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Encyclopedia Hoonatica: Circular Door Handles


Over the past few weeks, I’ve asked for suggested topics for Encyclopedia Hoonatica, and our own Kaptain Kamil responded by suggesting today’s topic: circular door handles. He included a photo of a Fiat Ritmo (known as the Strada in the U.S.), which was the first one to come to my mind. Okay, it was the only one to come to mind. Since I was unsure how much runway this topic had beyond that, I did some research on my own and was able to come up with exactly two other vehicles that fit this category. Can the hive-mind uncover some that I’ve missed?

The Caveats (there are always caveats):

  • The actual handle itself does not need to be round, just the overall shape of the backplate.
  • Circular means round, not rounded or oval.
  • It’s okay to think beyond the outside of the driver’s door. Inside door handles, liftgate and cargo door handles are all allowable.
  • Cars, light trucks and heavy duty trucks are all fair game. I think we can safely exclude motorcycles on this.
  • Airplanes? Let’s not go there.

Difficulty: The low hanging fruit is already gone.

How This Works: Read the comments first and don’t post duplicates! Bonus points for adding photos.

Image Source: Wikipedia

Encyclopedia Hoonatica: Cars That Are Things


Cars overwhelmingly look like…cars. But sometimes intrepid individuals (or marketing firms) desire to gain attention by making cars that look like other things. What sort of things? Anything you can name, from scaled-up telephones to tiny dirigibles. And that’s what we’re looking for today: any vehicle intentionally shaped like something other than a car.

[Thanks to our own Robert Emslie for this suggestion! If there’s a topic you want the Hooniverse hive-mind to explore in the marble slabs papyrus scrolls electronic bits that make up Encyclopedia Hoonatica, send your topic to the Hooniverse tips line.]

The Caveats (there are always caveats):

  • Obviously, we’re not talking about production models, here. Promotional vehicles, custom show cars, homemade art cars, any sort of one-off is acceptable.
  • It can’t just be an odd looking car (covered with pennies, etc.), it has to look like something else.
  • Likewise, it CAN’T just look like a car carrying something, such as an energy drink, a a wristwatch, or a lion. The entire body of the vehicle has to be the “thing.” Sure, you’ll see wheels and chassis parts here and there, but if you can tell the model or manufacturer of the source vehicle, it’s probably not what we’re looking for.
  • Cars, trucks, motorcycles, and other land vehicles are all good. Don’t know how big a rabbit hole boats would be. I’m including airplanes just because I’ll be really impressed if somebody’s built a flyable airplane that looks like a princess phone or a teacup.

Difficulty: Like playing soccer against giant tortoises.

How This Works: Read the comments first and don’t post duplicates! Bonus points for adding photos.

Image Sources: wheresmatthew.com, Higgs56.com, Eric Lindbloom’s Flickr feed.

Encyclopedia Hoonatica: Switchable Speedometers

Several of my recent Hoonatica quests have focused on older automotive technologies, because Kennedy baby. Today, I am going with a more modern focus in order to make it up to those of you who have pre-school memories of Sega Dreamcast.

For many years now, most speedometers installed in North American cars have indicated speed in both MPH and KPH. Manufacturers have typically accomplished this by simply printing two scales on the speedometer face, usually with the kilometer scale printed in tiny graduations inside of a larger MPH scale (and vise versa in North Canadica). But with the advent of digital sending units, it has become as simple as flipping a bit in the ECU code to have the same dial instantly re-calibrate itself to display the vehicle’s speed in either metric or US/imperial units. See the ZR1 speedo above? It can switch between metric and US units as easily as James Bond’s Aston could switch registration numbers. The MPH is actually an idiot light that is replaced by a KPH label when switched.

Your mission for today, should you choose to accept it, is to name all the cars with this oh-so-modern feature.

The Caveats (there are always caveats):

  • This entry is about switchable speedometer gauges, so vehicles where only a digital (numeric) speedometer readout can be switched don’t count.
  • Digital screens that display a virtual gauge are perfectly acceptable. And very cool.
  • Cars, light trucks, motorcycles, three-wheelers (COUGH!), heavy-duty trucks, farm tractors, boats, pedal-assisted electric tuk-tuks and (yes!) airplanes are allowed.
  • I’m not sure what sort of rabbit hole aftermarket speedometers constitute, but feel free to go there if you’d like.
  • Getting dinged by your employer for any Google search involving the term “speedo” is totally on you.

Difficulty: A bit of a shot in the dark, really. I only know of a few myself, but I’m pretty much a new-car ignoramus. (To those of you outside North America, this might prove more difficult. Sorry.)

How This Works: Read the comments first and don’t post duplicates! Bonus points for adding photos.

Image Sources: David Yu’s Photobucket via GTRlife.com.

Encyclopedia Hoonatica: OE Front Drums & Radials OR Discs & Bias Ply Tires


Vehicles are defined by the era of their manufacture, and those eras are, in turn, defined by the technology available. The configuration of the Model T would have been intolerable twenty or thirty years after its demise, and the concept of an automatic transmission or fuel injection would have been unthinkable at its inception. With every substantive advance in technology, our standards of expected performance, comfort and reliability change and older configurations disappear. Sometimes, technological eras overlap, by a lot or a little. A bit more than a year ago, we looked at production cars that straddled the age of the carburetor and the six-speed gearbox. Surprisingly, the Hooniverse hive-mind was able to name only a single model.

Today, we examine another such pairing of features. Radial tires were a huge step forward in tire construction over earlier bias-ply tires. As the sun was rising for the radial tire, it was setting on another technology: drum brakes were rapidly being replaced by discs. Your assignment for today is to name cars that have one foot in the earlier era and the other in the later. We want cars that came from the factory either equipped with front drum brakes and radial tires, or had disc brakes and bias-ply tires.

The Caveats (there are always caveats):

  • Cars and light trucks allowed.
  • Production road-legal vehicles only, please.
  • This one’s a biggie: OE tire fitment is a bit of a tough call. Many times, a particular model would leave the factory rolling two or more different tires simultaneously, and it’s tough to know if cars today are rolling on the original spec rubber. Likewise, many models were equipped with discs as an option that may or may not have dictated a different choice of tire. Take care to verify your assumedly matched tire and brake really were available together on the particular vehicle you’re claiming to add to the list.

Difficulty: Surprising easy to guess, surprisingly tough to verify.

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

Image Sources: chevyhardcore.com and continental-specialty-tires.com.

Encyclopedia Hoonatica: Meteorological Car Names


Last week, the encyclopedia entry for Seafaring Car Names sailed into uncharted territory, with regular commenters Jeepster and Manic_King expounding on the many cars named after winds. Well, the chest of automotive trivia booty they blew our way may not have been strictly applicable to the category at hand, but the list was impressive. Furthermore, that sort of “talk amongst yourselves” moment is exactly what makes this series so rewarding, and is something to be encouraged. Therefore, in response, this week we will explore their serendipitous discussion further, while expanding the category beyond wind names to all sorts of meteorological phenomena. If it’s something naturally occurring in the atmosphere, feel free to toss that sucker in the ring. (Assuming, of course, that you can provide evidence that a vehicle has been thus named. I am not the trivia god some of you are, but I strongly doubt that anybody has yet marketed the Thundersnow, Sun Dog, Lunar Halo or Convection Fog, despite all being potentially totally awesome car names. …Wait, no — not that last one.)

The Caveats (there are always caveats):

  • Unofficial and internal nicknames don’t count, even if they’re well known. The name must be officially given by the manufacturer (which could include a coachbuilder, famous customizer or or other recognized marketing entity). A good yardstick is that it should physically appear on the car, or at least appear in a press release or sales brochure.
    • Sub-brands and trim line names count.
    • Concept vehicles, kit cars, and race cars are allowable, as long as it is something legit enough to have a genuine name. Your crazy Uncle Charlie’s band bus doesn’t count, even if he did spraypaint “Hellwind” down the side.
    • Motorcycles and trucks are also permitted, but no aircraft. Really, no aircraft; I’m not just saying that because it’s a running joke — this week in particular, a list including aircraft names would swallow our souls.

    Difficulty: The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

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

    Image Sources: oldcarbrochures.org and the random download car images folder on my Mac.

Encyclopedia Hoonatica: Seafaring Car Names


One would think that the auto industry and maritime jargon should remain worlds apart, automobiles being suited to roam nearly everywhere on earth but the oceans. However, the seas inspire thoughts of adventure, exploration, naval power, and any number of other manly-man pursuits such as trophy sport fishing and wearing those cute sailor hats with little ribbons on them. The result is that many automobiles have rolled out of the factory and onto the street (or track) emblazoned with very nautical names. Your encyclopedic task for today is to name them all.

The Caveats (there are always caveats):

  • The name must be officially given by the manufacturer: no nicknames or slang expressions.
  • Any type of name associated with the oceans and sailing is allowable — ships, marine life, bays, famous sailors — go wild.
  • Any type of car, motorcycle, truck, or cargo vehicle is fair game. Likewise, feel free to indulge yourself with concept vehicles, kit cars and race cars, as long as you keep in mind the first caveat.

Difficulty: Like shooting fish in a barrel

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

Image Sources: Wikipedia, fineartamerica.com

Encyclopedia Hoonatica: Heron Head Engines


This weekend, as I was reading Antti’s nomination of his Bitchin’ Polo Classic for HCOTY ’15, the photos of the cylinder head (above) struck me by surprise. Look carefully (or even fairly casually) at this photo, and you’ll soon realize that the spot that’s normally dished for the combustion chamber is completely flat, with “zero angle” valves, so called because the valve stems are parallel to each other and the cylinder bore. The combustion chamber is created by dishing the top of the piston, rather than the more typical flat or crowned face.

This head is commonly referred to as a Heron head, after its inventor, British aero engine designer Samuel D. Heron. Heron was a fantastically talented engineer who developed a wide range of advancements, including the first sodium-filled valves. The “Heron head” was originally developed for forced-induction aircraft, and its intended advantages are not nearly as apparent in a normally-aspirated engine. Without a big huffer pushing air through it, a Heron cylinder head can’t match the volumetric efficiency of a shallow-angle four-valve or even well-sorted hemispherical head. Even so, Heron’s design has found favor for lower-output, economical production engines because the castings can can be manufactured cheaply, efficiently and reliably. Also, the performance characteristics of the combustion chamber can be altered as easily as swapping out the piston, making the engine easy to adapt to different octane fuels, operating speeds, or even diesel combustion.

“We chose Heron heads chiefly because they are cheaper to produce — the underside is planed flat, not spheroid. But there are technical advantages too, in fuel economy and high torque.”  – Franco Lambertini

I had no idea until this past weekend that VW manufactured Heron-head engines. Therefore, your task today is to name all the Heron-head engines you can.

Difficulty: Answers are limited, act now!

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

Image Source: Antti Kautonen via Hooniverse

Encyclopedia Hoonatica: Factory CB Radios


Some automotive options date themselves to a particular period of time, and in-car audio/entertainment is probably among the most dated type of feature. Quadrophonic stereo, in-dash phonograph players, Apple 30-pin iPod docks, and 8-track players all came from that day, back in the day.

But the factory-installed citizens’ band radio has to recall the most specifically defined era. There is something so Late Malaise Era about them that they determine a vehicle’s age more accurately than carbon dating.

So, that’s your challenge for this Monday: name all the cars that were offered with a CB transmitter as a factory option. Bonus points for anything not domestic North American, or actually finding one that was standard equipment, if there was such a thing.

The Caveats (there are always caveats):

  • Passenger cars and light trucks only. No big rigs or commercial cargo vehicles.
  • The CB doesn’t have to be a standard feature, just a factory option from the OEM. Dealer-installed options are permissible if they either a) have the OE’s brand imprinted on the radio, or b) were advertised as an option in factory sales lit or press releases.
  • Obviously, aftermarket add-ons and custom cars are intrinsically excluded in the question itself.

Difficulty: Over age 35: 2–3. Under age 35: 8+

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

Image Source: vintage-cadillacs.com

Encyclopedia Hoonatica: Automatically Folding Mirrors


The time has come again to pen a new entry into the solar system’s most authoritative, accumulative, crowsourced cyber-pedia of automotive trivia! Some weeks, I think of a stupendous (read: “reasonably acceptable”) topic days in advance. Chief Blooger Glucker likes me these weeks. Other weeks, like this one, Sunday afternoon arrives and I’ve still not thought of the following day’s Hoonatic topic.

On these occasions, my dear wife kindly helps me brainstorm ideas, even though she is not reeeeally a “car person.” It is her opinion that I am too tough and obscure in the challenges I toss out on the virtual table. She believes there are plenty of people somewhat like her; folks who would love the fun of contributing, but who perhaps don’t possess the endlessly deep historical brainiosity of a Prof. Harrell or Mr. Emslie. At least once in a while, says she, I should throw these saps a bone facilitate an opportunity for more readers to participate.

Therefore, today I’m going with a suggestion that might be more fun for folks whose automotive knowledge centers around contemporary cars. You (the corporate “you,” that is) are tasked with creating a comprehensive list of cars with automatically retracting side rear view mirrors (SRVMs). The big side mirrors cars have nowadays are great while driving, but these elephant-ear projections — yours and other motorists’ — can be easily damaged and complicate parking or pulling into narrow garages. Having them automatically fold shut when the car is locked or the transmission is put in park is a nice, if not totally necessary, convenience. The feature hasn’t been around that long, but is increasingly common on large SUVs, as well as making inroads in the luxury sedan and even mid-level sedan segments.

The Caveats (there are always caveats):

  • There are a number of cars that have electrically retractable SRVMs that are manually activated with a switch. These are dirty scum and we spit on them. (Okay, no, they’re not, and we don’t. That’s a fine feature, but they still don’t belong in the list today.)
  • The all-important airplane caveat: YES, airplanes are definitely allowed today, only because I will be very, very impressed if anybody can name an aircraft that 1) has retractable side mirrors of any type and 2) a remote lock fob.
  • Factory concepts are okay, but aftermarket add-ons and custom cars are not. Because I said so, that’s why.

Difficulty: A soft lob straight over the plate on a 3–0 count.

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

Image Source: aclassinfo.co.uk

Encyclopedia Hoonatica: External Hood Latches

Today, nearly all light passenger vehicles have the hood release inside the car, and for several decades before that, the hood release was typically cleverly hidden inside the grille opening. But not always. If you go back in time far enough, autos had hoods secured with leather belts, or further still, no engine enclosure at all. Along the way, a few designers (or perhaps design teams) have put the hood release right out in the open, affixed right to the car body. These, my friends, are the fodder for our encyclopedia entry today.

The Caveats (there are always caveats):

  • As I said, go back far enough and nearly every hood had an external release. So let’s stick with post-war (’48 and later) designs.
  • Passenger cars and light trucks only. No tractor-trailors, big cargo haulers, military vehicles, or airplanes. Or airplanes. No airplanes, either.
  • Stock, regular production cars only. No customs, concepts, or race cars.

Difficulty: Low hanging fruit is your friend today. Don’t wait; act now!

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

Image Sources: Hemmings.com & car-from-uk.com