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.

Express Radex

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Express Werke was a turn of the century (19th into 20th) bicycle manufacturer. They soon branched into motor tricycles as well as gasoline and electric cars. Express moved into small motorcycles in the early 1900s. The initial concentration was on 100cc and smaller two-stroke machines with Fafnir engines. This emphasis continued through the 1930s. Following the war, Express returned to motorcycle production in 1948 and added larger displacement machines from 125cc to 250cc. The most popular of these was the Radex 151, which was powered by a Sachs 147cc engine, and made 6.5 hp. Radex machines (Rad Express) sold well, and for a while the company could not keep up with demand. They also produced an excellent moped, the M52 using their own engine for the first time.

This success caused them to issue very optimistic forecasts for the company, and to commit money and resources accordingly. They did this right into the teeth of the motorcycle decline of the late 1950s, and the rise of the small automobile. After shopping for investors for a year, Express was absorbed into Zweirad Union along with Victoria and DKW in 1959.

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Posted on January 31, 2015 and filed under motorcycle, Classic Vehicles.

Chapman's Trophys

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Although predominately a blog for German Marques, there are certain British brands that have always had a strong appeal. Regular readers will be aware of a love for the Norton brand, and when it comes to cars, there has always been an unfulfilled desire to own a Lotus. Somewhere deep in the subconscious is a sense that Colin Chapman's mantra of "Simplify, and then add lightness", is a fundamental principle of goodness that goes beyond automotive applications. Anything that is a manifestation of that principle is of interest. So when the AACA Museum in Hershey, Pennsylvania announced a Lotus exhibit, it was a must see event.

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Chapman was a designer, an engineer, and a racer. Businessman, not so much. His wife put up the £25 Sterling to start Lotus in 1952. Selling parts and ideas and cars, was a way to finance the research and development conducted in his laboratory, which was the race track. The road cars were celebrated for their handling and performance. They were also criticized for their compromises to get there. These were machines for sporting drivers who were not concerned about creature comforts. Looking at the numbers on a spec sheet would mislead one into thinking that they were underpowered. They were not. And as a bonus, they were capable of being readily upgraded just by introducing more power. Brilliant.

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The exhibit featured a range of cars from early to late, and from race cars to road cars. It was great to see one of the famous "backbone" frames with everything attached except the body. It gives you a real appreciation for the design. The open wheel cars are some of my favorite race cars of all time, and are perhaps the ultimate expression of simplicity. Plus, they look stunning in the classic green and yellow livery. The most elemental road car is the Lotus 7. It is really an open wheel car with fenders and a license plate. There is a reason that it has spawned innumerable imitators and can still be purchased today. The Elans and Elites are more refined, if you dare use that word in connection with an early Lotus. The Europas and Esprits were much more sophisticated and had supercar looks and appeal. And who does not love the black and gold liveried John Player Specials ?

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The exhibit helped to articulate the amazing impact that Chapman and Lotus had on the history of Grand Prix racing, and on sports cars over many decades. Each of the cars on display was a prized trophy earned by Colin Chapman. However, my favorite trophy of the exhibit was the Lotus Cortina. It has been a dream car since childhood, and remains one today. There is something about that sedan in white with a green wedge stripe. And as a young boy, the sound of the Lotus twin cam engine with dual webers, left an indelible imprint. 

Posted on January 25, 2015 and filed under Classic Vehicles, Motor Sports, car.

Stoye

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Walter Stoye founded the company that bears his name in Liepzig in 1925. The primary focus was sidecars, but the company did also produce trailers and even custom motorcycles. The first sidecars were well made and luxurious. They featured suspension and were trimmed with leather and chrome. Along with these, Stoye produced motorcycle utility trailers and commercial sidecars. These proved popular with small vendors and tradesmen. 

Following the war, Stoye found itself in the East German sector, and became the choice of sidecar for EMW and MZ. They became known for their distinctive and stylish nose,  which tapered to a vertical point. The company was nationalized in the early 1970s, and continued to produce new and classic sidecars for decades and are still in business today. You can find Stoye sidecars on many vintage german motorcycles and on machines from British to American.

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Posted on January 18, 2015 and filed under Classic Vehicles, motorcycle.

Alpina

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Although Alpina was not founded until the 1960s, its roots go back to Typewriters and industrial equipment just like many other German manufacturers. in 1965 Burkard Bovenseipen started a tuning company for BMW cars which were now equipped with Weber carburetors. It was conveniently located in Bavaria, first in Kaufbeuren at the old Alpina typewriter factory, and then in Buchloe. 

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It did not take long for Alpina to prove that it could produce cars with superior performance and reliability. Their work on the BMW 1500 was universally praised and caused BMW itself to offer Alpina engines under factory warranty. In 1968, Alpina entered competition in the Super Touring category. In 1970, they won the European Touring Car Championship, the German Championship, and the 24 hours of Spa Francorchamps. The following year, to remain dominant, they worked with BMW to create the legendary 3.0 CSL lightweight coupe. More success follows in the early 1970s including another European Touring Car victory in 1973.

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Off the track, Alpina added distinctive styling cues and luxury appointments to the well-developed performance package. In the mid 1970s, they also began to build a dealer network in Germany, and the first dealers abroad are established in England and Switzerland. In the late 1970s, the German TUV approved Alpina as a distinct manufacturer. There has been a long list of impressive Alpina models over time based on BMW 3, 5, and 7 series platforms, and Alpina continues as a manufacturer today.

Posted on January 11, 2015 and filed under car, Classic Vehicles.

Goebel

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Karl Goebel began as a producer of bicycle frames in 1937 in Bielefeld. It was bad timing as World War II broke out a few years later and the factory was eventually destroyed. They produced motorcycles for the first time in 1951 beginning with the Standard 50. Improvements followed as 50cc and 48cc motors from Ilo and Fichtel&Sachs were paired with strong frames to create well received machines in the marketplace. One of their best selling models was the GS4 Sport, but they also did well with models like the Piccolo, and the Avus. Goebel was one of the most prevalent marques to use the "semi- circular" frame which connected the front fork, the main backbone spar, the engine mount, and the swingarm mount, via a single length of tubular steel.

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Among other business deals, Goebel acquired the floundering Meister (see Remembering Meister), but decided not to continue that brand. Ironically, Goebel survived the tough economic times early on and stayed in business producing mopeds until 1984 when it declared bankruptcy.

Posted on January 3, 2015 and filed under motorcycle, Classic Vehicles.

Porsche HLS

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A great story about a Porsche which never made it. This was an engineering project to create a racing coupe with a "folding" roof.  We think it bears some resemblance to a Saab Sonnett when viewed from the front, but was based around the 911 and probably had influence from the 904. That makes it strange as the beautiful 904 was in production around this time, and the folding roof idea seems like pure novelty. The Swiss Porsche Diba based on the 911 platform came later, but also has a lot of similarities. See the original story at the link below.

http://www.roadandtrack.com/car-culture/classic-cars/news/a24466/not-even-google-has-heard-of-this-porsche-911-hls/ 

Posted on December 28, 2014 and filed under Classic Vehicles, car.