31 January 2007

Ford Escape Hybrid


The revamped Escape hybrid gives Ford a much-needed victory. Perfect? No. Revitalizing? Definitely.

Plucky, over-achieving if under-funded, better than it ought to be but not quite as good as it might have been, the Escape Hybrid runs on gas, electricity and no small amount of charisma. Considering how up against it Ford is these days, it's hard to see this SUV as anything short of a triumph. The irony is that this is just the sort of vehicle that can ultimately save Ford.

2008 Ford Escape Hybrid AWD

Base price: $25,740

Price, as tested: $32,000 (est.)

Powertrain: 2.3-liter, inline four-cylinder, Atkinson-cycle engine; continuously variable transmission; 70-kW permanent-magnet AC synchronous electric motor; 330-volt nickel-metal-hydride battery; all-wheel drive.

Horsepower: 155 hp at 6,000 rpm (net)

Curb weight: 3,794 pounds

0-60 mph: under 10 seconds

Wheelbase: 103.1 inches

Overall length: 174.7 inches

EPA fuel economy: 29 miles per gallon city; 27 mpg highway

Final thoughts: Ford puts on its rally cap

My own thoughts: Except for the '57 Ranchero and a coupla other models from way back, I wouldn't have a Ford up my ass if I had room for a boxcar, except for this one.

Those of you who are considering one of these, and you know who you are, go read.

27 January 2007

Monster fine for 'Monster Garage'


With creations like the "Undertaker" and "666 El Diablo," Jesse James and his West Coast Choppers team have become TV stars and automotive icons by turning average motorcycles into pimped-up machines.

But California air regulators announced Friday a $271,250 fine against James, the co-producer and host of "Monster Garage" and "Motorcycle Mania," saying that 50 of his custom-built choppers ran afoul of California's clean-air rules.

California Air Resources Board officials said their inspectors found that the monster bikes sold between 1998 and 2005 did not have state certified emissions equipment on their exhaust and fuel systems.

The last I heard, the only emissions equipment actually required on a motorcycle in California is a charcoal canister. I think Jesse's sleds are all 'special construction', as opposed to being actually manufactured, so I don't know if compliance falls on him, or on his customers, who seem to get license and registration OK out of DMV. Perhaps we'll find out.

Note to Jesse: use old bikes that don't need any of that emissions shit. Use their titles and 'recycle' their ID numbers to the new bikes. You know how...

By the way, there's nothing 'average' about his bikes. He's a fine metalsmith, and builds 'em from scratch out of flat metal and tubing. I don't particularly care for the 'stretch' style that's all the rage these days, but I do like his minimalist approach. Choppers used to be made by taking stuff off to lose weight and gain speed. A lot of so-called 'choppers' these days are just a different kind of 'dresser'. Jesse stays with the original concept of not having any more than you need to get down the road.

Just as an aside, most bike riders get enough time on 'stretchers' that they don't have to go buy 'em...heh.

I like Jesse. He's probably not what most folks would consider a 'typical' California guy, but speaking with 48 years of experience in the bike world out here, he is.

He has a tattoo on his palm: "Pay up, sucker!". I like that.

To sum Jesse up in one sentence: "Long Beach bad boy makes good, marries movie star." Just livin' the California dream...

Good article. Go read.

26 January 2007


So, it being the coldest day in 18 months here on Long Island, I had 6 customers call me before 7:30 needing a jump (most of whom I told to replace their batteries months ago). So I'm making the rounds, stopping at everybody's house and getting them started. On my 3rd stop (an old Russian lady who drives this worn out old Toyota) I jump her car and slide in the driver's seat to back it out the way of her husband's car. As I slide into the worn out, threadbare seat, I feel one of the exposed hog rings grab the back of my pants, under the left cheek, and before I could stop myself, it tore all the way up to my belt. Did I mention it was 8 degrees with a wind chill of -5? So here I got three more stops before I can get back to the shop. Let's just say I had one cold ass (I don't wear long johns) by the time I got back. One good thing, we have 200 mph NASCAR tape at the shop. Taped it up and was good to go. Heh ...

22 January 2007


Over at the Brain we talk about reality a lot. Usually when it pertains to people in Washington's grasp, or lack thereof, of the subject. In the car business, you get a lot of folks who don't want to get a grip on it either. Today fer instance.

I'm alone in the shop this afternoon, Indian and PDB called in sick and Harry was at lunch, and a woman in a BMW X3 pulls up. Never seen her before and she has that look in her eye the Moonies and Amway reps have.

Me: Good afternoon, what can I do for you.

Lady: I'm buying a 1941 GMC pickup.

Me: Good for you. Good luck with it.

Lady: I want you to look at it and get it started.

Me: It doesn't run?

Lady: No, but the people who own it say the engine was overhauled.

Me: When was it last started and running?

Lady: 1979.

Me: 28 years ago? [Jaw drops open and I begin to think of her as 'Crazy Lady']

Crazy Lady: Yes. [nod, straight face] And once you get it running and lube everything, I'm gonna drive it out to California. [If you didn't know, this conversation is happening on Long Island ... New York.]

Me: Wouldn't you rather drive the Bimmer?

Crazy Lady: I'm getting rid of that. [Did ya hear the door open and close? That was reality leaving the building.]

Me: So you want to have this '41 GMC towed up here, hasn't run in 28 years, and expect me to get it started, top off the fluids, and you're gonna drive it out to LA?

Crazy Lady: Pasadena, yes that's right, I'm willing to pay.

Me: Do you realize what having an old truck like that means? Parts are hard to come by. The electrical system isn't compatible with most modern accessories. And it's 65 years old. Are you prepared to do repairs on the road if you have to?

Crazy Lady: I have a '69 Triumph Bonneville that I work on myself.

Me: Tell ya what. I'm not working on the truck, but I can hook ya up with a good motorcycle mechanic if you ever get out there ... Heh ...

17 January 2007

Benny Parsons


Benny Parsons, a former NASCAR champion and Daytona 500 winner who gained an even wider following as a cheerful stock car racing broadcaster, died Tuesday of complications from lung cancer. He was 65.

Please go read.

My favorite BP moment was while he was announcing a road race at Sonoma several years back. There was an Australian driver they had rigged up with an in-car camera and microphone. The guy was chatting away when he rolled the car at speed, and said, understandably enough, "Oh, FUUUUCK!", which went out over the air. Benny's co-announcer asked, "What'd he say?" and Benny replied, "I don't know. I don't speak Australian."

He was a big favorite of mine. So long, BP.

04 January 2007

You can buy his stuff, but you can't buy his cool...

Juvenile delinquent, Marine, oil-field roughneck, lumberjack, actor, producer, motorcycle racer, sports car driver, pilot, Steve McQueen was the undisputed King of Cool.

Recently, Steve McQueen's estate held an auction of his stuff. It went for absolutely amazing prices. From Cycle World magazine:

Too rich for ya? Then how about a T-shirt "heavily worn and faded with holes and rips throughout" for $3250? Or maybe one of the man's baseball caps, old and crumbling, for $2500? If McQueen sweat in it, it was worth money (my em).

Good article, different than in the dead tree edition that led me here. Go see pictures of him in action, his stuff, and the price list.

You know, I met Steve when I worked at Bud Ekins' Triumph shop. I guess some of my cool rubbed off on him...