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Why are British Bikes such works of art? #519674
12/22/13 8:34 am
12/22/13 8:34 am
Joined: Sep 2013
Posts: 745
Westminster, Colorado
stubbicatt R.I.P. Offline OP
In Remembrance
stubbicatt R.I.P.  Offline OP
In Remembrance
Joined: Sep 2013
Posts: 745
Westminster, Colorado
I have been contemplating this question for quite a little while, and I don't have an answer. Perhaps I am unusual in my attraction to most British motorcycles, not so much as transportation, but as works of art. Much as the Supermarine Spitfire is to my eye the most beautiful flying machine ever made, so too do Britbikes have that distinctive allure.

Perhaps it is their proportions? The length versus height factor is just *right* in my view. Take a modern Harley... too long, too big compared to a human being. Too, the width of say, my Triumph 6T is narrow, only as wide as necessary, and the narrow tires make it handle like a bicycle. Again compare the Harley, with the wide gas tanks, wide handlebars, and fat back tire, and little skinny front tire... it just doesn't present as well in my view, and some of the 21 inch front tire with a 260 section rear tire customs, with ungainly ape hanger bars, truly look to me like they were designed by Special Ed to be awkward in appearance, and ill mannered in handling.

Is it the shiny bits? The chrome plated BSA gas tanks, the visible engine components in bright alloy, properly polished, give an understated look of quality. The present day Triumph T100 or Bonneville have similar visual cues on the engine and transmission assemblies, but frankly if there is a bright finish, it looks plasticky (if that's a word). The fully faired sport bikes which ply the modern roadways have very little of exposed metal work that is bright, and one is left with evaluating one of them as one would look at an automobile. In a sense the sport bike should be easier to sculpt into a pleasing shape, but even then when I compare a Velocette with the dolphin fairing to any other sport bike, except perhaps a bevel drive Ducati with a dolphin fairing, it looks much better.

Vis the sport bike or a mid century Harley or BMW, from the side view, one can see through the engine "compartment" on a Brit bike and see light, unlike these other two. It gives the machine the look of light weight, something that every knowledgeable person would prefer in his motorcycle. The fully faired sport bike by contrast looks streamlined, but like a woman in loose clothes, one wonders how much fat is she sporting under there? The Harley looks to me like a big Wisconsin farm girl sporting spandex... no apologies offered. - I wouldn't go so far as to call the girl fat, but rather "big boned" or husky, but definitely agricultural in appearance, like a garden tractor.

When I look at the 50s and 60s BMW motorcycles, contemporaries to the Triumph and BSA, there is a different aesthetic. The styling cues all sort of point to the rear hub. The gas tanks, while starting out earlier with attractive lines, also pointing to the rear hub, became huge and squared off as the years passed, creating a ponderous and confused appearing creature. Not attractive I don't think. The air cooled Volkswagen beetle had the same visual cues pointing to the rear. Whether this is a teutonic fascination with the rear end or what, who knows, but it leaves an unbalanced appearance, that is reminiscent of the profile of a dog dragging his backside across the rug.

When I look at a pre unit machine of British manufacture, the bike sort of balances visually at the clutch on the drive side, or on the timing cover or transmission if viewed from that side. Either way, somehow the machine has an appearance of being well balanced. From the front, the narrow and low profile seems to have a look of purpose about it, and from the rear, the bikes present a flat and low shape accentuated by the seat and the lines of the handlebars, which are typically also parallel to the ground.

The Triumph BSA et al just look better, whether by design or accident I cannot say.


Last edited by stubbicatt; 12/22/13 8:57 am.

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Re: Why are British Bikes such works of art? [Re: stubbicatt R.I.P.] #519686
12/22/13 11:29 am
12/22/13 11:29 am
Joined: Oct 2013
Posts: 369
Essex England
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paul67 Offline
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I know what you mean you could buy one and just sit it in your living room as an ornament and just stare at it for hours, i was going to do that but the wife said she will leave when that happens

Re: Why are British Bikes such works of art? [Re: stubbicatt R.I.P.] #519687
12/22/13 11:30 am
12/22/13 11:30 am
Joined: Aug 2001
Posts: 458
Washington State
W
Washington Bob Offline
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Posts: 458
Washington State
When I first laid eyes on a Matchless G80CS...I knew that was what a motorcycle should look like. It was mechanical to the "nth" degree in my mind and I was forever hooked on Britbikes.

Matchless motorcycles began my love/hate/damnitbrokeagain relationship with my beloved Britbikes. As a mechanic first above all other things..it is the promise of lots of wrench time that appealed to me also. And as we all know...our Britbikes give us plenty of wrench time!

Anyway...that is what brought me to Britbikes.

from the snowy/cold/beautiful foothills of Mt. Rainier,
Bob

Re: Why are British Bikes such works of art? [Re: paul67] #519694
12/22/13 12:00 pm
12/22/13 12:00 pm
Joined: Feb 2012
Posts: 127
northern B.C.Canada
furymalc Offline
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furymalc  Offline
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northern B.C.Canada
Paul

Maybe this is a way round your problem

http://www.custommotorcycleart.com/

Cheers
Malc

Re: Why are British Bikes such works of art? [Re: stubbicatt R.I.P.] #519840
12/23/13 4:35 pm
12/23/13 4:35 pm
Joined: Aug 2001
Posts: 1,573
Jordan, NY
Al Eckstadt Offline

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Al Eckstadt  Offline

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Jordan, NY
Stubbi, this is quite an essay. I like it. It reminds me of the times I would debate with my friend who had bought a new Honda 4.
I can't explain why the bikes have an artistic appeal, but it seems to be a knack the British have. The airplanes as you mentioned, and their cars (my favorite for looks alone is an early 60's XKE).
I laughed aloud when I read the parts about a Harley looking like a farm girl in spandex, and the teutonic dog dragging his butt.
When I bought my Triumph in the mid 70's I used to have long discussions with my friend who had purchased a new Honda 4. I was very eloquent about the form and quality of materials. The real difference though was that they had bikes that never "felt" fast and handled poorly. My buddy and I rode our Triumphs while our two friends rode Hondas. The Hondas "had to have" headers which made them very loud. They would often be pulled over by the cops. We would stop also out of courtesy for our friends but the cops were never concerned about us (and we both had shortened TT pipes with those cheap slide in straight through baffles). One night we were riding ahead and noticed our friends were no longer behind us. We went back and found that one of them had bumped the other on a bend in the road. They rode home but they were badly bruised and their bikes were messed up.
Anyway thanks for writing that.
Al


Al Eckstadt
Re: Why are British Bikes such works of art? [Re: stubbicatt R.I.P.] #519928
12/24/13 10:12 am
12/24/13 10:12 am
Joined: Jan 2006
Posts: 6,869
Laredo (South) Texas, USA
GrandPaul Offline
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GrandPaul  Offline
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Laredo (South) Texas, USA
Nice dissertation, but as some would say "useless without pictures". Hence-

The most beautiful engine in the world...



On one of the most beautiful bikes ever built...



GrandPaul (does not use emoticons)
Author of the book "Old Bikes"
Too many bikes to list, mostly Triumph & Norton, some BSA & European
"The Iron in your blood should be Vintage"
Re: Why are British Bikes such works of art? [Re: stubbicatt R.I.P.] #519931
12/24/13 10:24 am
12/24/13 10:24 am
Joined: Jan 2006
Posts: 6,869
Laredo (South) Texas, USA
GrandPaul Offline
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GrandPaul  Offline
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Laredo (South) Texas, USA
Shamelessly lifted from a current thread in the Triumph section-



GrandPaul (does not use emoticons)
Author of the book "Old Bikes"
Too many bikes to list, mostly Triumph & Norton, some BSA & European
"The Iron in your blood should be Vintage"
Re: Why are British Bikes such works of art? [Re: stubbicatt R.I.P.] #520054
12/24/13 8:27 pm
12/24/13 8:27 pm
Joined: Jun 2007
Posts: 5,703
Maui Hawaii
HawaiianTiger Online content

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HawaiianTiger  Online Content

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Maui Hawaii
I'm pretty visual, too. I could go on and on about the subject and bore everyone to tears, so I'll just post this instead. It says it all for me. For some reason, this picture really got my attention.
Bill


Bikes
1974 Commando
1985 Honda Nighthawk 650
1957 Thunderbird/T110 "Flying Tiger"
Antique Fans: Loads of Emersons (Two six wingers) plus gyros and orbiters.
Re: Why are British Bikes such works of art? [Re: HawaiianTiger] #520103
12/25/13 10:42 am
12/25/13 10:42 am
Joined: Dec 2010
Posts: 665
Sunny Sussex, UK
tbird649 Offline
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tbird649  Offline
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Posts: 665
Sunny Sussex, UK
I agree, I've seen that picture before. I think some shapes are really iconic. If you said to someone, draw a classic motorcycle, I think odds on it would look like a 50's Thunderbird. The proportions are perfect. (I am a little biased though!)



Re: Why are British Bikes such works of art? [Re: stubbicatt R.I.P.] #520106
12/25/13 10:53 am
12/25/13 10:53 am
Joined: Aug 2001
Posts: 3,881
Cape Carteret, NC
M
Mr Mike Offline
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Mr Mike  Offline
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M
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Posts: 3,881
Cape Carteret, NC
I retired a few years back and had some money set aside where I could have had a new Harley or for that matter any bike I wanted. My neighbors were into new decked out Harley's and the accessory wear. I could have joined them but for whatever the reasons, I went out to my shed where a BSA 441 had been sitting untouched under a tarp for over 20 years. In two days I had it running and it now has an A65 and B50 for company. I can't put my finger on it but the lure of those bikes from the sixties will not go away. Maybe its the looks , maybe it's riding something that is only twice my body weight has something to do with it. Maybe it's because I can fix anything on them or maybe its because one can still buy a classic and fix it up for reasonable money. A good deal for us guys.

Mr Mike

Re: Why are British Bikes such works of art? [Re: Mr Mike] #520122
12/25/13 12:09 pm
12/25/13 12:09 pm
Joined: Aug 2001
Posts: 754
USA
Dave M Offline
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Dave M  Offline
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USA
Stubb, can we say the reasons are many and it makes the world go round? E. Turner had a hand in it too!

Here's my reason:



66 TR6R Trophy
67 T120R Bonneville
68 BMW R60/US
69 T100R Daytona

Re: Why are British Bikes such works of art? [Re: stubbicatt R.I.P.] #520143
12/25/13 2:13 pm
12/25/13 2:13 pm
Joined: Apr 2011
Posts: 939
Nor. California
D
Deadstiffcatt Offline
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Deadstiffcatt  Offline
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D
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Nor. California
When one looks at the evolution of a motorcycle as a whole, we can see it's true form-that of a bicycle. In the very early days, it must be understood that the motorcycle was a utilitarian vehicle designed for the purpose of moving a person or items at a much greater speed than by foot or even by horse. However, once accepted as a viable means of transport, naturally some effort was expended to create a product that would be visually stimulating to a buyer-thus promoting more sales. For English bikes in particular, one must also consider that they were created on an island with finite resources-ie versus the American Harley and Indian being made in a country that had only began to exploit it's resources. Just the cost to ship a motorcycle out of England could effect the finished product; a lighter, more streamlined machine would be cheaper and easier to ship than a fat, agricultural type of motorcycle.

In terms of visual appearance it is worth noting the improvements made to the Triumph line by Ed Turner starting in the late 20's. One of his first designs was made by Ariel-the Square Four. With his appointment to Triumph in the late thirties, the model line took on a revamp, and the dashing lines of the new Speed Twin caught the world's attention. He had an eye for the correct lines, and knew how to add the right splash of chrome as an accessory- not to overtake the lines of his efforts, but to enhance them. Going through dozens of magazines stretching back to the teens, I've been fortunate enough to see the evolution of our machines from that printed matter. Ed Turner was definitely in the fore front of modern motorcycle design, sometimes decades ahead of the crowd. Take a look at the often despised "Bathtub models" of the late 50's and early 60's, then scoot ahead 10 to 15 years to the Honda Goldwing- what I feel may have been the culmination of what Ed Turner was looking for. From here a look at some of the hot stock and customs of today- many going for a well matched all inclusive package whose visual lines clearly aim toward a "unibody" design- no haphazard saddlebags thrown on, no mix and match fairing upper with another type of lower, the lines all blend into one unit.

Let's go back again to the period of the late 1960's. The Honda 350 and 450 were taking the world by storm. Prior to 1968, the 305's were the hot Honda- yet their basic visual lines were closer to that of a basic motorcycle with a large chromed turtle instead of a fuel tank. It seems Honda took a cue from Mr. Turner, by 1969 the lines of the 350's and 450's had taken on an almost unmistakable English styling. Indeed, how many today can see an old Honda 350 or 450 from a distance and wonder for just a second if it is a Triumph?

To summarize it all, Ed Turner was a driving force in not only the English motorcycle scene of the 30's 40's 50's and 60's, but his creative design work influenced the work of many different brands worldwide and is still being felt and used to this day on current production models (although THEY might not even know it!)

Re: Why are British Bikes such works of art? [Re: Dave M] #520147
12/25/13 2:46 pm
12/25/13 2:46 pm
Joined: May 2006
Posts: 464
barrie ontario canada
6
68 royalstar tony Offline
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barrie ontario canada
Originally Posted By: Dave M
Stubb, can we say the reasons are many and it makes the world go round? E. Turner had a hand in it too!

Here's my reason:



Still that is my favorite bike. Had one in the 60s and blew it up on the Garstang road outside Blackpool..Wish I had it now.Blown motor anall.





Re: Why are British Bikes such works of art? [Re: stubbicatt R.I.P.] #520148
12/25/13 2:46 pm
12/25/13 2:46 pm
Joined: Oct 2013
Posts: 369
Essex England
P
paul67 Offline
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Essex England
Mr Mike you are a wise man choosing a bsa B441 over a harley especially in the usa were every one and there son has a harley

Last edited by paul67; 12/26/13 6:19 am.
Re: Why are British Bikes such works of art? [Re: stubbicatt R.I.P.] #520161
12/25/13 4:04 pm
12/25/13 4:04 pm
Joined: Oct 2008
Posts: 4,934
Gnashville
DavidP Offline

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DavidP  Offline

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Gnashville
And, we saw what happened when they put an 'industrial design' company in charge, butt ugly Tridents.
For my money, the prettiest Triumph is the Daytona 500. Sure, the styling is similar to the larger models, but the proportions are just right on the Daytona.
That said, I really fell in love with British machines in about '72, the first time I saw a Norton Commando. I was awestruck. "Damn, that looks like a MOTORCYCLE! I want one!"


Stepping on others doesn't make you stand tall.

71 A65L "Zelda"
92 BMW K100rs "Gustav"
72 T120V cafe project "Mr. Jim"
Re: Why are British Bikes such works of art? [Re: stubbicatt R.I.P.] #520201
12/25/13 11:21 pm
12/25/13 11:21 pm
Joined: Feb 2005
Posts: 6,341
NYC and York PA
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wadeschields  Offline

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NYC and York PA
Never meet a Brit I didn't like:bigt smirk (motorcycle)


http://wadeschields.tumblr.com/

Jack of all trades . Master of fun! wink

Beer is not the Answer.... Its the Question..... The answer is YES

[Linked Image]
Re: Why are British Bikes such works of art? [Re: stubbicatt R.I.P.] #520231
12/26/13 6:29 am
12/26/13 6:29 am
Joined: Oct 2013
Posts: 369
Essex England
P
paul67 Offline
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Essex England
http://s852.photobucket.com/user/fatboy35/media/T100RC.jpg.html?sort=3&o=0
not sure why photobucket wont give the img code so i can put the photo up myself
I agree with David the 500 daytona is a pretty bike

Re: Why are British Bikes such works of art? [Re: paul67] #520245
12/26/13 9:26 am
12/26/13 9:26 am
Joined: Aug 2005
Posts: 4,865
Royal Berkshire.
K
Kev. Offline
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Kev.  Offline
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K
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Royal Berkshire.


http://kevindean.zenfolio.com/

http://backstreetthunder.wordpress.com/


1952 Norton Special
1970 BSA A65 Lightning
1973 Moto Guzzi Eldorado




Re: Why are British Bikes such works of art? [Re: stubbicatt R.I.P.] #520247
12/26/13 9:39 am
12/26/13 9:39 am
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Posts: 4,865
Royal Berkshire.
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Kev. Offline
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Royal Berkshire.
I am afraid I have to dissagree with the original post, don't get me wrong, I love a well tuned and set up Brit bike, but, most of them don't look completed, it is like they are close to finished, but then Friday comes around and everyone goes home. Then on Monday morning they start another project.

As an example, let me use GrandPauls Triumph picture (sorry GP)



Now this is a very nice example of a Triumph, and I would love to own it, but! The tank badge is not horizontal, and if it were off the center stand it would be worse, so many Brit bikes have this same error, Norton Commando side panel badges for example. Back to the Triumph, the seat is too large and slopes in the opposite direction to the tank? why, it would be so much better if it were again horizontal. Seats are a real bug of mine, take Vincent seats, they are too high for the lines of the bike, it really lets the whole form down, I just don't get it. I could go on, with so many bikes, but I think you get my point.

Italian bikes and some of the early Japanese bikes seem to have more balance in design. I shall leave it there.

bigt


http://kevindean.zenfolio.com/

http://backstreetthunder.wordpress.com/


1952 Norton Special
1970 BSA A65 Lightning
1973 Moto Guzzi Eldorado




Re: Why are British Bikes such works of art? [Re: Kev.] #520253
12/26/13 10:18 am
12/26/13 10:18 am
Joined: May 2006
Posts: 571
New York
B
bmwr90s Offline
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New York
I love the look of Brit bikes but as they say beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, to me is one of the best looking motorcycles of all time.



Art


1969 XLH
1973 Norton Commando
1991 FLHTC W/SIDECAR
Re: Why are British Bikes such works of art? [Re: stubbicatt R.I.P.] #520265
12/26/13 11:57 am
12/26/13 11:57 am
Joined: May 2007
Posts: 10,220
Pennsyltuckey
ricochetrider Offline

Moto Mojo
ricochetrider  Offline

Moto Mojo
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Pennsyltuckey
For me, it's a thing that got in me early, like a tape worm, and has since dug in for the duration. I was raised in the 60s on American Army bases. The first ever motorcycles in my personal awareness were Triumphs. My relationship to Triumphs was sealed indelibly, deep into my being, by the time I was 10.

To this day, I look at Triumphs, Brit motor-machines in general- but motorcycles most of all- as being THE bottom line in terms of form and function coming together to form mechanical art. I believe someone already mentioned Jaguar XKE? ah yeah. But my current love affair is with my Norton.
Sexy lines, and OH! That sound.

However, I must say that I love all forms of two wheeled machines. The Italian and German bikes hold some space within my heart as well.
































Last edited by ricochetrider; 12/26/13 12:16 pm.

"It is no measure of health, to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society."

Re: Why are British Bikes such works of art? [Re: stubbicatt R.I.P.] #520346
12/27/13 5:10 am
12/27/13 5:10 am
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Posts: 369
Essex England
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paul67 Offline
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Essex England
thanks Kev for putting my picture up and i will check the tank to see if the badge is out of level laugh

Re: Why are British Bikes such works of art? [Re: stubbicatt R.I.P.] #520349
12/27/13 5:47 am
12/27/13 5:47 am
Joined: Dec 2004
Posts: 220
Cape Town, South Africa
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Whisper Offline
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Cape Town, South Africa
Stubbicat I have only one word for you.
You are a POET!

Re: Why are British Bikes such works of art? [Re: stubbicatt R.I.P.] #520358
12/27/13 7:51 am
12/27/13 7:51 am
Joined: Sep 2013
Posts: 745
Westminster, Colorado
stubbicatt R.I.P. Offline OP
In Remembrance
stubbicatt R.I.P.  Offline OP
In Remembrance
Joined: Sep 2013
Posts: 745
Westminster, Colorado








To me, I think it is a sense of visual balance, the first photo my eye is drawn to the more or less physical center of the bike, the carburetor. On the second, it is drawn to the "ear" of the timing cover to the distributor. On the third, to the big empty battery.

The BSA seat is kind of cool how it sort of contours itself to the fender. I can see what another contributor said about the Triumph seat sort of sloping downwards.


Hate is a poison which one consumes hoping for another to die.
Re: Why are British Bikes such works of art? [Re: ricochetrider] #520454
12/28/13 5:26 am
12/28/13 5:26 am
Joined: Oct 2008
Posts: 4,934
Gnashville
DavidP Offline

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Gnashville
Originally Posted By: ricochetrider
I believe someone already mentioned Jaguar XKE? ah yeah.

The original 4-wheeled phallus. laughing

What with our global economy, someone really should use the strengths of each country to design, build and sell the best vehicle ever known.
Hire the British to figure out how the thing should work. Give their plans to the Germans to actually make it work properly. Hire the Japanese to manufacture it (with strict instructions NOT to modify the German design.) Hire the Italians to make it beautiful. And, hire Americans to market the product.


Stepping on others doesn't make you stand tall.

71 A65L "Zelda"
92 BMW K100rs "Gustav"
72 T120V cafe project "Mr. Jim"
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