Harley 750, King of the Track, Part 1

Another fine 2-wheeled post by Lee Wilcox! Enjoy. -Klockau

If you follow racing of any kind you know that there is plenty of variety.  If you have followed motorcycle racing you know that there is intense competition between the brands and that one brand will win for a while then another. There is a form of motorcycle racing that is as old as motorcycles in America.  At first motorcycles were used to tow bicycles up to speed on board tracks. As motorcycle speeds increased the bicycles were forgotten.  The next step, board track racing of motorcycles was absolute carnage.  Because of the carnage, circle track or dirt track racing was developed.  This was generally on horse racing tracks and frequently used as an attraction at county fairs.  Wide open throttles with triple digit speeds, no front brakes and steering by sliding the rear wheel.  This is sane?  Compared to board track racing – absolutely yes. One brand has been dominant through most of the history of this sport.  At times, it has required favorable rules from the American Motorcyclist Association to retain that dominance.  Today, however, with rules favoring other brands and models, Harley Davidson still dominates the flat track.  I have found the history interesting and hope you do as well.

The stereotypical Harley rider has become a middle aged professional – typically a lawyer or accountant – wearing expensive leathers and making annual excursions to Sturgis.

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1978 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Diesel: In Defense of the Olds 350 Diesel V8

My Grand Dad always had a beater, for everyday driving, and a good car, which he bought new and brought out only on special occasions. Once, he said he’d buy a new car when he retired and give his current garage queen, a 1966 Chrysler sedan, to my Dad. In 1977, Grand Dad did retire, and Dad held him to his word.  To replace the Chrysler, he headed down to Carter Chevrolet-Olds and placed an order for what is oft regarded today as one of General Motors’ biggest blunders: a 1978 Oldsmobile Delta 88 with the then-new 350 CID LF9 V8 diesel engine.

The Delta 88 4-door sedan was the most popular 1978 Olds to be ordered with the LF9 diesel. Much like the base-model 1966 Chrysler, the 1978 Oldsmobile Delta 88 was advertised as more car for not much more money than “lesser” automobiles. Undoubtedly this appealed to Grand Dad’s innate frugality, as it still allowed him to have an upscale, but not ostentatious, full-size automobile.

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What The Heck Is Speedway?

Please welcome Lee Wilcox to RG! He wrote some most excellent motorcycle-related content for CC several years ago, and he has given me permission to re-locate them to this fine site. So here we go! There will be more in the future. Please give him a warm welcome. -Klockau

The recent flat track article started a discussion about Harley-Davidson’s lack of competitiveness when it comes to motor sports outside the USA, notably Speedway. Although I view Speedway as riders mounted on overpowered, bicycle-looking motorbikes sliding around a track, I find both it and flat track beyond my capability as a rider. But I’m going to tackle the subject as a writer.

According to my research, both can trace their origins to pre-World War One board track motor sports racing, from which they diverged into two branches, each governed separately; Speedway, by the Federation Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM), and dirt track by the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA).

As you’d expect, Speedway bikes are different because Speedway rules are. Speedway tracks are much shorter than dirt tracks (likely because Speedway didn’t emerge from county fairs or racing on horse tracks), but in both cases, bikes relatively short on horsepower and  braking performance require their riders to negotiate the track in much the same way.

Getting to know more about Speedway bikes proved to an interesting lesson in how to jam the most power into the lightest  package.

The picture above shows a typical older Speedway bike, this one manufactured by J.A. Prestwich. Its engine is upright, and although today’s riders seem to prefer a laydown motor and a lower center of gravity, this early model is functionally similar to today’s bikes, as you’ll soon see.

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1962-63 Oldsmobile Jetfire: With Turbo Rocket Fluid!

Note: Another one from Tony LaHood! The featured car was spotted by yours truly at the Oldsmobile Nationals in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, back in 2015. Enjoy. -TK

Our youngish readers might find it hard to believe that in the early 1960s the idea of a turbocharged production car was only slightly less fantastic than that of a pocket-size wireless flip phone. But in 1962, General Motors (Yes, there was a time when GM was a real innovator) rolled out not one but two such production passenger vehicles: the Corvair Monza Spyder, and the Oldsmobile Jetfire, America’s first turbocharged volume-production cars.

The Jetfire was essentially a 1962 F-85 Cutlass hardtop coupe (Holiday Coupe, in Olds-speak) with specific interior and exterior trim and, of course, a big surprise under the hood.

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A Car Girl Buys An Automatic Pumpkin Spice Latte

Ever since my childhood, the BMW brand has been part of my life. I vividly remember my dad’s excitement when brought his first BMW home. Owning one of Bavaria’s Motor Werks had been a lifelong dream of his, and his pride in accomplishing it was worn transparently on his face.

I was 12 at the time and naively said, “Daddy, is it a sports car?”

He gently smiled and said, “No, this is a performance car.”

I’ve never forgotten that moment, not even now that he’s on BMW number eight.

When I was 15, Dad took me to the BMW Museum in Munich, and I distinctly remember watching him, a grown-up kid in a candy store. I learned how to drive stick on his second 3-series. He only drives manual BMWs and I always swore I would do the same, just like my dad. And for my 20th birthday, the old man took me to Spartanburg, South Carolina, for some daddy-daughter bonding at the BMW Center Driving School.

What else does BMW mean to me?

  • M power—and the time my dad made one of his employees take me for a ride in the 5th E46 M3 in our area. Imagine my excitement when Mr. Peters pulled over and told me I could drive the rest of the way
  • Straight 6
  • Rear wheel drive
  • Manual transmission
  • Agile
  • 50/50 weight distribution
  • Naturally aspirated
  • A driver’s car

Well, I recently bought my BMW number eight, and it’s not any of these things. It’s a 2014 BMW 320i xDrive in Basic Bitch White with leatherette—a vehicle of circumstance, not passion.

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Guest Post: Who Is The 35 Year Old Founder Of Rivian Automotive?

This one’s a firecracker! I’ll let the writer claim it in the comments if he likes… otherwise, consider this an anonymous contribution with a lot to say — JB

Do you like trucks and SUVs? Pardon me for reducing you to a statistic, but you probably do. In fact if you are a part of America in 2019, it’s more than ​65 percent​ likely that you do. And with ​1 in 5​ residents admitting they would consider an electric vehicle for their next purchase, the 35 year old founder and CEO of electric truck and SUV startup, Rivian Automotive, must be feeling good.

If that didn’t sink in, let me repeat it: The surprisingly well funded car company you’ve never heard of is headed up ​by a 35 year old named RJ Scaringe. RJ has close to half a ​billion dollars in working capital, and currently employs over​ 600 people in four different cities​. The employees? These are folks with history at companies you probably ​have​ heard of… Mclaren, Lotus, GM, Ford. Given his youth, you may expect for him to struggle in this position, but he really doesn’t suck at it. In fact he’s quite good.

By all accounts, Scaringe is experienced, disciplined, enthusiastic, well spoken – he’s even good looking. This MIT Ph.D toting CEO has enough initials after his name to make you feel like you’ve made some terrible life choices, so how about we look into how one becomes the owner of such esteemed credentials a half decade before being due for a prostate exam?

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Refurbishing The Ark: 1970 Fleetwood Brougham Update!

Last year, I shared my friend Laurie Kraynick’s relationship with her 1970 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham. While the Caddy looked great in the pictures, it needed refurbishment. New top, new headliner, some metalwork and eventually, a repaint in the original factory color of Lucerne Aqua Firemist. Such things take time, but progress took a huge jump forward this winter! If you missed the original Broughamtastic post, you can find the link right here! Read on, in Laurie’s own words. -TK

And now for something really important… The Ark is done with Restoration Phase 1 (vinyl top removal/sheet metal work/vinyl top replacement/NOS script installation/new headliner/restored original visors/painting of trims exterior and interior). Phase 2 is next winter, proper paint color and body work. The receipts have been tallied and the cost for Phase 1 exceeds what some folks make in a year, and it was a bargain at twice the price. The top of the car, in and out, looks like its 1970 again. Blisteringly extraordinary work performed by the best in the auto restoration business, you get what you pay for.

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1955-56 Dodge La Femme: I Am Marketing, Hear Me Roar

Note: Another post from Tony LaHood! -TK

You really don’t see as much of this anymore, for several reasons: first, manufacturers no longer have the kind of mad money it takes to design, produce and market vehicles that disrespect the economies of scale. Also, the once-vaunted “halo effect” is increasingly irrelevant to consumers–after all, is the average Altima or Civic buyer the least bit influenced by the existence of the GT-R or NSX?

And then there’s the matter of political correctness; seriously, if a car maker offered a model geared toward a specific gender or other personal demographic today, howls of protest would reverberate, boycotts would form, and the offender would be made to attend automotive sensitivity training conducted by a newly formed Federal Department of Indignation Resolution.

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I Guess You Need Thick Skin to Learn To Weld

For a long time now, and this has little to do with political ideologies, I’ve wanted cabinet level secretaries to the president of the United States to pass a small test of practical skills, just to see how much real world experience they have. Can they change a flat tire without using some misandristly promoted Geico app? Can they solder two copper wires together? I’m not asking about welding, mind you, that’s a fairly technical skill, just if they can do some basic soldering. For the matter, could they connect two wires using a wire nut? Do they even know what a wire nut is? If you gave them just some long two-by-fours, a saw, a hammer, some nails, and a tape measure, could they frame a square wall, even if you spotted them the tip that it has something to do with diagonals? Do they know how to hammer a nail?

I’m also old enough to remember when hardly any newspaper reporters called themselves journalists, or graduated from J-schools. They weren’t about afflicting the comfortable, they were about the five Ws, and getting scoops. They didn’t look down on working class folks because they regarded themselves as working class folks. I’d be willing to bet $100 that the vast majority of self-identified “journalists” today, though, can’t do any of the skills in my Cabinet Level test. I’d be willing to bet $500 that most think they’re too smart to do stuff like welding or carpentry.

Thus it did not surprise me, when in the wake of massive layoffs in the online “news” and opinion industry, blue-checked journalists on Twitter ascended the heights of dudgeon because some snarky folks told them to “learn to code”.

Talia Lavin, who proved that incompetency as a fact-checker and defaming an American hero as a neo-Nazi is no impediment to getting another gig when you’re a narrative-carrying lefty, decided that “learn to code” was an alt-right plot against the good and righteous scribes busy comforting the afflicted. Her piece at The New Republic  was titled, “The Fetid, Right-Wing Origins of “Learn to Code”.

Not wanting to be hoist on the same petard that their journalist colleagues have been jabbing at unemployed folks in America’s formerly great industrial heartland whose jobs “weren’t coming back”, some still-employed journos used the fact that favoring blue-check journalists is part of Twitter’s business model of getting folks to create content for the site for free — so they got Twitter to suspend the “learn to code” tweeters.

Ben Popken now covers business for NBC. His Twitter bio, if I recall correctly, brags about being a founder of consumerist.com and that the site was bought by Consumer Reports.  It doesn’t say that CR fired him in 2011 and shuttered the site in 2017. Popken apparently felt that telling a journalist, unemployed or not, that learning a marketable skill was beyond the pale of civil discourse. He posted, bragging:

 “”Learn to code” was tweeted at me by a sketchy account. I reported it as abusive behavior as part of targeted harassment. Twitter suspended the account within 20 minutes. Journalists if they tweet “learn to code” at you don’t stay silent, take a moment to report it…”

“Grandpa Ben, tell us again how bravely you fought in the Meme Wars.”

Now I’m not a big Twitter user. I’m not even sure how to use the site’s features, but now and then I’ll agree or take issue with something I’ll see that had been posted there. I wondered if Popken specifically thought that “learn to code” was abusive behavior or if he thought any kind of manual labor was beneath his social and intellectual station and thus suggesting he learn those trades would be an affront to his honor.

I sent him the following tweet. Note that it’s a question, not a directive.

Ronnie Schreiber
@RonnieSchreiber
@bpopken How about learn to weld?

I guess you need thick skin to learn to weld, as my Twitter account was suspended by that evening, presumably at the behest of Mr. Popken. I could get back on Twitter if I would delete the offending tweet, but instead I appealed the suspension, pointing out that Mr. Popken’s concerns were about “learn to code” and I never mentioned coding. If I wanted to be genuinely snarky, I would have pointed out to him that while his journo friends were getting pink-slipped and shit-canned, I was offered a pretty sweet regular freelance writing gig. I guess there is more of a market for folks who know how to do research and construct a sentence than there is for listicle and quiz compilers.

Twitter, or their algorithms, rejected my appeal. I’m not deleting the tweet, however, unless having a Twitter account becomes a condition of employment in a job that I really want. Oh well, I managed to survive more than six decades without a single tweet, I’ll survive without them.

To be clear, it wouldn’t be true to say that I know how “to code”. The last program I wrote was in Algol during college, over 40 years ago. The only coding that I do today is to modify a config file for something like one of my 3D printers, but I’m pretty sure that Ben Popken couldn’t do that either. See, the thing is, what journalists don’t seem to realize is that they don’t know how much they don’t know. Nobel Prize winning physicist Murray Gell-Mann pointed out that if you’re knowledgeable about a topic you can quickly see how many mistakes journalists make on that subject. They may be writing about physics or computer science, but they went to journalism schools, they didn’t major in STEM.

If I make a mistake when writing about code, that article can still be published. If I make a mistake when writing code, the program won’t work. If I can’t make a living with the skills that I have, maybe I should learn new skills.

1974 Dale: Dollar For Dollar, The Best Car Never Built!

Note: Another post by Tony LaHood. Enjoy. -TK

Sherman, set the way-back machine to 1974—to the wonderful days of seat belt-ignition interlocks, presidential resignations, 55 mph speed limits, and soaring fuel prices.

The OPEC oil embargo in 1973 had a long-term impact on the everyday lives of everyday Americans in a way few other events have. With the specter of gasoline selling for–God forbid–$1.00 per gallon, Americans’ interest in small, economical cars surged, and many Honda and Toyota dealers displayed their characteristic altruism by dressing up new Civics, Coronas and Starlets in $1,000 mud flaps and $2,500 pinstripes in response.

The time was ripe for a new means of personal transport that was cheap to buy, cheap to drive, and cheap to maintain. This is the story of a vehicle that was none of these things, because it existed only in the mind of its creator.

Geraldine Elizabeth Carmichael was 37 years old in 1974. A self-described “Indiana farm girl with five children and widow of a NASA engineer”, she formed the Twentieth Century Motor Car Corporation that year, in Encino, CA, and publicly announced its first product, the Dale.

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