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Bikes You Should Know: Featherbed Manx

manx-cutaway
Bikes You Should Know appears weekly as part of Two Wheel Tuesdays. Since Hooniverse primarily caters to automotive enthusiasts, this column focuses on historically or culturally significant motorcycles that are likely to interest a non-riding audience.


The cutaway drawing above is from 1952. It shows a single-cylinder, air-cooled, grand prix roadracing motorcycle. Single cylinder and grand prix might not go together in the mind of a modern viewer. We are used to thinking of single-cylinder, four-stroke “thumpers” as pleasant, but distinctly underpowered when compared to multi-cylinder designs. Single-cylinder engines are suitable for dirt bikes, commuters and learner machines — but not world-championship racing. Right? Well, for most of the 20th century, that was wrong. The Norton Manx defeated two-, three-, four- and eight-cylinder machines regularly throughout its long and illustrious run as both a works racer and a production racer sold to the public. This success was partially because the Manx engine’s double-overhead-cam design was technologically impressive for the time, but a lot of the credit must go to the “featherbed” frame that debuted in 1950. The Featherbed established the handling superiority of swingarm rear suspension, which remains nearly ubiquitous today, and remained in production (in various forms) for twenty years.

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Encyclopedia Hoonatica: One-Off Factory Paint Jobs

EH-alternate-colors

Production cars are normally offered in a variety of color choices, but it is not uncommon for limited-edition and specialty versions to be available in a single color. For example, the Pontiac Can-Am was only sold in white. McLaren’s limited-edition F1 LM supercars left the factory wearing Bruce Mclaren’s iconic shade of Papaya Orange. However, it often turns out that one or two cars get spec’d with a different paint job: the original prototype for that special version of the Pontiac Le Mans (which was initally to be called The Judge) was painted Carousel Red, and was revised with “Can-Am” graphics after that became the car’s approved identity. Likewise, two McLaren’s LMs were painted black with custom graphics at the request of the Sultan of Brunei.

What other special-edition cars were available in one color scheme, except for a special one or two outliers that were painted _____?

DIFFICULTY: 890 millibars

Repetitive boilerplate you’re unlikely to read yet again: Read the comments first and don’t post duplicates. Adding photos with standard HTML is good, but shrink the big ones with width="500".

Bikes You Should Know: 1969 Honda CB750

CB750-ad
Bikes You Should Know appears weekly as part of Two Wheel Tuesdays. Since Hooniverse primarily caters to automotive enthusiasts, this column focuses on historically or culturally significant motorcycles that are likely to interest a non-riding audience.


Well, we might as well acknowledge the elephant in the room. I’ve resisted profiling some clearly significant motorcycles right out of the gate, so this series doesn’t gradually slide from true significance to featuring whatever also-ran we haven’t covered yet. But it’s starting to feel awkward to keep excluding the Honda’s SOHC 750. It was, by any meaningful yardstick, the most significant motorcycle ever. If this truly is “Bikes You Should Know,” this one is #1 with a bullet.

Honda’s CB750 was not the first four-cylinder, transverse motorcycle. It wasn’t the first motorcycle to wear a disc brake. It wasn’t even the first production, street legal four. However, when it was introduced, it was the first modern affordable, mass-produced four-cylinder motorcycle. And it was equipped with the world’s first standard-equipment hydraulic disc brake.

In other words, ordinary joes could suddenly go down to a local dealer and buy the most advanced, grand-prix technology in the world for themselves to ride.

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Encyclopedia Hoonatica: See-Through Hoods

EH-clear-hoods

When you have an impressive car with a really powerful, really pretty, really exotic engine, it seems such a shame that you can’t show it off all the time, without stopping to pop open the hood for onlookers, right? (I personally don’t know what this is like, but I’ve heard tell). Fortunately, sympathetic car designers have recognized the heartbreak of this first world problem, and your Encyclopedia Hoonatica assignment for today is to list all the cars that use see-through panels or other means to show off their sexy intimate parts even when they’re all buttoned up, sort of like a woman* in a mesh blouse.

Hoonetiquette: Read the comments first and don’t post duplicates. Adding photos with standard HTML is good, but shrink the big ones with width="500".

DIFFICULTY: If you search for an answer for more than four hours, call your doctor.

*Please note I said “woman”; a man in a mesh shirt is wrong on so many levels. We shall not mention Canseco. Oh crap, I just did.

Bike (Technology) You Should Know: Modern Motorcycle Technology by Massimo Clarke

Massimo-Clarke-01

Hooniverse is generally not about motorcycles. Yes, there’s a good-sized minority of regulars who ride, but Hooniverse is overwhelmingly an automotive site. I pitched the idea behind Bikes You Should Know to Jeff as “helping our readers have something intelligent to say when the conversation at a backyard barbeque turns to motorcycles.” However, Hooniverse readers are a curious lot. For most of our non-riding visitors, motorcycles are still interesting in the same way that six-wheeled and tracked vehicles and gyrocopters are interesting, even if they have no desire to own any of them. (Although it seems that everyone wants a ‘Busa-powered something.)

I read Hooniverse from the point of view of someone who knows a fair amount about bikes, and not a whole lot about cars beyond being a decent car-spotter. In technical discussions, I am often struck by just how differently car and bike engines and transmissions are constructed. That’s why today I am recommending a book to my non-riding Hooniversalist brethren: Modern Motorcycle Technology by Massimo Clarke. This is a great means to learn all the way bike drivetrains are different than what you’re used to, and why. … Continue Reading

Encyclopedia Hoonatica: Asymmetric Wheel Placement

EH-asym

In reading about Speedycop autocrossing the Spirit of LeMons last week, I was struck by just how drastically asymmetrical that car’s plane’s craft’s front wheel track is. That got me thinking about how rare it is not to have the wheels placed symmetrically. The only others I could think of were a couple of old Renaults (which had different wheelbases front to rear), and the Lotus 38 (which had wheels symmetrical to each other but spaced out from the chassis differently to the right and left).

So, I turn to our loyal commentunity. Help me flesh out with today’s Encyclopedia Hoonatica entry by listing all the vehicles that you know of that didn’t arrange the wheels in a traditional symmetrical placement from the center of the car, either side-to-side or front-to-back. Since this one is really out there, feel free to include one-offs: concept cars, race cars, customs, whatever else you can come up with.

You know the drill by now: read the comments first and don’t post duplicates. Adding photos with standard HTML is good, but shrink the big ones with width="500".

DIFFICULTY: No clue. There may not be many more than those I gave as examples (highly unlikely), or I might be an incredibly unknowledgable enthusiast (almost assured).

Image Sources:
Wikipedia.org
RoadAndTrack.org
Hooniverse.com

Bikes You Should Know: 1976 Kawasaki KZ900 LTD

1976-kawasaki-kz900ltd
Bikes You Should Know appears weekly as part of Two Wheel Tuesdays. Since Hooniverse primarily caters to automotive enthusiasts, this column focuses on historically or culturally significant motorcycles that are likely to interest a non-riding audience.


For a period of time, “factory customs” took over the motorcycle industry. Honda called theirs Customs. Yamaha had Specials (and later, Maxims). Suzuki had their Low Slingers. And Kawasaki had LTDs. They were to bikes what disco was to music: a lowbrow pop phenomenon that was short on substance, big on glitz, and hugely appealing to the masses despite being roundly derided by “experts.” And, also like disco, when the public turned on factory customs they did so with a vengeance. Seemingly overnight, what had been the “in thing” was suddenly silly and uncool to the point of mockery.

But how and why did this outrageous and quizzical trend ever take hold? The genesis of the factory custom trend and most of the cruisers that followed is this bike: The 1976 KZ900 LTD.

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Encyclopedia Hoonatica: “GT” as a trim level

Tanshanomi September 29, 2014 Encyclopedia Hoonatica

EH_GT-trimlines

A Gran Turismo (or for us English speakers, “Grand Touring”) car is a specific type of automobile, defined by Collins English Dictionary as “a high-performance luxury sports car with a hard fixed roof, designed for covering long distances.” But that narrow definition has never stopped automotive manufacturers from slapping the initials “GT” on just about every type of vehicle made over the years, many of which were neither grand, nor tourers.

While a fair number of cars have worn GT as their actual model name, or part of the name (Ford GT, Opel GT, MGB GT) many, many more used GT to differentiate one of several optional trim lines. These are what today’s Encyclopedia Hoonatica entry is all about. The GT version of a particular car might have a bigger engine, stiffer springs, or upgraded interior trim, but often the difference has consisted of little more than rocker-panel stripes, black window surrounds, and different steering wheel emblem.

So, Hooniverse faithful, your task today is to list all the cars—good, bad, and ugly—that could be transformed from ordinary to GT with just a check-box on the build sheet. One caveat: There are innumerable 3+ letter derivatives, such as GTI, GTS, GTX, GT-R, etc. We’ll save those for some other time, perhaps; today we want just “GT” versions specifically.

As always, read the comments first and don’t post duplicates. Adding photos with standard HTML is good, but shrink the big ones with width="500".

DIFFICULTY: 75% Off! Everything must go!

Image Sources: Various manufacturer promtional/press photos and Wikipedia (1970 Toyota Celica 01 by Mytho88 – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0.)

Bikes You Should Know: Honda Trail 90

Honda-trail-90
Bikes You Should Know appears weekly as part of Two Wheel Tuesdays. Since Hooniverse primarily caters to automotive enthusiasts, this column focuses on historically or culturally significant motorcycles that are likely to interest a non-riding audience.


Many image-conscious people are attracted to motorcycles that make a statement about their grandiosity, machismo and fearlessness, or at least their audaciousness. The Honda CT90 “Trail 90″ (and it’s later iteration, the CT110) is the polar opposite: there’s nothing bad-ass about it. The Honda Trail was simple and non-threatening to ride, struggled to reach 55 MPH, and looked a bit gooney with its under-seat fuel tank and bright, primary colors. It was a whole lot more Hugh Beaumont than Chuck Norris, or even Chuck Conners. But what it lacked in style, it made up in practicality and utility. Albeit slowly, a Trail 90 could traverse nearly any terrain. From putt-putting down to the showers at an RV park to striking out from a remote deer camp, the Trail 90 was all about outdoor exploration.

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Encyclopedia Hoonatica: Cars that are Light Trucks that are Cars

Tanshanomi September 22, 2014 Encyclopedia Hoonatica

EH-cars-lighttrucks

The topic for this week’s outpouring of crowdsourced triva that we know as Encyclopedia Hoonatica comes to us courtesy of loyal Hooniversalist OA5599*. He requested a listing of all the vehicles that were, in various versions, classified as both cars and light trucks. The regulations that differentiate a passenger car and a light truck are silly and arcane, and derivatives of the same platform/body shell can be either, depending on what driveline it is equipped with and what’s changed to the rear of the B-pillar.

Since the regulatory definition between cars and trucks was less stringent and more vague prior to the adoption of modern motor vehicle safety, emissions and fuel economy regulations, let’s limit the list to vehicles built after 1967 (when the first U.S. safety standards went into effect).

… Continue Reading

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