CarBuzzard is celebrating its one-thousandth article. Thanks to the combined efforts of Buzzardette BJ Killeen, Just-a-Buzzard Dave Boldt, Just-a-Buzzard Nick Yost, Just-a-Buzzard Ron Moorhead and Buzzard-in-Chief John Matras, we’ve rolled over the odometer with new car reviews, news and our views, old car stuff, tech and how to stuff, places to go, and the occasional odd news article. But more than thanks to us, thanks to everyone who’s tuned in to read our typing and looked at our pictures. It means a lot to us.
So to commemorate this momentous occasion of 1,000, we decided to pick our fantasy rides–well, fantasy is probably an overstatement–powered by 1,000cc of, well, we considered a liter of our favorite beverages. Instead, what would we drive–or at least own–powered by less than 1,000cc? Most of took a tour down Memory Lane. And well, maybe there’s a pub at the other end. Whatever, here are our choices.
BJ Killeen, Honda N600
We have owned some funky vehicles in our day: strays that followed us home, which we obviously had to keep. One of them was a 1970 Honda N600, the vehicle that started it all for Honda almost 50 years ago. The orange Honda was so small we could store it in a little space beside the garage. It wasn’t a runner, but held the promise that someday we were going to fix it up. We thought about using it for a garden planter, as the engine was shot, but just couldn’t do it; we clung to the hope that one day we’d find time to get it running again. We kept the little 599cc-engined 45-hp micro car for a few years, but really needed the space, so off it went to another N600 owner who promised to restore it to its former glory (maybe so, maybe no).
Besides the importance of the N600 to Honda in the U.S, the N600 was the polar opposite of what the domestic manufacturers were peddling to unsuspecting customers in the ’70s. It wasn’t a land yacht, it didn’t guzzle gas, it didn’t hog the road, and, most of all, it didn’t care that the Big Three were laughing at it. In the decades that followed, Honda was the brand to laugh last.
Dave Boldt, Ford Fiesta
If told to go buy ANYTHING – but it can’t be over a liter – the mind races, even if a car or truck with a displacement of less than a liter generally doesn’t. There have, of course, been some surprisingly visceral entries in the under-1,000 cc category, most supplied by Fiat and one Karl Abarth or BMC’s Mini and one John Cooper. But that was then, and the occasion of CarBuzzard’s 1,000th post is now.
For now, although thinking Kawasaki’s Ninja 1000 would certainly be a most expressive choice, we’ll opt for Ford’s Fiesta, equipped with the available 1.0 liter EcoBoost triple. While so wishing they had called it the Trimotor, there’s no denying the appeal of 61 cubic inches, a three-cylinder configuration, and a turbocharged assist. The end result of all of this tiny goodness is 123 horsepower, 148 lb-ft of torque and an EPA estimate of 31 City/43 Highway and 36 miles-per-gallon combined. Mr. Cooper, we suspect, is spinning in his grave – and hitting the rev limiter!
Now, if the little lump had been installed in the Focus or Fusion we’d demur. In Ford’s Fiesta hatch, however, we’re kinda’ pumped, only wishing for ST-type underpinnings to make thrashing the triple that much more fun. With a liter limit you can easily go back, but we’d rather go forward. Happily, Ford’s Fiesta – at under $20K – is along for the ride!
John Matras, Fiat 850 Spider
It has an ill repute that’s only somewhat deserved. Yes, in areas where salt is used on winter roads, the metal virtually evaporated. But the reputation for unreliability of the Bertone-designed Fiat 850 Spider is largely unwarranted. The little 903cc rear-mounted four—post-1970 only, please—was tough and durable if attended to, but with 58 horsepower from 55 cubic inches, it was a high-performance mill and needed religious care. Valve clearances needed to be checked every 6,000 miles, and having no oil filter, the engine’s centrifugal oil cleaner had to be mucked out with every oil change. And the kingpins lubed every 2,500 miles.
But the 850 Spider had a real heater, and the convertible top was a marvel, folding down under a steel cover. The bottom line, however, is fun. Zero-to-60 in 20 seconds? Yes, but it revs to 7000 rpm in every gear, including fourth, topping out at 92 mph. Most everything else accelerates faster but with the micro-snarl from a good aftermarket exhaust, who cares? And at just over 900cc, there’s room for a 50cc Honda Cub step-through motorcycle, because if the Beach Boys sang about it, it has to be cool.
Nick Yost, BMW K75
It hasn’t always been all about cars. Motorcycles once were a secondary addiction in my life. And my favorite was a BMW K75.
The K bikes were a radical departure from BMW’s previously standard fare of motorcycles with horizontally-opposed two-cylinder engines. The K75 featured a 750 cc, in-line, three-cylinder engine.
It was surprisingly smooth and refined, pumped out 75 horsepower, featured fuel injection and double overhead camshafts, and was teamed with a 5-speed manual transmission.
What gave it an immense edge over my previously owned Japanese motorcycles was its unique monolever swinging-arm rear suspension.
Out on the highway, it was a seriously comfortable cruiser, able to swallow the miles in car-like comfort. On the back roads it was a crisp and agile performer that belied its 500-pound weight.
Each year, I couldn’t wait for spring to herald the arrival of a new cycling season. The excitement never diminished.
But the time came when my second childhood faded into a second attempt at adulthood and I began to dwell on the inherent dangers of motorcycling.
One spring, overcome with common sense, I put the K75 up for sale and turned it over to a beautiful young woman in exchange for some cash.
I still miss that old bike, and wonder what adventures it held for her.
Ron Moorhead, Renault Dauphine
The Renault Dauphine not so much like a VW Beetle
I remember my first encounter with the quirky little Renault Dauphine as one of wonder and curiosity. In 1961 my father was a unique car guy with attractions beyond the normal automobiles popular at the time. As a veteran of WW II stationed in Europe, he had a hidden attraction to the unusual cars he saw and drove there, mainly the Volkswagen Beetle. My brother was headed to college, thankfully on a football scholarship because my folks had no money. But, he needed a car. Dad brought home the Renault explaining, “Its just like a VW, the engine is in the rear and it’s cheap.” Yep, it was cheap because no one wanted them. It did get 30-plus miles to the gallon, but it also took nearly as much oil as fuel and left the parking spot where you parked overnight will lubricated.
With a rear mounted 845 cc engine and a three-speed manual transmission the Dauphine could officially reach a maximum speed of 70 MPH. No one in my family could or would get it to go that fast. Well, my brother did one night shortly after reaching campus. Downhill, a switchback, to fast, swing axles tucked under, wheels up and over more than once. Minor injuries except for the Dauphine, gone but not forgotten.