Category Archives: Automotive

Musk’s next move

I was just reading the latest issue of Road and Track.  Last story was that Tesla is having a bit of a crisis.

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Well no kidding.  Gas is 2 bucks a gallon and Tesla cars are hella-expensive.   I looked at one and it was the same price as our house in Utah.   While the cars are gorgeous, they are not that gorgeous and they hold curious design elements.  The car isn’t an air-breather like a traditional car.  So why does it have a traditional grill?  Why?  AC and cooling of components can be fed air from other areas.   It doesn’t need a huge intake like a Ford Fusion.  That’s one of the problems with the Tesla design… It’s a good looking car, but it looks like a regular car.  It needs to look more like something from the future… something from space.  Instead it looks like something from only 2 years ahead.

Here’s the thing.  Tesla’s marketing is all about the Elegance and Style, and the touching of the Future Tech.  When it needs to stop touching the future and get on about absolutely molesting it.  It needs to be all about the Performance.   Because the Tesla S while a high performance beast – is one freaking heavy barge.    Instead of looking at the Ford Explorer as the model to save the company… it needs to look at another model…

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Take all that E-Tech… and put it into a car like a Miata.   For two reasons.  First, there’s nothing on the road that competes with the Miata.  There’s nothing in it’s class.  A small, light, 2 seat roadster for under 30 Grand?  Name one that’s in production.  Available in the USA, smartass.  There’s nothing else in it’s class.

The second reason?   Let me tell you something.  I was leaving work and pulled out into the street behind one of the most impressive cars I’d ever want to own.  A Porsche 911 S4 Turbo.  I was taken by how small the car is if you take away those hips.   Now, the 911 has a back seat.  As long as the passengers have no legs.  And are children. Children with no legs.  Actually, it’s best to just use the back seat to carry your back pack or day pack… small book bag.  Or a wallet.    Beautiful car.  Just gorgeous.   But it’s not for the Family Guy.  It’s for the Selfish Elitist?  No… I wouldn’t say that… I’d say it’s for the automotive enthusiast.  The serious Car Guy.  And those guys will pay whatever the price it is to get that serious car.

Now, the Tesla S has the potential to be a serious car… but it’s not.  It’s too bloody heavy.  Sure it handles well, but it handles heavy.  It’s pulling too much Car.  It’s trying to stop too much car.  It’s trying to turn too much car.  There’s just too much car.   Yes, there’s a lot of weight in batteries – we all know that. Batteries are heavy.  But the Teslas also have a lot of weight in regular car stuff that doesn’t have to be there.  Take out all the drive components and other things required for the S to be a functional vehicle.  What you have left over needs to be minimized.

To do that, there needs to be a new model… The “Tesla R” perhaps. Look at that Mazda Miata and DO THAT.

Forget the 15 inch touch screen inside.  The serious Car Guy doesn’t need that.  Take the super plush seats out.  Throw in some Recaros or a type of seat similar to a Recaro that costs less.   Take away everything that the Serious Car Guy doesn’t need.  Take away everything that makes it expensive.    Strip it down to the bare essence of what makes a pure sports car.    It should be less than 40 Grand.

Tesla – You do that.  You will sell everything you can crank out.

Why Car Magazines are fading…

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Car and Driver, Road & Track, Motor Trend… They seem to be fading out.   Motor Trend as a brand is doing the best, thanks to the YouTube video efforting… but I’m talking about the pulp magazine articles.
The latest issue of Car and Driver had a head to head comparo between the Toyota Taco and Chevy Colorado.  With the outrageously imaginative idea to drive the two trucks from Tacoma Washing to Colorado.  Whoever had that idea – demote them to Spell Checker.  Because that’s just… not even trying.

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But what’s worse about that idea, is that they missed the opportunity.  They didn’t write about the Journey.  If you take a long road trip like that – tell the story of the road trip and then talk about each truck helped or hindered that trip.  Instead they just made it a long linear road test that’s about as interesting as watching the gauges on an emissions test.   Tell a story and work the review into it.
Most articles I’ve been reading have been like this.  Again, Motor Trend seems to be doing the best job of Creative Non-Fiction.
But Car and Driver and Road & Track are just boring to read and disappointing.  Good photography though.

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Between the two trucks though… The Toyota has had some slight upgrades but is still very outdated inside.  It wins on the outside though, hands down.  It has the right stance… some ground clearance and can handle bigger tires.  The Colorado is just the opposite.  It’s great inside the cab, and while handsome on the outside, it pretty much just an Equinox with a pickup bed.  It needs more ground clearance and tires better suited for all terrain work.  But then again, Chevy is just playing to the truck’s strengths – it’s a street truck. Chevy knows that.  So Chevy isn’t even trying.   But it needs to.

Toyota’s small work-truck reputation is built on being able to go anywhere and do just about anything.  World wide.  Chevy needs to build that reputation.
And how is it going to do that?
It needs the Automotive Press to push that narrative.  Chevy needs to make a version that looks like it’s a tough SpecOps Warfighter that eats rocks and spits gravel.   Then Chevy needs Auto-Writers who have no damns to give, and will take these trucks on some Orc-Hunting Adventures.   Write about that and write about how the Colorado tanked through it all like it just didn’t care and would rather be on top of some summit.  And they need to take that Colorado, maybe a couple Colorados… and go Everywhere.  Do All kinds of crazy stuff.  Write about the Journey.  The Adventure.  And how those trucks got them through.    Write about it.  Video it.  The Long Way Around Style – with Midsized Trucks.  Look what The Long Way Around did for BMW Motorcycles.  You can’t have any conversation about Adventure Bikes without talking about BMW Motorcycles.  Chevy needs to get that Reputation by getting out there and DOING IT.
Car and Driver is not going to give you that kind of article.  Road & Track is certainly not going to give you that kind of article.
Maybe Motor Trend can.  Maybe.

Sorry the Posts have been few and far between.

Point Blank Range had their Grand Opening Week last week.  From May 16th to the 24th.  This went along with NASCAR’s RACE WEEK, which is a huge Broohaha in Charlotte, NC.

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One of the things I did was to get Harley Davidson of Charlotte to come out – and they did!   They know I’ve been wanting a new bike, and they brought them.  Each of the ones I’ve been wanting.

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One is a nice little Sportster Forty Eight.  Mini Ape Hangers (Which I am not all that fond of – but the riding position actually feels good), great aftermarket seat, Vance & Hines pipes and a Screaming Eagle Intake.  All tuned to run together nicely.  I like the Sportsters, and especially the Forty Eight model.  I will have one eventually.   As much as I love the look of them, that 2.1 gallon tank is limiting.    If I was to have just one bike – I don’t know if I could live day to day with only a 2.1.  I need a tank that LOOKS like that one, but holds 3, or 3.5 gallons.  That would be perfect.

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Then there’s the Fat Bob.  In “Sand Camo Denim”  I don’t get Harley’s name for the paint, but it’s a flat desert tan.  I really dig the twin headlights.  If I got the Sportster – I’d want to put lights like these on it.  In LED.  If possible.   But I love the look.  Reminds me of a vintage WWII bike, with some modern touches.  I’d name the bike “Rommel” and put Afrika Korps emblems on it.  I think these bikes are badass… and they ride very well.  Very balanced and planted.  The most Stable bike I think I’ve ever ridden.
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Yeah, I have to post a second photo of this one.  Love it.  Just love it.
But then there is this one… The Breakout…

Breakout

This image doesn’t do it justice.  The red paint is just gorgeous.  As is that huge fat rear tire.  “Dat Ass”!   The Breakout is a dream bike.

I was going to probably trade in my car on that Fat Bob… the Wife said “Do what you want”.  And then I go to do it – she’s all “No, don’t.”

I love my car, it’s very nice, but I need something that feels alive and a part of me.  Something with muscle.

Still looking…

Harley Davidson’s 48 Breakout

Yeah, I’ve come around.   See, I’ll be real frank here… I used to seriously  dislike Harley’s.  Just like a really disliked Ruger.  But when I sat back and was honest and objective about what Ruger was doing these days… I had to admit that I liked what they were doing, where they were heading and pretty soon I had to admit that I liked Ruger.  I’m a Ruger fan now.  My opinion can and has changed before, so this is no shock.  I reserve the right to change my opinion when new information comes to light or the situation has changed.  Ruger changed, and thus so did my opinion.
Harley has done the same thing to me.  For some time I’ve admitted that I really dig the looks of the Iron 883 and the Forty Eights.  In fact, I snapped this photo on my phone and have kept it for about a year now.  This bike speaks to me, visually.  IMG_20150417_212500

This is a simple, stock, Harley Forty Eight.  As basic as a bike that Harley builds.  It’s basically a stripped 1200 Sportster, forward foot controls and dropped mirrors.  That works for me.  I’d take that and put Drag Bars on it, saddle leather seat, and maybe have that tank painted a different color… Maybe Cerakoted in Burnt Bronze…

The other Harley I am digging… The Breakout.

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This is Harley’s factory bad boy… Fattest rear tire they’ve ever put on a production bike.  Stretched out forks, big front wheel, chopped fenders… it’s a low, lean, angry looking bike.  I like that.  And I normally don’t dig the Low and Lean look on bikes like this.  But here, I just love it.

Why did I change my tune on Harley’s?  Maybe it was the Project Livewire test ride I took.  That opened my eyes on what Harley Davidson is truly capable of and it was as shocking to me as an Ice Bucket Challenge.   Everything I thought I knew about HD was suddenly ripped away and replaced with an understanding that I knew nothing, John Snow.  Since then, I’ve been looking, and learning, and have come to an understanding.

The other thing that changed my opinion… Harley Davidson of Charlotte.    Super cool people there.  Gun people, so I can relate… But they were all friendly, genuine, good people.  Typical of most Motorcycle people I know… typical of folks from The South… So that Southern Rider vibe you could call it.  I’ll call it that.  Honestly, it’s one of the very few Motorcycle Dealerships that I’ve ever felt at home at.

Let’s put it this way – if I could afford to buy a motorcycle right now, it would be a Harley, and it would be from Harley of Charlotte.  The only problem though is which one would I get?   Man, I love that Breakout.  But that simple “48” just does it for me.   Now, if I could get that “48” with the 103 Engine… THAT would be it.   Well, really the only downside to the 48 is the 2 gallon fuel tank.  If they made a tank that looked just like that Peanut Tank, but held 4 gallons… There we go.  With that 103…. 4 gallons and a 103… that would be my ticket.

 

 

Drag Racing x4

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A few folks from work and I went to the zMAX 4 Wide Dragway to watch the Nationals.
Drag Racing is the automotive equivalent of Gladiatorial Combat.  It’s loud, it’s violent, and it’s over suddenly.   But man… You feel it.  Now, when you drag 4 cars at the same time.  Good hell.  That’s just bananas.  The sound and fury is staggering.   Ear Plugs are not optional.  They are quite mandatory unless you enjoy hearing loss.

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I have to say that my son and I truly enjoyed the experience.  We watched records being broken.  We watched dreams die.  We watched it all.   And loved it.
We were entertained.
I want to thank the zMAX organization for letting us hang out with them and experience a bit of all that they do.   It was a truly impressive spectacle that we will not soon forget.  I’d post a video… but was told that was a No-No by the NHRA.  I shall respect that.

Honda Pilots.

Living in SC (South of Charlotte), I’ve noticed an overabundance of Honda Pilots.  I can’t prove it, but I have a strong belief that over two thirds of all Honda Pilots sold in the USA are sold in the South of Charlotte area.  I’ve sat at intersections where every other vehicle was a Pilot of one color or another.  It’s crazy Pilot country here.  I think there is some dark Pilot Conspiracy here.  Since I’ve noticed this, I think the Pilots know that I know and now there are more of them around during my commutes two and from work.  Maybe not – but it seems like it.

It’s not that I have anything against the Pilots. It’s just that there are So many of them here .  It’s disturbing.  Every area has it’s choice of car…. Never thought a Pilot had an area.  Then again, I never thought I’d I’d be living in NASCAR country either.

Chevy Equinox Update

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May 2013 I took delivery of a brand new Chevy Equinox.  Front wheel drive, V-6, 2LT trim level, tow package installed.   At this point it has passed 32,000 miles.
Let me give you the run down… About every 2800 miles its been getting oil changes and tire rotations done by Dealerships.  And by that I mean Marine Chevy in Jacksonville.  At 8,000 miles it needed a new battery which was replaced under warranty.  That’s been the only issue.  And really not all that big a deal.
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The little SUV has performed admirably.  Turning in great fuel economy… Far better than I would have expected. Better even than the 4 Cylinder versions are reporting.  Thanks to GM’s fantastic engine. Direct injection, a smarter transmission, gobs of power at the low end… The engine never really has to work hard.  Unless you ask it to.  And when you do, it delivers.  It has a lot of torque steer that you have to physically wrestle with, so hold on with both hands before you hammer it. And when you do, the car springs to life with a quickness and agility that’s unexpected. This makes my little SUV feel more like a Hot Hatch.   A very heavy, but powerful, big hot hatch.
As soon as you let off the gas again, the EQ is back to it’s normal sedate nature.  It cruises well, quietly and composed even at high interstate velocity.  Feeling solid and connected, it’s easy to gobble up miles with comfortable adjustable and heated seats.  Pretty luxurious stuff to this guy.
The touch screen is large and more responsive than most others I’ve played with.  Easy to navigate.  Syncing phones is easy as well… And the hands free calling works very well.  As does running music from the phone.  The only thing it doesn’t do is Navigation.  Which is crazy… Chevy not putting navigation in a car at this price level is just retarded. There’s also no update feature with this system.  You can update it with a USB, but there isn’t any updates for it.
Climate control is excellent with a very cold AC and a heater that you can bake a cake with.  It comes up to temp fast and cools down fast… Really once you set it to the temp you want, you can just ignore it… The system will handle the rest.
Remote Starter.  Remote hatch/rear door opening and close. Backup Camera. Alarm.  It doesn’t lack features… Save for Navigation.
The EQ is a handsome car too. I think they look good… But it could get a little more bravado in the wheels and tires department, maybe a little lift.
I think it just may be the best vehicle GM makes.  Its also the only vehicle GM hasn’t had a recall on that I’m aware of.  GM just did everything right on it… Save for the lack of Navigation.  The only problem really is the lack of personality.  Its a very Vanilla car. Its one that is easily forgotten.  It’s like the proverbial Nice Guy.  What it needs… Is a dark side.  A tattoo, a Honey Badger snear, and a pair of boots.  But even then it would probably still be too clean cut and polite about everything.

Armchair Quarterbacking: FORD

This is going to be brief.

1.   Thunderbird.   Bring it BACK.
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The Thunderbird started out in 1955 as a hot little 2 Seat sports car, as an answer to the Chevy Corvette which came out a couple years earlier in 1953.  Unlike the Corvette, the Thunderbird grew large.  It transformed into a huge Lincoln Towncar thing, then morphed into this:

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I had one of those, and it was awesome.  I had the Super Coupe version, rolling on Turbo Coupe wheels… yes, you had both options for forced induction… neither really gave a lot of power but both were great for long range interstate flights.

And then Ford did this to the Thunderbird:
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This was the 11th Generation of the Thunderbird.   Ford tried to do some Retro Styling to it and missed.  They took what could have been awesome and gave it all the bravado and machismo of this:

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How they managed to make a 2 seat, drop top Thunderbird as fun as a Buick Reatta, I have no idea.  But they did.  The 2002 Thunderbird was a huge flop and an automotive laughing stock.  So much so that Ford discontinued the Gen 11 Chickenbird in 2005.  This was even before I actually saw one in person.  And when I did see it, I laughed at it.  A lot.  It cried.

I only know 1 guy that liked his 2005 Thunderbird.  He bought one and loved it.  He said it was “Vogue”.  This isn’t him, but he looks like him:

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Not that there is anything wrong with that, but even he said the car was “too gay”.  He sold it a couple years later and bought a VW Beetle, because it was tougher.  He actually said that… and his Beetle has a build in flower vase.  He has since bought another Beetle.  This one has a turbo.  He’s learning.

So the car was a huge failwagon… Where did Ford go wrong?  With the Mustang, they took the retro theme and made it work.  By making it look modern with retro touches.  With the Thunderbird they took a car from 1955 and retro-Imaged it to the 1950’s vision of what the year 2000 was like.  When what they should have done was take a 1955 year car and make it look like current era modern and not past era future-vision.

Look, Ford doesn’t have a car that competes with the Corvette from Chevy or the Viper from Dodge.  Does it need it?  Yes.  Ford needs it.  Because Ford’s only performance machine is myriad different flavors or Mustang.  And the Mustang isn’t in the same league as the Vette and Viper.    Ford had the GT 40 Replica, the “Ford GT” for a very brief production run, and then killed it.  There are no more Ford GT’s so don’t even bring that up.  They are all in private collections owned by people who may drive it once or twice a year on their own property for a grand total of 6 miles annually.  That’s not a car.  That’s a trophy.  So shut it about the GT.  Ford needs something that has history name wise.  A recognized title.

What I’d do would be to put Ford’s design team in a bunch of Sports Cars, from across the board.  Miatta’s, BMW Z3’s, MG’s, Saturn Skys, Pontiac Solstice (same thing I know), an AC Cobra or two, the new Vette and the Viper… Then the Original, the 1955 Thunderbird.  Let the guys spend a whole day at the track.  No instruments.  No measurements.  Just drive the cars.   All day.  Enjoy the day.  And then tell them… We want a new Thunderbird, and put all that enjoyment into it.

2.  Bronco.

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A Ford company in Brazil is making this.  They are calling it a Troller 4.  Ford needs to be calling this the Bronco and building it in the USA.  Make it a soft top, drop top, removable hard top like the Jeep Wrangler or Land Rover Defender.  The FJ is leaving the market, leaving really the JK Wrangler as the only real offroader option anymore.  Which is stupid.  So here’s what I’d do… Take another team of Ford Guys, and put them in a bunch of Rubicons.  Take them to Moab.  Spend a WEEK camping and living in the Jeeps, taking trails, having a good time.  And then the last day, put this Troller in front of them and tell them to make it a Rubicon.  Then build that.

EDIT:

#3.  The Ranger.

Ford needs to do a small pickup.  The market needs more options.  Even VW is working on one.  Ford needs to dominate this.   Just as small as the last ones.  Okay, maybe just a little bigger.  Not just a slight smaller truck like the Chevy Colorado, which looks like a chopped Equinox… Make it like the last Ranger.  But Modernized.  4, 6, and 8 cylinder options.  Same engine options as the 2015 Mustang.   2×4 and 4×4 options.  2 door, king cab, and 4 door options.  Keep it simple, keep it cheap, give it a good touch screen, make the little truck cool… and open it up so it can have massive aftermarket customizing options.   Make a Work Package, a Street Package, and an Off Road package… Mini Raptor.  Style them like the Raptor.  That same style grill and markings.

The Bikes I’m interested in, at this moment.

You guys have noticed I’ve been posting about cars and trucks and such a lot more lately.  Probably it’s because I love cars and trucks – always have.  My first words were – and I’m not kidding here – “Vooma-Vooma”.  Those might not be words according to Webster’s, but they were my first words.   I’ve avoided looking at bikes too closely because, well, it’s painful to me because 1, I don’t have one and 2, I can’t afford one.    But let’s go ahead and look at some Bikes.  Because I’m in the mood to do so and it’s well past time.   I’m looking at a relocation soon and first order of business once that is done, is acquiring a motorcycle, even if I have to sell my car to do it.    There are some specific machines I’m looking at… They are shown in No Order:

KLR650

The KLR-650.  Like a Jeep Wrangler, I’ve always wanted one.  And like the Wrangler, when it finally came down to getting something – I always got something else…. And I’ve always kicked myself for passing on the chance.  But I’ve been on a new kick lately – I call it “Finally Getting What I’ve Always Wanted”.  Those things that I’ve always wanted… I’ve been getting them.  One of these days – I’ll get my Wrangler.  And In the Garage next to it will be a KLR-650.  Because.  I don’t know why I’ve always passed it up.  Maybe it’s because the WANT is better than the HAVE.  Or the fear of that being the case.  The newest version though addresses my two considerations that have caused me to pass it up.  1 is the KLR Doohicky and 2 is the seat.  That being said, the KLR is most likely going to be the bike I end up with next.    But we’ll see.

Star-Bolt-R-Spec

The STAR Bolt R Spec.  It remains in my mind as a bike I really want.  If I was to get a new bike – this is probably the bike that I should get, as it represents pretty much what I’ve been looking for… A simple runabout for pure cruising enjoyment.  Nothing fancy or special… Simple.  But satisfying… it scratches that “I need to take a ride” itch.  It has short legs… So not interstate travel… but around town on a nice day to run light errands and goof around… The Bolt-R is probably ideal.  That and I think it looks just awesome for what it is.   But I think really this would be a horse for the stable if I had other horses for more specific purposes of Sport and ADV.

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This bike… The FZ-09… I was with friends when I first got my hands on this one.  It’s the new style of “Standard Bike”.  But Yamaha took Standard and gave it a mohawk.  This bike would bring out the Hooligan in me.  It feels like it’s as light as a Mountain Bike, yet has Big Bore Punch.  That’s a wicked combination.  I could ride it nice and sedately passed the cops, and then when I get out of sight – instantly Wheelie like a total squid.   I could probably get this one before the KLR or the Bolt-R, it’s that likable when I see it up close.  And if you throw a leg over it – You will want it.   This bike also makes way too much sense.  It’s like that friend of yours that is way too smart for his own good and comes up with Evil Genius plans that sound perfectly well reasoned and logical and then they get you in trouble.

KTM 1190 Adventure 2013 basic model

Because one day I want to ride across Continents and screw BMW.    This is my Hail Marry dream bike.  Load it up with some luggage and a backpack and go hunt Orc with this bike.  It’s name is Adventure.  No, seriously, it is… the KTM 1190 Adventure.  There are two versions… Adventure and the Adventure R.  And I don’t care about the differences.  Either one would make me the happiest man on Earth… and then I’d want to go around that Earth.  Or at least Coast To Coast following back roads and exploring what needs to be explored along the way.  KTM should sponsored The Long Way Around instead of letting BWM take the show.

SuperDuke

This is the evolution of the concept that Yamaha’s FZ-09 was playing with.  KTM’s Super Duke.  If the FZ-09 was Dr. Bruce Banner, then the Super Duke is The Hulk.  It got big, gnarly and pissed off.  It’s a monster.  It’s brutal.  It’s a rage beast.  And that’s what I love about it.  This thing is all about aggression, making no apologies for it.   It’s the 2 wheel version of a Shelby 427 Cobra, but with less manners or concern for what is socially acceptable or politically correct.  This is a Dream Bike right here.   Should Hollywood buy the Uprising Saga and make movies out of them… I’ll have one of these bikes.  And I’ll take it to the California Super Bike School and have Keith Code teach me how to control this beast.

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Keeping with the theme of taking a bike type and having a reasonable version and an dream version of it… This is the Dream Bike option for the Star Bolt R.    That Cruiser bike just for the sake of Cruising.  This is the Victory Vegas.  I looked at the 8-Ball version and love it… a lot… And then other versions.  There was one locally that was eyeballing before I left my job.  Had I not left that job – I probably would have got it.  The Vegas “FITS” me.  Head to Toe.  Or should I say Bars to Pegs?  This is America’s Other Motorcycle Maker… Victory pretty much has everything you would want in a Motorcycle like Harley, but done better.  Seriously – if you even THINK you might want a Harley – go to a Victory Dealership and take a good hard look.  The Victory is a step up.  It just is.

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Okay, now this is a bike that is intriguing me.  If I could find one.  This is a US HIGHLAND “Viking”.  It’s a Liter Class V-Twin.  Very light weight, very compact.  It’s what I loved about my beloved Honda Superhawk… without what I didn’t like about the Superhawk.  (Side Mounted Radiators) This bike could replace the all the other bikes on my list save for the ADV machines. There is something about this… I really want to get to know US HIGHLAND better.  They put out a bike… Read the Review from 2011 here.  It doesn’t look like they are marking the Viking or the Enduro that they were also developing.  I hope they enter the US Market as a serious production Bike Maker and not just Engine Builders.