Twenty-Seven-Cylinder Tetris

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Today was absolutely the last possible day to get everything fueled, cleaned, and packed in the garage. I didn’t think it was going to be possible: two cars, five motorcycles, plus any number of random items ranging from a child’s mountain bike to a 55-gallon drum of Quaker State NASCAR-spec racing oil, all in a smaller-than-standard two-car garage. Not to mention that it was snowing a bit.

Eppur si muove, motha ‘uckas!


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This is what I think of as my “core fleet”, minus my Neon race car. With one exception — Danger Girl’s Yamaha — it belongs to me and my son, who demonstrated to me today that he has no trouble starting or balancing his new motorcycle, to my immense and sustained joy. It consists of the following:

  • ’95 Carrera 2
  • ’04 Boxster S “550 Spyder”
  • ’75 Honda CB550
  • ’07 Honda VFR800 Anniversary
  • ’14 Honda CB1100
  • ’15 Yamaha YZF-R3
  • ’09 Yamaha TTR-90

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There was just one way it was all going to fit, and discovering that way involved the proverbial shit-ton of moving 500-pound objects around in sub-freezing temperatures. Still, it’s all done with inches to spare. What I don’t see is room for a ZX-14R. Still, that’s why G-d gave us storage units.

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Earlier today, we went to the Ford dealership and John declared that the white Performance-Pack five-liter on the showroom floor was “the coolest”. I had to agree. Even the stripes they had on it worked somehow. Also on the showroom floor: a like-new 2007 Shelby GT500. Amazingly, the sticker on the thing was just forty-three grand. That’s what a GT will cost you now. The Ford brand commands respect, and cash, nowadays.

Why were we at the Ford dealership? To check a seat fit for a new addition to the garage. It’s not my place to brag about it, because it’s not my car, but if you’re a fan of The Smoking Tire you’ll recognize it when it arrives.

49 Replies to “Twenty-Seven-Cylinder Tetris”

  1. Tomko

    My kingdom for a larger garage!

    As the owner of three large American cars, one 10×19 garage, and snow five months of the year, empathize more than sympathize.

    Reply
    • rwb

      I’ve heard Farah has a FoRS on order. I took a look at one at the NE Intl auto show last week and it looks great, but I feel some dissonance over a Focus wearing tires that cost $500/ea from the factory.

      I also found the Mustang to have some weird ergonomics and sharp points near the knees that kept me from finding a comfortable position, which was disappointing because I really like them and want one. Didn’t notice any fit or finish problems, but I did have a vision while sitting behind the wheel of flying off the road sideways into a telephone pole, unsettling.

      Which car felt perfectly comfortable as soon as I plopped in? 2016 Camaro, but those windows are ridiculous and the lack of visibility is offensive. Too bad because I actually liked the interior and controls.

      Most important though, I sat in the Alfa Giulia. Holy crap guys. It can break down every other day and I will still need to own one eventually.

      Reply
      • Dan S

        Maybe it was my expectation of it to be as bad as the 5th gen camaro, but I actually found the visibility in the 2016 camaro to be livable. Not good, but something you can live with. Just make sure you option in up with blind spot warning and a rearview camera.

        Reply
  2. Felis Concolor

    When my wife’s husband arrived in town 3 years ago with a 26′ box truck which he thought was filled, I demonstrated to him how inadequate his close-packing skills were by shoving its entire contents into a 15’x10’x8′ storage closet, and still gave it a central aisle along which to sort items.

    I too traveled to a Ford dealer this week to place an order.

    Sadly it wasn’t for a Focus RS, but another order for a Flex.

    Reply
    • VolandoBajo

      Wife’s husband, Felis? That sounds like there is enough story behind that to arouse one’s curiosity at the least.

      Did an “ex-” get dropped off somewhere in your post, or is it more complicated than that?

      And I thought all the polygamy that marginally touches the US is of the one husband, multiple wives, type…old school Mormons, Muslims, etc. Certainly an attention-grabber at the least…

      Reply
      • Felis Concolor

        Whoops, I did miss an “ex” in there, although at the time the situation was quite different.

        I decided to fulfill someone else’s vows when that someone skipped out on my hospitality and left me with an unscheduled family and extra pets. The initial marriage lasted 4 months. It took over twice as long to get all the paperwork for the divorce recognized by the state, so while we’re still living in sin we’ve moved beyond bigamy. I simply told her, “I’m not buying you a ring, but I will buy you a car.” She likes my practicality, and the story of how we ended up with a C-Max in mid-December is another fun tale for later.

        It started with a wedding invitation shortly after I took delivery of a new ’13 Flex. Figuring a marathon drive from Colorado Springs to the Houston/Humble area would be a good shakedown cruise, I accepted and made the hop in a single session. The gathering was fun, the wedding was a small affair, and after taking the kids and friends to a movie tavern (Escape from Planet Earth) later in the week I bid farewell and drove back up, with the rear cargo area lighter by 2 Zu Omen loudspeakers in their popular Electric Blue finish.

        Hey Jack, check out Zu Audio for your Made in America series; I think you’ll dovetail well with that group’s lifestyle and the products are wonderfully controversial and polarizing in numerous audio forum discussions.

        I received a call from my friend a month later; it seems a cousin who owned the house they were renting decided it was time to change the rental agreement (a big no-no in TX without advance warning) and they had just 2 weeks to get out and how were things going in my part of the world? I answered honestly: they weren’t great but they were getting better, and a man who’s entire life has been working gas stations and convenience stores might have a decent shot starting out at the Kum-n-Go opening just 100 yards down the street.

        My house was far too big for myself, but I was more than happy to accept banishment to the upper floor in order to free up the lower rooms for their use. I would be busy with another friend setting up a new career in the blue collar arena, so I wouldn’t want for personal entertainment during the coming months. Against the lady’s vociferous protestations, my friend loosely packed up a 26′ Penske and headed north, with his friend driving their pets up in an oval gen Taurus. There was only slight chaos during the unpacking and setting up of the storage unit, and soon after the kids were enrolled in school and the newlyweds had scheduled initial work and benefit duties at the local Workforce and Goodwill agencies.

        I’m not certain what happened in his head, but a couple weeks after arriving, a massive wave of defeatism washed over my friend and he fell into the sort of unemployable funk HR can smell a mile off; nothing we did or said could snap him out of it. He kept fabricating reasons for why he didn’t want to apply at the fuel plaza which was opening in a few months, and didn’t even try to take some of the entry level jobs in the local area. He wasn’t comfortable with his wife dropping him off at Workforce and then finishing her Goodwill obligations before running kids and errands for the afternoon before picking him up at workday’s end with his car, so I ended up shuttling her back and forth and helping with the kids as my tightening schedule allowed.

        There were strife-filled moments between the various members of the new family, and I ended up engaging in several Sundays worth of day-long marriage and family counselor sessions at their request. My business partner visited and we spent another Sunday spelling out a long term solution which would cost him nothing and help ease tensions while the situation stabilized. He agreed to it and signed several of the forms presented as we made the calls and set up the long term accommodations. In another week, the marriage saving plan would begin.

        The next Monday I made the circuit to drop off the kids at their summer school session, took the lady to Goodwill, then hopped over to pick up the kids’ eyeglass prescription and another meeting with the business owners to discuss terms for the sale. After that, with a couple hours left before making the reverse circuit, I drove home to work on a few areas around the yard.

        His car was gone.

        His dogs were gone.

        Entering the house chanting, “no, no, no . . .” I confirmed his stuff was gone.

        After picking up the rest of the family, I gently explained his disappearance, and we set about cleaning up the mess left behind by the hasty packing, then fixed dinner and waited for a call. 12 hours after his departure the call came in: he couldn’t handle the situation any longer and he was already halfway across Texas. I explained to the now broken family members, “I can’t be your father, but I can be your friend; you’re staying here until we find something that can work for all of you.”

        It was my hair stylist who made the suggestion on separate visits to the young lady and myself: “why don’t you two see if you can make it work together?” We’ve been together ever since, and we now celebrate our “anniversary” with the annual Blues under the Bridge concert event, which we first attended using the set of tickets I had purchased for my now former friend so he could enjoy a fun event regardless of his limited income.

        Despite suffering a “what the hell do you think you’re doing?!!!” moment from my business partner when I told him I’d be starting the business and the family routine at the same time, it’s worked out alright, and after years of her pointing out “that one’s for sale, that one’s for sale – oh: that one has one of those cute towers!” as we drive past the various Victorian-studded neighborhoods near the city center, I may have found a winning solution to the cramped conditions we’ve put up with for the past years.

        Last month we made a Christmas trip back to Humble to visit her friends and family in Texas, and on the return I ended up misreading a map legend which trapped us on a county road in a floodplain as the holiday storms cut off our retreat. We managed to escape via foot and emergency services and while the Flex was still on open pavement that afternoon, the waters rose enough in that area to destroy several homes and wash my beloved car off the road. In hindsight, I really should have tracked down Sajeev and spent an extra day checking out that sweet Cadillac Fleetwood Talisman. Being stuck in the Houston/Humble area would have been much better than being flooded in Corsicana.

        On the return trip to Colorado, the family and our salvaged belongings stuffed into a Dodge Journey, my salesman at the Ford dealer paged me with “hey, are you interested in putting in an order for a Focus RS?”

        Reply
  3. Daniel

    So how does this work in fair weather? Do some of the bikes live outside during the summer?

    Just curious, as I am trying to add a bike to the fleet but haven’t figured all the storage logistics

    Reply
      • -Nate

        Indeed it is and reminds one of the importance of rolling with life’s punches as you never know where they’ll lead unless you do the right thing and try….

        -Nate

        Reply
  4. jz78817

    LOL.

    I’ve got two cylinders in my garage (now that I have a garage.) the other two cylinders are in climate controlled storage for the winter, and my (V6) truck parks outside. reminds me, I have to order the clutch plates for the Yamaha.

    Earlier today, we went to the Ford dealership and John declared that the white Performance-Pack five-liter on the showroom floor was “the coolest”.

    I’ve totally soured on the look of the new/current Mustang. from the doors back it’s fine, but the EU-friendly nose is just ugly. I was planning on trading up my 2012 GT for an S550 but went with something completely different. I don’t care to own a vehicle I don’t want to look at.

    Reply
      • jz78817

        a Dyna Switchback (FLD.) now that I’ve got my rolling Barcalounger… er, I mean cruiser… when spring comes I’ll sell the XV250 and put it towards something a little sportier (taking suggestions.) The BMW G310R catches my eye, but pricing hasn’t been announced and I don’t know if the Beemer tax is like the Harley tax.

        Reply
        • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

          I’ve looked at a few of those Switchbacks when I was at dealers to see the Breakout. Nice choice! Let’s ride this year.

          Reply
          • jz78817

            I’ve got to replace the left footboard first; the existing one is a bit twisted thanks to meeting the right door of a Pontiac G6 (not my fault.)

          • VolandoBajo

            Went tirekicking at a local HD dealer the other day. Just discovered their 500cc machine, a nice clean looking bike without a lot of chrome and hodads…not sure about how much power the thing puts out…Sportsters back in the day used to be weak at 833cc compared to Brit 650’s, but besides looking like a clean machine, it was under $7K new, which looks a whole lot better than a five figure sticker on the 800lb Dyna-saurs.

            Jury still out for me on Urals and reliability and parts availability.

            As to Nate’s advice to just pull the trigger without the SWMBO on board, I would never hear the end of it. Better to at least try to bring her around.

            Latest game plan is that if #1 son lands a decent job in his new “grownup” life, we might conspire to get a pair of motos under the guise of his having two different styles. Then I get invited to ride and work on one of them at a time, including to run back and forth to hang out together.

            A used one of those 500cc HD’s if not mechanical nightmares might be a candidate for one of those machines, with a Jap sportbike for the other, if I want to get a lot of seat time on the HD. Otherwise, the HD for him and maybe a Ural for me, with the sidecar requirement no longer necessary.

            We are seeing what our options are, and trying to work out the best angle.

            The one good thing about him having a new love would be that she probably would be less opposed to him rolling on two wheels than his mother would have been. And if he’s here she still can have more influence on his decision than if he’s stepping up to the plate to be a husband and stepfather down the line.

            Everything is fairly fluid right now, but we are keeping our eyes open.

            The Ural is appealing but also somewhat scary when I read about workmanship issues. Not sure if Nate just likes doing a lot of work on them, or if he has found a way to rework them into reliability, like I did with my Jag and my Norton, plus a VOMeter and some spare wire and connecters (plus buying Zener diode rectifiers by the half dozen for the Norton, a British native 600cc Dominator which lacked even the few amenities the old Berliner distributer US Nortons had. One hard bump and the diode, living under the seat, would crack, rendering the Norton dead on the road, until a new diode was installed. Once you dealt with the issue, it ceased to be a showstopper on the road. Maybe Urals are more like that…still need to find out for myself.)

          • Tyguy

            Not true. Jack, US and Canadian ones are made in Kansas City. They do make the HD Street in India for the rest of the work. I’d step up to the 750, same size bike with more more power. Anyway in that 7k new range there are a ton of choices, Ducati Scambler, Triumph Bonneville are great looking fun bikes for example.

  5. Baconator

    After all the scorn you’ve heaped on the Boxster over the years, I have to ask: Why keep it? It’s not going to appreciate any time soon. Plenty of other fish in the used-car sea for the money that you could get selling it.

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      I don’t think it’s going to appreciate ever. It’s close to worthless now — I can’t imagine it would fetch eighteen grand used — and for that money I might as well hang on to it instead of buying someone else’s troubles 🙂

      Reply
        • Dan S

          Those articles get pretty formulaic and pointless after awhile, unless you’re unaware of certain cars which depreciate massively.

          Why not try something new like, “you can own this problem ridden E39 540i for the same price as a 200k mile corolla that has strange things growing in the carpet”, or (based on an actual craigslist ad i’ve seen) “you can own this 600,000 mile F-150 for the price of two cartons of cigarettes”. Something like that, you know, some real comparison.

          Reply
          • Baconator

            My last purchase was “you can buy this 2002 Mercedes S500 for the price of 19 months of lease payments on a new Passat.” New tires and radiator have added another $1k to the all-in cost, which is about what I could part it out for, even if it’s totaled in an accident or lunches its engine or something. So I figure if I can drive it for anything more than 19 months it will be money well spent. I’m at 8 months and counting…

  6. Josh

    That Focus RS is bonkers. It looks bonkers, it drives bonkers–but I just can’t get comfortable in the thing–it’s as though every recent Ford I’ve driven is ergonomically “off” somehow. The sitting the seats, the wonky control relationships and the oddly-molded floorboards..there are these weird commonalities..

    Reply
  7. Josh

    That Focus RS is bonkers. It looks bonkers, it drives bonkers–but I just can’t get comfortable in the thing–it’s as though every recent Ford I’ve driven is ergonomically “off” somehow. The sensation of sitting ON the seats, rather than in them, the wonky control relationships and the oddly-molded floorboards..there are these weird commonalities..

    Reply
    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      That’s interesting, because the Ford control arrangement in the Focus works pretty well for me. I spent four days in a base 2015 Focus thinking about how much I enjoyed the way everything…

      wait for it…

      …fell readily to hand, as the old autojourno saying goes!

      The seats in the Focus RS are way too aggressive for me but Danger Girl thought they were perfect, even though at five-nine she’s not petite.

      Reply
  8. -Nate

    I so envy your garage Jack if nothing in it….

    Lucky I live in the land of smog & sun so my fleet parked out side only gets ruined by those instead of rusting away…

    Oh , wait , the smog causes rust here too dammit .

    -Nate

    Reply
  9. Economist

    The personal cylinder count – brings back fond memories of Road and Track from the 90s. I can’t believe I threw out all my old issues before my most recent move.

    Reply
  10. VolandoBajo

    Wow! Looks like I was right…there certainly was a bit more to that story than was first told…might even make a good book.

    I too have been known to engage in a bit of trying to be a good guy who helps out friends and friends of friends, etc., though never to the extent you have gone. Sounds like all is working out in the end for you though, which is the main thing.

    And sorry you had that flood event to cope with…must have been a hellacious couple of days.

    Nice open-ended close…I will wait to see if someone else bites, but the obvious question would be “what did you reply to the salesperson?”.

    Only time I shared too much house, post-divorce, with someone was when a local friend of a friend, a young lesbian who needed only a three month work experience to graduate in rec management from a decent smaller Carolina college, agreed to baby sit my one hundred seventy pound Newfie when I had to travel for business, in exchange for the opportunity to live adjacent to a county park where she could get the work experience she needed.

    What followed really sucked, but in the end it more or less worked out. I had bought a new Thunderbird, and had decided to let her use my old VW Rabbit diesel to go grocery shopping for the house, along with her GF, who turned out to be her combo rescue story and complicated love problem.

    Instead of playing by the rules, she and the GF took my car over an hour away for the GF to have a talk with her ex-BF from high school, where they proceeded to get into an accident. Subsequently, said GF refused to sign insurance papers acknowledging she had been driving, and when I called her (at her later residence two or three times) to try to get the insurance issues resolved, on the advice of her feminist attorney, she charged me with harassment and various other gender related alleged crimes.

    Took a conviction in general court, in spite of having an attorney, followed by a sound rejection of the conviction by an appeals judge, to finally get her to give me closure on the matter.

    The only small satisfaction was that a few years later my first caretaker housemate had gotten her life together a bit, including with a rec related job her degree had helped her obtain. Then she bought a nice Corolla wagon (assuming you believe that’s not a contradiction), and someone totalled it while it was parked, in a hit and run. Only then did she apologize and realize how wrong she had been to let her ex-GF go joy-riding/daytripping in my 2nd car.

    In my case, the whole thing ended up shortly later being all history, as I met my one true love of my life about six months later, while working out of town. The rest, as they say, is history…been together with her ever since, except for the rough patches.

    When two intelligent self-centered people who are used to almost always getting their way in relationships discover that they really love someone for a change, instead of just playing the game, it can and did get dicey at times, until we both learned to compromise with each other, after we both realized that both of us would be worse off with anyone else. Neither of us were naive as to our choices, and we finally settled down to live happily ever after, something I used to believe was a fairy tale.

    But man, you certainly deserve the Above-and-Beyond-the-Call-of-Duty award for your involvement and commitment. I do fully sympathize with the grief you must have gotten at times from your business partner and others, as they wondered if you not only didn’t know what you were doing, but had taken leave of your senses entirely.

    None of our friends could understand why we kept on trying so hard to make it work when we both had such a difficult time getting on the same page. But, not bragging, but when you have what it takes to end up with desirable companions/partners who nevertheless are willing to acquiesce to your own way of doing things, putting two such people together is like trying to mix two strong chemicals together…the end result will be different from either input, and there will likely be a hell of a lot of heat, light and fumes coming off from the reaction.

    Such was our initial time together, and no one, and I mean no one, except us and perhaps one pastor who discerned how much we really loved each other in spite of the difficulties, most of them self-created, that we had to endure.

    Today neither of us can figure out why it took us so long to decide that it would end up the way it has, with a lot of compromise, sharing, etc., and day after day of having the best days of our lives, even when things don’t work out well some days.

    Nice story, and nice ending, Felis.

    Though my advice on the salesman would be to tell him to call back in a month, and then go check out Sajeev’s Cadillac. If it is sound, or worth the trouble to fix, I’d be all over that one, if I didn’t already have a nice vehicle from the era when American sedans were truly American sedans.

    Reply
    • Felis Concolor

      I am pleased to announce the kids comported themselves with exemplary grace, despite a 3 day wait at a Comfort Inn while the waters receded. There was a revolt on the 2nd day, but it was by the parents who insisted, “no more Teen Titans; you’re going to watch All in the Family and Jeffersons instead.”

      As my love was driving at the time of the text messaging, I had a good back and forth with the salesman, explaining “no, I’m more interested in another Flex”/”trade-in?”/”No – replacement for flood damage (ouch!)”/”damn, that’s terrible”/”So what can you find for me?”/”I know you like them loaded, but we do have a screaming deal on a ’14 Limited w/turbo, no fridge and no sunroof.”

      As the 2016 color palettes offered aren’t entirely terrible, I placed an order for the Limited/Ti package/glass roof/fridge/AWD 3.5 turbo and chose that nice copper bronze color, which will look very sharp with the black roof cap. From what I recall of Ford’s product cycles, the ’16s will be the very last batch, and they’re going to go out with Sync 3 instead of the Sync 2/MFT combination. I look forward to formatting a 2TB USB hard drive and seeing if the system can not only run it, but if it can index 1.5T of uncompressed music files.

      While I’ve never been personally affected by the “point and shriek, then litigate” crowd, I’ve known 2 in the past who have been afflicted with such nastiness in their lives. Those who suffer from NMP/SEP (Not My Problem/Somebody Else’s Problem) tend not to understand until it comes back to bite them. Point-and-shriek reminds me I have a few spare copies of a new book most people don’t realize they need; I’ll see if Jack can give it a proper read and review writeup in the future.

      I don’t think a nice Corolla wagon is a contradiction in terms; I rescued one friend’s ’96 with a seized engine (he hadn’t changed the oil or filter in over 7 years), which he promptly signed over to me as “I don’t like to deal with that sort of crap.” I found the “big” 1.8 engine/transaxle at a nearby parts yard and swapped it in with the help of the next door towing/wrecking operation. I then notified another friend he was going to receive a replacement for his decrepit ’91 Tercel – which even the most ardent Toyotista hold in utter contempt – and proceeded to give it a week’s shakedown. After the 2nd day I phoned him at work and said, “you’re lucky this isn’t a wagon; I’d be keeping it on general principles.” He transferred its vanity plate (ANIME) and now, whenever someone asks him “how the heck did you get that?” He gets to smile and say, “where were you in ’92?” Yes, a lot of the kids are impressed he’s had that plate longer than they’ve been around.

      And a thanks to Nate and Jack for their earlier comments; one reason I read all threads thoroughly is to catch the occasional mislocated response.

      Reply
      • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

        There is no bigger fan of the Flex than yours truly. Losing my 2009 Cinnamon Limited with white roof in the divorce was the worst part of said divorce.

        Reply
  11. -Nate

    FWIW ;

    Older Urals were really a crap shoot , I’d nor suggest getting a pre 2010 year model , I have two early ones and yes , they needed serious sorting but then I like wrenching more than you like drinking beer =8-) .

    My 2010 Ural Solo sT has been almost trouble free ~ the Dealer didn’t do a really careful set up so it had a few loose nuts and bolts , the rear brake (Brembo disc !) wasn’t bled and the rear brake light switch failed in 3,000 miles , that’s it , I’ve been riding it hard as I can (I don’t thrash anything , never lug nor overspeed the engine etc.) and it’s been great .

    I also like Harleys having owned old ones back before they were hip , new or old Harley Davidson Motocycles are fun if tiring to ride and always seem to break down a lot although I had little troubles with my Pan Head or Knuckle Head .

    It’s due to the basic design .

    I’d really like a small Sportster , 883 or whatever the basic engine size one is now as I’d ride it faster than the poseurs ever do and 900 pounds is a lot to wrestle through the canyons , trust me on this .

    -Nate

    Reply
  12. VolandoBajo

    Nuf said, Jack and thanks for the info. Last thing I need is a two wheeled version of a Tata tuk-tuk.

    Been under the weather, plus my wife has been making medical rounds with some adverse problems with her nervous system, AND #1 son is planning his first visit to his new love next weekend, after it had to be postponed first for her father, who had a coronary followed by stents, and then pneumonia that her older son had, resulting in a multiday stay at the hospital.

    Also been under over two feet of snow, just for lagniappe.

    But a strange twist of fate that I am sure you and perhaps a couple other of my online friends might be able to appreciate…I have been busy vetting out the new love to at least insure that she is more or less who she says she is. She has a somewhat uncommon last name. And after inquiring, I found out she has an uncle who worked at the same place on Wall Street that I once did, at the same time, and on several projects together. We never became besties or anything like that, but he was both intelligent and not an SOB, which on Wall Street puts you in a category twice as good as most of the players. To paraphrase a grad student friend of mine, a Chilean who had already worked a good bit in industry, Wall Street is the same rat race, only the rats are smarter. But Matt’s new love’s uncle was at least not a rat, so there is an auspicious backdrop to the entire drama.

    Damn, though, that 500cc HD in black was the cleanest looking bike in a showroom of over a hundred Harleys…shame it couldn’t have been a skunkworks project in Milwaukee or York PA.

    7Picked up a parts and accessories catalog while I was in the showroom…damn thing is over 400 pages, and no doubt a moneymaker for HD, but except for the speed parts, it pretty much represents most of what I don’t like about the “RUBY”, Rich Urban Biker tack that the company has taken.

    In my mind, very similar to what BMW automotive did after the 2002tii’s…they discovered that they could drive the price up artificially by the same psychology as the diamond market, and when they went from pricing their vehicles according to cost of manufacture and started trying to get all that the market would bear, they went from being affordable to most of the middle class, into become the garish complexity that the 750il became.

    But Harley learned the lesson well…I did a grad school project on manufacturing, with HD as the case study. Did some digging beyond the official version they painted. Talked to a dealer, got him to open up. Seems Harley was forcing the dealers to take delivery and pay for (floor plan) the bikes on their nickel, not HD’s, which beefed up HD’s financials, but at the expense of many of the small to medium size dealers. Which also explains why it is much more common now to see HD dealer chains with three or more dealership locations now, than it was a couple or three decades ago.

    But I digress…what’s new. Got to get caught up with my real life, but wanted to contribute a little something after being incommunicado for a week or so.

    Reply
  13. VolandoBajo

    Nuf said, Jack and thanks for the info. Last thing I need is a two wheeled version of a Tata tuk-tuk.

    Been under the weather, plus my wife has been making medical rounds with some adverse problems with her nervous system, AND #1 son is planning his first visit to his new love next weekend, after it had to be postponed first for her father, who had a coronary followed by stents, and then pneumonia that her older son had, resulting in a multiday stay at the hospital.

    Also been under over two feet of snow, just for lagniappe.

    But a strange twist of fate that I am sure you and perhaps a couple other of my online friends might be able to appreciate…I have been busy vetting out the new love to at least insure that she is more or less who she says she is. She has a somewhat uncommon last name. And after inquiring, I found out she has an uncle who worked at the same place on Wall Street that I once did, at the same time, and on several projects together. We never became besties or anything like that, but he was both intelligent and not an SOB, which on Wall Street puts you in a category twice as good as most of the players. To paraphrase a grad student friend of mine, a Chilean who had already worked a good bit in industry, Wall Street is the same rat race, only the rats are smarter. But Matt’s new love’s uncle was at least not a rat, so there is an auspicious backdrop to the entire drama.

    Damn, though, that 500cc HD in black was the cleanest looking bike in a showroom of over a hundred Harleys…shame it couldn’t have been a skunkworks project in Milwaukee or York PA.

    Picked up a parts and accessories catalog while I was in the showroom…damn thing is over 400 pages, and no doubt a moneymaker for HD, but except for the speed parts, it pretty much represents most of what I don’t like about the “RUBY”, Rich Urban Biker tack that the company has taken.

    In my mind, very similar to what BMW automotive did after the 2002tii’s…they discovered that they could drive the price up artificially by the same psychology as the diamond market, and when they went from pricing their vehicles according to cost of manufacture and started trying to get all that the market would bear, they went from being affordable to most of the middle class, into becoming the garish complexity that the 750il became.

    But Harley learned the lesson well…I did a grad school project on manufacturing, back in the early 90’s, with HD as the case study. Did some digging beyond the official version they painted. Talked to a dealer, got him to open up. Seems Harley was forcing the dealers to take delivery and pay for (floor plan) the bikes on their nickel (including pink Harleys in the South, not a big seller!), not HD’s, which beefed up HD’s financials, but at the expense of many of the small to medium size dealers. Which also explains why it is much more common now to see HD dealer chains with three or more dealership locations now, than it was a couple or three decades ago.

    But I digress…what’s new. Got to get caught up with my real life, but wanted to contribute a little something after being incommunicado for a week or so.

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  14. VolandoBajo

    The 750 would be nice, but I believe you can’t get it in the clean black look that the 500 has.

    But as a former Norton owner who is aware that both Norton and BSA are no longer in production, I find myself, at least my heart, gravitating to the Bonneville.

    Any bike that is good enough for Steve McQueen and Bob Dylan is good enough for me…

    Damn, the more I think about it the more I think I have to find a way to get a Bonneville. I loved my British market Norton Dominator SS cafe racer, but I have always lusted after Bonnevilles as well.

    Even more than an R90S or a Ducati, or whatever. The only other things in my mind that come close would be either a Vincent Black Shadow or a Brough, and they are priced through the roof.

    But I would LOVE to own and ride a Bonneville. Anyone know of a charity for old geezer riders that sets them up with a free one, sort of like Habitat for Humanity does for housing for poor people? That would kill the wife’s objection to cost, and I’d have that baby titled and on the road in a flash…

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    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      I have a very good friend who has a modern Bonnie. Three rides trying to keep up with my CB1100 has significantly dampened his enthusiasm for it…

      Reply
  15. VolandoBajo

    That has been a chronic issue with both classic bikes and classic cars: improved technology and the HP arms race have conspired to make a number of mechanically elegant and classical designs still viable, but consigned to second place.

    British bikes, of course, are one example. British sports cars such as the Austin Healey 3000-6 are another. And of course, Panthers. If cars had continued to trend smaller, only six and seven figure vehicles would have been significantly faster. Instead, half-engineered newer cars shave three or more seconds off the zero-sixty times of Aero and Whale Panthers, and only an expensive hotrodding project can make them even competitive, much less surefire sleepers.

    I suppose there will come a day when Panthers are as archaic as Model A and Model T Fords. Fortunately, it hasn’t gotten that bad yet. My Panther may not be a monster sleeper, but with a mild chip tune, at least it is quicker (and a whole lot more practical and comfortable) than most cars costing less than about $60K new.

    Though of course, the mpg figures are also subject to the same problem of newer vehicles doing what couldn’t be done in their day.

    At some point one has to decide if they want the “baddest” machine, regardless of how little it is satisfying in other areas, such as the CB1100, or if they want to ride a beautifully-engineered piece of equipment.

    My Walter Mitty wish, though, is that someone would figure out a way to get about 125HP and a broad powercurve out of a stock-looking Bonneville, BSA or Norton. But even if it could be done, and even if it became a production vehicle, I doubt it could or would be done for less than $50K, perhaps even double that.

    If your friend really wants to get out from his Triumph situation, though, and is willing to part with it at a reasonable amount, that would certainly light a fire under my rear end. I think I’d be OK with the lesser performance in order to enjoy the overall experience.

    It should be noted, though, that I have had extensive experience in the past with keeping Lucas-wired vehicles running, which is likely to still be an issue with the newer Bonnies, unless they said goodbye to the Prince of Darkness in the modern version.

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