Angry Lane Motorcycle Workshop - Hong Kong

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Building your own motorcycle grants access to a worldwide club of fellow like-minded fools. There’s an unseen bond, brokered in sleepless nights, bloody knuckles, and the torment of looking for that one elusive gasket. I’m going to continue to explore this world and write about the people I meet. In a previous post I talked of visiting Deus in Sydney. On this trip to Hong Kong, I reached out and asked to meet with brothers Ben and G that own Angry Lane Motorcycles. I love exploring.

I erroneously assumed the address of “19F” was a unit number. Thoroughly lost and wandering down an alley looking for a number 19, I found an old man who simply pointed up in the sky when I showed him the address. The 19th floor. A motorcycle workshop on the 19th floor? No way.

Exiting the elevator, (the second elevator that I tried, because of course the first one only had floor 18 and 20) I was further convinced that someone was screwing with me. There was nothing. That was until G, with a huge smile on his face, opened a completely nondescript white door and welcomed me to Angry Lane Motorcycles. Stealthy doesn’t even begin to describe their setup; it puts all those NYC speakeasies to shame.

Clarification: Motorcycles go in the elevator with people when it’s time to ride. G and Ben think that is normal. I approve.

I walked into a bikers dream. I actually giggled, clapped and sort of danced an awkward jig. Ruby helmets, rare Japanese parts, screen-printing, bikes in progress, finished bikes, apparel, prototype parts, vintage race parts… a wonderland!

G explained that amongst other careers that took him around the world, he worked for a Japanese leather race suit manufacturer and built bikes in his spare time. One day, frustrated that a top Japanese supplier only sold to registered companies, he decided that the simple solution was to become a company. It seems easy when you put it like that! Angry Lane was soon born.

There are not a lot of top quality bike builders in Hong Kong (parts are a pain to get – something us in the US take for granted), but there’s wealth paired with style – a rare combination. Subsequently, Angry Lane have benefited from fun clients that are helping push some really cool builds. With the foundation set by building great bikes, G’s background in leather and Ben’s design skills have naturally pushed them toward the booming motorcycle apparel and accessories market. They have been working hard and I saw prototypes of some droolworthy upcoming products. Just look at that jacket.

What Hong Kong lacks in parts availability, it more than makes up for with the nearby mecca of manufacturing that is Shenzhen / Guangzhou – everything you could ever dream of can be manufactured 45 minutes from Angry Lane.

Leaving G and Ben, I pondered this thought for a while. It’s quite a unique position the guys are in. I tend to focus my efforts to stay Made In USA, but the reality is that we all look for affordable parts as well. A $700 CB350 simply can’t always justify billet USA parts. G and Ben have the possibility to innovate some one-off parts for customer builds, but then jump to production pieces very easily in the future. In fact, the biggest hurdle for successful Asia manufacturing is the necessity to be there at some point in time to find a reliable partner for what you need. It’s a little left field, but I think Angry Lane could fund some future projects by working to help some of their bigger peers with local knowledge paired to built-in passion for the motorcycle culture. It was a great day learning from more members of the bloody knuckle club and further fueled my enthusiasm for what’s happening with motorcycles right now. Next on deck for Angry Lane is a BMW R80 café with full fairing. I can’t wait for the e-mail from G telling me it has rolled into the elevator for the first time.

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Titanium Trigger Case - iPhone 5

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The world of iPhone accessories is a minefield. I have often thought about entering the space with designs talked about with everyone from my wife (she still has a killer idea that I have never seen yet) to most of the guys I drink whisky with.  I still have not ventured that way becasue honestly it's just so daunting. Titanium-Trigger-iPhone-5-Case-by-4th-Design-2

For a while I have had a bit of an allegiance to Rokform cases and accessories. From my first one, I have never been disappointed in anything that they have done. I still adore their work, but it's a big world and seeing this case today from 4th Design stopped me dead in my tracks.

Rugged look but still retaining clean lines. Intricate detailing, but driven by simple and smart functionality. I'm a fan. Plus it's machined titanium - I love machining and titanium,  it's the male equivalent to wooing a lady lady with fancy wine and roses.

Adios $99.

All images from www.4thdesign.com

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Deus Ex Machina Headquarters Visit

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If you've visited the Discommon Blog before, you'll know that I'm in deep (possibly drowning... but I'm kicking hard) with a 1970 Honda 350 motorcycle build. When I take on a new project, I tend to try and absorb as much of the world that surrounds the project as possible, it broadens my horizons, teaches me and gives me the opportunity to find new fascinations. Deus_Ex_Art

The custom vintage bike scene is such fun. The price of entry can be what you want to make of it - $200? Dive in! $20,000? You're welcome too! There are talented builders popping up around the world and a thoroughly astonishing support structure of forums and parts companies out there for the weekend garage crusader.

Deus_Ex_Hot_GirlOne of the stalwarts of the custom cafe and brat scene, is the Australian company Deus Ex Machina. I say company, but at this stage in their adventure, it is more appropriate to call them a brand. With a comprehensive clothing and accessories line, shops in California, Indonesia and the headquarters in Sydney, they are a long way from the grease and grime "authentic" 3 man shop that people like stand behind, champion and push as "the real deal". I have heard derogatory remarks directed at Deus..."Oh yeah, Doos, that hipster shop in Venice, right? They make a bunch of t-shirts and stuff?". T-shirt company? I hope not, their custom bikes can draw upwards of $20,000, on a bike that stock might set you back $4000 if it was very clean. I hope this brand I think is cool has some sustenance and isn't just a facade of style...

Authenticity in any environment is really important to me, so on a recent trip to Australia, I contacted Dues and was invited for a good old fashioned poke around their HQ. Walking in, I have to say I was a little taken aback. I was greeted by a store that wouldn't be out of place as a flagship in NYC's hot Meatpacking district. Espresso bar, pretty girls, rockabilly boys, and a FULL helping of clothing.. jeans, jackets, shirts, dresses, the gamut. Shiny bikes, too - the kind that you walk around but don't get within a foot of, because you are not quite sure if you are allowed to.

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So... umm... where's like, the authentic bike stuff? Where's the welding and the oil and the hard work? Where do you guys earn your cool? Luckily, Mike's face lit up when I challenged him and I was whisked off into the back where I arrived at what I wholeheartedly call a shop. Everyone take a breath, these guys REALLY build bikes, right there, in back of this fancy store. Reassuringly, Mike had greasy hands to prove it and walked me extremely knowledgeably through the current projects, sure to eventually end up on the posters for sale out in the store. We chatted about design lines, tricks to hiding batteries, elusive vintage parts, jetting carbs with those troublesome velocity stacks, scouring Japan for that one halo piece and indeed, simple geek stuff like clocking the screws to all line up.

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I was then taken to the second shop, accessed through a maze of storage containers and housed in a false back to a warehouse. In here lives a brain bending volume of parts, ready to be picked through for the next build. Walking back, I saw the parking lot where the locals meet for group rides, where Deus host swap meets and where they plan to have build teaching days in the future.

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Conclusions? Honestly, I was just plain impressed by everything they achieved. Sure, their bikes are expensive, as are their clothes, and well, everything is.. but I'm wearing their chinos right now and don't have a single complaint. They are my go-to travel pant and come from a motorcycle company. So why some of the hate? People like to bitch, it's a universal fact, so it's just too easy for people to question Dues's authenticity because they have grown bigger than the cafe culture wants to allow them to. They have become successful in other avenues, so some might see them as sell-outs. Bullshit, it's just bloody good business. Would I have them build me a bike? No, I'd rather build my own, but if I had no time and enough money, I know I'd be guaranteed a classic if I dove in with Deus. When you are supporting your local shop and wishing them every success and hoping you'll be part of them growing bigger, are you also planning to ditch them when the owner decides he wants to grow and build his brand?

The authenticity was sealed for me, when sitting in a restaurant nearby, Mike roared down an alley on one of their bikes, kicked the tail out with the rear brake, rode the slide and pulled it into a wheelie round the corner he was taking.

I wear my t-shirt proudly.

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The Impulse Buy: 1970 Honda SL350

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I didn't learn my lesson with the VW... I did it again. A couple of weeks ago I found myself in a friends truck, driving to Santa Ana to pick up a, well, "rough" motorcycle from craigslist that I had only seen that morning. I'm not entirely sure what happened. Fact no. 1: I don't know how to ride a motorcycle. Fact no.2: that's totally ok, because this bike is a LONG way from being ridden. Let me back up. I sold the VW for double what I had put into it, not including sweat equity. That wasn't the goal from the outset, but it sure wasn't a bad deal. The unfortunate thing about that sale was that it made me feel like an invincible restoration hero with money in my pocket for another project. I might be a savior of dying machines, CPR giver to the unoiled hearts of abandoned metal...heck, maybe I should quit my job and do this full time... I could build a shop and buy tools and install a lift...maybe I'll employ an old man called Sparky, he'll have a 3 legged dog called Alternator...my own Yoda... I'll need a bigger garage baby....  See how this goes? That's my brain right there, you should be scared, I am.

Wow, where was I?  Yeah, so, I saw a bike last registered in 1980, with title in hand and owner looking to get rid of it. I am now proud owner of a rusty hunk of awesome. For me, the first step of a new project is research and boy have I been reading.  My first realization is that all of my plans for this are pretty much sacrilegious in the minds of the vintage Honda illuminati. Apparently this little bike has somewhat of a cult following and was quite the little off-road performer in its day. Unfortunately I am going to be building it as an "on-roader" (assuming I learn to ride and ever get it running...) and my vision involves some considerable hacking and removal of parts. I'm not going full cafe racer style, it's a little cliché, I'm just going to make it the way I want it…we’ll see what that involves.

Currently she’s very slowly getting naked in my garage. I’m plodding through the disassembly making sure I learn each part I am removing.  My bucket of parts to sandblast is growing rapidly…

I’ve been madly investigating parts and enjoyed immensely learning the unique companies out there serving these bikes. It is fascinating.  Benjie Flipprboi owns one of these companies - BCR. He’s done some extremely pretty work and his site serves as a great example of someone taking their talent and passion for something and turning it into their income.  I’m hoping to work with him on a tank for the bike.

 Airtech Streamlining is another astonishing company. The owner is an avid racer and has just been at Bonneville putting down some high speed salt flats runs. Their shop is a bikers dream, they make OVER 5000 fiberglass parts for every conceivable kind of bike, including replica kits for some incredibly rare bikes. It is a dream for racers, who can take their prized possession, and kit it out with fiberglass bodywork to race in, without fear of damaging the valuable original work.

This new world should be fun!

Now what of a name for the bike? I wondered about Wee Bastard, but my wifey won’t like that one. Wee rascal, Bampot (for the scots)… help me out.. [gallery link="file" columns="5" orderby="rand"]

Awesome Video Overlap: F1 Vs GT

I wouldn't normally post just a random YouTube video, but I love this one.  What a fantastic perspective of the astonishing speed at which an F1 car devours a track.  Keep in mind the "slow" cars are hauling ass! This section called Eau Rouge at Spa-Francorchamps is a wickedly abusive downhill left-hander, on what's regarded as one of the trickiest tracks in the world. It is very twisty and there are a lot of hills, wreaking havoc on the stomach and brain - truly a rollercoaster.

 

Ferrari FF at Pelican Hill...And Driving A Dream

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A fairly absurd Saturday in anyone's book… The day started at 5:30 am, groggy but willing, knowing that I was digging out a driving hat and scarf to hop in a Rolls Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe (mouthful!) to head to Cars and Coffee. I've gone to C&C in some random stuff, but this one takes the win. It seriously is a land yacht, complete with teak deck on the back. It was such a laugh to drive it and was every single bit as detailed as luxurious as I hoped it would be. I did manage to find a wobbly air vent control on the passenger side and a few BMW components, but other than that, my biggest issue was continually forgetting it had suicide doors!

After C&C we ended up at a ride and drive hosted by Ferrari of Newport Beach at Pelican Hill. The FF is a little bit of an enigma to me and is certainly their most polarizing offering in recent memory.  I have such a weak spot for three specific cars: The Shelby Daytona Coupe, the BMW Z3 M Coupe and the Datsun 240Z.  The Ferrari FF has, to me, taken all of them and Ferarrified them - it looks killer. Personally I don't think it is likely to be many people's first Ferrari, it's a little too removed from the poster car that so many of us have in our head, but spectacular nonetheless. I don't foresee many backyard bbq, bravado filled conversations where guys speculate about one day owning a Ferrari FF:  the lusted, rip-snorting, mind blowing 458 it is not, but I do believe it will become the second in many collections. It's a heck of an alternative to a Panamera Turbo for the wife if you are a 458 owner already... 

Somehow the day wasn't done yet. On returning from Pelican Hill, I had the opportunity to drive the poster from MY college dorm, the V12 Lamborghini Murcialago. The icon, the heavyweight,  the car that at 11 years old still looks like it was designed yesterday, and the car that every time I see it, still makes me shake my head a little.

However, the Murcie (in this case a MATTE red one) could be compared to scoring a date with Kate Upton and then finding out she farts at dinner, has absurdly big hands and a small cocaine addiction. Let me explain: I'm 6'3 and don't fit, I can't steer it properly because my hand gets jammed between my leg and the pedal box is vehemently against Nike Dunks unless you like something I termed accellebraking. Oh, and it hates to turn where you want it to, a scary predicament when the owner is sitting beside you!  I was starting to feel like the Murcie was better enjoyed as a bystander simply appreciating the aural/visual spectacle from the outside.

BUT, as Kate was about to get left at the dinner table after first course, the world was miraculously righted and she stood up and did the Cat Daddy.  I forced the grumpy brute of a V12 up off the sofa and asked it to sing. It really is a bit of a lazy motor until forcibly poked, but OH MY GOD when it wakes up. HELLO supercar, hello poster, hello noise you tried to make when you were 12, hello screaming horses and wailing banshees, hello Thor throwing rocks at thunder and hello Zeus beating mountainsides with trees. I'm getting chills thinking of the noise right now.  Pacific Coast Highway, I am Murcielago - hear me roar.

Poster status confirmed.

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CORE Autosport Headquarters

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This was a week of awesome facilities. Core Autosport is the dream of one entrepreneur - Jon Bennet, who took a fascinating route to becoming a professional race car driver. Most that I have met grow up racing as a kid and try to follow it into adulthood on the constant Holy Grail search for solid, long lasting sponsorship to fund the racing. This can be a nightmare journey as more often than not, your life resets at the end of each year when sponsors re-evaluate their spending. This was NOT the journey for Jon. Jon decided the best way to become a race car driver, was to go into business, eventually start his on and simply make enough money to have that business fund his racing. I guess it's not rocket science, but when you see the set-up he has created for himself and his American Le Mans Team, you realize that it was damned smart. Take note - this is something we should all plan to do, guys. CORE Autosport races 2 cars in American Le Mans Series LMP Class. This is a series style I love. The engine is a sealed unit based on a Chevrolet LS model and no real modifications can be made to the chassis either - the team has to adhere to a strict set of rules. It's essentially a series that keeps the costs down a little for the teams as the high dollar world of engine and aero development are not a factor - though let's be honest, we're not going to call this cheap racing!

Most race shops I have visited are impressive, but they are focused race shops. CORE's facility is gorgeous throughout. The attention to detail that made Jon's company successful has clearly ben applied to all areas of building CORE's HQ. The stairs are one of the nicest set's I have ever seen and even the table in the conference room is built from giant Carbon Fiber box beams. This type of attention fascinates me. Working on a race team would be an honor anyway, but arriving at your work every day, these guys get a visual reminder of the passion of their team owner. This is an expensive step to take, but I think it's wonderful, CORE is a giant step above a regular race shop and the environment of the facility will help lock down the sense of pride in working there.

Pride = passion = better performance = winning races

What I find interesting is that in the shop area, there is WAY more area than one team is ever going to need, but it was mentioned to me that it was designed with the ability to possibly host their partners and manufacturers in the future as they grow...possibly aiming at vertical integration in a race team. That would be really cool.

It was a very interesting find in Rock Hill South Carolina, not exactly a location I expected to stumble upon a leading edge race team, but I suppose it is very close to the NASCAR epicenter of Charlotte. I look forward to supporting CORE at the next California ALMS race.

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Fuller Hot Rods - Bryan's Shop Of Dreams

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There are not so many times that I'm lost for words. I get it, I talk a lot.  To those that know me, "speechless" is never a word they would consider using in reference to my behavior, but this past weekend I spend good periods of time truly speechless.

What brought on this onerous feat? A weekend at Fuller Hot Rods in Atlanta. I can only describe it in a manner that still does it little justice -it's a man-stuff dream cave. Bryan Fuller went to Atlanta in 05 after honing his craft back here in So Cal with names like So Cal Speed Shop and Chip Foose - a killer education that he has grown and grown from.

The now home of Fuller Hot Rods is a bit of a "rough" brick building, with a chain link fence, corrugated roofing and scattered, well, crap outside.  It's also in an area of Atlanta that when darkness falls, you may well choose to stay behind that chain link fence... but what a brilliant decision that would be as you might end up inside the greatest  man cave I've ever spent time in.

I'm struggling already to try and form my thoughts on how to explain the shop. I think the pictures will just have to do it the little justice they can.  Bryan has MAD skills, a simple google search will prove that, but he also has crazy patience, attention to detail and authenticity that can be hard to find in the overly commercialized world of car land.  At the end of the day you could roll around in a white t-shirt on the polished concrete floors and still end up with a white t-shirt.

Though Bryan is a wizard with sheet metal and prone to chopping and building, he isn't morphing his newest purchase into a new beast. While we were there I got to hear the bark to life of a 1974 Ducati 750cc with the famed bevel drive cam gear. That's one for you to search, but it's a classic and it sounded incredible.

Some notables in the shop..

  • The 32 roadster body..that's no rat rod, in fact, it's not even a hot rod. It is destined to be a race car. 900Hp Ford race engine and, oh, you know, all wheel drive spinning vintage magnesium Nascar rims... I'm giddy about seeing that one finished.
  • The 33 sedan is rapidly becoming the family car. Look closely and you'll see the sheet metal recessed seats going in the back between the frame rails for his kid. The stitched headers dump exhaust gasses from the 750 Hp motor.
  • The Indian chopper is a customer build with a freaky, crazy carb set-up.

Anyway, enjoy the pics.

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My First Goodwood Festival Of Speed

This was originally posted a couple of years ago on my friend Ben's blog Bulletproof Automotive. Ben is extremely knowledgeable on all cars, the JDM species in particular. His company does astonishing builds worldwide for customers with vision. Since I wrote it - I decided I'd post it here :)

Seven years ago I learned about Goodwood's Festival of Speed and I've wanted to go ever since. While I lived in the UK, circumstances somehow conspired against my dad and I every year to stop us from going. Now, 6500 miles away from home, the opportunity somehow arrived. A business trip had me in London and the rest sorted itself out in no time.

For those unfamiliar with Goodwood's event, it is utterly phenomenal. Lord March hosts over 100 years worth of racing vehicles on his grounds for a 3 day Hill Climb event. The caliber of racing drivers and vehicles that attend the race boggles the mind. Walter Rohl, Jackie Stewart, Sir Stirling Moss, Lewis Hamilton, Bruno Senna (Ayrton's nephew), Mark Webber and even Jay Leno were just a few of the drivers hitting the hill climb this year. The range of vehicles covers the entire spectrum. 1930’s Silver Bullets, 50 years of Formula One cars, touring cars, rally cars, sports cars, supercars and prototypes are all raced.

Today's racing events can leave me with a feeling of disconnect – drivers being ushered out of the pits in secrecy, VIP's in all the prime locations (more-often than not, they are not even car fans!!) and spectators kept at a too-safe distance. Goodwood is entirely different. The drivers relax and chat with the spectators, you can get run over in the pits (I got clipped by the wing of a Porsche 917) and you spectate just meters from the single lane, hay bale lined track. I can't describe just how fun it is.

Obviously though, the most fun part is the racing. As a Design Engineer this event gives me HUGE satisfaction. We engineers design things to function and cars are built to run. Race cars are built to run HARD. This event takes that theory to the extreme. All too often, especially in SoCal, the most wonderful performance vehicles never get run anywhere near their potential, or run at all!! That breaks my heart. Engineers put their life and soul into these vehicles and they just sit dying! However, Goodwood appears to exist to restore my belief in the world - these cars don't only run, they get utterly hammered up the single lane driveway. Mark Webber sliding his F1 car with throttle wide open past me, actually left me deaf in my left ear for about 10 minutes, it was glorious.

Sir Jackie Stewart and my dad have known each other for a long time. We got a cheery wave as Jackie left the pits and I think dad had a tear in his eye when Jackie thundered by us in his 68 Lola F1 car, right at the limit. Jackie is 70 and hadn't driven the car since the Nurburgring in 66. IT WAS INCREDIBLE.

The highlight for me, though, was seeing a Pagani Zonda R rip up the hill. It was the only road car with a sound that eclipsed the dedicated race cars. The ferocity and aggression boggled my mind. Included is a short youtube clip I took of it. I didn't get it going up the hill as I was too busy watching!

I feel extremely lucky to have attended this event and hope it's an experience I can repeat in the future. Make the trip once in your life, you will love every minute.

Sneaking A Ride In Brian Deegan's Fiesta Rally Car

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I'm not even entirely sure what this event was, but I believe it was a sponsor appreciation day that Andreas Eriksson, Team Owner and Manager of Olsbergs Motor Sport Evolution was putting on. If this is correct, being a sponsor is a great deal because these guys and girls had a BLAST. I ended up at the even near the end of the even through some much appreciated texts and calls from friends.

Olsbergs MSE is a FORMIDABLE force in the Global RallyCross arena, with they have a deep field of experienced drivers including Brian Deegan and Tanner Foust.  As it happened, they brought Brian Deegan's Fiesta to the event and Andreas, who himself can drive the living bejeezus out of a car, put on a fantastic show for the sponsors.

I was extremely lucky to get offered a ride at the end of the day, but was warned that there was not too much rubber left and we'd probably blow a tire. We did.

I did not arrive expecting to go in the fastest car I've ever been in in my life, but that little Fiesta was utterly astonishing. The rate of accelleration completely boggled my mind and combined with its ability to rotate and change direction, my head just hurt trying to take it in. Hopefully this video gives you a little idea of the forces at work, it was al I could manage as my mind was being blown.

Thanks Andreas!!

Team Website

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Croft House Box to Bonhams

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Like I mentioned in the earlier post about my coffee table, I have a lot of Macallan cask wood.  It didn’t take me long to do something else with it!  A friend had a set of the 1950, 1955 and 1957 Lalique bottles from Macallan that he planned to send to Bonhams in Hong Kong for auction.

The Lalique Collection is the result of a very close relationship between the two companies and will continue over the next few years to be 6 bottles in total, housing some of the rarest and finest liquid The Macallan has to offer. This is a key point – there’s a lot of old whisky out there and anyone that knows their stuff will attest to the fact that some of it is, frankly, crap.  When it got old it got nasty, but some distilleries still sell it for mammoth amounts of money knowing it will likely never be drunk.

However, some liquid out there carefully followed Demi Moore’s plan of attack (minus the drug addiction bit...she get's a pass on that one) and got better and better and better with age. I’ll attest that the Lalique bottles are full of Demi Moore Whisky. I know this thanks to a drunken night in the tasting room at the distillery... I’m probably not supposed to share that.

Sorry, back on track, I love lamp.

The trouble with auctioning them all together is that they are in 3 separate boxes, and that’s just…well…it just didn’t seem right to sell as a collection in loose boxes, so I decided we should make a chest out of cask wood.  My friend is usually the instigator of these projects, so he didn't take any convincing.

Croft House stepped up again and all it took to make a great chest was a few sketches, a lot of inspiration images and a pretty clear idea on the hardware I wanted to use - think “upscale pirate fodder”. The collection, after authentication by Macallan, snagged a 3 page spread in the Bonham’s catalogue and was picked up by worldwide liquor press.  Oh, and yeah, it sold for a stack of money. Result.

ETCHING - trust me, keep your volume down...

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Video Interview - The Macallan Masters Of Photography - Annie Leibovitz.

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The first post of a few posts on the Masters Of Photography collaboration The Macallan have completed with Annie Leibovitz and Kevin McKidd. The next post is will be a fun story about how randomly bumping into Kevin AT Croft House in Los Angeles was the catalyst for spawning this project.

Until then, this is a fun video from The Macallan where I discuss the shot we did at a bar in Hudson, NY.

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Photo Credit: The Macallan and Annie Leibovitz - All copyright belongs to them, I'm just sharing.

www.themastersofphotography.com

11 Questions With Max Venturi at Lamborghini

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Max Venturi - His name alone should place him in his own comic book full of racecar adventures. In reality, life is not too far off that. Max is the Test Driver for Lamborghini.  As I sit here, I'm struggling to conjure up too many cooler sounding jobs than this. However, it seems that unfortunately should I want to try and emulate Max, I'd be screwed before we even got to the point that I'm not a good looking Italian, nor can I drive a car like a surgeon wielding his scalpel - I just don't have a cool name. Thanks dad - way to kill my dream from the outset. Valentino Balboni, Max Venturi, Neil Ferrier. Nope, it's just not going to happen, eh?

Anyway, I've known Max a little while now and called him to hit him with the inaugural "11 questions with a super cool interesting person".

Max, you recently met the Top Gear presenters at the Nardo high-speed test ring near Rome. Which of the 3 guys would sit as co-driver for? (Don’t say all of them!) I was already in the CAR with Jeremy... Would be fun to try with James next time...

If I handed you 100 euro's right now and told you to spend it, what would you buy A new shirt...!

Red or White wine? Red

Dream project car? the one you want to work on...why? I have it! My 1989 BMW E30 M3.

What car has an exhaust sound that gives you goosebumps every time you hear it? (Me...Pagani Zonda R) F1

A perfect day for you? One day testing with R&D department a the Nordshleife (old Nurburgring )

If I gave you a gorilla, where would you hide it? On the sofa...

Any talents other than driving? I don't think i have many others...

What project or drive have you done for Lamborghini that you would like to repeat? Explain a little... Working on the prototype of the Murcielago SV... A monster!

Venturi - with a name like that you were born to drive! Was your dad a car guy too? Yes, my father was a race driver in the 70ies

Electric cars the future: yes or no? Maybe yes but not in the near future…

Bonus Round: Give us all one driving tip: Keep your hands on the steering wheel at 9-15! And fast the seatbelt, always!

Thanks a lot to Max for taking the time and to Michael Turtle over at the blog Time Travel Turtle who did a great piece on the Lamborghini Driving Academy. The picture at the top is his.

Things I Love: Great Knifemaking

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We know the guys at Strider well, Duane, the owner is a master metallurgist and the effort he puts into blade making is right in line with the effort we put into eyewear. There are a lot of flamboyant knife makers out there, crazy handles with weird and wild shapes. I understand the value of these, in fact I love many of them, but step back and think about the core purpose of a knife – to cut something. The best possible knife in the world is sharp and stays sharp. Simple? No way, sorry. To stay sharp, it needs to be hard, but if it’s hard, typically it’s brittle, therefore it needs to be ductile, but that makes it difficult for it to be hard… see the problem? Vicious circle. Duane is a master at sourcing these hard to achieve qualities.

Great knife makers are not really known for their shapes, they are known for the quality of their blade. A great blade is like a perfectly balanced car – one that absorbs all the bumps on a rough road but magically has “razor sharp” firm handling on a track. Incredibly hard to achieve and only mastered by a few.

The pictures here are of a piece we co-designed with Strider. It has a ridiculously good (and EXPENSIVE) Damascus steel blade that blends these properties perfectly. For the handle, we brought a little 3 dimensionality to it that is not common in normal handles. The shape is machined out of a 90 layer billet of carbon fiber. The back plate is aerospace titanium. Bells and whistles galore J

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Croft House Guest Post

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As a big fan of the hard work and creativity that Croft House are putting into building their furniture empire, I asked Alex and his partner Riley if they would give me a little insight into their thoughts when I showed up with a bottle of Macallan 18 and a Mini Cooper full of whisky barrel.... Alex:

A few months back Neil came to Riley and I asking us if we had any interest in building a coffee table with wood salvaged from a whisky barrel that was used at the Macallan distillery. He really admired our work and we really admired whiskey, so we set right to it in an attempt to work something out.

Neil dropped by the Croft House showroom and left us with a heap of beautiful oak, the only problem being the oak had the same curvature as the cask, not really an ideal coffee table surface .  We knew we were going to incorporate the lid of the cask, but weren't sure how exactly to utilize the sides of the barrel.  Over a couple of drinks(scotch no doubt) we came up with our ideal design, placing the wood within a steel frame.

Oak isn't exactly the most malleable material, so bending the curved sides to the cask was out. Instead, we put each piece to our bandsaw, essentially skinning the wood of it's outermost surface.  Once slimmed down to a lesser thickness, the wood became much more flexible and allowed us to mold it to a flat surface.  We added a natural wax finish and wa la.  

All of our Croft House pieces are built with wood that has a story, but few stories have been as popular with our patrons as the cask pieces.  The material is a lot of fun to work with and has a killer look to it, only downside is having to tell everyone it's not for sale.

Thanks a lot Alex - now finish my Eames chair! :)[gallery link="file" columns="4" orderby="rand"]

OFFICIAL! Red Bull Soapbox Atlanta

We are confirmed! We're disassembling, packing up and shipping the whole "Fire In The Hole" team to Atlanta, Georgia on June 9th for the 2012 Red Bull Soapbox Race. Oakley is the only representation outwith the South and we're coming en-force.

The P51 Mustang is in the chop-shop for some serious upgrades. Pilot George is getting a roll bar to protect his expensive designer noggin, some front suspension is being installed to cushion the jumps and the entire steering geometry is getting a little more aggressive.

It's a serious production to get the car and all of us over there in 4 weeks, the to-do list is growing rapidly!

You may enjoy our documentation we submitted to explain our car...

"Let it be noted that numerous treaties and 2 protocol of the Geneva Convention are being broken by sharing this information with you. 4 Military secrets are being shared, 2 Federal offenses committed and worse than all that, a bond of secrecy between Fire In The Hole and a small African goat is being broken. However, in the interests of fair play, here goes…

The Body is fabricated from mild steel tubing in various wall thicknesses and diameters (where required for strength or weight saving).  The main frame rails were shaped by pie cutting, bending, sprinkiling pixie dust and welding to the desired profile shape. The tougher welds were reinforced by liberal binding with Unobtanium (Copyright Oakley. Don’t use that, we’ll sue…haha, that’s cute, you think we’re kidding).

With the frames created, cross braces were then put into place to establish the width of the body. We knew we wanted to use a 20" BMX wheel because of the ride height we wanted to achieve. We also wanted to integrate proper disc brakes (front/rear) found primarily in Mountain Bikes. Our driver, George is not only cute, but he likes being able to walk and requested some safety features. Some of us couldn’t quite understand this, but he’s Asian and they are all ninja’s, right?  Nothing existed in this combination, so we had to figure out how.  We had planned on re-lacing MTB hubs to a 20" BMX rim, but time was not on our side and George put the remainder of the pixie dust in his hair.  While driving around Santa Ana (a locale in Orange County without the Maserati’s and big fake breasts) looking for a taco truck, we came across a homeless fellow with exactly what we were looking for. Why his recycling cart was outfitted with 20" BMX wheels, custom fabricated to hold with MTB Brakes, we will never know.  Anyway, we rho-sham-bo’d him for George’s hair and luckily won.

The underside belly pan is a 1/16" thick Aluminum plate. We ran a very simple traditional Go Kart steering system with homemade spindles and a hot rod dropped front axle (cutting edge design for Nick, who’s newest car is a 1934 pickup truck). The rear is a solid axle with built in camber plates. We found a Fiber glass Go Kart seat and fab’d up a small steering wheel with a quick release hub and, of course, Oakley B-1B grips...(shameless plug! Woo!)  The body was inspired by a sketch from Jae of a WW2 

P-40 Tiger, morphed into an open wheeled race car. We scoured a few of the local homes in Orange County for a P-40 tiger and only found 3 Bell helicopters, 27 Lamborghini’s, 16 Gulfstream jets and 612 barrels of botox.  We wanted to keep the weight down so resorted to cladding the car in sheet styrene. The airplane 

Jae had drawn worked easily for sheets of styrene. A blast of paint and Cool Graphics to finish it off and we were set. Agh! Wait! A final touch from Jae was the REDBULL can exhaust manifolds - sugar free on the right bank and regular on the Left bank. You’ll notice we veer to the right, something about that damn fake sugar freeness. "  

http://www.redbullsoapboxusa.com/#/event/atlanta-2012

Croft House Macallan Table

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Croft House Table

Somewhere hidden in a storage unit, I have all the parts for a 1934 Ford Pickup Hot Rod. It has all the promise of being a wickedly cool rat rod, but none of the love to get it there. Back when the project was fresh in our minds, it was going to be a true old school moonshine runner. I enlisted the help of the team at The Macallan back in Scotland and by some form of black magic, they sent me an entire shipping crate of used whisky barrel staves.

Side note: Unwrapping the crate gave a smell I’ll never forget – it made our whole warehouse smell like glorious 18 year old Macallan for about a week. Ridiculous.

Well…the rod is still on hold and there was a LOT of wood, so it was only natural that I’d ponder another kind of project for some of it. Enter our new house and the large area where a coffee table should be.

My wife was searching on craigslist for reclaimed wood furniture at that point in time and found a couple of guys in LA making some gorgeous pieces at really reasonable prices.  I called them and found out they were growing to become the store that is now Croft House on La Brea in LA.  Riley, one of the owners was intrigued by the inherently bent barrel wood and was sold on the project once he heard it was from a whisky barrel – The gang at Croft House have a soft spot for the wonderful stuff – see their in store bar. His vision and mine were identical. We sketched a lot, piled wood all over the place in patterns and finally decided on a plan.

Fast-forward to the results below. I was blown away. Everything I hoped in my head was achieved; I wanted it to be a mix of the clean smooth cask end and the incredibly rough (but now straight!) cask staves. The finish is a simple wax and when I inevitably scratch or ding the table, I just wax over it. Perfect.

More Croft House projects to come…we had fun.

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