28 February 2007

New Triumph Tiger

I've got a '69 Triumph Tiger that I bought new. The new one has some subtle changes (cough!).

LA Times. Article with video.

With 114 horsepower, the Tiger's liquid-cooled, triple-cylinder 1050 engine doesn't pack as much punch as Triumph's Speed Triple and Sprint 1050 motors, with peak horsepower rated at 131 and 125 respectively. As its name suggests, the Tiger isn't about flat-out speed. It isn't king of the jungle but second in charge, which makes it fun and ferocious without all the pressure of being the biggest and baddest prowler around town.

My old Tiger has a 40HP air-cooled twin-cylinder carbureted OHV 40ci (650cc) engine. It's good for a little over 100mph, which is fine given the drum slower-downers and the tires of that era. It also has some of the best styling ever, and the best sound bar none. It is just plain fun to ride.

The last five words of that sentence may be the only thing besides the brand name the new Tiger has in common with the old one. Subtle changes over 38 years, you know.

It's taken me some time to get used to modern motorcycle styling, but now I like it. This is a nice bike.

21 February 2007

There's nothing new under the Sun...

The EssEffChron has a nice write-up about the new Can-Am trike.

But oh my freaking God, what the hell is this sexyugly machoweird three-wheeled motorcycle/car thing called the Spyder Roadster that costs 15 grand and goes about 110 mph and looks like a BMW motorcycle got it on with a nasty go-cart during a lost weekend at a mutant underground design studio in Testosteroneland? I mean, please.

I have no idea if the Spyder will sell, if it's just silly and ridiculous and overblown and who the hell wants an expensive flat-cornering faux-motorcycle when the same 15 grand can get you a Ducati Multistrada and personal riding lessons and an entire suit of badass leathers with enough left over for a delicious hooker-filled weekend at the MGM Grand in Vegas?

Doesn't matter. One look at the Spyder and your brain snaps a few boundaries. Definitions loosen. Possibilities widen. Yes, it's just another crappy oil-sucking vehicle. Just another drain on the planet, another expensive toy for wealthy middle-age Boomers with too little extant testosterone and too much disposable income. I know.

But then again, it might be more. It might actually be just as wickedly hot and fun and deliciously unique as it appears. After all, anything that stretches your brain and makes you consider new possibilities, that breaks old definitions of what the world is supposed to be all about, these things are precious and good. These things are all too rare. This has not been, in the age of Bush and Rove and the sustained, systematic, intentional crushing of independent creative thought, the way of the culture.

Plus, don't you sort of miss riding your tricycle?

Well, kinda. When I was about seventeen, me'n Tommy and Ed ponied up $25 each (a lot of money for teenagers to have all at once back then) and bought a '47 H-D Servi-Car from a gas station that used it for transpo after delivering customers' cars. The thing used more oil than gas. It had a 45ci (750cc) sidevalve mill and would go about 50mph flat out, which was scary fast. At that speed, it wobbled and shook and clanked and mightily protested such a caning. It also overheated, spewed oil, and stunk. It was red. It was the cat's ass, and we were the only guys in town with such a cool beast. Or maybe we were the only bozos who'd be caught dead on it. Don't know, damn sure didn't care.

We took turns bombin' around on it all one summer. It had a tow hitch, so we would tow it to parties, the beach, etc. behind my '48 Plymouth and take girls for rides. Sometimes three or four of 'em at once. We figured out how to get the thing sideways. The bald tires helped.

We actually got chased through town one Saturday night by a local cop on his much newer Servi-Car. We didn't want to get caught because we had just scored three or four quarts of beer and didn't want to lose it. We outran him for a little while, then pulled into the gas station we had bought it from, shut 'er down, and dove under a car to hide. Yeah, like that worked! We looked out from under the car and saw the officer's polished riding boots about two feet away, one toe a-tappin'. He said this: "I'm off Sunday and Monday night. If you guys don't have passenger grab handles on that thing by Tuesday, I'm writin' ya up". And he left. Talk about yer sigh of relief! We thought we were gonna go to jail. We had taken the grab handles off because it looked cooler. We put 'em back on.

If he had written us up he would have discovered that the license plate we were using was off my my little H-D Model 125. Hey, same make and almost the same year, whass the prob?

One of the big deals was the time we parked it in the same gas station, which was right next door to the local hangout, and when we came back, the station personnel had scraped the name of the station off the back. I don't blame 'em. We had acquired a little local notoriety with the machine by then and they understandably didn't want their name associated with our shenanigans. It didn't look very good, so we put our own logo on it:

Sort of a bust, I guess, but we were young and foolish. The little white thing above 'Olympia' was the offishul sticker of the "National Association for the Advancement of Flatheads", Politically Incorrect as all get-out, but hey, it was 1963. I went in the service that fall and have no idea what ever happened to Sweet Betsy the Trike.

Sorry about the wasted space, but I copied it from a very small photo and don't know how to fix it. For you sharp-eyed ol' H-D buffs, no, the photo isn't flipped. All the shit is on the opposite side because the thing was an old police mount, from way before parking meters, and the no-meter maid needed his right hand free to mark tires. Throttle was on the left, gearshift on the right.

I hadn't really planned to tell that story, but it brought back memories, so I'm glad I did. That was the most fun I ever had for $25.

What I was gonna do was counterpoint the space-age Can-Am trike with this Morgan, about which marque can be found everything you would ever want to know at the link:

There really isn't anything new, just modern.

Don't get me started on four-valve cylinder heads...

20 February 2007

Where I work ...*

Me: Good morning, ma'am, dropping your car off for that brake job?

Her: Yes, F-man, here's the keys. (She notices Sam putting oil in a motor) Who's that?

Me: That's Samantha.

Her: What a pretty girl. Is she your granddaughter?

Me: You want your brakes to work when you leave here? Jesus H. Christ, I'm 44 years old.

Her: I thought you were Harry's age.

Me: Get out.

*Part of a semi-regular, ongoing series.

15 February 2007


I was gonna bitch and moan about the idiots on the Long Island Expressway this morning but I was over at our pal 42's place and he had the same deal with the Massachusetts drivers:


If the roads haven’t been plowed and are about as grippy as buttery mashed potatoes, and you can’t stop/steer/whatever because you’re going too fast and you sit there gawping and acting all surprised when you do slide to a stop, you are a douchebag.


13 February 2007

I hate NY 4

Just an update on my tribulations. Harry got his letter yesterday and the same fine I got. As the facility owner, he's culpable in my 'crimes'. So, in one little place, the State of NY made $800. Calling around to others who've been hit (seems all the letters went out Friday), Harry and I got off the easiest. Other fines in the area range from $600 - $3500.

We figure we're safe for 6 months to a year until they decide to fuck with us again.

11 February 2007

Arte y Estilo


Julio Ochoa Ruelas, a co-founder and first president of Dukes So. Cal, the oldest lowrider car club in continuous existence in the world, died of heart failure Jan. 21 at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center. He was 62.

The history of the lowrider has been written by men like the Ruelas brothers, who lived the lowrider life and promoted the best of it, even when time seemed to have passed it by. From their base in South Los Angeles, the brothers spent 40 years heading a car club that now has 29 chapters, including one in Japan, and restoring cars in the lowrider style that turn heads even in L.A., a city with more than its share of car connoisseurs.

"Every discipline, no matter what it is, needs some icon to be the one everyone turns to," said Dick Messer, director of the Petersen Automotive Museum. "In hot rodding it's Wally Parks. In NASCAR it's Tony Stewart, and in lowriding it's the Ruelas brothers…. They were the godfathers of lowriding."

The rest of the obit is inspiring. I like this next part:

By the early 1970s, the brothers had returned (from Vietnam - G.) and Fernando had opened Ruelas Custom, which specialized in building lowriders and a variety of other customized work. Julio ran the grocery store and on the side began searching out hard-to-find parts for old cars and supplying them to owners, a task he continued until his death.

"Used to be those guys who worked on the telephone lines or inspectors could see into backyards, they'd let me know what people had stashed … in their backyards or garages," Julio Ruelas once told a Times reporter. "Then I'd go pay them a visit."

By the front door in broad daylight, I am sure.

I'd like to be able to see into barns and garages for old motorbikes as well.

I'm not a lowered-car person, but I appreciate the time, effort, and expense that goes into lowriders. It is said that the "height gauge" used to tell if the car is low enough is a pack of Marlboros, fresh out of someone's T-shirt sleeve: if the car doesn't knock it over, it needs to be lowered until it does.

It's always gives pause when pioneers pass, especially when they're my own age.

I hate NY 3

Remember a couple months back when I got nailed by an undercover NYS Inspector for doing a 'fradulent inspection'?

As most of you know, I'm a New York State Vehicle Inspector. That means I'm licensed to inspect your car for safety and do emissions testing and issue you a new sticker. Every once in a while, the state slides an undercover test car though. Now, I realize there is a lot of fraud going on when it comes to the issuance of inspection stickers and the need for them to do this. For $150 (as opposed to $37 for a legit inspection), you can go into Brooklyn or Queens and get somebody to put a sticker on your car, no questions asked. But, on the day before Thanksgiving, didja have to set me up?


Well yesterday afternoon I got my hearing date and description of charges against me in the mail.

I forgot to blow the fucking horn.

So, they gave me the option. The state will be happy to take a check from me for $400 now, or I can go to trial on the two counts (one, not checking the horn; two, stipulating that I did check the horn) and face a judge to try to convince him of ... what, that I actually did check the horn (I probably didn't). If he doesn't believe the line of bullshit I think up, it'll cost me $700. What do ya think I'm gonna do? Motherfuckers. This is easy money for NYS and as I said at the time, I know of 8 or 9 shops who got snagged in this sweep in our area alone. Hope you choke on it, assholes.

Tomorrow morning, I'll learn how much it'll cost Harry.


Come to think of it, Samantha's probably gonna learn some new words this week. Heh ...

08 February 2007

Where I work*

Our intern Samantha's dad dropped his car off for inspection the other day. He pulls me aside and says, "F-man, I never thought I'd see the day when I'd watch my sweet little girl get in somebody's face and say 'fuck you, suck my ass'."

"You're welcome," I said.

*Part of an ongoing, semi-regular series.

06 February 2007

NASCAR Nation Overheats


Toyota's entry into stock-car racing has some good ole boys revved up. Will the Japanese automaker take over Daytona like it's overtaking Detroit?

Who knew a Toyota Camry could cause such controversy? America's favorite family car (my em) has the NASCAR Nation all revved up in a heady debate over globalization. When the green flag drops on the Daytona 500 on Feb. 18, a radically souped-up version of Toyota's humble sedan will become the first foreign car to roll into stock-car racing's marquee circuit since Jaguar gave it a spin in the 1950s. And that doesn't sit too well with some of the good ole boys who drive Fords, Chevys and Dodges. They see Toyota as a deep-pocketed predator out to overrun an American institution. "They will use their money and their technology to make the rest of us play catch-up," racing team owner Jack Roush griped recently, adding for good measure: "Americans shouldn't buy Japanese cars."

Yeah, real Americans should stick to outdated junk built in Canada and Mexico. Or the newer, better models designed in Germany and Japan.

It's an excellent article. Please read the rest.

And then there's Toyota's track record to consider. Before NASCAR, Toyota spent 12 years in Indy car racing, winning the Indianapolis 500 in 2003. In 2004, it entered NASCAR's Craftsman Truck series, racing its Tundra pickup. After a slow start, Toyota quickly gained traction and last year won nearly half the races on the circuit and captured the series championship. That sounds a lot like Toyota's relentless rise in the America car market. Maybe those good ole boys of stock-car racing ought to be worried.

"When the green flag drops, the bullshit stops."

Let's see what happens at Daytona.

05 February 2007

I get phone calls ...

I get this phone call about 7:15 Friday morning:

Me: Good morning!

Caller: F-man, this is Mr. V. You see I dropped my car off this morning?

Me: Yup.

Mr. V: You gotta look at it. It's shaking so bad I can't drive it. The whole car, the engine, everything is shaking as soon as I take off. Can you figure out what it is?

Me: You mean, aside from the totally flat left rear tire?

Mr. V: No shit?

Me: No shit. You didn't notice it? (needless to say, the car is listing to the left like the Andrea Doria about to give up the ghost)

Mr. V: Can you fix it?

Me: Did you drive it here from your house on the flat?

Mr. V: Yes.

Me: You need a new tire. I'll have it for ya this afternoon.

Mr. V: You're a miracle worker. Bye.

Me: What an idiot.

A word of advice. If your car is doing shit it's never done before, it might be a good idea to stop and look it over before pressing on. Take a walk around your car before you get in it too, maybe?