Monday, July 11, 2016

A thing of beauty

Back when I was still a spring chicken I was a huge fan of anything car-related. I subscribed to all the current hot rod and racing magazines, followed Formula 1 faithfully, and my greatest desire was to own a chopped and channeled street rod, or maybe a T Bucket. (In truth I’d still love to own either one but the toy budget is somewhat constrained by she who must be obeyed – and the fact I need to eat for a few years yet.) And while the art of customizing was interesting where the rubber hit the road for me was always the engine.

And nowhere was the engine more front and center (literally, pre-1970) than in top fuel drag racing. I faithfully followed the exploits of drag racing legends like John Force, Don Garlits, Don Prudhomme, and later drivers like Shirley Muldowney, Kenny Bernstein, Joe Amato… it’s a long, long list of greats.

In their day drag racing (Top Fuel in particular) was mostly about the driver getting a barely controllable, on the verge of exploding, 2000+ horsepower bomb down a 1/4-mile track in one piece – and do it in under 6 seconds and at 225 mph. The skill and heroics involved in accomplishing said task and living to tell the tale (not all drivers did unfortunately) were incredible, but it was really the power plants that got my crank turning and I would study the spec sheets and drool over photographs of these incredible engineering marvels for hours.

But eventually, as with most things, time moved on, as did my interests. Cars were replaced by motorcycles. Marriage, mortgage, family, and career took care of the rest. However I still maintain a passing interest so when I saw this article in autoweek.com about Don Prudhomme having the Shelby Super Snake he championed back in the 60s restored to its former glory I had to comment. It’s an interesting read but first look at these images.

prudhomme2

Prudhomme

Now THAT is a thing of beauty.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

“For the want of a nail”

I thought of Benjamin Franklin’s thoughts on weak links as I was reassembling the S65 engine today. Ol’ Benjie put it much more eloquently than I ever could when he said:
“For the want of a nail the shoe was lost,
For the want of a shoe the horse was lost,
For the want of a horse the rider was lost,
For the want of a rider the battle was lost,
For the want of a battle the kingdom was lost,
And all for the want of a horseshoe-nail.”
IMG_20160710_121102579_thumb4When I reassembled the cases I took another closer look at the timing chain sprocket. It was worn but on an earlier inspection I thought I could get by with it, but now, considering how much time and $$ has already gone into this old engine, do I take a chance on the timing chain slipping a tooth or two with some potentially disastrous consequences? Or do I bite the bullet and replace the sprocket and chain while everything is mostly still apart? It might run fine for a few thousand more miles the way it is but it will always be a weak link – and worst of all, a weak link I’d be constantly aware of.

And there’s another factor to consider. Once the cases were bolted together I discovered that the crankshaft end play was way over the limit (20 thou vs. 4 thou), so pulling the cases apart again would let me shim that up as well and reduce the side-to-side sloppiness in the crank which, for an engine that runs 8,000 – 10,000 rpm, can be a problem.

IMG_20160710_115057883_thumb1So I did bite the bullet and ordered a new sprocket and chain which have now arrived. The next task will be to get the old sprocket off the crank (it’s a press fit) and the new one installed without destroying anything important.

And for shim stock? I have this old Harley Davidson beer can that should do the job just perfectly. I’ll have to make sure that enough of the HD branding stays visible to get a WTF????? out of the next owner when he realizes a 50 year old Honda has some Harley in it.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

It’s all about security dontcha know?

We recently had an opportunity to attend Toruk, a Cirque du Soleil show, at the Canadian Tire Centre, our local NHL arena, home of the Ottawa Senators.

What promised to be a fun night got off to a bad start when I was intercepted by security and told that the keychain penknife I had on my keychain (of course) was prohibited and would be confiscated unless I took it back to the car. We’re not talking about a switchblade or a straight razor; it’s a small penknife with a 1” blade, a nail file, scissors, and a toothpick. After voicing my displeasure somewhat strenuously (for which I later apologized as she was only following the rules) I trudged back out to the car to deposit said weapon of mass destruction. And it’s not the value – Lee Valley Tools sells them as “losable knives”, which perhaps should be renamed as “confiscatable knives”, or “TSA specials” at $3 apiece – but I’d had this particular knife for quite a while and, before 9/11, it had travelled the world with me.

What damage they thought I could do in an arena of 10,000 people with a 1” blade escapes me – it’s not like I could demand the building be flown to Cuba, or Trump campaign headquarters. Perhaps they thought I was a latter day MacGyver, able to control an arena full of hardcore Cirque fans with nothing more than a belt buckle, shoelace, and a 6 inch stiletto heel taken from the lady preceding me through the security screen. Or maybe not.

No, this is all about the “appearance” of security, and that’s what drives me crazy. We are being increasingly subjected to arbitrary intrusions and humiliations (other than the screeners, who enjoys a full body scan?) that result from political kneejerk reactions to overstated threats. And every bit of attention focused on this sort of nonsense is another bit of attention that isn’t being focused on identifying real security threats like the guy who, one day, is going to go postal on being told a glass of crap beer at the CTC is $12 – take it or leave it.

But it all turned out okay in the end. The show was an amazing display of physicality, staging, and lighting, and we enjoyed it immensely. We had an opportunity to reconnect with some old friends. And my penknife was waiting for me in the car when we left. (Sorry security people – this is one penknife you’re not getting – yet.) It’s all good.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

There are idiots, and then there are IDIOTS!

First a legal disclaimer. Charges have not yet been proven in court; innocent until proven guilty, blah, blah, blah.

And now to our story.

Last week our protagonist decided to go for a ride. No story there – it was the first bout of real nice weather in quite a while and lots of us were on the road that day. However, influenced no doubt by all the stupid sports bike videos flooding the interwebs, he decided to ride like an asshole, weaving in and out of traffic, speeding, and offering the finger to slower motorists as he passed. 

At least one driver managed a photo of our friend which then appeared on the front page of all the local newspapers and on numerous Facebook feeds, thus reinforcing the public’s image of motorcyclists as being irresponsible dolts who can’t become organ donors fast enough.

motorcycle-driver-final

So far so good, I guess, as being an asshole isn’t a crime.

But then he took it a step further and began waving a handgun around as he wove his way through traffic. (Note to American readers: In Canada brandishing a handgun in public is not considered some sort of faux-NRA patriotism but rather a criminal offence, and is treated pretty seriously by the authorities.) That’s when he really crossed the line.

With the various after-market accessories and distinctive decals, this particular CBR600 is pretty unique and so it wasn’t long before tips began flooding in, including several pointing to a Kijiji ad listing the bike for sale, along with the seller’s information. But the clincher was the previous owner, currently residing in Germany, who saw the photo online and contacted authorities, providing a starting point for an ownership trail that quickly led to a Mr. James Cole who is, as they say, “known to police”. He has since been arrested and I expect he may miss the rest of this riding season, at least.

It’s not known what happened to the motorist who, clearly ignoring the hands-free laws, snapped the picture that led to the arrest.