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Lovingly Resto-Modded Kit Car is Surprisingly Enticing

Peter Tanshanomi December 11, 2014 All Things Hoon

 

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While driving past Genuine Auto Repair in the Kansas City suburb of Lee’s Summit, I caught a glimpse of red fenders and a black grille inside on the showroom floor. What WAS that? My initial thought was something like an Elfin roadster, but I knew it was probably just some crappy VW kit car. I banged a youie and pulled in to check it out.

Once inside, it wasn’t an Elfin and it was a kit car, but it was neither VW-based nor crappy. This Mustang II-based Blakely Bernardi has been buffed and pimped, rebuilt and upgraded, from a previous state of dusty neglect to its current hotness. While it’s fashionable to bag on kit cars of any kind, this one possesses a surprising lustworthiness.

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HCOTY Nominee: Polaris Slingshot

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“Manufacturers only cater to soccer moms.”
“You can’t tell one cookie-cutter car from another.”
“Driving dynamics have taken a back seat to comfort and convenience.”
“Lawyers and bureaucrats have legislated all the fun out of cars.”
“Performance cars are so expensive, most people will never be able to afford them.”

In a world where automotive enthusiasts are constantly complaining about the moribund state of car design, the Polaris Slingshot is a giant, shockingly bold middle finger to the slow decline of the enthusiast automobile. And yes—it is an automobile. It might have one wheel and a thong-sized license plate out back, but you shift with your hand and steer with a wheel. You accelerate, clutch and brake with your feet. It has bucket seats and seat belts. Okay, so it is a three-wheeled car; that particular quirk allows it to slip through some regulatory wormholes on its way to Main Street, but that makes it no less a car.

It’s a car like you thought you’d never again see sold in America, to say nothing of designed and built in America. It’s a car built for one thing: going out and ripping around like a madman solely for the joy of driving. Now, it’s true that the handling limits are quite a bit lower than a four-wheel sports car, but that just means that Joe Average can explore the entire performance envelope out on the road without the sort of velocities that may result in a ride in the back of a Highway Patrol cruiser. And unlike all those other super-exotic, hyperspeed European boutique tuner cars and track day specials, this one is affordable enough that just about anybody who has serious aspirations of insanity can swing the cost.

It’s a mutant Morgan with 21st-century technology spliced into its DNA. That, my friends, is why the Polaris Slingshot is my HCOTY nominee for 2014.

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Encyclopedia Hoonatica: A-Pillar Windows

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One modern automotive that I find odd is A-pillar windows; you know, those little windows you sometimes see between the windshield and front window. They’re not wing windows, because they’re not part of the door — they stay put when you open the door. But they are a separate piece of glass from the windshield. They’re rather an uneven thing: some are useful and probably increase visibility and interior light, others are just useless bits of styling.

Regardless of how effective they are, your task for today is to list all the cars you can that have this curious addition to their greenhouse.

Difficulty: Y’know that hole at the Mini-Putt course that’s a straight, flat shot to the hole, and all you have to do is time it to avoid the little windmill blades?”

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Two Wheel Tuesday: The “Smackdab” Summer Solstice Ride

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You have to be a bit crazy to ride a motorcycle. So it’s sort of expected when riders do nutty things on their motorcycles. There are countless stories of riding crossing the country off-road on the , riding , single-day Five State and rides, or . These are collectively referred to as “challenge rides”: dream up a route with some sort of goal (or gimmick) and then ride it purely for the feeling of adventure and accomplishment it brings. There are a variety of organized ” just for the hell of it” annual events, from New Year’s Day club rides, snow-covered Halloween Rides in the Northeast, Three-Flags rallies, and over in the UK,  rides.

And starting next June, there will be one more: The Smackdab Summer Solstice Run.

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Bikes You Should Know: BMW GS Boxers

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Bikes You Should Know appears weekly as part of Two Wheel Tuesdays. Since Redusernab primarily caters to automotive enthusiasts, this column focuses on historically or culturally significant motorcycles that are likely to interest a non-riding audience.


The term “adventure bike” enjoys widespread use these days, and most riders understand immediately what it is: a large, four-stroke motorcycle (usually multi-cylinder and often with shaft drive) that can be used to traverse long distances over most types of terrain. An adventure bike is rarely useful on extremely tight trails or steep, gnarly terrain. Instead, has a large fuel tank, a comfortable seat, and is often fitted with large saddlebags or panniers. An adventure bike can take you hundreds of miles on paved roads in comfort, and then take you hundreds more on gravel, dust, mud, fireroads and lumber truck paths without bashing it or the rider to death. Its the two-wheel equivalent of a Range Rover.

Remember a few months back, when I claimed that the Yamaha DT1 was the first true dirt bike? Well, after the dirt world and the street bike world diverged, they came back together in a wild and unexpected way: the 1981 BMW R80G/S was the first true adventure bike. We just didn’t know what to call it back then.

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Encyclopedia Hoonatica: 4-Door Sedans With Pop-Up Headlights

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Back in the era when our friends at the US Dept. of Transportation mandated non-aero sealed-beam headlights, car manufacturers (and buyers) were in love with the zoomy look of pop-up headlights — well, on sports cars and coupes, at least. The sleek, smooth, low facia that pop-ups afforded just wasn’t all that important when it came to the boxier, more upright, less racy sedan market. The other day I saw a mid-’80s Honda Accord sedan with hidden headlights and it struck me how unusual it was to see a four-door sedan that could bat its eyes.

So, I’ve chosen that as your Hoonatican challange for today: name four-door sedans with pop-up headlights. A few important guidelines:

  • Sedans are not hatchbacks. No 5-doors. If it ain’t got a trunk, it ain’t got that funk.
  • There were plenty of American cars in the ’60s and ’70s that had hidden headlights behind the grille that weren’t pop-up headlights. Even though they really aren’t in the spirit of what I’m suggesting, I’ll allow them because: 1) we all loves us some malaise-era Continental, and 2) I’m painfully aware y’all are going to go there regardless of whatever restrictions I might suppose to impose. Finally, 3) Nobody is still reading at this point and have already jumped to the comments. But be forewarned, you’re only going to earn half credit, and somebody may tease you about it on the playground during recess.

Difficulty: 10% Benzoyl Peroxide

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Bikes You Should Know: Honda CB400/450 Twins

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Bikes You Should Know appears weekly as part of Two Wheel Tuesdays. Since Redusernab primarily caters to automotive enthusiasts, this column focuses on historically or culturally significant motorcycles that are likely to interest a non-riding audience.


Throughout the Bikes You Should Know series, I’ve found myself often tossing around superlatives such as “iconic,” “legendary,” and “groundbreaking.” That sort of hyped-up prose can wear thin, leaving the regular reader with the impression that I think every bike I discuss is the greatest thing ever. Today, I will use those words only once, and since they only appear in this opening introduction, you’re past them now.

Today’s topic is Honda’s six-valve 400/450cc twins, known by a variety of designations, including Hawk, SuperHawk and SuperDream. They’re not the greatest thing ever. In fact, it’s become very fashionable for riders to mock them. But such derision isn’t deserved either. The truth is somewhere in between. The six-valve, twin-cylinder motor was sold in a dizzying array of different models and configurations for various markets, and sold by the millions in markets all around the world. The basic architecture anchored Honda’s mid-size lineup for a decade and a half, and was among the most profitable designs ever marketed. That widespread popularity can only be labeled a success, and it’s why it’s a line-up you should know.

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Encyclopedia Hoonatica: Models Shared By Name

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This week’s entry into the virtual book of automotive knowledge comes from the fertile mind of our very own engineerd™, who shot me this E-mail the other day:

“I was sitting at a red light the other day and in front of me was a Neon. As I’m sitting there pondering this, I realize that it was sold as both a Dodge and Plymouth in the US of A. So then I started thinking of other cars sold under the same model name by two different related marques and had trouble (unless I expanded my thought process to Europe where the Opel Astra was also the Saturn Astra, the Dodge Caravan is also the Lancia Caravan, etc.). I’d like to see what else our car-crazy brethren come up with.”

So, there you are. What instances can you recall where different brands sold the same model under the same name?

Bikes You Should Know: Triumph Bonneville

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Bikes You Should Know appears weekly as part of Two Wheel Tuesdays. Since Redusernab primarily caters to automotive enthusiasts, this column focuses on historically or culturally significant motorcycles that are likely to interest a non-riding audience.


The classic Triumph Bonneville was available (in some form) almost continually for thirty years. Throughout the 1960s, the Bonneville was perhaps the most iconic, widely desired motorcycle in the world. By the ‘Seventies, it had been eclipsed by both foreign competition and by bigger, faster Triumphs. But its amazing balance of ride, handling, power and size were too good for it to die without a fight. It remains a magic formula for riding enjoyment.

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Encyclopedia Hoonatica: 2-Door Sedan & Coupe

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The two-door sedan has long been the frumpy sister of the automotive world — honest and straightforward, but less practical than a four-door sedan or 3-door hatchback, and definitely not as sexy as a coupe. So it is rare to find a car that was built in both a formal two-door sedan and a swoopier two-door coupe body. How many? Well, that’s the Redusernab hivemind’s task for this Monday.

They don’t necessarily have to be the same brand, or sold concurrently, but they do need to be based on the same generation of the same platform. Also, hatchbacks and “liftbacks” aren’t coupes. We’re looking for two different two-door versions, both with trunks, just different rooflines.

DIFFICULTY: 825 candela-seconds

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