Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Random Car Wednesday: Nissan GT-R

Welcome again to RCW here on Shifting Gears. For this week we have a modern machine, the Nissan GT-R. The great thing about the GT-R is the technology. It doesn't have the biggest engine, the biggest brakes, or the best suspension, but it's programmed to use every single molecule of performance contained in its entire being. It can beat a Ferrari 458 in a quarter mile drag race, but still be comfortable and mild-mannered on the way home. On top of all those benefits, it's a relative bargain. Pricing is closer to a Porsche 911 or Chevrolet Corvette than the Gallardos and 458s that it actually rivals. Ultimately, it's a testament to technology, an effigy of engineering. Because in some cases, more isn't always more.

2012 Nissan GT-R

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Motorcycles Galore

Most of the shows I've been to lately have included a decent selection of motorcycles to admire. I've photographed several of the most interesting examples, and have been saving them up in anticipation of doing a post dedicated exclusively to motorcycles. The time has come for that idea to become a reality. As such, here are some of the best bikes I've seen so far.

To get things started we have this, a Victory Motors Highball. Don't let the classic looks fool you, it's a brand new bike. The classic hot rod/rat rod styling caught my attention, and when you really inspect it, this thing is full of cool details and unique features. Plus, on top of all that, it happens to sound great. This is one well-made machine.

At first glance, this looked to be a sweet 1970's chopper. And for all intents and purposes, it is. Except, like the Highball above, it's also a brand new motorcycle, in this case a Saxon Reaper. I love the look of this bike, and it is certainly one of the best sounding motorcycles I've encountered. The normally exciting blacked-out Harley parked beside it looked mundane in this thing's presence. Super cool.

This sweet chopper showed up to LSRU not long ago, and it really grabbed me. The craftsmanship and design would be sensational by themselves, but the intricate paintwork and dazzling chrome took it a step farther. As far as I can tell this one is mostly custom built, although feel free to correct me if I'm wrong. Handmade or not, it's a fantastic machine.

This Triumph Thruxton 900 was enjoying the shade in Austin when I saw it. I dig the classic cafe racer style, and a Triumph of any sort is a welcome change from the sea of bone-stock Harley-Davidsons that are so common here in Texas. The yellow paint was set off by a checkered stripe down the middle. For an urban city like Austin, this bike is a perfect fit.

A far cry from the lively yellow Triumph is this sinister black Harley-Davidson. It's an XL1200N Nightster, and it looks positively evil. The vintage styling and dark colors give it a perfect retro look that draws attention almost anywhere. The Nightster happens to be one of my personal favorite modern bikes, and as such it was nice to give this one a fairly thorough once-over.

This Buell 1125CR is a step away from the choppers above. It's a ridiculously fast superbike, and visually speaking it looks like a cross between a Ferrari and the Terminator. It's got a more-than-adequate 146 horsepower, and can reach speeds in the vicinity of 156 mph. That's insanely fast, and much more exhilarating than in a car, where a windshield and four wheels help keep things relatively tame for the driver. I can't imagine what full speed feels like on one of these. Such an incredible machine.

Let's get away from all these modern bikes. This 1970's Honda CB200 is an awesome classic bike. I spotted it in a parking garage near the sprawling UT campus in Austin. The custom seat cover and pipe cleaners are evidence that this is somebody's daily driver, a personalized statement on wheels. Not a bad choice, either. Hondas are typically indestructible, for better or for worse.

Also from the 1970's is this BMW R90/6 with matching sidecar. Based off of the WWII BMW R75, the R90 is a more civilized approach, although it is still one of the most rugged motorcycles in existence. I personally love sidecars on these classic bikes, and the torpedo-shaped example on this bike is a perfect fit. Definitely one of the more enjoyable motorcycles I've come across.

What would a motorcycle post be without a crazy '70s-themed chopper? This one, named "Flyin Floyd", made an appearance at LSRU. Suffice to say, it was pretty noticable. It's good to see that this type of bike still exists, and better to see one in a condition as nice as this. It's very much a love it or hate it vehicle, and I'm definitely the former, not the latter.

Finally, to wrap things up, one of the oldest bikes I've encountered, a 1933 Scott. To see a motorcycle so old looking so pristine was great. The engineering and technology is delightfully 1930's, in some cases being more complicated, but in some cases, such as the horn, it's pleasantly simple. In short, I love it. It's classic, it's unique, it's stylish, and it's fun. What more can you ask of a motorcycle?

I hope you enjoyed this foray into the world of two wheels, and I'd advise you to stick around for a while. There's plenty more to come here on Shifting Gears.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Random Car Wednesday: 1971 Ford Mustang

Welcome to another installment of RCW. This time around, let's look at some classic American muscle. This is a 1971 Ford Mustang. It's a base model, not a Mach 1 or Boss 351, but it's still a very handsome machine. This is a "Sportsroof" model, which was the official terminology for a fastback roof way back in '71. This car stands out because of its simplicity. It's not stock, as evidenced by the shiny chrome wheels and some subtle interior modifications, but it's not extensively modified either. It's a car that somebody enjoys and drives regularly. I'd imagine the mileage isn't too great, but in a car like this it's a price worth paying. If I were going to drive it, I'd probably swap the grille for the sportier Mach 1 version with the turn indicators in the grille. It looks a tiny bit meaner, a look this car could pull off easily.

1971 Ford Mustang

Monday, April 15, 2013

Cars and Coffee Roundup

Last Sunday was yet another Cars and Coffee event, and it was a huge turnout, with over 600 cars in attendance, including a convoy of 120 late-model Camaros that arrived en masse, effectively creating the awesomest traffic jam I've ever witnessed. This particular show's theme was "Chevy Invasion" but despite that a huge selection of Fords, Mopars, and European marques were on hand to make for an even distribution of vehicles. Now, without any further ado, here are some of my favorites.

Of the countless Chevies on hand, picking a favorite would be impossible. This 1955 Nomad did stand out, though. It was modified mildly, making it a more reliable and drivable vehicle. I personally love station wagons, so a Nomad is always a pleasant surprise, especially one as nice as this.

Another pleasant surprise was this sporty Bertone X1/9. These cars are notorious for never really working quite right, but they're still popular due to the fact that when they're not broken, they're excellent sports cars. This one comes from the late 1980's, when Fiat was dropped from the name in favor of simply Bertone. In an appropriately sporty red, this car does actually look pretty darn cool. Plus, hidden headlights are the best.

While we're admiring red cars, check out this 1932 Ford. While the Torq-Thrusts and Chevy small block are standard fare, the sizzling red paint is a standout compared to the usual black. I think it really makes the car stand out more, and adds a touch of uniqueness to an otherwise ordinary hot rod. Of course, you can't really call any hot rod ordinary, but after Rod and Kustom a few weeks ago, 1932 Fords are practically boring.

The Audi dealership in Austin was kind enough to bring a pair of R8s to the show. This one is a brand new R8 V10 Spider. After a role in Iron Man 2 the R8 Spider became very popular, so getting an up-close look was very enjoyable. Being German, the Audi is a very precise car, with 4WD and enough horsepower to melt your face. This is certainly a high-ranker in terms of coolest convertibles ever made.

Even in a sea of late-model Corvettes, this blue ZR1 was a standout. It's the ultimate American speed machine, offering enough horsepower to compete with supercars, all for a fraction of the price. Sadly the ZR1 is being phased out with the new generation, although it may return in the near future. This was an interesting color choice for such a prominent car, going so far as to make it look almost -almost- tame.

Orange you glad I didn't use a terrible pun to introduce this Lotus? Me too. Anyway, this 2007 Exige S was hard to miss. Between the radical color and the assortment of scoops and wings, it drew attention all day long. I've always preferred the Exige to the Elise, as the Elise always seems too conservative. It's a great looking car that's simply incredible to drive, but it needs a bit more pizazz. This Exige fixes that and then some.

Speaking of wild paint, this 1998 Corvette Pace Car Edition is impossible to miss. How many cars can you think of that came stock with yellow wheels? The wild paint job is also an attention-getter, with a combination of stripes and checkered flag decals. Underneath all the glitz is a very basic V8 convertible, which means driving it is, as the license plate suggests, "XCITEN".

As far as classic muscle is concerned, this is an ideal example. A second-gen Camaro Z/28 with a 454 crate motor and white racing stripes. Practical? Well, that's debatable. Totally awesome? Without a doubt. This is a super clean car, and potentially my favorite Camaro to attend. Additionally, I love this bodystyle, especially in Z/28 trim.

Standing out against all of the Chevies was this 1971 Ford Mustang Mach 1. This one has the big 351 V8, as well as some nice options, such as the Magnum 500 rims, color coded bumpers, and the flat black spoiler. Also, graphics in this era were straight-up awesome, with the Mach 1 logo being a personal favorite of mine.

Let's finish things up with a proper red sports car. This is a Series III Jaguar E-Type. Instead of the earlier 4.2 liter engine, this car has the Jaguar V-12. It's in remarkably good condition for its age, and is still one of the prettiest automobiles ever designed. It's even red.

So, another great turnout. Look for more posts in the coming weeks, as I have plans for some interesting feature stories. Until then, though, stay tuned and drive safe.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Random Car Wednesday: 1953 Desoto Firedome

Welcome to another installment of RCW. This time around, we're taking a look at something you don't see very often: A 1953 Desoto Firedome. This big black sedan is a mildly menacing piece of '50s Americana, and also a fairly uncommon vehicle. Desotos seem to have gone into hiding, so seeing one in fuctional condition was a nice treat. It's a unique car to drive and, I'd imagine, an enjoyable vehicle to own as well.

1953 Desoto Firedome

Sunday, April 7, 2013

12th Annual Lonestar Rod & Kustom Roundup

If you like hot rods, then you've probably heard of the Rod & Kustom Roundup in Austin. It's a huge event that draws somewhere in the vicinity of a thousand cars, and includes live music, vendors, and even minibike races. I took plenty of pictures, far more than I could show in just one post, so here's a selection of what I saw. No commentary this time, just cars.

Ford Tudor Rat Rod

1957 Suburban

Ford Tudor Hot Rod

Sweet 1960's Lincoln Continental

Speedster-style 1923 T-Bucket

1954 Buick Custom

Vintage nitromethane dragster called "The Scorpion"

Mercury Comet Station Wagon

Custom 1950s Cadillac Fleetwood

1958 Chevy Bel Air

Ford Model A Hot Rod

Right-hand-drive 1932 Ford Hot Rod

Custom Ford F-8 COE Cab

1964 Ford Thunderbird

Custom 1963 Ford Galaxie

1937 Plymouth Coupe

Smooth 1940's Chevy Fleetline

Old-school custom motorcycle

1927 Ford T-Bucket

1959 Hillman Husky Custom

1963 Dodge Panel Wagon

Austin Speed Shop 1955 Chevy

International Harvester KB-2 Pickup

1951 Ford Victoria

Beaten 1957 Ford Ranchero

Ford Crew Cab Pickup

Customized 1950 Buick Eight Super

Well-flamed 1951 Mercury

427-powered Ford Hot Rod

1957 Chevy Nomad

1965 Chevy C-10 Pickup

Very cool late '30s rat truck

Very cool Model A Convertible Pickup

Custom 1956 Ford F-100

Hemi-powered 1932 Ford Coupe

1955 Mercury Sedan

AnyCar II, part of an old insurance company's ad campaign

Classic Ford track racer

1962 Chevrolet Impala

Cadillac-powered Ford Hot Rod

1960 Cadillac