31 January 2009

Times are hard ...

As you know, before I left Harry's, I had no plans to return to the car business professionally.

That said, I sold my toolbox when I left so I wouldn't have to schlep it home. I didn't sell the tools, just the box. It was a Mac Tools roller and top that I've had forever and I got $500 for it. Good deal.

Well, since August, things have changed as you well know. So now that I've been working for Nunzio for the last few months, and our plans for Dad-in-law Fixer have changed (over the past 6 weeks, his Alzheimer's has gotten worse and it's beyond our capabilities to care for him, needing constant supervision now), I'm in need of a toolbox again.

While I first considered getting one from one of the tool guys (Snap-On or Mac), I was loath to pay the kind of money they wanted for something I'd need for 5 years (I gave Nunz a 5 year commitment and then I'm done with this fucking business). Coincidentally, Nunzio's wife and kids bought him a new toolbox for Christmas from a company called International Tool Boxes. It's a huge thing the size of an apartment complex and cost less than $2000, while made just as ruggedly as one from the 'majors' that would go for $10,000. I was impressed, so I bought one (smaller) from them myself.

This setup cost me a little over $1600 and the side cabinet was free, along with the shipping (truck freight).

Hey, times are hard and if I can get something the same quality of Snap-on for a fifth of the price, I'm gonna take it.

29 January 2009

Very Smart Young Man

I got this in my Email from my Dad.

Pretty innovative, I must say!

A young inventor has created a motorbike with a twist - it uses two wheels but they are positioned right next to each other, giving it the illusion of being a powered unicycle. And even better, it might help save the planet.
Ben Gulak has spent several years building the electric Uno that uses gyroscopic technology - like the infamous Segway commuter device - to stay upright.
The bizarre-looking contraption has only one switch - on or off - and is controlled entirely by body movement. The rider leans forwards to accelerate to speeds of 25mph and back to slow down. It has two wheels side-by-side and has been turning heads wherever it has been ridden.

Ben Gulak designed the Uno himself with the help of a simple 3D program
The green machine is so small and light it can be taken indoors and carried into lifts - and is recharged by being plugged into the mains.
The wheels are completely independent, allowing the bike to turn on a sixpence and the technology takes the balance and guesswork out of riding a unicycle.
Its 18-year-old creator is now looking for investors to get the Uno into production and onto the streets.
Ben, from Ontario , Canada , said: 'I was inspired to make the bike after visiting China few years ago and seeing all the smog.
'They all drive little bikes that are really polluting and I wanted to make something to combat that.
'I started with the concept because if something doesn't look cool people just won't be interested.

The Uno works like a Segway - just tilt your body forward to start moving

Ben Gulak turns heads from onlookers as he rides past them
'After coming up with the concept I started to build it and now have the first prototype and the reaction has been amazing.
'It has two wheels side by side and that means it is easier to turn as they are completely independent and have their own suspension.
'The bike has a 'neutral point' and when you lean forward it accelerates to keep the neutral point in the right place.
'It has a couple of gyros and is basically self-balancing - it takes the guesswork out of riding a unicycle.
'The bike takes a bit of getting used to because you have to learn to trust it. But it doesn't take long.
'It takes any weight and weighs 120 lbs and can fit into a lift so you can take it indoors to charge it up.
'Currently it has a top speed of 25mph, but that will be increased greatly with bigger motors.
'It has a range of about 2.5 hours and it is designed for the commute to work through busy towns. I believe this could be electrical alternative to the car.
I'm just looking for an investor to help me get it into production.

24 January 2009


Here's something for Fixer and 'Nucks and me. Blue Oval jobs, Royal Enfields, and Krauts, all in one place! From umap.

Promotion Drive at Racetrack of Ice Speedway Worldcup 2005 in Berlin Germany.First car is build in 1977 second car is build in 1973.
The last year of the legendary Royal Enfield motorcycles is 2007. The last year of seperate engine, gearbox and primary chain case. Next year they will build unit engines and fuel injections at the Chennai factory plant. Some old school motorcycles still available at UMAP-TEAM Berlin, Germany.

Also see this video tour of a German bike shop. Some things are the same the world over, including Rancheros as the crime wagon of choice. Heh.

13 January 2009

EFI Made Easy

I just got my monthly (approximately) Royal Enfield Community e-Newsletter. Go subscribe, it's free. It's all atwitter about the first new model in 40 years.

However, Royal Enfield is also aware that many customers have long preferred to do their own repairs. For this reason, they insisted that a mere mortal with no special tools should be able to diagnose and repair this system. Any EFI can be made like this, but most manufacturers choose to make it a deep, dark mystery to keep the revenue flowing.

With our system, the "Check Engine" light will go on if something is not right. If that happens you take the following steps.

Remove the seat

Find the wire that is attached to nothing. This wire comes from the EFI "brain".
Touch that wire to the frame or any other ground

The check engine light will start to blink in a sequence of long and short blinks. For example, six short and six long. The sequence indicates which component is malfunctioning. Look in the shop manual to decode the sequence. In the example of six short and six long blinks, the sequence indicates that the crank sensor is not working correctly. Check the wiring connection to that device. If this clears the blinking, you're done. If not, replace the sensor and then you're done. If more than one unit is bad, when you clear the first sequence another will start but that is very unusual.

The Royal Enfield is very well-mapped, which means the stock computer unit programming is excellent. It evens compensates for changes in altitude that would require jetting changes in a carburetor bike.

An interesting side note is that Royal Enfield required that Keihin map the unit to over 18,000 feet. They took an instrumented to the Himalaya's to test drive it on the world's highest road. As a point of reference, oxygen is required after 14,000 feet in an aircraft, and most normally-aspirated planes fly no higher than about 13,000 feet. However, the Royal Enfield is used extensively at high altitudes by adventure bikers (try that with your GS1200). Those of you in Denver should be well-covered!

This will take care of 98% of all repairs on the EFI unit of the Royal Enfield. Now how simple was that?!

I can get trouble codes out of my '92 Dakota in just about the same fashion, but it requires turning the key three times. Simplifying that took some doin'. Heh.

What owners will do as these bikes age about all the other wires that are not attached to anything remains to be seen...

Also, I'm at slightly higher altitude than Denver and my stock carburetor jetting works fine. It did require about 1/8-turn on the mixture screw to idle right.

Also, mine doesn't have a 'check engine' light, but here's a hint: since the headlight is lit by rectified voltage directly from the alternator, if the headlight came on, so did the engine...

11 January 2009

No luxury ...

While I work on a lotta Benz' and BMWs and Jags, along with exotics, I also get my share of luxury cars like this Rolls Royce Silver Spur:

Or this classic BMW:

But Nunz also has some contractors' vehicles we look after. Like this electricians' truck ('02 Ford Econoline-250) with a scrillion miles in need of a tune up.

Now, changing spark plugs on one of these is a huge pain in the ass. There ain't no room to do shit and you're working from inside and outside (Is there a motor in there?).

The fuel rails gotta come loose (don't break the injector [yellow things] seals unless you wanna replace 'em) to access the coil packs (round things) of which you can't see the hold down bolts so you're going by braille half the time. The big pucker is the plugs themselves that, in these engines with big miles (the truck 4.6L and 5.4L V-8s) they like to break instead of thread out (Ford has a fix but it's an even bigger pain in the ass). Do yourself a favor and loosen them a half-turn and then squirt a little carb cleaner (I prefer the Berkebile 2+2 gum cutter. Yeah, it's toxic as hell but it works.) down the holes. Let 'em sit for 10 minutes before taking them out all the way.

I told Nunz that when I got into this business, if somebody told me it would take 3 1/2 hours to change 8 spark plugs I woulda called the men with the white suits and butterfly net. Times like these I shoulda been a doctor.

09 January 2009

"The only thing really vintage on them is the motor and the guy sitting on 'em."

I really like Peckhammer. His stuff is pretty interesting and easy to pass on to you. Here's another interview with The Squirrel, with some of my own observations. Previous interview here. Eddie talks about his West Coast Dirt Track Series (pix), and, er, motorcycles.

Eddie Mulder was a leading TT Steeplechase and desert racer back in the 1960s. He won The Big Bear Race at age 17, beating a field of over 500 racers -- even after getting a late start because he was in the bathroom instead of on his bike. He is best known for his five AMA Grand National victories, all on TT circuits. Eddie Mulder, was a factory sponsored Triumph racer who ran under National #12, and he's been a Triumph guy ever since.

We flew to California in November to interview Eddie about his various motorcycle-related ventures. Eddie runs a small business that builds custom Triumph street bikes closely based on his Triumph racers of the 1960s and 70s. Although he does do some restoration work, the bikes he builds have very modern components: Brakes by Brembo, cables by Motion Pro, and Works Performance shocks. The hand crafted motors come with Johnson cams, electronic ignition and all sort of trick bits housed in a C&J Frame. A Carbon fiber tank and body works keeps things light, and Maxxis tires provide the grip. As he said in the interview, "The only thing really vintage on them is the motor and the guy sitting on 'em."


A few personal observations on things Eddie talked about:

'Digger' Helm got his name because he's a mortician.

There's a lovely and pristine Cheney-framed Triumph in the vid, the 325th Cheney frame. I used to own Cheney No. 2.

Re his 'little motor man': Carl Krohn is an acquaintance of mine. He's been a Triumph mechanic at least as long as I have and is one of the best, with long experience building race motors. He's also an old desert racer and therein lies this tale: If you ever want your bike tied down on a trailer, get Carl to do it. One time, he was on his way to one of my club's desert parties and got hit by a drunk driver. The drunk missed his pickup and hit his trailer with a coupla Triumphs on it. The trailer came loose from the truck, flipped over, and was dragged along by the safety chains until Carl could bring the plot to a halt. When he righted the trailer, the bikes were still solidly tied down, and other than a little scrapage on the handlebars were undamaged! He hooked 'er back up and went and partied.

Re John Healy (Irish spelling, no 'e') of Coventry Spares, which has no site of its own that I could find: John is the founder and still the owner of the major Britbike parts house on the East Coast, located in Middleboro MA now, but it was in Wellesley Hills MA when I met him. In '79, I was National Service Manager for Triumph Motorcycles America, the factory-owned Triumph distributor in the U.S. I went back east to speak to dealer meetings about the lovely and newly discovered '60s technical updates on the about-to-be-sprung-on-the-world '79 Triumphs, stuff like negative ground and electronic ignition. Accompanying me, or I was accompanying them is probably more like it, were a coupla factory sales reps who had come over to see why their antediluvian products weren't selling well.

They sorta got it figured out. Triumph at the time was a truly bucks-down motorbike factory, long past its heyday and there was nothing much they could do about modernizing the product, but they thought they could galvanize the dealers in some way. They found out at least two things - first, whereas in England they could visit five dealers a day, in the States it was five days between dealers, and second, a lot of the dealers had been dealers for thirty years and had long ago added Japanese lines which quickly outpaced Triumphs in sales and made these guys rich. Also, the dealers were getting on in years (many were old Indian dealers who had taken on Triumph when Indian went belly-up in '53) and were selling out to younger people who had no interest in Triumph whatsoever. But I digress.

John and Susan Healy, very, very nice people, took us to dinner at a Victoria Station down on Boston's waterfront. We discussed Triumph parts. Duh. I believe that John wanted Coventry Spares to be the East Coast Triumph distributor. My orders from my boss in California were to keep an eye on the factory reps (our bosses, by the way) and not let them sign anything along those lines, although that kinda shit was way above my pay grade. To my knowledge, it never came up. Would've been a bad move anyway, as Triumph was just about out of business. It might've helped, but probably not.

At some point, the waiter brought out a bottle of Charles Krug Zinfandel. He displayed it on a white cloth draped over his arm for our viewing pleasure and poured a little glass, which mine host jiggled a little, sniffed, drank a little after gargling with it or whatever you do with wine under those circumstances, and accepted it for our table. All very proper and nice, I am sure.

I almost choked to keep from laughing, which would have been terribly rude. I'd heard of this little wine dance before, but I'd never seen it. To see this treatment given to what we in California thought of as a jug wine is what was so funny to me! Winophile tip: if it's from California, just check that the cork is wet. If it is, go for it. Doesn't matter with the screw top vintages, and they come in their own glass. Tip and enjoy. There I go, digressing again.

After a coupla glasses of zin, talk turned to the relationship of the Triumph factory to its American distributor and dealers. Ever the imperialists, the factory guys thought they knew more about the American market than we did, and thought they should be calling the shots. The phrase 'how's that workin' out for ya?' was not on the scene at that time, but if it had been, chances are we'da used it.

John and I disagreed with them of course, and about this time teamed up and offered to escort these gents across the parking lot and show them the exact spot where the early colonists had dumped the tea in the harbor! Reminding the Limeys about the American spirit of independence kinda shut 'em up and we had a good laugh over it. I still laugh about it. I may have to e-mail this to him and see if he remembers it the same way I do. Heh.

Thanks for bearing with me when I reminisce.


Here's an e-mail I received from Peckhammer. Boy, was I thrilled when it wasn't a cease-and-desist order!


Not sure if I am writing to Fixer or Gordon, but I wanted to drop you a line and say thanks for linking to my webisodes on Peckhammer TV. I noticed that you are linking to the YouTube vids and wanted to make you aware that my primary posting site is on blip.tv. I've got more stuff there, some really interesting pieces that are too long for YouTube's 10-minute limit. These can also be embedded if anything strikes your fancy.

I also post stuff to www.peckhammer.com (blog).

Again, thanks for the nod on what we're doing. It's nice to know someone appreciates the work. And I was glad to read about the details on Digger Helm, etc.

I enjoy the Fixer and Gordon blog. Always interesting.


Thank you for the kind words, Peckhammer. None of us at F&G are exactly new to the gearhead world, and we know good stuff when we find it.

(Note: none'a the effin' links in the e-mail work for me, but go ahead and try 'em. I'll sort 'em out later. Blogspot's link device was acting a little funny too.)

OK now.

02 January 2009

"I don't know how they ever made it back from the Eastern Front on these things..."

A lot of those guys never did make it back from the Eastern Front. There are still Russian farmers using those bikes to pump water and power things. They're waiting for that German kid to come back for his bike. He left it there when he figured he could get back home faster without it.

Peckhammer's got a lot of stuff like this.

Rare Bugatti found

All us gearheads dream of finding a 'barn fresh' job like this one. It happens. Keep dreamin'.


It was the equivalent of finding an old Picasso or an unknown Beatles tape hidden away in your uncle's attic.

Relatives of Dr. Harold Carr found an extremely rare 1937 Bugatti Type 57S Atalante — a Holy Grail for car collectors — as they were going through his belongings after his death.

The dusty two-seater, unused since 1960, didn't look like much in the garage in Gosforth, near Newcastle in northern England.

But only 17 were ever made, and when it's cleaned up and auctioned in Paris next month, experts believe it will fetch at least 3 million pounds ($4.3 million) and possibly much more.

Fuck that! Clean it up and get it runnin' and sport around in it for a while!

Every year some Bugatti club comes through here on its annual run and I've had the chance to take a pretty good look at some of those old Guinea loads. They are totally bitchin'.