving experience.

And with the Envia Discord 2015, we succeeded beyond your wildest mandated imagination.

While the Envia Discord 2015 may not have brakes, seat belts, airbags, locks or a windshield (check your privilege), the money that could have gone to those entitled safety features was instead spent on turning its bumper into an HD screen that automatically pulls the latest social justice hashtags from Twitter and displays them as bumper stickers.

The Discord 2015 is inclusive. Its seat cushions, woven out of fair trade whole grain fibers by Yamadu Indians in Bolivia, accommodate a variety of sizes and shapes. Its cup holder can blend wheatgrain smoothies and can perform emergency sex change operations for those who want to give up their cisgender privilege.

Envia Motors has also reached out to the Muslim community by programming the Discord 2015 to explode when it hears the words, “Jihad”, “Allahu Akbar” or “Shiite.” It will also explode when its internal CPU, which is always monitoring your conversations, hears anything racist, homophobic, transphobic, cisgender, heteronormative or any other thoughtcrimes from a list that is constantly being updated through the cloud.

Sometimes the Discord 2015 will just explode for no reason. Check your privilege.

Just wait til you see what it’s “powered” by.


Design by Greyman

Via Glenn, a story opening with the understatement of the millennium: “Anyone who’s ever misplaced the family car in a parking lot at the mall must surely sense that we are not living in a golden era of automobile design.”

When doors open this week at the New York International Auto Show, the grumbling will continue, as it has for the past few years, that there isn’t much new and different to see. The public once flocked to auto shows to marvel at groundbreaking designs created by giants in the field like Harley Earl at General Motors who “styled” magnificent sculptures in the early to mid 20th century. They bore names like Firebird and Golden Rocket. Today, mileage standards and safety regulations largely determine what most cars rolling off assembly lines look like. Auto styling may not yet be a dead art, but the artists have certainly been thwarted. As standardization by governments has taken hold—there are more than 200 safety and environmental regulations that go into building a car—the challenge for designers is no longer to create something uniquely beautiful, but to turn out a product that’s in compliance—and hope people buy the result.

Read on for details on the reason why we’re all forced to drive plastic, egg-shaped clonemobiles instead of the gorgeous and distinctive cars of the bygone age of American greatness. It ain’t just the cars that the Progressivist Grey Men have neutered. This bit is kinda funny, in a sad way:

The cumulative effect of all these changes is a wedge shape, seen from the side, from the low nose swooping upward toward a high tail—the startled stance of a cat with its rump in the air.

It’s even more dramatic when you see the sport-bike motorcycles, with the rider and (especially) his passenger’s rump in the air, like some female animal in heat’s mating ritual of “presenting.” Which, I have to tell you, us Harley guys find absolutely hilarious, and are apt to comment raucously and derisively on if you’re one of those guys riding by a group of us and it’s your cute girlfriend’s ass cocked up like that. And we’ve had beer enough that day to want to have a little good-natured sport with the sport-bike guys. This part, though, isn’t so funny; it’s telling.

The former head of Ford design, J Mays, once observed that cars reflect the times in which they are created. If that’s true, what will auto shows of the next few years be featuring? Maybe better to ask: What will Pajama Boy drive?

Oog. Now there’s a truly scary question. On the other hand, as the author notes, Pajama Boy doesn’t care about cars anyway; he’s afraid of them…which amounts to the ultimate ironic slap in the face to an auto industry struggling to make government-approved vehicles that will appeal to a nation of steercotted, green-weenie pussies that doesn’t want them and thinks we should all be herded onto government buses in the first place.


Welcome to the party, guys

You might know it’d be Harsanyi who caught up with me first. And that he’d take the idea and run a lot farther with it than I did.

In February 2010, the Obama administration’s transportation secretary, Ray LaHood, told America, without a shred of evidence, that Toyota automobiles were dangerous to drive. LaHood offered the remarks in front of the House subcommittee that was investigating reports of unintended-acceleration crashes. “My advice is, if anybody owns one of these vehicles, stop driving it,” he said, sending the company’s stock into a nose dive.

Even at the time, LaHood’s comments were reckless at best. Assailing the competition reeks of political opportunism and cronyism. It also illustrates one of the unavoidable predicaments of the state’s owning a corporation in a competitive marketplace. And when we put LaHood’s comment into perspective today, it’s actually a lot worse. The Obama administration not only had the power and ideological motive to damage the largely non unionized competition but also was busy propping up a company that was causing preventable deaths.

No one is innocent, of course, but not everyone is bailed out. So Toyota, after recalling millions of cars and changing parts and floor mats even before LaHood’s outburst—and after years of being hounded by the administration—recently agreed to pay a steep fine for its role in the acceleration flap. This, despite the fact that in 2012, Department of Transportation (DOT) engineers determined that no mechanical failure was present that would cause applying the brakes to initiate acceleration. The DOT conducted tests that determined that the brakes could maintain a stationary car or bring one to a full stop even with the engine racing. It looked at 58 vehicles that were supposedly involved in unintended acceleration and found no evidence of brake failure or throttle malfunction.

Attorney General Eric Holder kept at it, though, and Toyota finally agreed to a $1.2 billion settlement (it has about $60 billion in reserves) to make it go away. Though it looks as if the company doesn’t think the fight is worthwhile, for all I know, it’s guilty. I’m certain, though, that General Motors (GM) is. It announced this week that it was recalling over a million vehicles that had sudden loss of electric power steering. This, after recalling nearly 3 million vehicles for ignition switch problems that the company had known about since 2001 and are now linked to 13 deaths.

GM has apologized. But does anyone believe that the Obama administration took as hard a look at GM as it did Toyota?

Nobody with a lick of sense. There’s more, including an especially satisfying rip in the last couple paragraphs on the Savior In Chief that you’re gonna enjoy.

(Via Insty)


What will it take to put you in this government-created death trap today?

As a Ford guy, the schadenfraude I feel over this was pretty powerful already. As an anti-big-government, anti-crony-capitalist, and anti-union guy, it approaches biblical Rapture levels (via Ace).

Can General Motors still make good cars?

Could they ever?

This afternoon, its new CEO, Mary Barra, will try to explain to a Congressional oversight panel why GM fought so hard to save its own life during the financial crisis, even as the company stayed silent for a decade when it had the chance to save the lives of drivers. GM has recalled more than 6m produced between 2005 and 2014 – including three new recalls over the past week – in a series of moves that reveal sprawling, systemic corporate incompetence.

“Today’s GM will do the right thing,” Barra will say under oath, according to her prepared remarks. But there is a dark undercurrent to her words, which will only highlight a truth that is no longer excusable: General Motors spent over a decade misleading the public about mechanical failures in its cars, working to create the false image of a rehabilitated powerhouse of American industry.

It’s instructive to examine, in one place, the scale of GM’s failure to make safe cars over the past 10 years. The company’s production standards didn’t just fall; they were low for a long time. GM didn’t make just one mistake: from ignition to transmission to power steering to air bags, it failed at many points to assemble reliable, working cars.

Overall, GM has recalled 6.3m cars over the past couple of months – so far. The range of makes and model years present an impressively sprawling display of incompetence:

  • 1.6m Chevy Cobalts had faulty ignition switches that would turn off the car’s engine if bumped by the driver’s knee and which may have caused 12 deaths.
  • 1.3m Chevy Traverses with faulty airbags.
  • Another 700,000 cars – ranging from Chevy Silverados to GMC Sierras and Yukons – had loose transmission lines that could cause fires.
  • A batch of Chevy Cruzes had a problem in which the front wheels might lose power, even though the engine would keep going.
  • Over 300,000 GMC Savana and Chevy Express vans were recalled by the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration over other airbag problems. (GM built those vans between 2009 and 2014, the same years the company was creating a victorious comeback narrative around its bankruptcy.)
  • Just yesterday, the company issued a wider recall of 1.3m Chevy, Saturn and Pontiac cars for power steering issues.

Then there are cars GM didn’t bother recall: 2005-vintage Chevy Cobalts and Pontiac Pursuits, which had incorrectly wired airbags that could inflate so aggressively that they would injure, not help, the driver and passenger during a crash. GM chose instead to send a mildly-worded note to dealers, according to one report.

GM isn’t legally liable for the problems with its cars before 2009, because the bankruptcy wiped out its responsibility. But there’s plenty more to answer for, after the bailout. The range of cars includes those made in 2005 all the way up to 2013, 2014 and 2015 models.

This isn’t your grandfather’s GM. It’s Barrack Obama’s. Great line at the end of the article:

“I want you to know that we are completely focused on the problem at the highest levels of the company,” Barra has said. “That is how we want today’s GM to be judged; how we handle the recall will be an important test of that commitment.”

That’s a nice redefinition. How GM handles the recall is a secondary concern at this late stage. More important is how GM handles the manufacture of American cars…

If you buy a car from Government Motors (yes, I still call ’em that), you have chosen…poorly. Meanwhile, our beloved federal Imperium’s harassment of one of their (non-union) competitors over a phony “issue” is ongoing:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. has reached a $1.2 billion settlement with Toyota Motor Corp., concluding a four-year criminal investigation into the Japanese automaker’s disclosure of safety problems, according to a person close to the investigation.

Attorney General Eric Holder, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, were announcing the settlement Wednesday morning, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the settlement on the record before the announcement.

In a statement early Wednesday, Toyota said it has “cooperated with the U.S. Attorney’s office in this matter for more than four years” and had “made fundamental changes to become a more responsive and customer-focused organization, and we are committed to continued improvements.”

Translation from the PR-ese: “Please don’t hurt us anymore or put us out of business entirely, Mr Gangster Government thug. We’ll do whatever you want, we promise.”

Starting in 2009, Toyota issued massive recalls, mostly in the U.S., totaling more than 10 million vehicles for various problems including faulty brakes, gas pedals and floor mats. From 2010 through 2012, Toyota Motor Corp. paid fines totaling more than $66 million for delays in reporting unintended acceleration problems.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration never found defects in electronics or software in Toyota cars, which had been targeted as a possible cause.

The negotiations come less than two months after an Oklahoma jury awarded $3 million in damages to the injured driver of a 2005 Camry and to the family of a passenger who was killed.

The ruling was significant because Toyota had won all previous unintended acceleration cases that went to trial. It was also the first case where attorneys for plaintiffs argued that the car’s electronics — in this case the software connected to a midsize Camry’s electronic throttle-control system — were the cause of the unintended acceleration.

Toyota has blamed drivers, stuck accelerators or floor mats that trapped the gas pedal for the acceleration claims that led to the big recalls of Camrys and other vehicles. The company has repeatedly denied its vehicles are flawed.

That’s because they aren’t; the morons driving them were, and were looking for an excuse to get them out from under responsibility for their own dumbassery. The “unintended acceleration” canard is a crock of shit, and always was.

No recalls have been issued related to problems with onboard electronics. In the Oklahoma case, Toyota attorneys theorized that the driver mistakenly pumped the gas pedal instead of the brake when her Camry ran through an intersection and slammed into an embankment.

Bingo. Problem identified: exists between steering wheel and seat back. Now go out and get yourself one of those fine, fine Obamamobiles instead, folks; why, they’re backed by the full faith and credit of the United States’ Imperial Government! For what that’s worth.


Just wrong

What? WHAAAT?!?

The original Dodge Viper revealed in 1992 was a beast of a machine — an attempt by then-Chrysler exec Bob Lutz to revive the spirit of the Shelby Cobra and give Chrysler a world-class sports car. Powered by a massive V-10 with 400 hp, the early Viper’s brute force overwhelmed many drivers.

Today, the power that made the Viper a legend appears to be at the heart of an order from Chrysler to dozens of trade schools, demanding the immediate destruction of some 93 early Vipers, including a preproduction model that could likely fetch a couple hundred thousand dollars at auction.

According to The Olympian, the staff of South Puget Sound Community College was told by a Chrysler official that their Viper had to be crushed within two weeks. It’s common for automakers to donate cars to automotive shop classes, and in many cases the vehicles in such donations aren’t saleable — meaning the company technically still owns the cars. School officials say Chrysler told them two of the 93 early Vipers given to schools had been involved in accidents by joyriding students, creating a major liability for Chrysler.

Of those 93, the Viper at SPSCC stands out. It was the fourth Viper ever built, with a prototype hard top years before Dodge offered a production version. With no emissions controls, and no speed limiter, the V-10 can make 600 hp, and school instructors say it could be worth $250,000 to a museum or private Viper fan.

“It’s like the day Kennedy was shot,” Norm Chapman, automotive technology professor at SPSCC, told The Olympian. “No one will forget where they were when they heard the news.”

I don’t even know where to begin dissecting this. It’s wrong on so many levels and for so many reasons, the brain just sort of locks up even contemplating it.

Via Bill, who says: “I could have provided a good home for one of these beasts.” Me and you both, buddy.

What a shameful waste.


Papal putt

Not really all that interesting a story here; I just wanted an excuse to use that title.

On February 6, Pope Francis’s Harley-Davidson motorcycle, autographed by the pope himself, will be put up for auction through the Bonhams auction house at the Grand Palais, Paris.

Well, okay, this part is interesting, I guess:

Pope Francis received two motorcycles and a leather jacket in June when motorcyclists came to Rome in celebration of Harley Davidson’s 110th birthday. The bike being auctioned is expected to fetch between $16,000 and $20,000, and proceeds from the sale will go to a Catholic charity, Caritas Roma, which plans to use the funds to renovate a soup kitchen and homeless hostel at Rome’s Termini railroad station.

Between sixteen and twenty grand? My god, that’s…well, cheap, considering a non-sacred production model would go for something along those lines. Surely a Harley that sitteth at the right hand of God would fetch a bit more than that. Wouldn’t it?



Electric motorcycles are the way of the future. And always will be.

Electric power trains have held much promise in motorcycles for years. They should deliver more performance than their internal-combustion equivalents. But they haven’t, until now.

It’s common for a gas-powered super bike to exceed the Mission’s 160-hp figure, but 120 kb-ft of torque is 20 or so more than even the most powerful Ducatis. And all of it is available all the time, with no need to chase revs or gears. Thrust is simply a function of how far you twist the throttle. And you’d better hang on—this bike is powerful enough to wheelie on full throttle or, if you’re more restrained, run 0–60 mph in around three seconds. It’ll keep running all they way to a top speed of 150 mph. (It’s limited to that in the interest of range conservation.)

While you don’t feel it on the road, 540 lbs is a lot to push around a driveway, garage or parking lot. Recharge time on a standard 110v outlet is so bad that Mission doesn’t disclose it. When plugged into a 220v line with the available twin-charger system, the 17 kWh battery recharges fully in under two hours. Operating range is around 140 miles highway (Mission calls it “real world”) or 230 miles in the city.

And right out of the gate, you know you have what real bikers derisively refer to as a “trailer queen.” Those pitiful range numbers are most likely grossly inflated, as they always have been with the Volt and other overpriced boat anchors, particularly if you make use of any of the awesome electronic features the R&T guys get all damp-drawered over (“IT HAS THE INNARNUTS! IT’S THE FUUUUUTUUUUURE…! No, really, you guys, stop laughing!“)

If I had one of these things, I could ride it down to Charlotte to meet my friends to go out for a ride for an afternoon. Then, as soon as I got there, I could turn right around and pray I made it back home before the battery died as they roared off to the mountains or wherever they might be going, because the ride to Charlotte from here takes about 40-45 minutes. But hey, in light of this kind of fundamental, un-fixable restriction on your ability to actually use the damned thing for the purpose for which it’s intended, it’s bound to be affordable, right?

This $58,999 RS model is limited to just 40 units. Once it’s delivered, the Mission R will enter production starting at just $32,499 (before a $2,500 federal tax credit), blunted only by a slightly lower-quality (but still extremely nice) suspension and wheels.

Urp. The most expensive, overly-tricked-out Harley you can get comes in at not a lot over 20 grand–and you can ride it for more than two hours at a time if you wish, playing the radio at top volume the whole while. You can get a used one in very good condition for ten to fifteen, a good bit less if you really look, and ride it for the next ten or twenty years; when it finally breaks down, you can rebuild it rather than throwing it away, or more likely in this trinket’s case, pay some government agency richly to haul it off to be disposed of properly by the EPA. Although you don’t get any federal subsidies for buying the Harley, I must admit, nor the abiding satisfaction of being able to kid yourself that you’re “saving the planet.”

On two wheels at least, gas power just became obsolete.

No, it didn’t. It really, really didn’t. But you feel free to go right on pushing more useless toys manufactured exclusively for smug, green-weenie rich people, guys.

As my kid always says when I ask her if she wants more broccoli: ummm, no thanks.


I have a question

I see more and more of those tiny little Not So Smart Cars all the time, usually careening down the interstate at high speed. And invariably, every single last time, there are two immensely fat people wadded into the thing like sardines. Anybody have any ideas why an obese person would want to suffer being wedged so tightly into a tiny, unsafe little half-a-car as to need a can opener to get themselves out?


Yesterday’s technology, today!

Windmills, solar panels, and…electric cars.

Electric cars never really made any sense. They are cloaked in the sanctimony of the green movement, because they don’t use nasty fossil fuels like gasoline. Instead, they use electricity, which is sent out through power lines from big power plants, which generate this electricity—how? Oh yes, by burning fossil fuels like oil, coal, and natural gas. This is known as the “long tailpipe,” which goes from the car charging up in your garage all the way back to the smokestack of a coal-fired power plant. And don’t forget, electric cars also have giant batteries made from nasty toxic metals like lithium and cobalt, the manufacture of which frontloads carbon dioxide emissions.

So the electric car was always more an exercise in green paternalism—it is the future, as selected for us by our betters—than a serious attempt to solve any real or imagined problem.

Read on for a hilarious account of the pitiful failure of the Tesla S–a hundred thousand dollar toy “car” for wealthy enviro pricks, and absolutely nobody else–culminating in this worthy observation:

I understand that the first round of a new technology doesn’t always work well and early adopters may have to make tradeoffs and accept limitations. But the Tesla is supposed to be the electric car without tradeoffs. This is supposed to be a mass-market car, the first wave of electric vehicles that can be manufactured and sold in truly industrial-scale quantities. It’s not supposed to be for hobbyists who don’t mind tinkering around with an experimental vehicle for the sake of technology curiosity.

But the folks at Tesla have gotten swept up in the quasi-religious hype of environmentalism. They’re not just manufacturing a curiosity for hobbyists. They’re saving the planet, one preening and sanctimonious upper-middle-class driver at a time.

In service to this environmentalist posturing, they’ve turned the whole purpose of technology on its head. We have to use more of our, human resources—more of our precious time and effort—in order to save natural resources. The machines can’t serve us, because we have to serve nature. Instead of making labor-saving devices, they’re making labor-sucking devices. And if we complain that the new green technology isn’t good enough, we’re told that it is we who are not good enough for the technology.

That’s why the electric car, in its current incarnation, is a technological abomination. 

As is pretty much every other aspect of the Watermelon philosophy. Electric cars have been touted as “the way of the future” pretty much ever since cars have been in existence. It hasn’t come to pass yet–and it’s highly doubtful it ever will. Which just makes slogans such as Obama’s “winning the future” even more ridiculous and laughable than they already are.


“Now we’re soft”

Y’all know I’m a lifelong Ford guy, so how could I not love this ad taking the piss out of Government Motors, I ask you? On the Volt: “Hell, even we don’t like it. Any self-respecting company would have flushed that turd a long time ago.” Heh. Good stuff.




"America is at that awkward stage. It's too late to work within the system, but too early to shoot the bastards." – Claire Wolfe, 101 Things to Do 'Til the Revolution

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