All posts by Justin Hughes

I drive stuff, ride stuff, and write stuff.

GM Temporarily Halts 3.0 Duramax Engine Production

There’s nothing wrong with GM’s popular diesel engine (unlike the Chevy Bolt’s batteries). In an age of endless production woes, though, The Drive reports that a part supplier for the 3.0 Duramax is unable to supply their parts, which has brought production of the entire engine line to a screeching halt.

GM uses this engine in the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups, Chevy Tahoe and Suburban SUVs and the Express van, the GMC Yukon and Yukon XL, and the Cadillac Escalade.

No other engines are thought to be affected by the part shortage. GM believes the issue is only temporary and should be solved soon. In an age of “just in time” delivery, though, with few parts actually on hand, this is what happens when there’s even a small hiccup in the system. Between chip shortages and COVID-19, there are many worse problems than small hiccups in the supply line right about now.

Harley-Davidson Claims Pan America Is the Best Selling ADV Bike in North America

A brief Harley-Davidson press release makes the bold claim that the new Pan America adventure bike is “the #1 selling adventure touring motorcycle in North America.”

Unfortunately, H-D provides no actual sales numbers to back up this claim. While there’s a great deal of interest in the Pan America (and definitely include me in that category), without knowing how many Harley sold compared to the BMW R 1250 GS, the Honda Africa Twin, and all the other usual suspects in the big ADV bike world, and in what timeframe this occurred, such claims are little more than posturing.

Is H-D lying? No, I certainly don’t think so. I’ve started seeing Pan Americas on the road. People in motorcycle Facebook groups I’m on have been posting pictures of their new Pan Americas. They’re definitely selling. Additionally, as Canada Moto Guide points out, it’s entirely possible that the international chip shortage has left certain models built elsewhere in the world high and dry, while Harley doesn’t appear to have had any problems building theirs. I would say their claim is, as Mythbusters would describe it, “plausible.”

It’s also possible that they could be only counting sales on Tuesdays between June 28 and August 7, in Iowa, in counties whose names contain the letter C. Like Obi-Wan Kenobi, such claims can still be true, “from a certain point of view.”

Which is it? I don’t know, and I won’t speculate. I’m not getting down on Harley here. I genuinely want to see the Pan America succeed, not just because I’m an adventure bike rider myself, but also because H-D desperately needs to innovate or die. The Pan America is their best shot at breaking out of the mold they’ve created for themselves, as middle-age riders (like me) seem more interested in ADV bikes than cruisers these days.

I absolutely plan on booking a Pan America demo ride at IMS Outdoors. Stay tuned to read how that goes.

Ford Reveals the “Very Gay Raptor”

In response to an internet troll who called the Performance Blue color of the Ranger Raptor “very gay,” Ford has gone over the top and created this work of art that they call, and I quote, the “Very Gay Raptor.” Motor1.com explains that Ford created this particular truck for Christopher Street Day in Cologne, Germany, a celebration of the LGBTQ+ community. Between the huge rainbow and the gold sparkles, I have to say it looks fabulous, darling.

This isn’t the first time Ford has build a car specifically for this event, either. The Ka parked next to the Very Gay Raptor is a car they built for the 1998 event.

Honda Warns Dealers of Upcoming Shortage

Due to a perfect storm of the ongoing chip shortage and a resurgence of COVID-19 in southeast Asia, Honda has warned US dealers to expect a 40 percent reduction in some models, according to a letter leaked to the CivicXI forums.

The Pilot and Passport shouldn’t be affected, partly because they’re built elsewhere, and partly because SUVs rule North American sales. Additionally, the new 2022 Civic Hatchback should also remain on schedule for its planned rollout in late September.

For other models, though…

Toyota Has Sold 50 Million Corollas

If it seems like Corollas are everywhere, that’s because they are. The Drive reports that last month, Toyota sold its 50 millionth Corolla, along with a great history of the iconic model.

50 million! That’s more than the population of Spain. It’s more than double the number of VW Beetles ever made. I’m talking the original, air-cooled, rear-engine Beetles, not the modern Golf with a round body.

Speak Softly and Carry a Train Horn

People just don’t look where they’re going. Or sometimes, they do, but they just don’t notice you’re there. Just ask any motorcycle rider. The Mazda Miata is basically a motorcycle with four wheels. One enterprising owner compensated for his car’s small size by installing a train horn. This video shows how the horn and the car’s nimble handling saved him from a crash.

I’ve owned three Miatas myself. All of them have received major horn upgrades, though never quite as serious as this one. The tiny car comes with the most wimpy horn I’ve ever heard on a car. You can barely hear it over the already quiet engine. Loud pipes don’t save lives, but it’s certainly important to be heard when the other driver’s eyes have failed them. That’s where a nice loud horn comes in handy. It’s loud when it needs to be, and quiet any other time.

What you see here is an experience I’ve had many times during my Miata ownership. It’s just a bit more extreme than mine. If I ever get another Miata, I have to start looking for a train horn.

Watch Morgan Build the Last 3-Wheelers

It’s a sad day. Morgan has ended production of the 3 Wheeler, a car that is one of my personal favorites because it perfectly embodies the driving experience in its most raw form, despite the fact that it has one less wheel than a traditional car. Morgan has released this video commemorating the event, which shows us how they build… sorry, built these beasts.

Some speculate that in the future, the 3 Wheeler may return, in electric form. Certainly it would be an excellent platform for an electric conversion. There’s so little to it, you wouldn’t need much of a motor or battery pack to propel it to ludicrous speed. But there’s there’s something special about the ridiculous look of a Harley-Davidson engine (I know, it’s really an S&S) hanging off the front of the thing, and the sound of a Road Glide accompanying this weird contraption of a car. It’s bonkers, and that’s why I love it.

How To Buy the Right Motorcycle Helmet

Jonathan Klein of The Drive wrote an excellent primer on the Wonderful World of Helmets. He got it right, and I highly recommend it.

The only thing I’d add is that when you’re trying on a helmet you’re thinking about buying, don’t take it off immediately. Wear it for a good 20 minutes or so. Yes, you’ll look like a dweeb (and yes, Jonathan, that is still a word in 2021). Who cares? You won’t notice the “hot spots” of pain that can develop during a long ride by trying it on for 30 seconds. Different helmets have different shapes, and so do different heads. The key is to match the shape of the helmet with your head. Some people have Arai heads. Others have Shoei heads. Both are excellent brands that I’d trust to protect my brain, but one will likely fit you better than the other.

South Dakota COVID Cases Increase nearly 500 Percent After Sturgis

In the “There’s Absolutely No Way Anybody Could’ve Seen This Coming” department, RideApart tells us that shockingly, COVID-19 cases are rising rapidly after more than 500,000 people attended the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Talk about a super-spreader event.

We saw exactly the same thing happen last year. I even wrote about it. By our nature, bikers tend to take more risks than non-bikers. It’s just the way it is. But by now, we know what’s going to happen when 500,000 unmasked people who don’t take the pandemic seriously gather in one place. Even if you don’t believe the science (and you should), just look at what happened last year. Why would you think the same thing wouldn’t happen again this year? Sure, there’s a vaccine now, but many of these people are the same ones who refuse to get it, or don’t believe it’s effective or even real.

People like this are the reason why people like me always failed our group projects in school. Being the smart kid, I shouldered 90% of the work for the group. But because THAT ONE KID refuses to do their small part, ALL of us fail the project. That’s exactly what’s happening with COVID right now, and why infections are on the rise once again.

Now is sounding like a good time to run away, by myself, in a van down by the river.

This Crusty Cop Beetle Visited My Elementary School

I was in first grade when this car paid a visit to my elementary school in Acton, Massachusetts. I remember it clearly because my mom had a 1974 VW Super Beetle in Screaming Yellow Zonker (I’m almost positive that’s the factory’s name for the color), and this was a police Beetle, which I thought was the coolest thing ever. My teacher didn’t like me, and falsely accused me of pushing my way through the crowd to get a better look before sending me back to the classroom to miss the rest of the presentation.

Mustie1 goes into the car’s history a bit in this video, but I can shed some light as well. The car traveled around Massachusetts making presentations to young school kids like myself. During a bit of automotive archeology he finds a cassette tape of a school bus safety presentation — the same presentation my first grade teacher kicked me out of. It plays through the PA system. The front of the car resembles a face, complete with the police hat. The hood has a motor to make it open and close to make it look like the car is talking. That’s why the lower part of the trunk area is painted a very non-police pink color, to look like the inside of a mouth. I spent most of this video wondering if this was really the same car that visited my school 40 years ago. This detail confirmed for me that it is.

Mustie1 actually manages to get this long dead car running again in his second video (it’s over an hour long, so “Buckle up, America,” like the bumper sticker he found inside says). To someone like me who grew up with fuel injected cars, it’s amazing to me just how simple the process of getting it running it. It certainly doesn’t run well, but he manages to not only start it, but also drive it around a dirt lot (with practically no brakes, but who needs those?)

It’s amazing what memories can be tied up with a car, especially when I saw far more of it in these videos than I did back in first grade. Particularly thanks to my mean first grade teacher.