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1902 De Dion-Bouton Type K Motor-Hansom

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As a kid, my parents gave me Peter Robert’s A Picture History of the Automobile. I spent a thousand hours reading and pouring over the photos. One in particular has always stuck with me; a photo showing a veteran-era (pre-1905) open car with a sort of transverse walkway between the firewall and the front of the passenger cab, with the doors facing forward. I found it to be perhaps the most enduringly fascinating car in the whole book. I recently tracked down a copy of the book specifically to check it out again. The caption said it was a 1902 De Dion-Bouton Type K. Some additional digging online taught me that only a couple of Type Ks had this weird configuration. As was typical of the time, De Dion-Bouton did not build coachwork but left that to, well, coachbuilders. It’s called a motor-hansom, and I didn’t realize until very recently was that the car I saw in the photo was missing a removable hardtop, which was its more normal configuration. The odd body design was short-lived attempt to translate the “hansom cab” style of horse-drawn hire-carriage to motor power. Unfortunately, having the doors face the engine really didn’t make sense, and the idea quickly faded. But it certainly looked cool and unique to my 10-year-old brain. And frankly, it still does today.  Click through the jump to see a photo with the hardtop in place, as well as a YouTube video about the car (which will only make sense to you if you speak French).

A more detailed overview of the car is available at the Auto Concept Reviews web site.

Image credits: Zack’s Motor Photos‘ Flickr stream, YouTube.

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Going Back In Time with the Nissan Juke

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I only had a short period in the company of Nissan’s high-riding mechanised toad, the Juke, so the following can’t really be called a review. Well, it is and it isn’t, if you see what I mean.

I was certainly able to get an impression of the car. I was able to determine that, give or take, I actually quite like the look of it. If the Juke was a person you were meeting for the first time you would find conversation difficult. His nose would be on his forehead, his eyes would be in his cheeks and he would have several little mouths dotted around his chin- which is in the wrong place in itself. Yet, for all his challenging visage you would probably get on with him all right. He speaks sense and is reasonably witty.

On the face of it he seems reasonably up to date, too. His CV bristles with all today’s De Riguer acronyms, his location is satellite pinpointed and his innards are climatically controlled. Furthermore, his breath is fresh and his stamina is long, thanks to Nissan’s PureDrive Diesel technology. Yes, it’s fair to say that my ugly-handsome new acquaintance can stand shoulder-to shoulder with his peers without being too embarassed.

In private, though, he exhibited one or two character traits that I thought had gone the way of empire building and casual racism. Yes, the Nissan Juke does things that I thought we had moved away from years ago.

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Harley license light proves THIS is why we keep boxes full of random spare parts.

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When my wife and I rearranged our home office last weekend, it neatened up our workstations nicely and will hopefully position our huge, somewhat ailing peace lily where it can better thrive. But it also left one side of my desk shrouded in shadow. What to do, what to do… Wait, I have a box of random, unused motorcycle lights in the garage. A quick trip to the motorcycle parts shelves located this Harley-Davidson LED license light. Perfect! The addition of a 12V wall wart from an old cordless phone, a scavenged toggle switch, and some double-sided foam tape, and I had the perfect hidden accent light for zero cost and ten minutes of effort.

What is the coolest, most hacktastic way you’ve ever re-purposed a vehicle part?

Stop the Pressers II: More automotive nincompoopery from Yours Truly

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As 2014 draws to a close, I can look back on my motoring year and safely say that no bad idea was every truly turned away. A personal ad on craigslist looking for a Hyundai connection? Did it. Driving a Micra from sea level to the Rockies in a single day? Did that too. Road trip with a toddler in a base Mini Cooper? Why not?

But never mind the new car stuff. This is the kind of site where even a Hellcat knows there’s essentially no shot at being named Hooniverse Car of the Year. It’s too reliable. It’s too practical. It’s too shiny. Ew.

So, to round out the year I’m adding a few other things I drove or looked at that might be of interest to the Hooniversal reader. Some of them are weird, some are fast, and one of them I completely forgot about last time. Let’s start with that one: Kjelle Qvale’s personal Jensen Interceptor … Continue Reading

Judge Me If You Will

Ray Lindenburg October 13, 2014 Quick Shifts

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Remember when George Costanza bought John Voights car? His claim to fame was to share the same tufted pleather cushion with the actor.  Or, so he thought.  Turns out that the Deliverance star spells his first name just a little differently, and George had an imposter star car.

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Stop the pressers: a Hoonicopia of Automotive Excellence. And a Hyundai Pony too.

Brendan McAleer September 17, 2014 Featured, Quick Shifts

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Nearly everyone in this business remembers their first presser with fondness, be it ever so humble. A Fit, a Corolla, a Dodge Neon with crank windows – it doesn’t matter what it was, just that you finally had the opportunity to write something useful or incisive or interesting. Mine was a Nissan S-Cargo. That… that explains a lot, actually.

Most importantly, it explains why I spend the bulk of every Monday asking the question: “How can I avoid writing about new cars this week?” Not that there’s anything wrong with new pressers, and Our Blessed Lady of Acceleration knows there are many who would cheerfully roshambo me for the chance to drive the base-engine Sonata that’s in the driveway this week. So, no complaining.

However, life is too short for electric power steering and the same damn thing fifty other people are going to talk about. I like to think I have a nose for sussing out stuff that’s far better – or way, way worse – than your average modern car. This is a clip show, of sorts, of a few things I’ve been up to this year that I thought might appeal to the Hooniversal reader. There’s a Turbo Esprit. There’s a Pony. Strap in.

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

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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.

Quick Shifts: An Impossibly Perfect Car Ad

Tanshanomi August 18, 2014 Quick Shifts

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This clever ad popped up in my Facebook feed. What immediately jumped out at me is that the Honda Element SC pictured is available in front-wheel-drive only.

What memorable car ad mistakes stick out in your mind?

Quick Shifts: Hyundinky

Tanshanomi July 21, 2014 Quick Shifts

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This is what you do when you find yourself with two totalled Hyundais and an automotive body shop at your disposal. The owner of Richard’s Collision Center in Grandview, Missouri truly did find himself with two nearly identical cars, one smashed in the front, the other smashed in the back. He did the only logical thing; he cut the away damaged sections and recombined what was left into this little curiosity. It may not be what you’d call lustworthy, but he ended up with a fun, quirky attention-getter for pocket change.

Quick Spin – Checking Out The Smoking Tire’s DeLorean DMC-12

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It’s an uncanny feeling of a circle closing. The very first Hooniverse piece I wrote was a post about a DeLorean DMC-12 residing not far from where I live on the west coast of Finland. Now, after a couple years and a few hundred Hooniverse posts, I was on the west coast of the United States, looking at another DeLorean.

But like two cars ending up on the opposite sides of the planet, they had grown far from each other. The other one, the first DMC-12 I had ever laid eyes on let alone touched or sat in, was a considerably more tired example with black leather and automatic along with the original 133-horsepower setup. The car I saw last week was the flawless pride and joy of Matt Farah of The Smoking Tire fame: a manual car with a light interior, a late build car with only a couple thousand miles on the clock. And the powertrain had been updated to brisker standards, the perceived sluggishness far gone. “This is the best car in the world”, Matt said. I didn’t doubt him.

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