A biweekly roundup of automotive news, good, bad and just plain weird:
Honda restores Chevy pickup truck
Honda motorcycles arrived in North America in 1959, and by way of celebrating their 60th anniversary, the company has decided to resurrect a piece of its past. Taking care to get every detail right, they’ve painstakingly restored a Chevy. Hang on. That can’t be right.
But it is! To be precise, the truck in question is a 1961 Chevrolet Apache 10, lovingly hand-painted with the American Honda Motor Co. livery, in red on white. Under the hood is a 283 cubic inch V-8, and it’s got a three-on-the-tree manual transmission.
Back when Honda was first starting out – long before anybody was thinking about a Civic, let alone a Ridgeline – Chevy trucks were what the company used to get its motorcycles out to dealers, and in for servicing. The restored truck isn’t one of the originals, but it’s identical, right down to the hand-lettered original address on the flank of the bed: 4077 West Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles, California.
And then there’s what’s in the bed, a 1965 Honda Super Cub 50, and a 1965 CB160. Apparently, you meet the nicest Hondas on a Chevy.
Harley-Davidson to build tiniest Harley
Picture the scene. A roadhouse near Sturgis. Leather-clad bikers. Tattoos and beards. Glowers and knuckles like bags of walnuts.
And then you roll up on a Harley-Davidson with a 383cc engine. Put-put-put. Heya fellas! What’s up? Ow!
If you haven’t been paying attention, Harley-Davidson’s been in a bit of financial hot water for a while. Their bikes are iconic, but expensive, and despite the well-burnished image of ape-hangers and choppers, Harleys aren’t selling as well as they used to. A friend described the tendency of middle-aged guys to dress up like motorcycle gangs as The Sons of Dentistry, but even they aren’t really interested anymore.
So, Harley’s turning to the Chinese market, where motorcycles aren’t about leisure and leather, but about just getting to work. They’ll be building really small-displacement bikes, some as tiny as 383cc (not far off that early vintage Honda).
I don’t know much about the motorcycle business, so I hesitate to guess whether this is a good idea or not. What I will say is that Harley-Davidson might want to take a peek at what Dodge is doing, seeing how they’re going all-in on being an American brand. Maybe the problem isn’t about the export market.
Porsche releases Flat-Six Cayman GT4
It’s the perfect time to think about buying a GT4 or Boxster Spyder. No, not the new one, the old one. Whenever a new Porsche comes out, values always dip on the old one (depending on what changes they’ve made), so snap it up now while prices shrink a bit. It’s a fantastic car.
Now, helpful consumer advice dispensed, I can get on to a dissection of the new GT4/Spyder. If you were one of those people dismayed at the Cayman/Boxster getting a flat-four turbo rather than a proper flat-six, then it’s time to pipe down and shell out. Porsche’s built the car for you.
Sitting amidships in either a coupe or convertible chassis, with only a manual transmission available, the GT4 and Spyder get a 4.0-litre, naturally aspirated flat-six. It’ll rev to 8,000 r.p.m., producing 414 horsepower and 309 foot-pounds of torque.
While it’s not quite as quick or powerful as the 911 GT3, the Cayman/Spyder might actually be more fun. Small and quick is where Porsches generally excel, so why go for the big guns when there’s nowhere outside of a racetrack you can use them?
Tesla adds in-car racing game
Here’s a fun story that ties into Tesla’s general air of acting first and thinking about the consequences later. Released as an update, you can now play a Mario Kart style racing game on your Tesla’s big central screen, using your car’s actual steering wheel to control the game.
Now obviously, this isn’t intended to be done while actually driving. The idea is that you saw away at the steering wheel while waiting in the ferry lineup or what-have-you.
The problem is that Teslas aren’t steer-by-wire (at least, not yet), which means you’ll be grinding away your tires on the pavement. That’s not a bad thing for a few turns, but repeated stationary turning is going to flat-spot your tires.
Further, turning the wheel when your car is stationary puts a load on your power steering. It’s possible that people are going to burn out their assist motors.
And lastly, if cars are driving around equipped with screens big enough to operate as video game consoles, haven’t we lost the plot a little? Self-driving cars aren’t here yet, and it may take decades to get all the bugs ironed out. Maybe our parents were right all this time. Maybe we should put the videogames down, and practise concentrating a little.