Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Blast from the Past: Would You Retro Mod a Motorcycle?

Before going anywhere with this article, I must disclose that I myself am a big fan of retro-modding
photo: dreamstime.com
motorcycles. I'm not sure what it is precisely, but something about taking a modern bike and reworking it to resemble the classic marques of years gone by brings a nostalgic rush that I can't find anywhere else. They perform like modern machines (because they are), they look great, and they don't have the brain-melting price tags you'd find on true classics. But my own opinions notwithstanding, Let's have a look at the modern incarnation of the retro-mod motorcycle.

Retro-modding isn't exactly a new concept. For as long as their have been motorcycles, riders have been modifying their machines to fit their individual tastes. But where retro-modding does stand alone is the style of modification involved. In retro-modding, the modern motorcycle is stripped of its technology and reduced to a state that might have existed in the distant past. Exhausts are chopped, seats are made cruder, suspensions are lowered or omitted all together, and the paint schemes favor the styles of the past--no more neon greens or tangelo oranges. Now, the retro-mod motorcycle can be scene wearing flat and satin paints in dark colors reminiscent of the "primer-only" paint jobs made popular by hot rodders of the 1950s and 60s. 
photo: dreamstime.com

But not everyone is on board with this idea. For many, the bastardization of modern production motorcycles is deplorable. They hold firm that a vintage motorcycle is special for what it is, and that faking the look and feel of a classic on a modern bike is not to be done. To the purist's soul, a Harley knucklehead is one of a kind, and no fugazi bike can, or should, touch that territory.

photo: David Palmer
If you're like me, however, you don't much care what they say. You love building bikes and tinkering whenever you can, so why not see your dream bike assembled in your own garage and by your own hands? I can recall several years ago when I first bought my 03 Honda vt750 (ACE). It was my first large, American styled cruiser, and I love it at first sight. But something wasn't quite where I wanted it to be. The bike was beautiful and all, but it didn't feel like mine, like something I had put my touch on yet. So I cruised the history books and found a few ideas of what I knew I did like in a motorcycle, and set to work bringing it to life. Fast forward a few years, and here I am in possession of my dream motorcycle: A black and chrome tip o' the hat to post-war motorcycles (photo on right). It's simple, elegant, and wonderfully mine-all-mine.

So my question is this: How do you feel about taking a modern motorcycle or car and refitting it to look vintage, even though it isn't? Does it bother you because it's what some would call a fake, or are you okay with it?

In either case, drop a line or two in the comment section with your thoughts/questions or opinions and let me know. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Look Back Thursday is Here

Ah, the memories. The smell of burning motor oil, the rattle and shake of a busted suspension, or the thrill of skidding sideways around midnight parking lots--we've all had a first car at some point. And now, Thursdays at Automatica are dedicated to reminiscing about the formative years of driving.
Photo: freeimages.com

From the frustration of constant breakdowns to the freedom of purchasing your first set of wheels, all of the memories from the early days of driving privileges will be here on Thursdays to harken back to simpler times.

So, with that, stay closely tuned for Thursday additions featuring all of the things you remember from the past and your first tastes of automotive pleasure. It's sure to be a trip back in time for anyone who can remember their first experience behind the wheel.

Have something about your early auto-life that you'd like to share? Feel free to drop a line in the comment section below any Look-Back Thursday and tell us what you remember, or maybe what you'd like to forget...

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Why Automatica?

 Let's be blunt: there is an undeniable culture that surrounds automotive things--such as cars and motorcycles.
More to the point, there is a culture that surrounds these things as much as they help to shape and form culture itself. Given this, I present to you Automatica, a blog dedicated to all things auto culture and culturally automotive.

Automatica is a blog conjured up when trying to decide how to make the most of the talents I feel I have, which, at present, seem to be writing, studying culture, and tinkering with automotive things in my spare time. To be honest, the first two are talents, possibly, but the third is a passion, an obsession, and, at times, an
affliction from which I seek no cure.

Culture is relative, cars are objects. These are facts. But if one only stops for a moment to look just below the surface, the truth bubbles from beneath and proves that both are so much more than a functional collection of their parts. cars and bikes have done far more for mankind than simply enable him to move farther and wider across the face of the earth; cars and motorcycles have liberated not only the body, but the human mind and spirit. They have created vast worlds, all of which are uniquely their own, both broad in range and scope and insular at the same time.

Culture, on the other hand, is not so cut and dry. Many still argue it to this day. But one thing can be said to be certain: that automobiles have played a vital role in shaping the cultures of those who possess them, and even those who do not. From the podium-standing elites of Formula 1 racing to the garage tinkerers and tuners of 1950's California, Automobiles have had a hand in both creating and altering cultures merely by their inclusion in the zeitgeist. Capitalists to communists, Dictators to dilettantes, we all live in an automotive world.

And I feel it is time we address this, in no short order. Without further ado, Automatica is here. Visit early, visit often...

Monday, February 16, 2015

Picture of the Day: Driven by War...

BMW. BSA. Mitsubishi. Rolls-Royce. What do all of these famous automotive marques have in common? Well, it may not come as a shock to everyone, but for the uninitiated, the fact is that these famous automakers once made fighter planes or military vehicles for war, either before their rise as auto-manufacturers or during.

To that end, I could not help but wonder about the state of the modern vehicle in war. With conventional warfare taking a backseat to less formalized, guerrilla-style warfare--with "no front-line and no identifiable enemy," as the late sportswriter Hunter S. Thompson once put it--the state of the modern military vehicle has changed in many combat theaters. 

Where once it was only common to see tanks, military aircraft, and specialized, up-armored military vehicles cruising through the fields and over the trenches of combat zones, today's conflict hotspots are a much different scene; the military-only vehicle has been replaced, in many respects, by re-purposed civilian models. Once seen in the streets of every major city and small hamlet from Santa Monica to Brighton Beach, these commoner-cars have been brought to a new life--one forged in the fires of conflict.

But why?

Sure, money is always an issue. And for non-standardized militaries and militias (I won't get into the differences between "military," "militia," and "freedom fighter" here), tanks and fighter jets don't come cheap or easy. But there is something else afoot, I sense. Something more...

Consider for a moment the bulk of conflict-footage coming from places such as Ukraine, Rwanda, Baghdad, and the likes. For starters, the terrain simply isn't the same. Where once war footage was of sprawling fields of battle or mud covered trench-rows as far as the eye could see, modern conflicts are found deep in the capital cities of the countries fighting them. And in these war-torn metropolises, tanks and other up-armored, heavy-duty vehicles simply don't have the agility, the speed, or the "run-and-gun" capabilities of the semi-modern, consumer-level vehicle. 

But, honestly, this is not the point. Well, it isn't really the point.

The point is, the modern war vehicle is actually the antithesis of its name--the modern war vehicle is not a war vehicle at all. Rather, it is a people's vehicle re-purposed for the field of combat. Which brings us to the very moment in which we might have to finally ante up, accept what we've become and realize that we all are following, in lock-step, with the state of the modern military vehicle: the specialists are taking a backseat to the civilian. And, frighteningly, this trend may not stay exclusive to cars and trucks in the coming years; people may be forced to join the ranks of re-purposed fighters as well...
                                                               ...as an unfortunate some already have.

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