Thursday, January 29, 2015



Tomorrow on January 30th, you might want to check out the unveiling of this year's Ferrari Formula 1 car at this link: FERRARI

Ferrari 355 Challenge

Several other teams have unveiled their cars for this year, so I'll just point out that Ferrari remains my favorite team.  With two former world champion drivers this year, German Sebastian Vettel and Finland's own Kimi Raikkonen, let's hope the car lives up to the history of the brand and abilities of the drivers!

Ferrari 328 in blue, not red!

Even if you are not a fan of Formula 1, odds are high that you've heard of Ferrari, know that they also make road cars, and that their favorite color for cars is red (hey, just like my red Italian FIAT!).  So, I'm going WAY out on a limb here and predicting we'll see a car tomorrow that looks a lot like this year's car, is RED, and has plenty of sponsor's stickers all over it. Maybe I can get good odds on RED on this one in Vegas!


While I haven't taken any F1 car photos myself, here are a few of my favorite Ferrari photos from cars I've seen at car shows over the past few years.

One of a kind Ferrari concept car that was on display at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta.

 Ferrari 458 at Charlotte NC Cars and Coffee

Ferrari 360 at Columbia SC Cars and Coffee

Ferrari F40 at EuroFest, BMW Zentrum, Greer SC

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Fuel Filter Time

Just when you thought I was running out of items to check off my to-do list for the 99 Miata, I bagged another one.  Yesterday I finally plugged in the new fuel filter I had laying around.
After jacking up the car (again), there's a plastic cover near the rear passenger wheel that gets removed to reveal the cruddy old filter.  At this point I had already disconnected the battery, disconnected the fuel pump wiring and made sure the fuel system was depressurized.
After a few minutes of mashing the dirt out of the connectors, I finally freed the old filter and swapped in the new.  I only lost about a cup of gas with the system depressurized, so pretty good. Not a drop on the garage floor too!
Finally, the plastic cover was put back on and all the wiring put back in place.  A few cranks of the engine and everything fired back up.  The old filter dumped a good amount of gunk in my drain pan, so it was probably time to make sure that was replaced and not holding back any gas flow and robbing power in any way.
The car is still sitting on all four jack stands.  The fender is getting cleaned up a bit to get painted this week so it doesn't rust apart, one rear caliper will be replaced and new rotors and pads will finally go on too.  Next weekend the brakes and clutch will get a final bleed before popping the summer tires back on for our first autocross February 7th and 8th.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Formula 1 in 2015

NOT an F1 driver in NOT an F1 car!
The 2015 Formula 1 season kinda-sorta-almost starts TODAY when the Force India team unveils their new car in Mexico!  Of course they won't be testing it right away, but the big news is that an F1 teams is DOING something, so that's close enough for me! The Williams-Martini team released just one photo of their car yesterday, so this has been very exciting for F1 fans that have to wait for March 15th when the first race kicks off the season in Australia.

The real season will be with us soon, so just like last year NMS will be making some pre-season predictions on top drivers and how the constructors (or teams) will finish.  Believe it or not, we've never driven in a Formula 1 race, so let me suggest to go to the McLaren F1 team website and hear from two time world champion Mika Hakkinen on what the off season and start of a new season means to a real F1 driver. He will be blogging during the year at this website, and his first post is an outstanding glimpse into that world:  McLaren-Mika-on-new-season

Right now it looks like the championship will have three sessions of on track testing before the first race on March 15 in Australia, so I'm going to make an executive decision and wait for some testing before making any predictions. To predict anything now would just be a waste of time...other than I'd have to say Mercedes will continue to dominate and win it all in 2015 for a back-to-back title for both drivers and constructors. You can find all the real info and dates at the official Formula 1 website: FORMULA ONE

Car launches / roll-outs

McLaren MP4-30January 29Online
Ferrari (TBA)January 30Online
Toro Rosso STR10January 31Jerez, Spain
Mercedes F1 W06 HybridFebruary 1Jerez, Spain
Force India VJM08February 19Barcelona, Spain
Sauber C34TBATBA
Williams FW37TBATBA

Pre-season testing

Jerez, SpainFebruary 1-4
Barcelona, SpainFebruary 19-22
Barcelona, SpainFebruary 26-March 1

2015 Formula One races:

March 15         Australia
March 29         Malaysia
April 12           China
April 19           Bahrain
May 10            Spain
May 24            Monaco
June 7              Canada
June 21            Austria
July 5               Great Britain
July 19             Germany
July 26             Hungary
August 23        Belgium
September 6    Italy
September 20  Singapore
September 27  Japan
October 11      Russia
October 25      United States
November 1    Mexico

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Quick Miata Update Part II

Subtitle: Let's watch Brian put in Spark Plugs and wires!

Subtitle II: So Easy A Caveman Could Do it!
On the mighty 4 cylinder Miata, replacing spark plugs is about the easiest thing this side of putting more gas in the tank.
1-open hood
2-pull the wires out
3-grab a 5/8th spark plug socket and remove the   four spark plugs
4-use same socket to put the new plugs in, torque to 11-17foot-pounds
5-connect the new ignition wires
6-stick a fork in it because you're DONE!

In other words, unlike the NMS FIAT or NMS Ford Ranger, there are NO other engine parts, intakes, plenums, EGR valves, hoses, or wires to remove to even get TO the spark plugs. Also in other words, I stood by and took pictures while Brian did all the work.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Quick Mazda Update, Part I!

Get it, "Quick Mazda" Update?????  We spent a little time in the garage this weekend, mostly to see what is up with getting this fender fixed that the previous owner managed to damage, replace the one headlight, and then Brian also changed spark plugs and wires. 

You can see the little crunched spot just near the
headlight, so we'll remove the fender and then
replace the headlight.

To get to all the bolts holding the fender, Brian first
has to remove the inner wheel well liner, just pop off
a couple of plastic screw tab things. Easy to replace
when they break apparently!

Oh, and then find a few more clips that hold the
bumper and fender together too.

Just about ready to remove the fender, and you can
see the old headlight has been removed. Just two
bolts hold the headlight in place, and one of the
lamps pops out, the other screws out. Simple.

Almost an ACTION SHOT! as Brian has removed
fender! VICTORY!

Safety note: the jack is just there for the heck of
it while the jack stand you can see just between the
brake rotor and jack is holding all the weight.

New headlight in place (still needs a bolt on the
upper mount), and the fender can now be repaired-
bent-straightened a bit and maybe repainted. Wheel
is back on, but the Miata is not driving anywhere
right away, so no big deal.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Behold: TIMER MAN!

(This is the 2nd part in a continuing series of UNKNOWN SUPERHEROES of auto sports. Part 1 last year chronicled the adventures of CORNER CAPTAIN)

(Kyle Ray-Smith, Brian Nixon, and Kyle DeGennaro discuss the secret identity of TIMER MAN)

Infrequently seen, but always present at autocross and track races around the globe, TIMER MAN feverishly works in his Fortress of Sweatitude Trailer to ensure that the accurate timings of the automobiles piloted by mere mortals is accurately recorded for prosperity. While the drivers, their cars, and sponsors of these events take all the credit, glory, and riches, it is truly TIMER MAN behind the scenes that rules them all, with super powers that establish timing accuracy to the thousandth of a second.  Without TIMER MAN, auto racing would just be noise and flags, lacking a sense of order and tranquility. Without TIMER MAN, the teams would be lost in determining fastest time of the day, pole position, and even the dreaded "exceeded the 107% time of the pole sitter" exclusion penalty.

In his Fortress of Sweatitude during the entire day and night of events, TIMER MAN functions like a machine; a well-oiled-terminator-get-the-job-done-at-ALL-costs machine! Able to operate without food or water, it is unknown how TIMER MAN lives, though some say he absorbs energy from the electronic timing devices that surround him, others believe he drinks liquid electricity to power both himself the all important timing system.

Despite the limited understanding we may have of him, TIMER MAN does exist, and will continue to live for as long as there are cars to race, and drivers to drive them. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

2014 Car Sales in Review

Today kicks off the big auto show in Detroit, so before we get deluged with new car unveilings, let's take a look at car sales in 2014.  The US economy did OK overall as total new vehicle sales increased over 2013 to a total of about 16.6 million. For FIAT, it was their best selling year since returning to our country in 2011, with 46,121 new cars sold, which is up 7% over 2013.  With basically the 500 and the larger 500L to choose from, with multiple varieties of those two, FIAT seems to be doing fine for staying in business here, and in 2015 will add the 500X too. You can get more FIAT news at FIAT 500 USA

For our friends at Mazda who sold 305,801 vehicles in the US , about 4,745 of those were the mighty Miata! With the new redesigned model Miata (officially the MX-5)coming out this year, look for an increase in the number of new ones leaving dealer's lots.  Even with the Miata being a small part of their business, their sales were up 7.7% in the best selling Mazda year since 1994! NMS has test driven some of their other models like the Mazda6 and rate them highly too.

For the giants of industry, the top selling brands, including cars and trucks were:

    GM        2.9 million
    Ford       2.4 million
    Toyota   2.3 million
    Chrysler 2.0 million
    Honda    1.5 million
    Nissan    1.3 million

Other interesting brands selling similar to FIAT's 46,121 include

    Volvo          56,000
    Mini            56,000
    LandRover  51,000
    Porsche       47,000

Then just for fun, you might want to know that Ferrari sold a whopping 2,145 cars here (they claim they will never make an SUV, so good for them!), Smart sold about 10,000 believe it or not, and Suzuki stopped selling here, so you'll have to buy a used one to drive a Suzuki. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

New Car-A-Palooza 2015!

Courtesy of the Hampton Roads International Auto Show, and brought to you by my trusty camera, here are some highlights from the auto show held this weekend at the Virginia Beach Convention Center.

2015 Ford Mustang

Honda Hybrid motor

Nissan Z Nismo

Nissan Nismo Engine bay
Lexus gets my vote for ugliest grille

Porsche Cayman

Porsche Macan, the SUV smaller than the Cayenne

I just like Jaguars. Sue me.
My favorite car of the day, the BMW i8 Hybrid.

Great sculpting around the back for aerodynamics

Mini, you got rid of the big clock and replaced it with
 a BIG Tach?

Gotta plug the FIAT!

The retro FIAT 500 edition, dig the wheel covers!

FIAT Abarth, with extra scorpion decal on roof!
Lexus, still ugly.

Lexus RC 350-F Sport, available in AWD

Ford Fiesta ST, will be the car to beat in HS autocross

Scion FR-S, twin to the Subaru BRZ

Same engine Scion/Subaru

Maserati's come from Modena, same city as Ferrari

Maserati trident logo

Maserati designed by Pininfarina

Great to see this display: Virginia International Raceway/VIR

Viper motor display in the lobby