Bikes You Should Know: 1976 Kawasaki KZ900 LTD

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


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

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


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).

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V.I.S.I.T: Mighty Morphin’ Bitsa Bird


While visiting family in rural northeast Kansas, I happened to park next to what I assumed was a ’77 or ’78 Trans-Am in white…but wait! Something was obviously missing, namely the shaker hood that the puking chicken should’ve been caressing with its wings. Somewhat less noticeably, the front spoiler was also absent. I tracked down the car’s teenage owner, who was working nearby. He told me the car was actually a ’78 Esprit, the upscale “lux” version that lacked most of the Trans-Am’s tacked-on gills and fins. (This one, however, had been spec’d with the optional rear spoiler.) He replaced the front fenders with a vented pair from an ’81 Trans-Am, which came complete with fender flairs. To complement the look, matching rear flairs were installed on the wheel wells in back and a big hood decal was added.

So, what do you think? Is a smooth Esprit hood worthy of wearing the Bandit Bird? Or does the lack of pokey-throughy engineness just make it look like a man wearing a tube top?

Bikes You Should Know: Harley-Davidson Livewire


My first eleven installments of Bikes You Should Know featured motorcycles introduced at least twenty years ago. But it’s not my intention for this column to focus exclusively on classic bikes. This is a spectacular age for production motorcycles, and there are plenty of new and notable motorcycles a self-proclaimed gear-head should be familiar with. And they don’t come any newer or more notable than Harley-Davidson’s new electric motorcycle, the Livewire.

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Encyclopedia Hoonatica: OE Trunk Racks

Tanshanomi September 15, 2014 Encyclopedia Hoonatica


Welcome to your weekly opportunity to geek out on arcane automobilia, in which Encyclopedia Hoonatica seeks your help in listing a list, compiling a compilation, compending a compendium of cars that have a specific and usually fairly meaningless trait in common.

Today (thanks to an awesome suggestion by regular Hooniverse reader Krautwursten), the common trait we want to definitively list is original equipment, trunk-mounted luggage racks. Now, we’re not talking about roof racks (which are so common on SUVs and station wagons as to be tedious and uninteresting to list). We are also not interested in accessory racks. We want to know about vehicles that were available new with a luggage rack mounted on the trunk lid (or “boot” if you’re an unyankee’d Hainingite.) This DOES include racks that were offered as a factory-authorized accessory, since these were commonly a dealer-installed option.

V.I.S.I.T: “Your Forecourt Is Intriguing To Me…”


The city of Lawrence, home to the University of Kansas, is your typical small, Midwestern college town. As such, there is very little exotic there, and very few businesses that are not oriented toward the needs of cash-strapped college students. Not a great place to find unique old cars. But as I passed through that charming burg Monday afternoon, I glimpsed the distinctive rear end of a very cool old Saab wagon with the equally distinctive butts of two Porsche 928s next to it. As they flashed by, I couldn’t tell what sort of business was there, but these are not the sort of practical, cheap, plentiful vehicles that college kids normally drive. On the return trip, I slowed down enough to see that one of the 928s was be-tarped, there were two Bimmers further down the row, and they were all parked in front of an establishment called Red Ink Racing, Ltd. (Great name!). I still don’t know if these are cars for sale, customer vehicles in for repair, or the owner’s stalled personal projects. But parking these out front as the public face of your business tells me you’re my kind of establishment.

Bikes You Should Know: Honda CBX

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.

A couple of Two-Wheel Tuesdays ago, BYSK profiled Honda’s six-cylinder race bikes of the 1960s. As with many racing successes, the technology and style of those Grand Prix bikes was parlayed into a production machine. In this case, the journey took more than a decade, and the bike that showed up in European Honda dealers’ showroom floors in the Spring of 1978 (and in the USA the following October) was a very different machine in design, intent and scale than the racers of yore. The CBX was not the first six-cylinder street bike, and initially it was not a sales success. But but it did capture the riding public’s imagination in a special way that continues today.
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Encyclopedia Hoonatica: NOT Available At Your Local Dealer

Once a manufacturer goes through the time, effort and expense to construct a new car design, the idea is usually to sell all they can, through every sales channel available. The majority of sales (as Tesla has recently discovered) is almost always through their franchised dealer network. But car makers also sell to fleets, rental car companies, and other non-retail buyers. Sometimes they offer these “buy-‘em-by-the-dozen” customers specially-equipped models that regular dealers don’t get to sell. Today’s Encylcopedia Hoonatica entry seeks these not-available-at-your-local-dealer offerings, whether they are end-of-life, previous generation designs that few private individuals would want to purchase anyway or really, really cool vehicles that gearheads must impatiently watch to show up used on Joe Bob’s Corner Car Lot.

DIFFICULTY: Get your low-hanging fruit early.


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