Gathering 2015

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The riding season in the northern climes begins in the spring. However, in the mid-Atlantic region, it officially starts with events. Events like The Gathering of the Nortons. This is no small gathering of a few Norton devotees. It is an event covered here before (see Gathering 2012 or Gathering of the Clans) that routinely draws over 70 Nortons and 900 bikes overall, and which is well managed by the Delaware Valley Norton Riders. Vintage bikes enjoy a reserved field. It is several hundred wildly varied machines from all kinds of Marques. A neck-swiveling vintage sensory overload. This year brought excellent weather and afforded a fantastic ride along the Delaware river. The Norton liked the empty if winter-ravaged river road. 

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The event is always a chance to reconnect with friends not seen since before the tundra froze over. It is also a coming out party for many a winter project. A maiden voyage for any number of garage projects. Some of the results are spectacular. Others are just pleased to make it to the event. All contributed not just to one of the first vintage events of the year, but one of the best.

Norton Gathering 2015 Full Photo Album

 

Posted on April 19, 2015 and filed under motorcycle, Events.

Opel Kapitan A

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Your eyes do not deceive you....This is a popular German sedan from the 1960s. In 1964 Opel introduced a trio of models on a new platform. It was called the KAD platform after the three models being introduced; the Kapitan, the Admiral, and the Diplomat. They featured 2.6 liter and 2.8 liter straight six engines. In 1966 a Chevrolet 4.6 liter V8 from parent company General Motors was added as an option, but it was most often sold along with the Admiral and Diplomat models. The Kapitan name has a history going back to the pre-war period. Several iterations shared the name despite very different appearances.

The model had four doors, a large interior, and would have looked at home in America, and indeed, up to two thirds of production at times left Germany for overseas markets. It was over 16 feet long and over 6 feet wide. It was aimed at executives and .....ahem....captains of industry at a time when the competitors from Mercedes and BMW cost 2000 marks more (about $500 at the time). The Kapitan was the bargain model of the trio introduced, with fewer luxury appointments. Regardless, it was the fastest 6 cylinder 4 door sedan at the time, and helped to generate record sales by the time the KAD platform was retired in 1969.

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Posted on April 13, 2015 and filed under car, Classic Vehicles.

Morrie's Place

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There are fewer and fewer shops like Morrie's. It is a place full of old motorcycles. By choice. It is a place where they work on old motorcycles almost exclusively. By choice. It is strange that it is housed in a modern building rather than someplace old with character. From the outside, you would expect the latest from Japan and Europe. 

inside it might be sometime in the late 1970s. The showroom was full. Machines for sale included gems from the sixties and seventies. Morrie's has a lot of British bikes, but they also have a good sampling of others. A lovely Benelli Sei, for example, and a Ducati Monza 250. A nice Excelsior Henderson 4 was wedged in a row of machines. There is a healthy sampling of BMWs as well. A few slash 2s and a slash 5. The majority of the bikes though are British. BSAs and Nortons abound, but are joined by machines from AJS, Velocette, and Triumph. A nice Metisse occupied a place of prominence in a showroom window. There are very few restored machines present in the showroom. Most are well-patinaed drip-pan-needing but sound mechanical motorcycles offered at reasonable prices. 

Favorite machines include a lovely Rickman Triumph, a Velocette MSS. The one we would have ridden home though was a beautiful Norton ES2. Talking with Morrie himself was interesting. Here is a guy that just loves the old machines and has decided to try to make a living selling and servicing them. During our visit, customers were there from nearby Chicago, and far away Iowa. Both offered unsolicited testament to the quality of work and the great customer service. There are not a lot of shops like Morrie's around, but the few that remain should have our deepest gratitude if not patronage. 

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Posted on April 5, 2015 and filed under Shops, motorcycle.

One

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5:45am Middlebury, VT

The tii starts easily as if it is as glad to see the new day as I am. It is covered in dew. The kind of dew that only a summer overnight stay outside can generate. It is not cold, just cool. Maybe in the 60s. The motel was cheap and convenient. A place to shower and sleep. Now with bag in the spacious trunk, and a day of driving ahead, I stretched and smiled. I looked at the tii sitting there, idling comfortably now, smiling with me. At that moment, the day was full of promise. Man and machine were one. 

There is a time of day where the light is magic. In the time leading up to dawn,  a painting is created with a soft glow over everything. Harsh detail is airbrushed by the cosmos, and the most flattering light is  poured like some luminescent syrup onto even the least worthy of objects. Apply this to the hills and valleys of new england, and you have a masterpiece. Then add silence. It is somehow even more beautiful because nature has added a soundtrack of.....nothing. This is now a movie rather than a painting. And we are in it, man and machine.

Somehow, this combination of metal and blood is one form. Somehow the synapses are firing in synchronization with the spark plugs. 1-4-3-2, 1-4-3-2. The undulations and curves of the road in the pre-dawn stillness are in lock step with the suspension and steering. Speed is high, sensing that this glorious window is but for a short while. And miles to go while others sleep...The weak yellow glow of the headlights is a perfect match for the hue of the emerging glow to the east. The whole universe is smiling.

Posted on March 28, 2015 and filed under car, Commentary, Rides and Drives.

Volo Revisited

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3 years ago was the first time we visited the Volo museum. That visit was a rather hurried affair wedged in between obligations. Regardless, it was an entertaining visit. This visit was a bit more relaxed. Most of the Hollywood displays were the same, but the rest of the cars rotate as they are bought and sold. The focus is Americana, but some European cars and exotica are mixed in. This mix of displays and cars for sale is an interesting blend. Volo can be considered a classic car dealer where the showroom has some pretty spectacular memorabilia. A Gone in 60 Seconds Mustang, a Knightrider Trans Am, a Miami Vice Ferrari, etc. 

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The museum/showroom is spread over several buildings. A few have themes, like military vehicles or pre-war cars. The rest have are predominantly muscle cars from the sixties through seventies. There are some nice examples, at least to my untrained eye.  Also interesting were the trucks. Pickups from the 1920s to the 1960s were in the last building. A pretty good picture of the evolution of light commercial vehicles.

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Another theme that could easily be missed are the two-wheeled vehicles. Here too there was a mix of Hollywood such as the machine from the Ghost Rider movie, and early machines from Harley, Indian, and Excelsior.  There were also scooters in several of the transition areas between buildings. Vespas and Cushmans and even Stellas.

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Volo was worth the return visit for its mix of entertainment, and history.  

Posted on March 21, 2015 and filed under Museum, car.

DKW RT250

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The DKW RT 250 was a single cylinder model introduced at the Frankfurt motorcycle exhibition in 1951. It was the larger displacement version of the RT 200, having increased the bore to 70mm while keeping the stroke unchanged, but it featured several improvements. First of all, the frame now had a plunger rear suspension. The engine performance improved to 14 hp with the RT250/2, as did the gearbox moving from 3 to 4 gears. Engine and gearbox combinations allowed DKW to present 3 different models of the 250 for sale; the RT250, the RT250/1, and the top of the line RT250/2. A sportier S model was introduced for 1956 with a new front fork, a larger tank, and finned cylinders to better dissipate the heat it generated. Other changes from the 175 and 200 included a larger toolbox, switching the exhaust to help with sidecar use, and a locking steering column on the left side. The models all featured the enclosed primary chain design that was a DKW signature element. 

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Posted on March 11, 2015 and filed under Classic Vehicles, motorcycle.

Porsche Targa

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In September of 1965 at the Frankfurt Auto Show, Porsche introduced the Targa variation of the 911, but it took over a year for the first ones to roll off the assembly line. It is not quite clear whether the word Targa is from the Italian translation of "Shield", or if it was named due to Porsche success in the Targa Florio road race. Either way, Porsche marketing liked the linkage. At the time, it was a rather novel approach to open top driving in that it was not simply a cabriolet with the top chopped off a coupe version. It used a roll bar which was a feature confined to race cars. The roll bar was of course a good way to preserve some of the structural rigidity which was always lost when the roof of a coupe was removed. The prior 356 had used a number of reinforcing tricks to achieve the same goal, but the 901 chassis needed extra help. The Targa format was also thought to satisfy impending US department of transportation laws which would ban traditional cabriolets. However, it may just have been fortunate timing for Porsche. 

Initial press photos showed the roll hoop trimmed with vinyl, but production cars had the hoop finished in a brushed metal look. The soft removable rear window along with a vinyl removable top, came suitably close to a full cabriolet, and with the rear window in place, you had the effect of a large sunroof.  The rear window was easily removed by zipper, and covered beneath a tonneau which fatened to snaps. The targa top was easily removed or put back in place with two clamps and two locating pins. The top folded nicely into a form which would easily fit in the trunk. The combination was thought to have provided flexibility and convenience. The Targa model added weight (110 lbs) and cost, but sold so well that production struggled just to keep up with German domestic demand at first.

In 1969, a fixed rear window was offered on the Targa, which subsequently became heated. Vertical vents in the roll hoop improved cabin ventilation. With the exception of the S model (as you might expect), the Targa matched or outsold the coupe variation into the 1970s. The word Targa made it into general automotive lingo describing a roll hoop and a removable section of roof.

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Posted on February 28, 2015 and filed under car, Classic Vehicles.

Montana Monochrome

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July. Somewhere near Billings, Montana. 7:15pm. 83 degrees Fahrenheit. 

It had been a brutally hot day. The brilliant blue sky conspired with the bright yellow orb to bake mid western North America. It had exceeded 100 degrees for most of Iowa and Nebraska. It only cooled (if you can use the word cooled in this case) to the mid 90s for much of Wyoming. There is nowhere to hide in those regions. The landscape is flat and relentless. The interstate highways that I had been forced to take in order to save time, felt like they added a few degrees to the temperature. For the first time in a few decades of riding motorcycles, I rode along for a few hours without my armored jacket. It was that hot. I really envied the few riders that I saw cruising along in shorts and tank tops. My own set of rules would not let me go that far, and I eventually had to stop and put my jacket back on. However, it was still the kind of hot where the breeze had no cooling effect, and just felt like rapidly passing air. Shimmering heat waves rose from the ribbon of asphalt in the distance making everything look like a desert mirage. It was the kind of mileage meant for a modern car with excellent air conditioning and a great stereo.

I celebrated crossing into Montana as if there would be some massive cold front waiting just over the border. There was no such thing. However, the sun had passed its zenith and was starting the slow decline which resulted in a corresponding decline in temperatures as I continued to make progress north and west. Eventually I found the campground and turned in with great relief. Riding that long, in conditions that hard was exhausting. 

July. Somewhere near Billings, Montana. 7:15pm. 83 degrees Fahrenheit. I quickly got down to the minimum clothing necessary, pitched the tent, and headed to the shower. The water was not cold, but it was cleansing, and I was reluctant to leave the concrete stall in the wooden bathhouse. Eventually I did, and not being hungry, decided to try and get some sleep....

I awoke to the bright glow of light shining through the walls of the tent. I took a swig of water and crawled out of the tent eager to enjoy the light of dawn, my favorite time of day. Only it wasn't dawn, it was night. A night illuminated by a spectacular large and brilliant moon. It painted the entire landscape in glorious black and white, like some Ansel Adams photograph, or a Humphrey Bogart film noir. No camera could have captured the 360 degrees of beauty and silence. And cool.

I checked my watch, it was 1am. There was no way I was going back to sleep, the temperature was perfect for riding. I packed as quietly as possible, and idled my way out along the gravel road. I was startled to see a couple outside their RV, just sitting silently enjoying the moment. I raised my hand toward the moon, and they nodded. There was no place for words in this scene. 

Back on the road, the previously torturous and boring interstate became magical. Montana has a lot of open space, and moonlight accentuates this in a way that sunlight cannot. Cattle grazed. Rabbits darted. Owls swooped. The brightest stars sparkled. The Clark Fork river shimmered as it criss-crossed the road. But for the headlights of cars and trucks, you could see forever. Surreal foothills and then mountains appeared as I passed Bozeman and then Missoula, and then wound through Lolo national forest. ironically, I had passed close to Moonlight Basin, so Montana is aware that its' big sky motto works just as well nocturnally. All while I enjoyed the best possible seat for this monochromatic movie. A motorcycle. Few people (including me) plan to cross Montana at night, but I highly recommend it if the moon is full and the sky is clear. It is one of the few times in life when I would have been happy to delay the arrival of dawn, and the onset of color.

 
Posted on February 21, 2015 and filed under Commentary, motorcycle.

Classic Velocity Laws #2

1. The more gear you have, the more likely you are to have the wrong gear for any given situation. #@%&! I should have worn my light armor 55-70 degree gloves !

2. If you are testing compression on n cylinders, the compression will be within range on n-1. The one out of tolerance will be the last one, allowing you to build up the maximum amount of hope before destroying it. You cannot fool this law by trying things in some strange sequence. It knows.

3. At higher engine speeds, your hearing activates the ability to hear a whole new range of strange sounds.

4. In order to finish, first you have to start.

5. A non-running vintage vehicle cannot be considered a gift, any more than a plot of land that was a former fuel station with the tanks still in the ground and an “EPA Training Site” sign could be considered a gift.

6. A bolt head that has been “rounded” off by the previous owner will snap off if you are finally able to get enough grip to try to turn it.

7. Your classic vehicle will always attract more attention and admiration than any modern replica/remake of it.

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8. The specific alloys used to make carburettor jets needles and floats actually bond with compounds called alkyds which help turn gasoline into shellac.

9. Going sideways in a vehicle designed to go forward and backward releases mega endorphins.

10. Given a choice between two areas of equal pressure to leak from, oil will choose the more expensive.

Posted on February 15, 2015 and filed under car, motorcycle, Commentary.

First Blood

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It was baby blue, but it was really mostly oxidized metal brown. It was vintage, hailing from 1969, but it was really mostly old and unloved. It was a sorry pile of parts and possibilities, but it was really mostly......mine. I had clearly bitten off more than I could chew. It needed metalwork, but I had access to a wire feed welder. It needed engine work, but I had already rebuilt an almost identical engine at the shop where I worked summers during college. It needed sorting out electrically, but how complex could a Volkswagen Beetle be? It needed shelter from the elements, but uhhhmm...well...I had a tarp and the landlord was..well...tolerant.

I got it running and drove it one night with an illegal plate, no brake lights, and one headlight back to my place. It would not run below 1500 rpm, and would not go into 1st gear, so it was an exercise in timing and gymnastics to get back while not drawing attention to oneself. The designated spot was in an alley between houses. It was about 12 inches wider than the bug. I had to climb out through the window because the door would not open wide enough. This was ok because the driver window would not stay up anyway. 

In the next days and weeks I dropped the engine and ordered parts from ads in the back of magazines (this was pre-internet). I remember cuts and scrapes and curses due to rusty nuts and bolts. I eventually brought it into my basement apartment. On another smaller tarp, I stripped it, replaced rings, converted it to dual carbs, bolted on headers, and painted the tin. I removed the tank and had it cleaned out at the local radiator shop. Many evenings were spent under that car getting the motor back in place and running. More blood was shed. 

When it fired, I took it for a short run, and learned a few important lessons in restoration. First, after many many hours and days, and tremendous effort, the car looked just as bad as day one. Second, the glorious victory of invisible progress produces broad smiles and powerful endorphins unrivaled in other endeavors. Even more than that, it gets in your blood...

Posted on February 8, 2015 and filed under Commentary, car.