Monday, 9 July 2018

MV Agusta 500 Four

MV Agusta 500 Four

Atop a monument to motorcycle racing might well sit MV Agusta! It is a mythical marque in the annals of the sport. Between '58 and '74, MV won seventeen 500cc world championships - on the spin!

Among the MV équipe's rider roster, over the years, were some of the most famous names bike racing has known. We are talking Agostini, Surtees, Hailwood, Read! It all began at the back end of the Second World War. Count Domenico Agusta founded Meccanica Verghera - Verghera being the village in which his new firm was based. 'MV' would go on to become the ultimate in red-blooded Italian style!

But, another great Italian marque was key to the MV race-team's success. Chief engineer and manager - Arturo Magni - had been at Gilera, prior to joining MV. What he had learned there helped create a twin-cam 500cc four-cylinder motor. That engine would be the bedrock upon which MV subsequently built. For excelling so much - and for so long - in such a hostile environment, the bike racing world will be forever in awe of MV Agusta. The '500 Four' was a large part of the legend!

Friday, 6 July 2018

Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R

Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R

'Fast', 'dynamic', 'exciting' ... just three of the descriptions provided by the letter 'Z', when attached to a Kawasaki motorbike. The ZX-6R - released in 2003 - deserved all of those plaudits, and more. A race-bred riot on wheels, it had a licence to thrill, on the road, too. As uncompromising as they come, the ZX-6R made 116bhp ... and that was before the ram-air system kicked in! Top speed was 160mph - impressive for a 636cc 'middleweight'. The fact that the bike weighed in at just 354lb could only assist its awesome acceleration.

The ZX-6R's chassis was well up to the task of keeping all this power in line. Among its attributes were twin radial front brake calipers - derived directly from Kawasaki's racing programme. For sure, the ZX-6R's seats were not designed for comfort! But - crouched race-style atop the plot - rider and pillion were well-placed to steer the beast. The lack of leverage from the stubby 'bars meant 'hanging off' through the corners ... an art best acquired with caution! But - with weight distribution correctly addressed - the reward was high-precision handling.

Just as a single letter says so much when it is a 'Z', so a single colour can speak volumes. Every shade in the spectrum has bedecked bikes at one time or another. But seldom has a hue had quite the impact of 'Kawasaki lime-green'. Since the '70s hey-day of the 'Green Meanies' - those evil-handling H2R racers - lime-green has adorned so many 'Kwakkers' that it is virtually a part of the marque. It suited the ZX-6R perfectly. The bike restored Kawasaki's status as sports-bike supremos. 'Zzzzz'? Nah!

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud

Rolls-Royce Silver  Cloud

What's the most elegant car ever built? There are several possible answers to that question, of course - but, most of them were made by the same firm. No prizes at all for that one, I'm afraid ... Rolls-Royce!

No offence intended to Crewe, England - but, it might not automatically be considered a centre of suave sophistication. Yet, the units which rolled out of one of its factory's gates were possessed of a pedigree, without parallel. For is there a product known to man with the peerless cachet of a Rolls-Royce? So, what, then, is the most elegant Rolls-Royce of all time? A clear contender is the 'Silver Cloud'. Released back in '55, it pretty much epitomised the marque.

There are few drawbacks commonly associated with ownership of a Rolls-Royce. Rather, it is seen as a status symbol, to which most people aspire. For 'high rollers' of a nervous disposition, however, knowing whether or not the engine is running could be a source of stress! The 'culprits' were the Rolls-Royce engineers - who were nothing, if not meticulous. Indeed, so silent were their charges - by the time they reluctantly signed them off - that it could have been a serious problem for the hard of hearing! That caveat aside, 'Rolls-Royce' and 'Silver Cloud' were by-words for automotive excellence. To say, 'They don't make 'em like that anymore', would be understatement of the most sinful sort!

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Suzuki Hayabusa

Suzuki Hayabusa

At the time of the Hayabusa's release - in 1999 - Honda's Super Blackbird ruled the motorcycle roost. At least, in top speed terms. From Suzuki's viewpoint, that was a statistic which needed to change! The Hayabusa is a Japanese bird of prey. No doubt, one which would be quite partial to a tasty blackbird or two on its travels!

Suzuki's assault on the top speed slot was a three-pronged attack. The Hayabusa - or GSX1300R - was a big bike, with a big engine. So far, so good! It was also relatively light - weighing in at just 473lb dry. Not slimline, as such - but, less than might be expected for a bike of its size. The third term in Suzuki's speed equation was aerodynamics. Its bulbous bodywork may not have been to every taste. But, it made mincemeat of air resistance!

The Hayabusa's 1300cc engine was, essentially, a bigger version of the GSX-R1100 unit. Each iteration of Suzuki's flagship model had refined its core components. So, by the time the Hayabusa came along, the GSX-R package was pretty well primed. Which resolved to around 190mph for the Hayabusa, at full chat. Enough to knock the Super Blackbird off its top speed perch! Mission accomplished, for the Hayabusa. It was now, officially, the fastest road-bike on the planet!

Monday, 2 July 2018

Cadillac El Camino

Cadillac El Camino

When it came to '50s 'dream cars', GM set the standard for design creativity. Their 'Motorama' show was a travelling circus of avant-garde automobilia. The Cadillac El Camino was a 'space-age' case in point. El Camino Real - The Royal Highway - was a sobriquet for Highway 101. But though the El Camino may have sounded Spanish, it was actually American as apple pie! It was also one of the most influential concept cars Cadillac created - and they created quite a few! The Camino was a futuristic fantasy on wheels. Really, it was no more than a mock-up ... a glass-fibre gizmo, of no practical worth. But many of the features the El Camino displayed would be seen on production Caddys, by decade's end.

Show-car though it was, a V8 was duly dropped into the Camino's engine bay. 5,422cc - and 230bhp - were therefore technically available. Had the GM boffins wanted it to go touring, they could no doubt have 'persuaded' it to do so.

But the Camino was all about styling. Its pearlescent paint-job was a cinch to turn heads. Silver had never looked so good! And the car's radical roof-line was equally engaging. The curvaceous windows - and deftly-drawn pillars - were topped off by brilliant brushed aluminium. The front bumpers incorporated 'bullets'! And the front arches were wrought so as to expose the wheels in all their intricate glory. At the rear, the tail-fins were a metallurgical delight. The Camino blended easily into the Motorama mix. Cadillac's 'class of '54' also comprised the 'Espada', and the 'Park Avenue'. But, the Camino, in particular, was the blueprint for many a Cadillac to come.

MV Agusta 500 Four

Atop a monument to motorcycle racing might well sit MV Agusta! It is a mythical marque in the annals of the sport. Between '...