Dale Franks

I write stuff. A lot of it is about cars and motorcycles.

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The Crushing Disappointment of Quality

2014 Ford Fiesta ST Review

When you review cars, the good cars are the worst. You see, bad cars allow you to get snarky. You get a chance to gleefully rip years of work by thousands of people into utter shreds. You can reach for colorful metaphors involving the incompetence, ancestry, and probable spiritual destination of everyone involved in the car’s production. You can make fun of the vehicle’s clownish face, and go on for paragraphs about turbo lag, slow shifting, bad suspension, and cheap plastic dashboards.

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Doctor Hoon

2013 Mini John Cooper Works GP

At about the same time that Britain was giving us Doctor Who, they also gave us the original Mini. Badly underpowered by today’s standards, it was so responsive and fun that it quickly became the original hot hatch, and began tearing up rally and racing tracks all over Europe. The years have been more or less kind to both British cultural icons. Doctor Who is in its tenth or eleventh incarnation on TV, and Minis are being built again in Old Blighty. Happily, rather than being built by British Leyland communists in the Midlands, the Mini is now built by Germans in Oxfordshire, which means when you go out to start it in the morning…it will.

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A Buell Sportbike for the Rest of Us?

Erik Buell left—or, more properly—was kicked out of Harley-Davidson in 2009. A non-compete agreement kept out of making streetbikes for several months, but he came back with the 1190RS when he was able. But, since he only made 100 of them, and they cost forty grand, you didn’t get one and I didn’t either. But, based on an announcement today—and securing some financing from GE capital and a partnership with Indian motorcycle giant Hero MotoCorp, that may be changing.

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Save It for the Weekend

2013 Jeep Wrangler Review

If you want to talk about the classic, go-anywhere, do-anything American off-roader, the only vehicle to discuss is the Jeep Wrangler. Since World War II, it’s been an American icon, and unlike many American icons, it actually does exactly what it’s supposed to do—like rock climbing on the Rubicon Trail—very well. Roads, dirt roads, or no roads, the Wrangler will still take you there.

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Reforming English

Dreaming an Impossible Dream

One of my personal little personality quirks is a deep sense of privacy. I mean, I’m civil enough, I suppose, but deep down, I don’t really trust people very much, and I don’t want them to know much about what I’m thinking or doing. For instance, because I have to attend meetings and take lots of notes, I don’t want people to see what I’m writing. But, I also don’t want to be the wierdo who’s obviously guarding his notes from the prying eyes of the other meeting attendees.

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Italy’s Re-Entry Vehicle

2013 Fiat 500 Abarth Review

Italian cars have a bit of a reputation, and it’s both good and bad. The good part of their reputation is that they’re usually pretty, and fun to drive. There’s something that the Italians and their automotive engineers just get about the act of driving, and about how a car should look. The bad part of their reputation is that they don’t get everything else about cars, like, say, reliability. The bad part of that reputation has lingered in the US, because Fiat and Lancia bid goodbye to these shores in the early 1980s after a series of disastrously unreliable cars, followed by Alfa Romeo in the early 1990s.

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A Touch of Milano

2013 Dodge Dart Review

Jeremy Clarkson, the host of BBC’s Top Gear, often says that you can’t really call yourself a car person if you’ve never owned an Alfa Romeo. Having been fortunate enough to have had an ‘84 Spider 2000 for a while, I agree fully.

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