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False Neutral #52: Abhi Eswarappa of Bike-urious


This week we’re joined by Abhi Eswarappa, the founder of Bike-urious.com, adventure biker, and all-around righteous dude. We talk with Abhi about his favorite bikes and favorite riding experiences, which include Mexico, Alaska, crossing the desert terrain of California and Nevada (in a Ural sidecar rig, no less), Ironbutt rides, and drafting behind an SUV aboard a Honda Grom. After a bit where Pete rudely hogs the mike to blather on some more about the Smackdab Run, we get back to Abhi and learn about how Bike-urious.com came to be.

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False Neutral – Abhi Eswarappa of Bike-urious


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Race, Daily, Restore: I Say Aluminum, You Say Aluminium


The aluminum 215 c.i. V8 that GM developed in the late ’50’s debuted to much fanfare for the 1961 model year, but the design and tooling was solely owned by Rover in the U.K. by early 1965. Rover, which had lobbied hard to purchase the lightweight wonder, undoubtedly ended up getting the better end of that particular Tango Atlantico. It stayed in production in some form for four decades, which probably has caused some seller’s remorse and gnashing of teeth in Detroit over the years. Today, it feels like the quintessential British V8 in much the same way the iconic small block Chevy holds that title for American cars. Interestingly, we Yanks tend to subtly complement our ethnosymbolic selves by persisting in referring to it as the Buick-Rover V8, whereas it’s simply the Rover V8 to Brits and the rest of the world. But I guess the birth father does retain some bragging rights, eh?

Due to its overseas adoption and the disfunctional home it would grow up in, the lightweight alloy darling ended up in a remarkable variety of vehicles, three of which we will consider today. (Click on the name for a larger view of the images above).

  • 1961 Buick Special 4-door sedan – The Special had neither the turbocharged engine nor the rear transaxle of its more notable Y-body brethren from Olds and Pontiac. Thanks to the longevity of the Rover engine, however, it’s probably the most practical of the three “senior compacts” to own today.
  • 1968 Rover P5B 3.5-Litre – The alloy V8, now equipped with SU carbs, rejuvenated the aging Rover P5 platform with more power, better fuel economy, and better handling compared to Rover’s previous inline-6.
  • 1973 MGB GT V8 – By the early ’70s, the British government had collected most of its hemorrhaging domestic auto industry under the corporate umbrella of British Leyland, which allowed the aluminium V8 to migrate into a wider selection of cars. The fixed-head coupe version of the MGB, the GT, could be had with the V8 from ’73–’76. As with the P5, the V8 actually weighed significantly less than the older, less efficient iron-block engine it replaced. Sadly, the MGB GT V8 was never sold in North America.

These three vehicles share very little in common besides the alloy lump under the hood…er, “bonnet.” Which would you choose to:

  • RACE – build into some sort of dedicated racing machine (not street legal) for your choice of competition — any legitimate, sanctioned form of motorsport: road course, rally, drag, LSR, Baja, etc.;
  • DAILY – have as your sole street-registered car, for all your commuting and general transportation needs.
  • RESTORE – do a museum-quality, factory-correct, frame-off restoration, then add to your collection, but not register to drive on the street.

Your choices should be accompanied by your persuasive justification, or at the very least which choice you felt most strongly about. As always, more caveats (there are always caveats) appear after the jump.
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False Neutral #51: Parts Is Parts


Sometimes little details make or break a bike. This week, after a brief interlude for Eric and Garrett to swoon over the Ducati Desmosedici, we pick apart the multitude of minor changes that Harley made to change the existing 750 Street into the new Street Rod (spoiler, we like them). That prompts us to pay way too much attention to rear fenders of various bikes, including Ducatis and Can-Am Spyders. Finally, we look at all the details of the Yamaha XSR900, and why they drive us batty.

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False Neutral – Parts Is Parts


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Race, Daily, Restore: 4-Door Pillarless Hardtops

Rollover safety requirements, CAFE standards, and the quest for quieter cabins have killed the pillarless hardtop, especially the four-door variety. But having been allowed to drive my family’s 1973 Pontiac Bonneville 4-door hardtop throughout my teen years, I can assure you that the automotive world is the worse for it. There is a uniquely blissful feeling about piling three of your best friends into a big four-door hardtop — comfortably, without having to crawl over one another — rolling all four windows down, and cruising wherever your desires lead while the warmth of a summer evening rushes in to caress you through the huge open expanses on either side.

Today, we celebrate this sensation not with a Pontiac, but with three other cars equally (or more) deserving of your consideration:

  • The 1960 Dodge Dart Phoenix This 4-door hardtop from Mopar was still fairly early in the game for this configuration, and yet it is already moving away from the initial intent to mimic the lines of a ragtop convertible. The car is equipped with a 318 “Power Pak” V-8 and a Torqueflite automatic transmission.
  • By the time this 1967 Ford LTD came along, most hardtops had adopted a fairly formal roofline and the side window shape was nearly identical to their pillared sedan siblings, just minus the window frames. It’s up to you if the magic of the 4-door hardtop configuration was waning. This car is similarly equipped to the Dart Phoenix, employing a 289 V-8 and slushbox automatic.
  • Two decades later, very few 4-door hardtops remained in production, but Nissan carried the flame with several models for the domestic Japanese market, including this striking 1982 Nissan Gloria Brougham. Though a turbo was available on some versions, this Brougham has a 2.8 liter normally-aspirated inline six and a floor-shift 5-speed manual.

Now, which of these three hardtops would you choose to:

  • RACE – build into some sort of dedicated racing machine (not street legal) for your choice of competition — any legitimate, sanctioned form of motorsport: road course, rally, drag, LSR, Baja, etc.;
  • DAILY – have as your sole street-registered car, for all your commuting and general transportation needs.
  • RESTORE – do a museum-quality, factory-correct, frame-off restoration, then add to your collection, but not register to drive on the street.

Your choices should be accompanied by your persuasive justification, or at the very least which choice you felt most strongly about. As always, more caveats (there are always caveats) appear after the jump.

IMAGE SOURCES: TopClassicCarsForSale.com, Barrett-Jackson.com, Wikipedia
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False Neutral #50: Police Bikes & Taxi Bikes


This week Garrett gives us a ride report on the Aprilia Tuono V4 and Pete describes the EF1 tornado that skirted his yard this past week. After that, we discuss deals Eric found on Craigslist, including a BMW cop bike with 74,000 miles on it. We wrap up discussing a few bits from the motorcycling press, including a big-box mega-dealership in Michigan and a new taxi bike designed for African markets. Along the way, Pete puts Bulgaria on his bucket list.

The Craigslist ads we discuss (no promises how long the links will last):

Links to the articles we discuss:

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False Neutral – Police Bikes & Taxi Bikes


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Race, Daily, Restore: Three Turismos

One need not be a native of Italy to figure out that Tourismo is Italian for tourism or touring. Evidently, you don’t have to be an Italian car maker to use the word to name your vehicles, either, since only one of our three candidates this week hails from that Mediterranean peninsula. The other two are purely ‘Merican cars marketed with a bit of the ol’ gusto Italiano.

  • The 1955–59 Fiat 1100 Turismo Veloce Trasformabile was a two-seat convertible roadster version of the 11oo compact sedan. The “veloce” indicated it was powered by an up-rated 54 HP, 12oocc engine. A total of 2,360 were built.
  • The 1962–64 Studebaker Grand Turismo Hawk was the swan song of Studebaker’s Hawk line. Brooks Stevens’s extensive but economical reworking of Raymond Loewy’s original Golden Hawk was designed to bring the six-year-old body shape solidly into the ‘Sixties. It could be had with engines putting out anywhere from 210 to 335 supercharged horsepower. For our proposal today, let’s assume we’re talking about the mid-line R1, with 240 HP, a 4-speed manual gearbox, 4-wheel discs, and upgraded sport suspension.
  • The 1982–87 Plymouth Turismo 2.2 was basically a renamed Horizon TC3. While Dodge L-bodies got some respectably hot turbo motors, Plymouth’s Turismo never came equipped with a huffer. The first-year version shown in our photo generated just 84 carbureted HP and 111 lb.-ft. of torque. And unfortunately, that’s the version you’re stuck with today.

Now, which of these three very different Turismos would you choose to:

  • RACE – build into some sort of dedicated racing machine (not street legal) for your choice of competition — any legitimate, sanctioned form of motorsport: road course, rally, drag, LSR, Baja, etc.;
  • DAILY – have as your sole street-registered car, for all your commuting and general transportation needs.
  • RESTORE – do a museum-quality, factory-correct, frame-off restoration, then add to your collection, but not register to drive on the street.

Your choices should be accompanied by your persuasive justification, or at the very least which choice you felt most strongly about. As always, more caveats (there are always caveats) appear after the jump.
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False Neutral #49: Moto Surfin’ Part 2


In the second part of our discussion of online motorcycle resources, we detour from where to get parts and riding gear into talking about what riding gear we have and why we like it. We go on to examine our favorite Facebook pages and groups, along with a couple of pages we’re involved with personally. Links to all the sites we discuss are included after the jump.
 
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False Neutral – Moto Surfin’ Part 2


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Race, Daily, Restore: Economy Spec Oddballs

The progression from base model to top-of-the-line is usually quite logical and linear, wherein every model adds desirable content in an additive progression. But every once in a while manufacturers (or customers) take crazy pills and concoct specialized models that are, um, not so special. Oddball, low-power, decontented editions rarely sell in large numbers, or remain in the sales catalog very long. Such is the case with the three points of today’s vehicular trilemma:

  • The Plymouth Feather Duster was only offered for 1976, the final year of Mopar RWD A-body production. The Feather Duster version was a fuel-economy special, featuring lightweight aluminum parts for a 5% weight savings over the standard model. The body was purely plain-jane, right down to the steelies and dog dish hubcaps. Power was supplied by a one-barrel 225 Slant Six and an extra-high rear axle ratio. A 3-speed automatic was optional, but the standard overdrive 4-speed gearbox was cheaper, lighter, and got better fuel economy, so let’s assume our subject car has the manual.
  • The 1980 Chevrolet Malibu Iraqi Taxi was a special, non-catalog configuration built especially as taxi cabs for Saddam Hussein (yes, that Saddam Hussein). The Canadian-built sedans were definitely utility-spec, with a 110 HP carb’d V6 backed up by a floor-shift three speed manual, commercial-duty interior fabrics, heavy-duty cooling, steelies, and instruments that read in kilometers. The Iraqis quit the deal before the full quota was met (either because of Iraqi financial issues, or because the Malibus didn’t handle the stress of desert taxi duty particularly well, depending on who is telling the story). When the deal fell through, 5,000 “Iraqibu” Malibus had been completed but not yet shipped. They were sold to Canadians looking for basic transport for C$6,500.
  • When first introduced in 1999, the Nissan Frontier Desert Runner combined the truck’s base powertrain (143 HP SOHC 2.4L, five-speed gearbox) with the raised suspension, fender flares, and larger wheels of the 4×4 version—only without the driven front wheels. The “Faux-By-Four” concept of 4WD style with 2WD mechanicals would stick around, but it only used the base four-banger that first year; from 2000 on, Desert Runners switched the larger V6. One interesting note: Though the truck shown is gray, I have it on good authority that all first-year Desert Runners were white King Cabs. The lede photo is actually a 2000 model Desert Runner. Why? I was unable to find even one veritably accurate photo of a ’99; that should indicate just how rare they are.

So, there are your three oddball, econo-spec candidates. Your task is to chose one for each of the following roles in your conceptual garage:

  • RACE – build into some sort of dedicated racing machine (not street legal) for your choice of competition — any legitimate, sanctioned form of motorsport: road course, rally, drag, LSR, Baja, etc.;
  • DAILY – have as your sole street-registered car, for all your commuting and general transportation needs.
  • RESTORE – do a museum-quality, factory-correct, frame-off restoration, then add to your collection, but not drive on the street.

Your choices should be accompanied by your persuasive justification, or at the very least which choice you felt most strongly about.

As always, more caveats (there are always caveats) appear after the jump.

IMAGE CREDITS: Imgur.com, SeeWord.com, QualityAutoAR.com.
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False Neutral #48: Moto Surfin’ Part 1


After a quick catch-up on Eric’s Mustang and Garrett’s new son, we take a moment to mark the one-year anniversary of our first episode. Eric would like to add a new daily rider this season, so we discuss the two likely candidates before delving into our topic for this week: motorcycling on the Internet. How we get motorcycle-oriented content — both professional and amateur — has changed greatly over the past couple of years. We share our current favorite and less-than-favorite motorcycle websites, vlogs, and forums. Links to all the sites we discuss are included after the jump.

We’re returning to our original 30 minute format, so this conversation has been split into two episodes.
 
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False Neutral – Moto Surfin’ Part 1


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Race, Daily, Restore: Sprinty Freshness

Sprinters are fast. Maybe they’re not the fastest over the long haul, but for the short time they run, they run faster than anybody. In motorsport, sprint races are short, but intense. Today, we have three very different cars, all of which wore the word Sprint as part of their name, either as a trim level or in the case of the GMC, the model name:

  • 1986 Alfa Romeo Sprint 1.5L
  • 1979 Triumph Dolomite Sprint 2.0L
  • 1973 GMC Sprint SP 5.7L

Whether any of these deserve the association the term implies is quite debatable, but that’s beside the point. Today, we have other things to ruminate on. Your task is to decide which of the three you would:

  • RACE – build into some sort of dedicated racing machine (not street legal) for your choice of competition — any legitimate, sanctioned form of motorsport: road course, rally, drag, LSR, Baja, etc.;
  • DAILY – have as your sole street-registered car, for all your commuting and general transportation needs.
  • RESTORE – do a museum-quality, factory-correct, frame-off restoration, then add to your collection, but not drive on the street.

Your choices should be accompanied by your persuasive justification, or at the very least which choice you felt most strongly about.

Since most of you know the ground rules by now, they’re now available after the jump.

IMAGE CREDITS: Hemmings.com, Classiccarauctions.co.uk, Wikipedia.
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