Book Review: 100 Years of Motorcycles by Ammonite Press

The motorcycle’s story begins when Gottlieb Daimler strapped a small gasoline powered engine to a wooden bicycle frame in 1885. From this small beginning, the motorcycle was soon a specially designed means of transportation, meant to be an inexpensive every-day conveyance. It easily negotiated the crowded streets of the city and could also go for the long distance and even cruising the back roads on vacation.

Some motors as they soon became known, were also test vehicles for refining the motorized and thrill sports at race tracks and off road as well, all over the world. Vintage motors of the early years of the century, to the biker subculture of the 40s with the infamous Hells Angels”to the Café Racers of the mid century, to the 1960s with the Mods and Rockers to the ultra high tech super sport cycles of the later 20th century 100 Years of Motorcycles by Ammonite Press celebrates in pictures all those aspects of the motorcycle and more.

Books about motorcycle are usually written or edited by fans; therefore the pictures used are, as a rule, taken by the motorcycle specialists. The problem with that is that being so caught up in a subject does not allow for self editing or for taking an outsider’s view of the subject. But then take away that fanatical interest and look to the professional photographer looking for something news worthy and what happens is a shot that is not interesting to the fan. But Ammonite Press has fixed that issue in this new book. Essentially, they have make use of photos from the Press Association to relate the chronicle of the motorcycle and it riders right through the 20th century, letting the picture to tell the story while backing up each image with a short, but informative, caption. The result is as much a social history of the riders as well as the story of the progress of the motorcycle over time. With over 300 images, many not published before in a book format. There are a number of racing shots, but the reader also gets shots of regular people with their motors. Celebrity riders of all stripes are shown as well. The publication house has spared no expense with the book using high quality glossy pages. The photos range from early black and white stills, to the early days of color photography even to the early digital aged photos of the later 20th century. All the photos are well done and very sharp.

100 Years of Motorcycles is a first-rate effort that is well worth the money of anyone interested in the history of motorcycles.


Checking Tire Tread

Most states declare that tires are legally worn out when they have 2/32nd inches or tread or less remaining. American tires have ‘wear bars’ molded into their tread at 2/32nd inches remaining. This gives the driver a clear visual indicator of tire wear. However, 2/32nd inches is a bare minimum. As a safe driver you should check your tire tread about once a month. Each time you check your tires’ inflation is an excellent time to also check the tread depth.

Using a Depth Gauge:

Tire tread depth gauges are readily available at auto parts stores and garages and they are very inexpensive. You need to check the depth at many different parts of the tire to check that the wear is even. Using and reading the gauge is self explanatory. You should have at least 2/32nd or 1/16th tread depth.

Another method is using American coins:

First get a US penny coin (officially called the “cent” coin) and a US quarter coin.

Insert the penny in the tread so you can see the side with the Lincoln Memorial on it. If the top of the Memorial is covered then you have 6/32nd inches tread. Again measure the tread depth at various places in the tread across the width of the tire.

Next take your quarter and insert it in the tread with Mr. Washington’s head pointed down. If the tread covers the top of the President’s head then you have at least 4/32nd inches of tread. Don’t forget to measure across the width of the tire to check for even wear.

Now take your penny again and insert it with Mr. Lincoln’s head pointing down. If the top of Mr. Lincoln head is covered then you have the bare minimum legal depth of 2/32nd inches of tread. And again measure at various places across the width of the tire to check for even wear.

Of course the thinner the tread the more likely you are to hydroplane on a wet road. Since you need a thicker tread to channel the water through and out the back of the tread the deeper the tread the safer you are in the rain.

If you drive in the snow, then 6/32nd inches depth is the minimum. Snow tires generally have thicker a tread than standard all weather tires for this very reason. Also some snow tire will have a second set of wear bars at 6/32nd inches.

Inflating Car Tires

Modern tubeless tires are a system of three parts that work together in a literally airtight system.

First is the tire itself, which is the black rubber part, even though a modern tire is much more than a just a rubber ring, it has steel belts and is composed of rubber and rubber polymers. The second part is the rim, or wheel. The rim is the metal part, either aluminum or steel, that the tire fits around and is actually attached to the car by the lug nuts and bolts. The last element, and the most important one for us, is the valve stem. This is the part that protrudes from the rim and into which the air goes.

First, look at the tire, the valve stem should be sticking out from the rim, it will be either black rubber, black rubber capped with metal or all metal and will be between one inch and three inches long. Remove the valve stem cap by twisting to the left. Make sure to put the valve stem cap where you can find it. This cap protects the inside of the valve stem from moisture and dirt.

Place the air pump valve over the valve stem end and push down. If the air pump has a gauge on it this gauge should give you a reading. Push down harder and you should hear the air going into the tire. A note on commercial air pumps; do not trust the gauges on them. Chances are they have not been calibrated since they were installed. Buy a good air gauge from an auto parts store and use it to measure the air in your tire. You should check the air pressure in your tires about once a month.

After the tire is filled with sufficient air remove the air pump and check the air pressure in the tire with your store bought gauge. You may need to remove or bleed some air out, if you have over filled the tire. You bleed the air by pushing on the valve stem with the reverse of the air pump; you will hear the air escaping. Or you may have to return to filling the tire if the air pressure is still too low. Now repeat this process with all the tires on your vehicle. Once the tires are correctly inflated replace the valve stem covers.

The question often arises as to how much air your tire needs. Air pressure is measured in Pounds per Square Inch, or PSI. There are two places to find out how much pressure your tires need. The first place is in the car owner’s manual which will also provide the correct PSI for each tire and particular driving conditions. The second place is on the inside of the driver’s door frame which should have a sticker or plate that lists the best air pressure for each tire and conditions.

Do not use the PSI listed on the side of the tire. The PSI listed on the side of the tire is the maximum safe PSI for that tire. It is not the recommended PSI for that particular car.

Properly inflated tires are important as a safety consideration for your car; they insure fuel efficiency and are part of the ride comfort. Improperly inflated tires rob you of gas mileage and may be a safety hazard.

Top 10 Most Expensive Cars

Number Ten: The  Shelby SuperCars (SSC) Ultimate Aero for $740,000. SSC unleashed the first Aero in 2006. The latest version has a 6.2 Liter Twin Turbo V8 engine that puts out a hefty 1183 Horsepower.  Going from 0 to 60 in less than 2.5 seconds with a top speed of 271 Miles Per Hour, making this the fastest production car on Earth.

Number Nine: The Leblanc Mirabeau for $765,000. Leblanc is a Swiss car maker known for the Mirabeau supercar, with a 4.7 liter V8 engine putting out a 700 Horsepower and can go from 0 to 60 in 2.5 seconds with a top end of just under 230 miles per hour.

Number Eight: The  Koenigsegg CCX for $1.1 Million dollars.  Packing a supercharged 4.7 liter V8 power plant. This mid-engine roadster does 0 to 60 in 3.2 seconds and has a top end of 259 miles per hour.

Number seven: the Koenigsegg CCXR: $1.3 Million dollars. This Koenigsegg product is the second Swedish supercar to make the list. The CCXR is, of course, a variant of number eight.  Top speed is over 248 Miles per hour on biofuel, yep biofuel!

Number Six: The Maybach Landaulet for $1.4 Million dollars. Designed as a supercar limousine the Landaulet is big and powerful and features a retractable roof for the backseat.  Powered by a 6.0 Liter V12 monster engine that puts out over 600 horses, but it has a top speed of only 155 miles per hour (limited by German law).

Number Five: The Lamborghini Reventón for $1.42 Million dollars. Only twenty of these badboys were built.  Packing a 6.5 liter V12 engine that generates 640 horsepower with a top speed of 221 miles per hour.   All the current run has been sold.

Number Four: The Lamborghini Reventón Roadster for $1.56 Million dollars. The most expensive Lamborghini ever made clearly this is a variant of number five on the list.   It V12 engine generates a hefty 487 lb-ft at 6000 rpm and a top speed of 205 miles per hour.

Number Three: The Pagani Zonda Cinque Roadster for $1.8 Million dollars.  Fast and very rare, with only five made, this roadster has the Mercedes AMG V12 engine putting out 678 horses going from 0 to 60 in 3.4 seconds and a top end of 217 miles per hour.

Number Two: The Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport for $2 Million dollars. The 16 cylinder engine generates over 1000 horsepower (YES over 1000!).  A convertible that does over 215 miles per hour, has a draft free interior.

The Number One: The Koenigsegg Trevita for $2.21 Million dollars.  Take that Germany and Italy, Sweden has kicked your car making butt with this one.  Its relatively small power plant of 4.8 liter and 8 cylinders it generates a massive 1018 horses.  Going from 0 to 60 in 2.9 seconds with a top speed of just under 250 miles per hour.

Top 10 Fastest Cars

This list is of the top ten fastest production cars in the world. Obviously custom built racing cars are going to be faster than some of these supercars.

Number ten: The Porsche Carrera GT. Packing a 5.7 liter V10 Aluminum engine that generates a nice 612 Horsepower costs a mere $440,000 dollars. The fastest and priciest Porsche just makes the list at number 10. Its top speed in 205 Miles Per Hour (MPH) and goes from 0 to 60 in 3.9 seconds.

Number nine: The  Lamborghini Murcielago LP640. Slightly less expensive than number ten on this list at $430,000 dollars, the Murcielago has a 6.2 liter V12 engine that produces 640 horses, a top speed of 211 MPH and goes from 0 to 60 in 3.3 seconds.

Number eight: The Pagani Zonda has a Mercedes Benz M120 7.2 liter V12 Engine which gives 650 horses.  With a price tag of $1.8 million dollars the Pagani Zonda can do 0 to 60 in 3.5 seconds and has top end of 215 MPH.

Number Seven:  The Jaguar XJ220 priced at $650,000 has the smallest engine in the list: a twin turbo 3.5 Liter V6, which still gives 542 horsepower, goes 0 to 60 in 3.8 seconds and tops out at 217 miles per hour.

Number Six: The Ferrari Enzo, powered by a 5.5 liter V12 engine that puts out 660 horsepower with a top speed of 217 MPH and goes from 0 to 60 in 3.4 seconds.  Only 399 of these super cars were built at a retail price of $670,000 dollars.

Number Five: The  McLaren F1 with a 6.1 liter V12 engine giving 627 horses capable of going 0 to 60 in 3.2 seconds and top end of 240 MPH, this supercar costs a nice $970,000 dollars.

Number Four: The Koenigsegg CCX made in Sweden this supercar boasts a supercharged 4.7 liter V8 engine with 806 horses,  goes from 0 to 60 in 3.2 seconds and has top speed of 245 MPH, but cost a relatively low $1.1 Million dollars.

Number Three: Saleen S7 Twin-Turbo the first American car on the list, has a 7.0 liter Twin Turbo V8 engine that puts out 750 horsepower, goes 0 to 60 in 3.2 seconds and official top speed of 248 miles per hour.  Unofficially, it might go as fast as 260 MPH.

Number Two: The  Bugatti Veyron boasts  a V16 engine that generates over 1000 horsepower, does 0 to 60 in 2.5 seconds with a top end of 253 MPH. This super car is the most expensive on the list at at just under $2 million dollars.

Number 10: The  Shelby SuperCars (SSC)  Ultimate Aero is the second American product on this list. The Ultimate Aero does 0 to 60 in 2.7 second with a top speed of 257 MPH. It has a 6.2 Liter Twin Turbo V8 that produces 1183 Horsepower.  The price is a mere $740,000 dollars.

Rarest Cars in the World

This is a difficult set of facts to ascertain.  Never can tell when someone is going to pull out a whole collection of rare or one of kind cars.  Also, this article can only deal with cars that were actually built by car manufactures, after all aftermarket customized cars are, by their nature rare or one of a kind.

The Helica, is a two seat roadster that has a huge fan drive on the front. Some 30 were built between 1913 and 1926, by Frenchman Marcel Leyat, of which two are known to have survived.

The Rolls-Royce 15 hp, built in 1904 as a result of a new partnership between Charles Rolls and Henry Royce.  If featured a new 3 cylinder engine that drove the car at the breakneck speed of 39 miles per hour (MPH). Only six were ever made of which only a single copy is still known to exist.

The 1948 Tuckers, only 51 of these visionary vehicles were ever produced, and all are known by their manufacture serial numbers, ie numbers 1001 to 1051. The development of this car is the subject of the 1988 movie: “Tucker: The Man and His Dream”. Some of these cars do pop up at very high end car auctions. For example Tucker 1038 sold for just over one million dollars in 2009.

The Jaguar D-Type, XKSS version, originally designed as a race car, when Jaguar withdrew from racing, the company modified the car to make it street legal; they added a passenger seat and door as well as full length windshield and ragtop. A fire in the factory destroyed 9 of the twenty-five built leaving 16 to ever leave the factory.

The Aston Martin DB1 2-Litre Sport was made from1948 to 1950. First shown at the London car show of 1948, only 15 ever sold.

The Ferrari 250 GTO, two different versions of this car were made from 1962 to 1964. The Series I and the Series II have slightly different body styles. Only 39 of both styles together were ever made. To buy one the buyer had to get the personal approval of Enzo Ferrari, the company president and founder.  In 2010 one sold at auction for more than 17 million dollars.

“The Porsche 916 was never officially produced, but 11 were made in 1972 as prototypes or pre-production models. The 916 has a Porsche 914 body with flared fenders and 15 inch wheels. Also a steel roof was added.  Only one was ever shipped to Florida, this copy was the only one that had Air conditioning added.

Troubleshooting Car Problems Front End Pulls to the Side

There are many reasons that a car might pull to one direction or the other. Some simple troubleshooting techniques will help car owners to diagnose the exact problem.

First take the car for a drive on a straight flat road.  American road will have a slight tilt to the right to help the rain drain.  Also most American car’s alignment is set to drift slightly right as well.  This is a safety feature so that the car will tend to go off the road rather than into oncoming traffic in case the driver loses control.   So if the car pulls slightly to the right that is as it should be.  If it pulls left or severely to the right there is a problem.

Next take the car to a place to add air to the tires. Check the air pressure in all the tires. If both the front tires are not roughly equal in air pressure, say within 2 or 3 Pounds per Square Inch (PSI) then air the tires to an equal amount and take the car on a drive over the same stretch of road. If the car now drive relatively straight; problem solved. Make sure to check the tire pressure regularly.

Speaking of tires, if the car owner has recently changed one tire on the front and not the other, or the front tires have different tread designs then this can cause a pull to one direction or the other. The way to fix this is to let the new wear off the new tire or get matching tread designs on both the front tires.

Next, park the car on an even and level pavement from front to back and side to side. Stand about ten feet away and look at the car’s front end. Does one side of the car seem significantly lower than then the other?  If it does, go that side of the car and push it down, does it bounce back slowly if at all?  If the side seems low and does not bounce back as it should under pressure than this could have a strut (on front wheel drive cars) or a shock (on rear wheel drive cars) that has lost pressure and needs to be replaced.

Lastly if none of these fixes have worked take the car to a trusted service shop and have the technician put it on the alignment rack and check the castor, of the three parts of an alignment; camber, caster and toe, only caster effects steering. If the caster is off, it will cause the car to pull or drift to the side with the less positive number.