Encyclopedia Hoonatica: Factory White Wheels


Not too long ago in the history of the automobile, wheels were almost universally black steel, or perhaps painted to match the body color of the car, if you bought something really fancy. But white wheels? That would look weird. And indeed, when tried, they did look sort of weird. That didn’t stop white aftermarket wheels from becoming a bona fide trend; nowadays they’re seemingly everywhere on everything from sports cars to stanced hatchbacks that can’t traverse a speed bump.

However, original equipment white wheels from the showroom are not quite as common. Your assignment for today is to fill our virtual tome of arcane knowledge with a list of all the production cars that rolled off the assembly line equipped with white wheels. (Bonus points if the body color is something other than white.)

Difficulty: 3.6-1000 nanofarthings per sidereal year.

How This Works: Read the comments first and don’t post duplicates. Bonus points for adding photos. Remember thanks to Disqus, no HTML is needed: you can simply paste in the image URL.

Image Sources: IMCDb.com and General Motors Heritage Center via Hemmings.com

1981 Caprice Taxi…in South Africa?


The cool thing (well, one of the cool things) about surfing the Interwebs is the unprecedented opportunity we have to peek in on far-flung locales that we’d have known nothing about pre cyber-age. Working my Google-fu (if you’ll excuse my millennial jargon) while searching for the images I used in today’s Encyclopedia Hoonatica post, I found this Caprice taxi that somehow ended up Far Far Away in Edgemead, South Africa. The seller claims that it was a New York City taxi in a past life, and that it’s “The only New York Chev Caprice in the country“. OR IS IT? Our own Kamil Kaluski thinks otherwise, pointing out,

“I’m not sure that it’s a NYC cab. NYC cabs never came with those checker stickers, that I know of, at least none that I have ever seen, not in the 80s. No roof light, no medallion stencil,… it might be a cab, but I don’t think it was a NYC cab.”

Excellent points, but the seller does say that it “comes with the original taxi number and indicator on roof”…although the roof looks unaltered and the  indicator is nowhere to be seen in the two very basic photos provided. What say you, is this the real NYC deal, or an imposter? In any case, it would still be a rare and most excellent way to drive around on the wrong side of the road at the opposite tip of another continent.

Source: www.gumtree.co.za

Encyclopedia Hoonatica: Amber & Red Turn Signals


In nearly all automotive markets worldwide, turn signals are required to be amber. Not so in North America, where Federal (& Canadian) vehicle standards allow them to be either amber or red on the rear of the vehicle. (This remains true despite the government’s own findings that amber turn signals are safer, significantly reducing accidents over red turn signals.) As a result, American auto makers have chosen between red and amber rear turns willy-nilly, with little logic as to when one or the other is used. Therefore, some domestic models originally equipped with one color were switched during a model-year refresh. For example, the Aspen & Volaré twins (including the rockin’ Road Runner versions shown) switched from red in ’77 to amber in ’78.

Obviously, this question centers around the North American market, but there are plenty of opportunities for our overseas readers to participate. Many automakers have gone through the somewhat illogical expense of equipping American models headed overseas with special export-only lighting equipment, while a number of imports have adopted red rear lens designs for the North American market. (Do Americans really hate amber lights enough to justify the expense?)

Your Hoonatica assignment for today is to name all the vehicles that were equipped with both amber and red rear turn signal versions. To be clear, this means the same generation/platform, not just model name!

Difficulty: Easy. Most people have one they can name off the top of their heads.

How This Works: Read the comments first and don’t post duplicates. Bonus points for adding photos. Remember thanks to Disqus, no HTML is needed: you can simply paste in the image URL.

Image Source: city-data.com and carpictures.com

Encyclopedia Hoonatica: Front Beam Axle With Leaf Springs

Beam axle with leaf springs

Back when I had my ’66 GMC van, I was amazed on how basic and uncomplicated the front suspension was: A simple, solid axle bolted to two longitudinal leaf springs. It’s about the simplest front suspension one can imagine, and isn’t much different than the suspension on a horse-drawn frontier buckboard of 150 years ago (and why people complained that my van “rode like a buckboard”). No control arms or other linkages, just an axle, springs, and a couple of shocks. It doesn’t provide the best ride, and it’s not a terribly space efficient layout, but it is elegant in its simplicity, very robust, and can be maintained with basic mechanical skills and a few simple tools. (“Yeah! Impact wrench! VRRR VRRR!“)

In homage to my old van, today’s entry in the virtual tome that is Encyclopedia Hoonatica is vehicles with a solid beam axle and leaf springs up front. Lately, E-H queries have not been very technical, so I decided to lob out a question today that’s a little more deferential to those greasemonkeys who spend more time under cars than perusing sales brochures.

The caveats:

  • Passenger cars and light trucks only. We could name medium- and heavy-duty trucks until the cows come home. And then the cows could name a few more.
  • Rear wheel drive only. No 4x4s. A beam axle is not the same thing as a drive axle.
  • Front suspension only. We don’t care about what’s in the rear of your Dodge Caravan.
  • Since this was a fairly common configuration on many early vehicles, both common and obscure, let’s restrict the list to postwar vehicles.

Difficulty: Easy for some, a blank stare for others. Big bonus points for passenger cars.

How This Works: Read the comments first and don’t post duplicates. Bonus points for adding photos. Remember, you can simply pasting in the image URL now, thanks to Disqus.

Image Source: Digz_MI’s Photobucket via The Vintage-Vans.com Forum

Encyclopedia Hoonatica TWT Bonus Edition: Freaky Motorcycle Carbs


This past weekend, a sorta-bike-literate friend mentioned he’d just seen his first KZ1300, Kawasaski’s liquid-cooled, six-cylinder roadster. He was more than a little impressed, and shared some of the information the owner had shared with him, including one erroneous “fact”: that the KZ1300 was the only motorcycle equipped with two-barrel carbs. I (being the arrogant know-it-all I am) corrected him and told him of two other bikes that used the same type of double-barrel carb. Then as we continued talking, I told him about a particular single-cylinder motorcycle that was not only equipped with two carbs, but had one CV carb and one slide carb.

I decided (being the arrogant know-it-all I am) that the question of freaky motorcycle carb setups would be a great Encyclopedia Hoonatica question. Now, E-H normally covers car topics on Monday, but Hooniverse is not a hard-core “biker guy” site. Since many of you might not be answering a motorcycle question (and a rather obscure one at that), slipping one into the normal E-H weekly slot wouldn’t really be cricket, would it?

So, here’s the first (and perhaps only) Encyclopedia Hoonatica/Two-Wheel-Tuesday crossover edition. I expect the responses will be as fascinating and well-thought as the usual Monday EH comments. Both of them.

Encyclopedia Hoonatica: Window Corner Fillers


Thanks to Jim’s Antti’s Mitsubishi-themed weekend, I was reacquainted with the Cordia, a car I though was quite handsome as a young college student soldier. But I never realized back in the day how odd and obvious the black plastic filler was in the corners of the rear quarter windows. It is a styling technique we’ve seen many times over the years. Sometimes it’s done for engineering reasons (stronger roof pillars, or allowing door windows to go down completely) and sometimes it’s done strictly for looks (“Let’s make this window odd and awkward!”). For whatever reason they exist, your job today is to list all the cars that have used this little styling trick.

Just to be clear, this is NOT a Hofmeister kink, which clips off the corner of both the window and the window frame to match it. We need to see cars whose body shell is shaped to make it look like the window opening was originally larger than the glass is, and the extra bit has been filled in with a trim piece (sometimes chrome, usually matte black if the car is less than 25 years old.)

DIFFICULTY: Roughly equivalent to being “it” in a game of hide-and-seek. On the Bonneville salt flats.

Read the comments first and don’t post duplicates. Images are always a nice touch.*

*thanks to the wonder of Disqus, I no longer have to admonish you about HTML and/or image width settings!

Encyclopedia Hoonatica: Obviously Absent Driving Lights

Bumper and fascia mounted driving lights have been “a thing” since at least as far back as Pontiac’s love affair with them in the 1980s. Nowadays, almost every car model is available with driving lights as an optional extra, but very few include them as standard equipment on their base model. This presents a quandary for the design team: how do you make them easily installed on the line, but simultaneously design around their absence? The most elegant solution (such as with my wife’s Chrysler 300) is to have two completely different bumper skins: one with driving light sockets, another with a smooth face. Some cars fit oddly-shaped driving lights into flowing, sculptural openings that don’t look terribly odd or out of place with a plastic block-off panel in place.

But some vehicles are not so lucky, especially trucks and SUVs. The tacky approach is to simply blank off the (usually) round opening. The front end of the vehicle screams “I didn’t pony up for the optional driving lights!” To me, the pre-facelift Honda Element (above) has always been one of the most obvious offenders, but there are plenty more with these hauntingly blank eye sockets, from subcompacts to full-size SUVs. How many can you name?

Difficulty: A pop-up fly to center field. I know you’ve got this, Bro.

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

Image Source: cargurus.com

My Weekend Didn’t Suck

YouTube Preview Image

Last weekend, Mrs. Tanshanomi and I got away for an extended weekend and spent two days snowmobiling in the Arapahoe National Forest with a few friends. The Grand Lake area is a snowmobile mecca, and these three minutes of video demonstrate why. Needless to say, we came back in a very, very good mood.

Living at 1000 feet ASL and much too far south, snowmobiling is not really a practical option for us most of the time, so this sort of activity is something special for us that we only get to do every couple of years. Back in the mid ’80s, I did work in a Twin Cities Yamaha dealer for several seasons and stole demo sleds on the weekends as often as they’d let me. However, as much fun as snowmobiling is in the Midwest, it pales in comparison to the environment and vistas the Continental Divide offers.

Our Polaris 550 Trail Touring sleds were the sort of typically low-spec machine common to rental establishments: an old-style, short-tracked model powered by a fan-cooled 550cc two-stroke twin. It was pleasant enough on the trail, but had neither the lungs nor the track length to venture into anything other than hard-packed snow. Among hardcore ‘bilers, Polaris sleds — especially their two strokes — have a chorus of detractors, but the fact that all of our sleds were in fairly serviceable condition after six years and 12-15K of hard rental use is a testament to the design’s underlying robustness. The only problems we had were a couple of inop electric starters and grip heaters (the latter the victims of obvious crash damage).

This video was taken with the Chinese “Xtreme HD” action camera I’ve been playing with for a couple of years now.

The soundtrack is one I found on Newgrounds, which I’ll give a plug for here because it’s a fantastic community and a great source for Creative Commons licensed works.

Encyclopedia Hoonatica: Factory Side Pipes


Side pipes were, at their genesis, an imperfect solution to a vexing problem. In many compact, low-slung vehicles with big engines (in other words, racing cars) there is often nowhere for those big, hot exhaust pipes to go under the floorboards, and thus they must be routed around the side the vehicle by necessity. Thus was the case with the 427 Cobra and the original Viper. But they have serious drawbacks for occupants: high door sills and, unless serious attention is given to guards and heat management, a very real burn danger. (Subsequent redesigns of the Viper have enclosed those calf-searing pipes inside the rockers, but they are still side pipes.) Because of these practical issues and because they were only considered stylish for a limited period of time in the 1960s and  ’70s, side pipes have not been widely utilized by car makers. But there are other examples of cars that were equipped by the manufacturer with exhibitionistic pipework along their flanks. And that is today’s Encyclopedia Hoonatica assignment: cars with factory side pipes.

    Specific Requirements:

  • Aftermarket pipes don’t count, but accessory pipes sold by the OEM as a dealer-installed accessory are okay.
  • We are looking for production vehicles: No concept cars, SEMA cars, or home-built specials.
  • Side pipes carry exhaust gasses; if you’re going to include some sort of fake side pipes, you’d best prepared a good argument to justify their inclusion.
  • Race cars don’t count, even if they were modified by the factory, unless they were made available for sale to privateers.

Difficulty: Get your fruit while they’re low-hanging. Zero to total obscurity in about 10 minutes flat.

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

Image Source: Wikipedia, Hemmings.com

Encyclopedia Hoonatica: Modified Wheel Count


Vehicles with more or less fewer than four wheels are somewhat rare in the whole scheme of vehiclulardom (well, except for big trucks, I suppose). But vehicles that were modified at some point in the platform’s lifespan to alter the number of wheels are even more rare. The most commonly-known one is probably the Reliant Robin, which begat the Kitten with a new, rubber-donut-enriched front end. You might think the trail goes cold right there, but you’d be wrong. There are a good number of other vehicles that were tweaked to increase or decrease the number of wheels. It’s your job to think of and list them all.

Difficulty: Roughly equivalent to sitting through The Fall of the Roman Empire.

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

Image Sources: kenjonbro’s flicker page, Wikipedia.


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