Archives for category: Uncategorized

It’s father’s day, and my dad was a Ford man, born of bad experiences with a GM product and his respect for Ford’s sound and honest engineering. Being the usual disobedient teen Ford had to earn my loyalty, and they did that with a 60s filled with racing and revolutionary products.

Those were heady times, with Ford taking on not just it’s American competition but the world’s best on the racetracks and in the showrooms. When Ferrari refused to be bought, Ford built and perfected the Cobra and GT race cars and put a dream team of the best drivers behind the wheel. The Ford GT and it’s derivatives dominated LeMans and endurance racing for years, even in the hands of amateurs after the Ford factory team pulled out. It was Ford’s “moonshot”, and just as NASA developed technology that we still benefit from, Ford’s developments in materials and computer modeling for the GT program advanced the science of auto engineering.

So a few years back when the Ford family was probably more worried about the company’s history and future they decide to build a 21st century Ford GT, return to LeMans, and win. And they succeeded, for awhile… But the competition from Porsche, Ferrari, estranged subsidiary Aston Martin, and even lowly crosstown rival GM wasn’t sleeping and improved their car’s performance. So come LeMans 2019 Ferrari 488s, Porsche 911 RSRs, and even lower class ‘Vettes are matching and beating the Ford GT’s qualifying times.

Come race day and night the Ferraris, Porsches, and even Chevy Corvettes take the lead and hold it. The Fords were dead reliable like a fleet of F150s with all four finishing, but the highest was only in fourth place. But the Ford GT was “dead racecar running” as Ford had long ago pulled the plug on the GT and race program. There was talk of continued support for the amateurs one of whom won the GT amateur class in a Ford GT, but the smart money will be invested in race cars that aren’t going away like the “Vette and 911.

So what car won? First place went to that little company that Ford tried to buy and failing that defeat in the 60s, Ferrari. The lower two podium positions went to Porsche, whose parent VW Group is partnering with Ford on a bunch of future products. No wonder media.ford.com has been quiet today… VW Group, could you speed up that acquisition and put Ford out of it’s misery?

Long days bring long races and rallies, and the internet brings you damn near in person coverage.

First off there’s LeMans, and it’s the end of an era as Ford exits car making and thus car racing. The Ford GT is about to be eclipsed by the upcoming mid engined Corvette and the old “Vette is nipping at Fords heels as well as the usual 911s, Aston Martins, and Ferraris, but Ford Racing is going out in style with full 24 hour in car video feet starting at 8 am central saturday at this Utube channel.

Once you’ve had a long sleep and recovered from that ultimate binge watching the Iron Butt Rally heads outa Greenville, South Carolina for an 11 day long way round tour of at least this country. Daily updates are usually given here at the IBR’s web page and the best “play by play” coverage is at the FJR forum, registration may be required.

So binge watch to your little gearhead heart’s content… Nothin’ else really important is going on the next two weeks!

Every writer has a bunch of canned story lines in their head for likely future use, some even have them all composed and stored on their hard drives, ready to go in the race to beat the 24 hour news cycle. Heck, I suspect the PR flacks have them set aside too. Mack having been milked for all it’s worth by Volvo with sales sagging, no doubt the inevitable is coming, heralded by the usual press release blaming “market factors” for yet another plant closing and death of a once powerful brand.

Been a depressing rally season, though partly due to what is now being called the “climate crisis” instead of just plain “climate change”. The Dam site rally on the Missouri was windblown and cold, thanks to the sheltered campground being flooded out. GR3 was a washout, though last week’s Minnesota BMW Rally held it’s own, maintaining last years attendance. But there’s too little crowding here at the Iowa BMW Rally, despite perfect weather. Hopefully another hundred or so riders will roll in today and Saturday.

Gettin’ so lonely I may take in a political event on the way home Sunday…

DSCF2608And taters, brats, cornbread, salad, with apple pie for desert too!

DSCF2610such was the epicurean opus of the Big Sioux BMW Riders 17th or so Dam Rally on the Missouri River near the Nebraska-South Dakota border. We built up to that crescendo of taste with a friday night dinner that included brats AND three gallons of chili! Saturday breakfast featured scrambled eggs with Cherizo saugage, how we found room for lunch I’ll never know.

Did I mention the weather saturday was miserable with rain and high winds? Nobody complained, even after we waited out the rain before headin’ out for lunch only to get rained on all the way to lunch and back! I had a repeat battle with a too well ventilated REI tent channeling those high winds right at me in my sleeping bag, but with a belly full of great food, I couldn’t complain.

So motorcycle rallies aren’t dying if they offer all this one does- a weekend campout in the beauty of the Missouri River valley with great food and folks… No wonder this rally has recovered from 5 riders a few years back to 30 odd this year, bad weather be damned!

DSCF2613

 

DSCF2530Old Airhead friends, settin’ up for another traditional tech daze.

DSCF2536Microsurgery on an ignition advance unit.

DSCF2541An ST (I think) about to get it’s heads back.

DSCF2546Many hands (and minds) make the work go quickly!

DSCF2548It’s alive!

DSCF2569Safety First?

DSCF2555Our host Kevin’s failed parts “Shelf of Shame”…

DSCF2567Another long forgotten Airhead brought back to life… Around 10 pm we heard a roar from the shop, our Airhead techs wouldn’t give up until they had it running! Kevin himself bought a DOA R65 and we had it running within a couple hours… Damn hard to keep a good airhead dead!

DSCF2560Headed home, and better than before… Decades after the last Airheads rolled off the assembly line they refuse to die or even be obsoleted. Pretty much the same with us Airhead riders, we’re gonna die someday, but ’til then we’re wrenchin’, ridin’, and remembering!

Back in the 1930s Henry Ford accepted an award from Adolph Hitler, and that event has haunted Ford Motor Company ever since. Today Nuss Trucks made the same mistake by hosting Donald Trump for a media event at their Burnsville, Minnesota dealership.

I (used to) like Nuss, always had good dealings with them and they keep a nice collection of classic Macks. Nuss has been an up and comer in the heavy truck and construction machinery business here in the midwest, expanding to eight locations in Minnesota and western Wisconsin and carrying the full line of Mack and Volvo trucks and construction equipment.

That means a lot of their customers are governments agencies run by women and sensitive men that can’t stomach Trump’s policies. And while I doubt Nuss will get banned from any bidding, when it’s time to order up parts Nuss may no longer be the go-to vendor. Couple decades back women managers in public fleets forced NAPA to kill off their exploitive “parts pups” girlie calendar, Nuss is about to see the same mysterious (to them) sales shortfall.

Nuss, you might want to take a hint from the real “big dog” in the midwest trucks and parts business, Boyer… Stay outa politics and concentrate on giving ALL your customers good service. And don’t let Trump anywhere near a truck!

 

Couple years back I took Florida and a few other southern states to task for shuttin’ down I-10 for days because it was below freezing, might rain, and they had no salt. To further shame them I used the example of my home state’s snowplows on steroids, installed by MNDOT themselves with the reinforced snowplows supplied by an outfit a snowball’s throw from the Mighty Mississippi and a rail siding who couldn’t build lightweight if they tried. Seriously, the massive reinforcing on the back side of a Falls plow suggests it was designed for ramming snowbanks at full speed.

That’s the legend, the reality is becoming something else… Minnesota’s strange bipartisan coalition on highway underfunding where the democrats think we have to many roads and the republicans don’t want to spend money on them seems to have infected plowing too, and the tandem drive dump truck that used to push those Falls plows and ballast the secret weapon of ice control, the underframe plow, have been replaced by “cheap and cheerful” underpowered single drives. Thus a foot of “snowcrete” means wait for the loaders and any aging Oshkosh snowblowers that can still sorta move under their own power.

So no wonder that 48 hours ago every east-west interstate from Kansas to Canada was closed and some of them just reopened in the last few hours. Same story a couple weeks ago when I-90 across southern Minnesota was snowed under for two days, although some of that can be blamed on the too confident engineers who routed I-90 across the ridges rather than the through the valleys route of US-14 which followed the route of the Chicago&Northwestern, who probably followed the native americans. Suffice to say, the old truck drivers are still shaking their heads over that one…

So if this country still wants to be an industrial powerhouse we’d best invest in truck mounted snowblowers instead of waiting decades for Air Force hand me downs, loaders, big trucks, and skilled people to operate all of the above. Or better yet, put our freight and passengers on the railroads… BNSF’s Transcontinental Routes remained open through this blizzard, though the schedule was probably better used as kindling or TP. Heck, South Dakota was so desperate for supplies that CP could have probably sold out an intermodal train outa Chicago even though they have no intermodal yard in South Dakota! Unfortunately, CP’s too buy chasing away customers they only make 30% profits on to be bothered. That infectious profit maximization disease seems to be infecting every major railroad in America except BNSF, whose CEO Matt Rose is bullishly leading the railroad in chasing any freight that turns a profit.

BTW, Matt seems about to retire from BNSF, and would make a great DOT Secretary for the upcoming democratic president in 2021…

 

DSCF2481

db9328What with all the snow we’ve had lately, machines like this have been coming out of hiding. Hiding because a new one like this costs the better part of half a million $$$ and this 30+ year old one with only 4000 hours or miles on it sold for less than $20,000 on a hot august day. If you’re a Public Works, Highway Department, or DOT manager you know you’ll need this ultimate tool in the snow removal arsenal someday, but you hide it in the back of the back lot should some opportunistic politician spot it, declare it a waste of taxpayer dollars, and after it’s sold you know you’ll never have the budget to replace it.

I sense a business plan here, or at least an excuse to horde some neat old machinery. Multi-millionaire Irwin Jacobs got his start stockpiling sandbags, and during flood season he always had them in stock and sold them at profitable prices. Let’s see… A Mack dump truck, maybe a wheel loader, and a mighty Oshkosh…

DSCF2425That cut is even deeper since the last blizzard, and both the county and state DOT are hiring outside contractors to push the snow back. Heck, who’s speculating… We’d be performing a public service!

DSC_2210Then I look at my little low clearance garage and remember that I should be getting my tiny town and it’s seldom used tractor and snowblower signed up to offer mutual aid!

DSCF2296Experimental “modular” Corvair engine at the Corvair museum, maybe GM was sleepin’ around with Deutz too?

Ever since the 911 first saw the light of day over a half century ago we’ve all noticed a certain “resemblance”. Rumors of secret romance flew, usually along the lines of Porsche fathering the Corvair in place of a hapless GM. True, GM engineers made a few trips to Germany to study… Aluminum engine casting techniques. But the “Auto Ancestry DNA” results are in, and the truth is even stranger…

In the late 50s while the Corvair was gestating Porsche made maybe 5000 cars a year, though Porsche’s engineering consulting business was way bigger than similar volume auto makers. Fact is, Porsche owed it’s existence to engineering work for VW and high volume parts production volumes by VW’s suppliers that could be given an extra bit of tuning for Porsche’s 356s. In stark contrast GM cranked out cars, trucks, busses, bulldozers, locomotives, and a few other wheeled things by the millions, producing a cash flow that allowed GM to develop air ride, aluminum V8s, the Scenicruiser bus, and an all new rear engined car that borrowed little from the GM parts bins.

Truth be told, about all GM bought from Porsche was some 356s that became “mules” to test the Corvair engine, which with not much more bulk and much more power proved to be a better bargain that the 4 cylinder Porsche motor. Years later more than a few too expensive to repair Porsche flat sixes were replaced with cheap Corvair power. Come the 60s and it was Porsche’s turn to buy some Corvairs, they especially liked the Lakewood wagon’s easy access to their 911 test engines.

Come late 1964 and both the Corvair and 911 had lost the notorious swing axles and carried six cylinder engines with flat cooling fans, wrapped in swoopy new bodywork. While the Corvair was an economy sedan with sporting options and the 911 a sports car, a Corvair with the performance options could run with the 911 and didn’t try to spin when you made the natural response of backing off the throttle in a turn taken to fast.

Then the sibs went their seperate ways, with the 911 developed into one of the best sports cars ever while GM, afraid to confront Nader, sent the Corvair off to the automotive orphanage. Thus a huckster lawyer who didn’t even drive denied us generations of innovative cars… That engine in the picture with the individual heads was a modular version of the Corvair’s, GM built and tested a ten cylinder version to power the front wheel drive Toronado…