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Race, Daily, Restore: 4-Door Rotaries


When we think of Wankel rotary engines, usually what comes to mind are sporty coupes, compact econoboxes, (or perhaps mini-pickups, if you’re particular twisted). But there was a time that the Torqueless Wonder was considered a viable means of propelling a crew of four or more, with vier Türen or shi doa. Today, your trilemma is to sort through how you’d employ three such cars.

  • 1967 NSU Ro80 – From the earliest adopter and first champion of the Wankel engine, the Ro80 has timeless elegance, disc brakes and independent suspension all around, and a funky auto-clutch. And probably a trio of worn-out apex seals.
  • 1982 Mazda Cosmo Turbo – Long after NSU went belly-up and Audi had given up on rotaries, Mazda kept the Holy Church of the Wobbling Triangle alive. Stuffing a turbocharged 12A good for 163 horsepower under the hood of an HB Cosmo/929 sedan was a remarkable sign of their passion, to say the least.
  • 2009 Mazda RX8 – This one is really a sports coupe, but it barely slides into 4-door territory thanks to its two rear slave doors. People either love or hate the RX8, but proves that a Wankel engine really can work well in a modern car. Until it doesn’t.

You say you prefer POCKITA-POCKITA to HMMMMMM and two doors versus four? Too bad, those aren’t your choices today. You are restricted to these three. 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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Found on Ebay: Fiat 131 – A pretty little liar?

Peter Tanshanomi April 19, 2017 For Sale


Fiats are known for breaking, rusting, and generally not being very durable. So this very nicely preserved 1978 model is a remarkable find for someone who likes Italian tin. I personally have a thing for ’70s Fiats thanks to my 8th grade math teacher, who drove a dark red (rust red?) 128 four-door. But this 131 has it all over Mrs. Sharp’s old 128: rear wheel drive, a longitudinally mounted twin cam engine, two doors, and lots of Abarth visuals splashed around the exterior. The squared-off, generic 2-door-sedan shape may not be sexy, but it is definitely the box sexy comes in. Now, about all this “Supermirafiori” and “Abarth” stuff: I’m not buying it. The VIN tag identifies this as a Federal-spec car. There was no Abarth version offered; it’s just a standard ’78 Fiat SuperBrava. I find it interesting that in the Hemmings.com classified ad for this car, the description makes nary a mention of the Abarth name. I guess Supermirafiori sounds more desirable and exotic than SuperBrava.  The seller does indicate that it has the larger 1995cc engine, so at least that emblem is appropriate. Even though this is a fake/clone/tribute car, I still totally dig what it is, and the effort that the past owner has put into preserving and improving it since it came to America.

It’s currently listed on Ebay with less than three days to go. This isn’t the first time it has been listed, however, and in an earlier auction, $9700 did not meet reserve.

False Neutral #55: Gettin’ Horizontal

Garrett’s still AWOL this week, so Eric and Pete keep this episode a bit briefer than usual. Our topic is a bit obscure: horizontal-cylinder engines. We start with Guzzi’s Falcone and Nuovo Falcone. Then, we fawn all over the Ducati Supermono, explain how reciprocating counterweights work, and school Ducati on what the Scrambler Sixty2 should have been, and why. All this leads Pete to a sudden epiphany regarding Honda’s worst bike ever. Moving from thumpers to multi-cylinder bikes, we wrap up with BMW K-bikes and the obscure, Aermacchi-based Linto racer.

NOTE: “Falcone” is properly pronounced fal-CO-nay, not fal-COHN, as I say repeatedly. I’ve had it wrong in my head for years, and know it’s wrong, but the right way just doesn’t stick.

(I didn’t slack this week, and we talked about a lot of bikes, so there’s a full 21 images after the jump.)

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False Neutral – Gettin’ Horizontal


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False Neutral #54: Topic Grab Bag


It’s just Eric and me this week, and we touch on a veritable smorgasbord of different topics in this episode. We debrief Eric’s professional roadrace update in episode #53, then talk about what what’s gone on in our workshops. (Thanks to Garrett, it’s actually “something!”) After a quick update on several of the new 2017 models that are just hitting the streets, we answer a few listener questions, kinda like a real podcast. A big thanks to those who sent queries and comments in!

And since there’s only one lonely photo this week, there’s no jump. Here’s your promised view of the engine plates Garrett gifted me with:


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False Neutral – Topic Grab Bag

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.
… Continue Reading