Thursday, January 30, 2014

Give Me One Good Reason to Buy a Fiat!

One good reason is that if you buy the Fiat 500 Abarth, you get a day of the Abarth Experience!  What in the world is that?  It's a day of driving an Abarth (not yours, the Fiat folks provide the cars) and learning how to drive it faster from professional instructors!

Several other car makers will make you a similar offer, so if you want to purchase a Jaguar, BMW, or other high end car, please do so!  But the Abarth Experience is probably one of the cheapest ways to get into one of these fun filled days, just for buying a car. Sure, you may not have to buy a car in the first place, but if you're going to buy one, why not get a fun one that comes with a sweet deal like this.

You can find the Abarth Experience website HERE and learn more about it. The 2014 schedule will be posted in February some time.

For a little Abarth Experience video, you can see me drive a bit on the track of Autobahn Country Club in Joliet Illinois at this link right about HERE, but it's not quite exactly award winning stuff, just two guys sitting in a car, but it does have some graphics to indicate speed and cool car stuff like that. No, it's not Joliet Jake and Elwood Blues driving the Bluesmobile either.

The Abarth Experience instructors are the same folks that also do the same thing for the SRT experience, which includes some of the Fiat family's other fine products like the Viper!  They had a trailer on site, and I believe were doing both Abarths and SRTs at Autobahn when I was there last August. The SRT folks SRT LINK have high performance versions of the Viper, 300, Charger, Challenger, and even the Grand Cherokee!

My group had about 50 Abarth owners, and we really had a great time. The ages ranged from 20s to probably 60s+, and along with breakfast and lunch thrown in for free, it was a fun day for all!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Little Snow and More Schedule Updates

We finally got hit with a little bit of snow down here in South Carolina, which put a hold on almost all of daily life today, and made the Miata sad to sit in the garage with it's top still down from upper 60 degree weather just a day ago.

Additional autocross dates were announced by the CCR SCCA group and the NMS calendar is now up to date!  Check out our schedule tab for all the latest info and get psyched for warmer weather to come!

The Fiat ventured out into the snow just long enough for a winter shot.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Pre Season

You might be aware that the NASCAR folks are really hitting the pre-season media this week, with lots of teams doing press conferences and other media events. You can see the schedule at this link: NASCAR.   Of course for real professional race teams (unlike us), they have to worry about promoting not only themselves and their drivers, but their sponsors as well. It's all part of big business racing, and everyone wants their share of the publicity and buzz about the sport.

Over in the Formula 1 side, today is the first on track testing going on in Spain, and you can follow live updates at this link from at  This year has a lot of major changes in rules and engines to F1 cars, so it has been hilarious to follow along as each team reveals their car in the past week, and fans are having a blast describing how odd shaped the noses of the cars are this year. Let's just say it's a huge change from last year, and with the new requirement for V6 turbo engines, reliability will be a big factor in who does well this season.

For Nixon Motorsports and our Sports Car Club of America season coming up, we've had some changes too, but nothing that a multi million dollar budget can't take care of in quick order. Well, maybe a few dollars here and there, not millions or thousands!  The big change for SCCA is that the previous Stock classes remain, but to try and allow more drivers to compete without high performance racing type tires, most of the previous Stock classes will now be called Street. The tire specifics for this year in Street category require tires to have a minimum tread rating of 140.  This means that those typically driving Hoosier competition tires will have to remain in the Stock category since their tread wear is much lower.

For the Miata, the other big change is that many years of Miata models have now been shifted from the C that we drove in last year, to E Stock and E Street by the SCCA, so Brian will be driving in the E Street category.  The Fiat will remain in G, so this year that means G Street.  No word on Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band entering autocross, but they've got the "E Street" part  going for them already!

We'll have more info on 2014 modifications to our cars in the near future as we gear up for the first event on February 22nd.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

January 2014 Cars and Coffee Report

Saturday the 25th was the first Cars and Coffee here in Columbia SC C&C Columbia and despite a cold day here in the south, there was a large turnout of automotive enthusiasts (car guys and gals).  You can find some of our photos from the event at our Nixon Motor Sports Flickr page NMS C&C Photos HERE.

The most common cars seemed to be Corvettes and Mustangs, and I have to admit my favorite was a nice light blue 67 Corvette Stingray.  Over in the Mustang world, there was a good variety as well, although it was heavy on the newer side, and not one Mustang II was sighted, so it was great!  Big news for both those names are of course that they both have major redesigns this year, with the Mustang adding a turbo 4 cylinder to the current 6 and 8 cylinder models.

Brian's Mazdaspeed Miata was sporting some new autocross graphics on the side, thanks to our friends at Panic Motorsports here in Columbia. They applied Brian's design on the car just the day before, featuring his number 86 and the letters ES for E Street category autocross this year.  The Mazdaspeeds were only built in 04 and 05, and we were happy see a 2nd one at Cars and Coffee yesterday, along with plenty of other Miatas, Subarus, Hondas, and many others.

Another car that caught my eye was a nice red Acura NSX.  A new version of this sports car will be coming back to the market in the next year or so, with production scheduled for their Ohio plant.  You might have seen the introductory commercial for the new NSX that featured Jerry Seinfeld and Jay Leno some time ago.

Here are a few shots from yesterday, more at the Flickr site.

                                                           Acura NSX in front of Tower Harley Davidson
                                                        1967 Corvette Stingray at Quaker Steak and Lube
                                                          The NMS stable, Miata with new 86es

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Catch us on Flickr for ALL the Photos

Now you can catch all the NMS photos on our new Flickr account!

We'll also keep the permanent link on the right hand navigation in our Links section.

We don't have much up there yet, but with the first Columbia Cars and Coffee coming up tomorrow and lots of racing action headed this way very soon we're getting all set for lots of pictures!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Miata in Martinsville

NMS is looking forward to starting the 2014 autocross season just about a month from now, so while we're gearing up with a few car modifications and a new tweak to the helmet decals just for fun, I thought we'd take a look back just a few years ago with the 04 Mazdaspeed Miata.

Brian and I visited Martinsville VA on a December morning and for the price of a donation to their charities, were allowed to drive a few laps on the half mile NASCAR track! This annual event gathers donations of toys for kids in the local community, and is a really fun way to help others while getting to tell your friends, "Oh yeah, I've driven at Martinsville"!

Driving your car every day can be just part of your job, or a means to an end, so we really enjoy driving the cars at competitive autocross events even more.  Better than that, doing some fun driving that benefits others can be a blast, so if you just take a look around there is always a way to find an event near you.  If not, why not start something to help others yourself?
       How can you tell it's an 04 or 05 Mazdaspeed Miata?  Just read the back of the rear view mirror!

                                                                 Martinsville track infield.

                            Maybe the bleachers weren't full, but we had fun driving on the track anyway!

  Near the main entrance with the track in the background.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Better Than Ever

Today we launch a slight re-design of the site with the addition of navigation tabs just below the header.

We now have dedicated pages to keep you in the loop with our overall points standings as we progress through the season as well as a little more background on us and our cars.

We'll also be keeping a dedicated page with our racing schedule with more details if you'd like to come hang out for a race day or even drive or ride along!  We always love getting new people involved with autocross and the other motor sports we're involved with.  Don't forget you can also keep tabs on our Google Calendar at the bottom of our page to see everything we're up to!

Just over one month until the 2014 season with the SCR SCCA kicks-off.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

2014 Autocross Schedule Announced

Good news, race fans.  The 2014 SCR SCCA autocross schedule was released today.  All dates remain tentative but the team is beginning to build their season schedule and travel plans.  This year there are are a greater number of CCR events that may be attended as well.  Here's a preliminary snapshot of the wheel-to-cone racing action for this upcoming season at NMS.
The SCR calendar's latest updates can be found here.

Auto Shows

Our last two blogs talked about the new car auto show in Greenville SC, and I probably forgot to mention that it was sponsored by Motor Trend magazine. Whether you like your car magazines hard copy in your hands, or read them digitally, there is probably a car magazine for just about any interest.  As sponsors of the car show, Motor Trend also gives you a free year's subscription, so we have another 12 months of free reading to look forward to in 2014.  Motor Trend Magazine

Of course Greenville SC may not be the center of the automotive universe like Detroit, so as you likely are aware, this week is also the North American International Auto Show, which is the official name of what most folks call the Detroit Auto Show.  Every day this week there will be thousands of news releases, press conferences, new cars being revealed, and constant talk about our favorite subject.  The auto show's website North American International Auto Show is just chock full of what is going on for those of us that aren't in Detroit right now.

A couple of the big news items so far has been the 2015 Ford F-150, which will feature a lot of aluminum vs. steel, therefore giving a lighter stronger vehicle to the best selling line of trucks in the US.  Toyota unveiled a concept for a very sporty looking car, with the not-so-amazing name of FT which stands for "Future Toyota". If you remember when Toyota had a sporty car called the Supra, well maybe this concept will turn into reality some day and bring some excitement back to the Toyota brand of style.  Don't get me wrong, Toyota sells a ton of cars, but like one reviewer commented on their style, I put my hand on a Camry one day and my hand fell asleep.  I have a Camry at home and it's a very nice ride and very reliable, but it is not made for being flashy or to be driven fast in an autocross.

I was going to blab about getting to attend the NAIS about 10 years ago, (thanks to my job), but instead of looking back, let's look forward!  Just over a month from now, the Nixon Motor Sports team will be back in the autocross world when our South Carolina Region of the SCCA kicks off the year with the first event in February.  Until then, get those cars tuned up, try to correct that loose nut behind the wheel, and then the Miata and the Abarth will be running fast!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

SC International Auto Show Part 2

In our last blog post, Brian talked about his visit on Saturday with test drives of several new cars.  Today I visited the show in Greenville, and while I didn't test drive anything, I had a good time walking around and looking at a lot of new cars. Also looked at some old cars, since there were displays from a few car clubs in addition to the dealerships that were showing the new stuff.

With a bit of a mix of old and new, from the first picture here you can see that the folks from the duPont Registry were promoting their magazine which features high end automobiles. On display were several Ferraris, a Maserati, two Teslas, some Porsches, a Lotus, the DeTomaso Pantera that Brian pictured in his post, and a nice Saleen. Not a Saleen Mustang, but a Saleen, which is the red car with the Lambo style doors sticking up in my photo above.  I'm pretty sure I will never be able to afford any car in their magazine, but it has been fun to look through the free copies they were handing out!

Also on display was this Studebaker President.  I believe the placard said this two tone paint was the original style, so let me just say that in my list of favorite things in the world that lemon-lime works in a drink, but not on a car.

The fine folks at the Foothills British Car Club had a lot of nice older British rides on display, including this not often seen in this country TVR.  They had two of my other favorite oldies the MGB GT, which was a hard top version of the MG.  Right behind this TVR is a red MGB GT, so to be fair to other colors, here's a non-red one:

OK, what new cars did I like?  How about the latest version of probably the longest running American sports car, the new Chevrolet Corvette Stingray?  I think it's pretty exciting that they brought back the Stingray name, and I'm not really even a Chevy guy, but for an American car that has performance that can rival the $100,000+ European cars and costs starting around $50,000, you've got to appreciate what the Corvette brings to the table!

Speaking of not being a Chevy guy, I'm a big fan of the Ford Mustang.  Just recently they have unveiled what will be the 50th anniversary 2015 Mustang, but we didn't get to see one today. The next best thing was a 2014 Mustang GT, and what got my attention was that one of the options is for Brembo Brakes.  Brembo is probably the biggest name in making fast cars stop quicker, so this was impressive to me. So much gets written about how fast cars are from 0-60, or if their top speed is over 200mph, and how many horsepower make it go faster, but in high performance driving I'd have to say that how well you can slow down is just as important.

Now that I've mentioned brakes, it's time to stop for now.  Stay tuned for an upgrade on the NMS Fiat in the near future.  Thanks for reading!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

SC International Auto Show

This weekend is the South Carolina International Auto Show in Greenville, SC.  I made it to the show this morning and here's a few of my highlights...

The show is smaller than many of the other shows around, but does feature a good number of manufactures and the chance to drive a selection of cars and trucks from GM and Chrysler.  I always enjoy checking out all kinds of new cars to see what's new and how everything compares.

I test drove a Chevy Cruze, Chevy Spark, Buick Regal, and a Fiat 500L just to add a variety since there weren't any test drive options really jumping out at me.

The Cruze was a pretty good, average sedan, but did feature the 2.0L turbo diesel that delivered enough torque to get around for daily driving and presumably good fuel economy.  I would add it to the list of affordable small sedans to consider.

The Spark is Chevy's smallest car and I enjoyed how light and nimble it felt but the approximately 85 horsepower really left it lacking the ability to get out of it's own way.  The interior felt very cheap, but did come well equipped with technology.

The Buick Regal was my surprise favorite car to drive today with the Grand Sport package and a 2.0L turbo gas engine making over 260 horse power.  It's a little larger than the Cruze, but the interior was definitely a big step up from the Chevy models.  It had a solid amount of power on tap at any time, but the automatic transmission seemed to hold it back while the overall ride quality didn't seem too much better than the Cruze.

The Fiat 500L was a ton of fun though.  With the huge amount of headroom and visibility it feels like driving your very own Pope-mobile, but it was nice to see so much of the world around the car.  The Abarth's engine doesn't get hampered too much by the automatic transmission and gives it enough power to get where you need to go with it.  It's just a funky, fun car if you need a get around town car.

Although there weren't test drives available, it's always fun to see a Ferrari F40, Ariel Atom, or the electric Tesla Roadster...all cars the NMS team would love to add to the racing lineup but are still a little out of the budget.

It was good to see the twins (Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ) getting a lot of attention!  I know I'm a fan of light-weight rear-wheel drive sporty cars!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Coming to Grips with Cold Weather

South Carolina finally got hit with some real cold weather for the first time in a while and certainly the first real cold weather since I've had summer performance tires on the Miata.  It was about 20 degrees yesterday when I was on my way home from the gym and after a slightly over-enthusiastic 3-2 downshift in a big intersection I wound up parking backwards in my lane.

I thought the car was getting loose really quick at Metrolina for our last autocross in 2013, but this was like driving on ice.  Zero damage, but I did learn how slick these summer tires get when it really gets cold.

Lesson learned.  Time to stop procrastinating and put those all seasons I bought last year back on the car...and clean up the garage while I'm at it...
...okay, AND play with the new GoPro.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Car Show Freak Out!

     Probably every brand of automobile has it's fans and a car club that celebrates their rides.  Performance cars like Mustangs, Camaros, Porsche, BMW, Ferrari, and Corvettes have lots of clubs all over the place, and sponsor events such as car shows, cruise-ins, or even racing and autocross events.  The saying that "speed costs money, how fast do you want to spend" is true about racing events, and even if you're not an Indy car, NASCAR or F1 driver, there are lots of ways for you to spend enough to do all the racing you want, as long as you have the money.

     Enough about money, let's talk about cars!  One of the clubs in the US is the Fiat Club of America, and even though there were a few decades recently when no Fiats were sold here, the club has continued to support the Italian cars, sponsor events, and share information to assist owners all over the place.  Their biggest event is the annual get together that they like to call the Fiat Freak Out.

     The 2014 Freak Out will be in the Chicago area from July 10-13, and they have so many activities going on, that if you have a Fiat you're bound to like at least one of them.   FREAK OUT 2014

                                     Two Fiat X1/9, (later imported by Bertone) from the 2013 Euro Fest in South Carolina


Monday, January 6, 2014

Mail Call

     While the internet seems to have taken over life as we know it, some of Nixon Motor Sports favorite things still come in the good old fashioned mail!  Whether it's car parts that are on order, or the cool racing gear that you probably can't find at your local store in most of the world, it's your friendly neighborhood mail carrier that delivers the goods and puts a smile on your face.

     In today's mail it was an auto racing trifecta, with the latest edition of the SCCA magazine, the SCCA 2014 calendar, and another calendar from one of my favorite on line forums that focuses on old Fiats such as the X1/9:  X Web Forum

     The main reason I like the X Web Forum is that cool cars like the Fiat X1/9 are two seater mid engine cars. While some two seater mid engine cars costs hundreds of thousands or over a million dollars, you could probably find a reasonable old X way under $10,000.  That's a lot fewer zeros than a new Ferrari! For some reason, these types of cars, or even the more modern version like the recent Toyota MR2 or Porsche Boxster (OK, more rear engine than mid engine) just seem like the best way to have fun in a car, providing you don't need to haul a lot of stuff or more than one other person!

     Back to the calendar, one of the folks that is a member of the X Web Forum puts together a calendar every year, and this year he was running a little short on photos.  While I don't have an old X, the forum also covers the newer Fiats a little bit, so I offered up a few shots of the NMS Fiat 500 Abarth, and today found out that sure enough they used two very small photos in their calendar.

     Sure it's not a world famous calendar like Dilbert or Sports Illustrated Swimsuit models, and doesn't include anyone famous like the pictures of Bob Bondurant and Paul Newman in the SCCA calendar, but it does have a lot of Italian style, and just a bit of NMS in photos taken at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Here you go, those two little photos of the Rosso (red) car under the main photo!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Charlotte Cars and Coffee = Chilly

     Those of you that live in the northern part of the planet will laugh when I tell you that it was cold in Charlotte this morning, since it was only 27 degrees, so let's go with "chilly" to describe today's Cars and Coffee. A few of the highlights included three Ferraris (360, 308, Mondial), the nice old Mercedes below with white wheel covers and rally lights, at least one Jaguar E type, the blue Chevy below, and the contrasting Germans in the last photo with an old VW bus and a newer Porsche.

     In addition to these cool cars, there were dozens of Mustangs, Camaros, a Triumph TR7, a Tesla, many Corvettes, Subarus, Hondas, Porsches galore, some Volvos, etc.

     Special thanks to  Foreign Cars Italia for providing free coffee and goodies to the crowd.  On a chilly morning, the hot coffee was much appreciated!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Season 3 of "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee"

     Do you need a sense of humor to drive a car? How about to work on one? Not sure about that, but I'll bet a sense of humor helps a lot when your car breaks down. One guy that is into cars is comedian Jerry Seinfeld, and if you didn't know, he has a show on the internet that is pretty much unlike anything else.

     Instead of another sitcom like his long running show from the 90s, try to imagine a talk show with only one guest. Then put that show not on a sound stage, not sitting behind a desk, but just with two people getting into a cool car and then going for coffee. And along the way they have a rambling conversation that may or may not lead to some funny stories.

     Well even if you can't imagine a show like that, it really exists, and has just started it's third season. You can check it out at this link as Jerry and fellow comedian Louis C. K. take a ride in an awesome orange 1959 Fiat Jolly, and then cruise a bit on Louis' boat before stopping for coffee.

comedians in cars getting coffee

     Remember, anything from the 1950s HAS to be good!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year 2014!

     As we start a New Year, NMS is looking forward to another fun filled year of auto crossing, and other related car events throughout the year.  Last year was our first try at autocrossing, and driving in those few events just makes me want to do more this year.

     If you are interested in learning more about autocross, I'm sure you know how to Google up all kinds of information, so let me suggest you check out a few websites such as the Sports Car Club of America, SCCA and the National Auto Sport Association NASA.

    Before too long we'll also have various auto racing going on to follow, like Formula One, NASCAR, and Indy cars, so whether you want to drive or just cheer for your driver and team there is something car related out there for anyone.

     Speaking of NASCAR, you might know that their Hall of Fame and most of the racing teams are based around Charlotte NC, which isn't too far from NMS.  In November Brian and Bob were visiting the area and took a little side trip to see where the Penske racing team calls home.  While you won't be seeing this little Fiat in any NASCAR races, we thought it was a good photo opportunity.