Friday, February 27, 2015

Caterham Formula 1 Team Bankruptcy AUCTION!

Lot 44, two front wheels, from Caterham F1 auction March 11
I bet 89% of the population dreams that some day they will find that ONE huge bargain find at a yard sale, auction, on Craigslist, or maybe inherit that Ford Model T that they can brag about the rest of their lives.  Personally I'd never fall for any of that stuff, like the 70 million to 1 odds in the big lotteries, or look at online auctions, or try to find new car parts on Ebay at a discount.....

However, in the real world, sure, what's a harmless little fantasy!  You might remember a blog post here on NMS some time ago where I mentioned putting in an unsuccessful bid on part of a Marussia F1 car that was being auctioned when they were going out of business. Well, the good news is that if you missed that auction, there is another F1 team that filed for bankruptcy (went into receivership since these are English business, and they have their own way of talking American over there).  Here's the link to the March 11th auction of the Caterham Formula 1 team:  Caterham Auction

A quick review of the 18 pages of items convinces me that the team is out of business for good. I say that because the Marussia team that supposedly auctioned off all their stuff is back in business. Maybe if you live in England you'd like to stop by and pick up some cool things for me! Here's a partial list of items that you probably can't buy anywhere else:

-F1 car wheels and tires
-F1 carbon fiber car chassis
-carbon fiber race seats
-Race used steering wheels
-Complete pit wall timing stand
-Tire warming blankets

...and tons of other tools, stands, bags, shipping cases, car parts, nitrogen bottles, etc.

The one item that might be handy to have, and that I could actually afford, would be a "tyre stack rain cover", something to dress up the old garage instead of having to look at stacks of extra tires, (excuse me "tyres") in the corner of my garage!  You could set up a pretty darn cool garage with some of this stuff!

If plain old car parts aren't cool enough, check out THIS page:      Caterham Auction BIG STUFF!

There you can read all about a few other "small" items that are not part of the auction, but listed as "negotiated sale", so give them a call quick if you are interested in a few items such as a fleet of trailers and hospitality vehicles...

or a set of Autoclaves, the machines used in constructing or curing the carbon fiber components, (Autoclave NOT available at Wal-Mart)...

and the Caterham driver simulator, powered by 4 Dell Alienware computers, 3 high-definition projectors and etc.  Hey, I've got an Alienware computer at home, just three more and a bunch of other stuff and I'll be good!...

and finally, a SUPER COMPUTER!   

If someone says it's SUPER, then I believe them!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

2015 Season Goals NMS North

For 2015 I will be driving in autocross events mostly with the local Tidewater Sports Car Club (TSCC), so since I'm new in the area my predictions are likely to be worth exactly what you pay for them, which adds up to exactly nothing!

But still, the chance to get one prediction right and then in November to be able to say "TOLD YOU SO!" is strong, so here we go. Hopefully these are both obtainable and realistic goals, but I'll still hope to win the big lottery and move to Italy too!

GOAL 1:  Compete in all 9 events.  Normally my work schedule doesn't include weekends, and considering I am pre-paid for all these events thanks to the club's handy Season Subscription deal, I should be able to compete March to November without too much trouble. The good news is that like most clubs, you can miss a couple of events and still be competitive for the season points title, since they will drop your two worst events and count points from there.

GOAL 2:   Finish every event safely with no mechanical problems or car issues. Just like last year, this should be simple since my car is only a couple years old, with around 37,000 total miles. As long as I check the oil and other fluids, brakes, and minor details like having tires (with air in them this year) on the car, this one should be a done deal. Being safe is a given; no reason to kill yourself or run over someone in an autocross since the main competition is just to go faster than the last run. My plan is also to let all the other drivers worry about their own times, and since I can't control that or the weather, it's all about just doing your best and having fun.

GOAL 3:   Take first place in the GS class. I could spend a bunch of money and get better shocks, engine upgrades, newer tires, and a bunch of other stuff to make my car go faster, but that would just put me in another class with a bunch of other cars with modifications to make THEM faster too, so I like staying in the G Street class. The SCCA is still considering bumping the Abarth into the slower HS class, so if they do that, then my goal will transpose to "first place in HS".

Other than that my goals are to maybe drive on a track day for fun, and support some of the other TSCC events as a volunteer, and somehow bring about world peace! Along the way I'll keep you updated here on NMS, along with the usual bunch of car related "stuff". 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Sticker Inventory 2015

The last laps of the Daytona 500 yesterday were pretty awesome with cars going three wide, close racing, and of course cars with all kinds of paint schemes and decals.  Maybe every race can be that close!

Since I don't have anything important to do, let's review some stickers on the FIAT just for fun!  Or if you want to see something even cooler, check out the time lapse video of this year's Ferrari F1 car getting it's stickers on at this link:    FERRARI LINK

The windshield banner ABARTH sticker is the largest I've installed, but with the help of Brian it wasn't too hard to put on shortly after buying the car.  While it's kind of an in-your-face advertisement that either is childish or race-car-like, it serves one good purpose by serving as a sun visor too!  Even a little worn out from the windshield wipers hitting it, it's in good shape for being over 2 years old.

On both doors I've got my name with a US flag, so there's an incentive to drive safely on the street.  "Yeah officer, some idiot in a red FIAT almost hit me, hey wait a minute, it had his NAME on it!".


Here are some of the autocross fan stickers, my favorite is "eat, sleep, autocross", in case you were wondering what the traffic cone symbols are all about.

 This large Pirelli one is kind of cool, with the big letter P stretched out like the Ferrari logo. Since both these products come from Italy, maybe it's an Italian thing!  The Fiat Abarth came with Pirelli tires as stock, and I've been happy with them so far, although some drivers claim that they aren't getting a lot of miles out of them.  My guess is that most new cars come with fairly cheap tires, and you're just not going to get a ton of miles on the original rubber shoes.
Another reason the Pirelli stickers are cool is that when I wrote to the company and asked where I could buy some stickers, they sent me these for free!   I don't know about you, but I call that great customer service!  And "free" is still my favorite flavor.

K&N makes air filters for just about every kind of vehicle on the road, and if it makes the car any faster that's OK with me too!  These are permanent filters, so the idea is that you also save money if you use K&N instead of buying a one-use filter and keep filling up landfills. Maybe the air filter gives my car a bit more power; the idea is that more air in your combustion engine gives you more energy. If nothing else, the sticker has to be worth 5hp just by itself!

The Sports Car Club of America sponsors all kinds of auto related driving events, and autocrossing is probably the most popular. If you don't belong, I'd recommend you do so today! They have local regions all across the USA, and there are sure to be events close to you.

Here are some fun decals of tracks that I've driven on or visited.  From top to bottom, GoPro Motorplex Kart Track in Mooresville NC, Darlington Raceway in Darlington SC, BMW test center in Greer SC, and I think Carolina Motorsports Park north of Camden SC. The kart races are a ton of fun, and you can show up and drive their cars. The GoPro guys will let you borrow their helmets too, so what are you waiting for? As another bonus, they are another great company that offers a discount to military folks.

Darlington hosts a lot of autocross events in their parking lot, but from time to time such as September 11 every year, you can drive on the track if you participate in their Red Cross blood drives.  Lots of fun!

Magnetti Marelli is another Italian company that makes electrical systems and other auto parts. I've still got another one of these decals in reserve, so in case of sticker-failure I should be in good shape.   The company is owned by FIAT, so it's nice that they keep it all in the family!  You just can't have too many stickers on your car. If you disagree, go look at a real race car sometime!

Yep, plenty of room for a whole lotta more stickers on the back of this car!

Not a sticker, but this Krispy Kreme Challenge magnet is just a memento from the crazy 5 mile run in NC where the "challenge" is to also eat a DOZEN DONUTS at the halfway point of the run. I managed to eat about 5 donuts and  then finish the 5 mile run in just over an hour, so even though I didn't pass the "challenge", I'm happy to report that I lived to say I tried!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Best Wishes to Fernando Alonso

Sounds like McLaren driver Fernando Alonso will be OK following a crash in testing today in Barcelona.  Below is an excerpt taken from the official McLaren Honda F1 team website:  McLaren Link

ERIC BOULLIER - Racing director, McLaren-Honda:\

“Fernando’s accident was just one of those things that happens in testing. Fortunately, he’s fine, but was concussed during the accident, which therefore required an overnight stay in hospital as a precaution. That’s normal practice after a concussion. Inevitably, some media reports have sought to exaggerate the severity of the incident – it was just a normal testing accident.

“While the car wasn’t particularly badly damaged, it was enough of an impact to warrant quite a lengthy check of the gearbox and power unit systems. Given the time needed to carry out such an analysis, we decided to bring the curtain down on our test a few hours earlier than anticipated.

“It’s been a tough week for the whole team, but we’ll be back, and pushing harder than ever, in Barcelona next week.”

What’s next

The final test of the winter, which also takes place in Barcelona, and kicks off next Thursday (February 26).

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Taking Stock of FIAT and Ferrari

You might already know that FIAT now owns Chrysler, and the company name is officially Fiat-Chrysler-Automobiles. Like most major auto makers, they are a publicly held company, which means that anyone (anyone with money that is), can buy shares of their stock.  While NMS is not in the financial business, we are in the business of liking cars and anything car related, so today here's one non-experts opinion on FIAT stock.

Owning a share of FIAT stock means that you are a part owner in not just FIAT and Chrysler, but all their other brands. To review, here are the car brands that belong to FIAT:

  • Alfa Romeo
  • Chrysler
  • Dodge
  • FIAT
  • Ferrari
  • Jeep
  • Lancia
  • Maserati
  • Ram

With that many makes, I'd say they pretty much have everything covered from cheaper cars (FIAT)  to trucks (RAM), SUVs (Jeep), and on up to expensive luxury brand cars (rhymes with Alfa, Ferrari, Maserati). Later this year we will see a Maserati SUV built in Italy, so that just about covers everything. The president of Italy was visiting the factory in Turin this week, so that's probably a good thing too! Maybe he gets a discount!

Of course the reason FIAT controls the Chrysler brands was because when the world's economy had a bad hair day for a few years starting back in 2008, Chrysler was about to go belly up and was available fairly cheaply.  As a result of the merger, we now have Jeeps being built in Italy, various vehicles being designed on the same platform in different countries even though they end up wearing different brands, and in the long run that's one way auto makers cut costs but offer more products.  Another example is the engine built in Detroit that powers my FIAT, which was designed in Italy and built in Mexico for the US market.  Put another way, FIAT didn't really have much in the way of SUVs and trucks, so now they have Jeep and Ram.  Add to that the fact that Chrysler wasn't selling many small cars,  So now we have FCA that is able to share costs in an effort to help the bottom line.

Fun Fact of the Day: FIAT plans to split Ferrari off as a separate company later this year, and when that happens, we can all go out and buy some Ferrari stock. The only sure thing about this is that a share of Ferrari stock will cost about a bazillion dollars less than a new Ferrari automobile!

Extra Extra Fun Fact of the Day:  If you own FIAT stock now, those shares will be split later this year and the plan calls for every current share of FIAT to be turned into one share of FIAT plus one share of Ferrari!  It's better than 2 for 1 Cheerios at the grocery! Like buying a FIAT and getting a Ferrari!!!

DISCLOSURE: I bought a few shares of FIAT just to get some Ferrari stock, so don't blame me if the stock market has a bad hair day again in the future. On the other hand, maybe the Ferrari stock holders annual meeting will take place in Italy.  I hear they have good Italian food there, but they just call it "food". 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Return of Ol' Number 77

Nixon Motor Sports North announced today that the FIAT Abarth will again be wearing number 77 this year, contrary to a previous announcement.  Number 77 will return to autocross action on March 15th with the Tidewater Sports Car Club at Pungo Airfield in Virginia.

In other FIAT news, the Sports Car Club of America has confirmed that my letter supporting moving the Abarth from G Street to H Street class was reviewed by the SCCA Street Committee and forwarded to the Solo Events Board.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Ford EcoBoost Challenge, Coming 2015

Here in Virginia we've got about 6 inches of snow and the roads are so bad that schools and a lot of work places are closed for the 2nd day in a row tomorrow, so it's time to think about better weather and DRIVING!

Last year NMS brought you the news from Ford's Eco Boost Challenge event when they stopped at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and we're looking forward to the event returning again in 2015. We highly recommend you check out their website now at Ford Eco-boost Challenge and get all signed up for an event near you. 

Sure, it's a promotional event and it helps Ford sell cars, but as satisfied customers that have owned classics like Ford Ranger, Ford Mustang, and Ford Focus, the big blue oval folks are OK with us, especially at free driving events!

At last year's event in Charlotte we enjoyed the Fiesta ST on a short autocross course, and we all agreed that the hybrid Ford C-Max was more fun to drive side-by-side than the Toyota Prius. They had some other Ford cars and trucks available to drive and compare with other brands on site, but after being wet and cold most of the morning we bypassed the those vehicles and went to lunch!

Bottom line, at last year's event on a chilly wet day we had a blast, and got an early look at the new Mustang that Brian is checking out in the photo above. Oh, and Ford gave us free hot chocolate at this free event! Did we mention it was free? NMS gives the Ford Eco Boost Challenge our coveted "Two Hands on the Wheel" stamp of approval!

Here's the Ford Eco-Boost Challenge schedule so far, find one next to you and sign up now!
03/07/15    Miami - Sun Life Stadium
03/14/15    Los Angeles - Santa Anita Race Park
03/21/15    Dallas - AT&T Stadium
03/28/15    Washington D.C. - FedEx Field
04/18/15    Houston - NRG Park
04/25/15    Louisville - Papa John's Cardinal Stadium
05/02/15    Phoenix - WestWorld
05/02/15    Charlotte - zMax Dragway of Charlotte Motor Speedway
05/09/15    Seattle - Emerald Downs
05/09/15    Chicago - Arlington Park
05/30/15    Cincinnati - Forest Fair Village Mall
05/30/15    Pittsburgh - Pittsburgh International Race Complex
06/06/15    Orlando - Orange County Convention Center
06/06/15    Philadelphia - Wells Fargo Center
06/13/15    San Francisco - Oakland Alameda Coliseum
06/13/15    Rochester (NY) - Monroe Community College
06/20/15    Minneapolis - Mall of America

Monday, February 16, 2015

Come on Mazda, More POWER

I'm a huge Mazda fan.  I think the Miata is a great car all around and Mazda's most recent SKYACTIV technology is delivering great fuel economy along with performance and darn good looks.   The new MX-5 (Miata) pulls all of that together for what the automotive press is very excited about after initial test drives.

In a recent release from Mazda, they describe some of the upgrades that might be available on the car including Brembo brakes, BBS wheels, and a body kit.  While I think these are going to sell really well with the consumer looking to buy all the typical, "cool to have" upgrades, the true enthusiasts will not be satisfied.  Not often are light-weight little Miatas short on braking power and the body kit most likely wouldn't produce the usable aerodynamic performance actually needed in motor sports.  These upgrades just won't provide a ton of real benefit (though I admit they do look pretty cool).

While this might sound like a criticism, I'm actually glad to see Mazda is going this route.  While myself and the true enthusiast community wants to see some power upgrades or an ultra light weight stripped down model, these "just for show" upgrades should make the cars more appealing to the mass market and bring in a lot of money.

I am confused by Mazda trying to sell accessories or option upgrades to make the car more marketable to general consumers without addressing the real big issue...the Miata does not stack up against even it's nearest rival, the BRZ/FR-S as it lags so far behind in power.  Most people just want to talk power and straight line speed and in no world does 150hp sound good. While it realistically offers good power and performance with the light weight and agile chassis, is it really good enough?  The twins put down 200hp from a 2.0 liter, so why can't Mazda's 2.0 do the same? Let alone the 2.5 scheduled to go in the Miata.

If history has shown anything, the Miata is good out of the box, but given a little more power it's fantastic and a real track weapon.  Mazda, why can't we get that amazing performance without going to the aftermarket?  The previous Mazdaspeed Miata came close and after 10 years to think about it, I'm sure you can give us something that will actually look better on paper than the other hot hatches and sports cars available and entice some new buyers to the roadster market.  Great work on the options in the current line up but let's see some real performance to go with it!

See Mazda's press release here.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Car Magazine Update

The latest round of car magazines have flooded my house, much like  the expensive commercials that flooded the Super Bowl, so here's a quick round up of the latest things we're reading...or, pictures of cars we're looking at, at NMS North:

Automobile: Surprise, this magazine that comes from the Car and Driver folks ALSO has the same cover feature, the Acura NSX.  Despite TWO magazine covers at the same time, this car still will cost about $150,000, and will still be the coolest thing made in Ohio since the invention of the Etch-A-Sketch. Or the Wright Brothers machine, take your pick. Or Pringles.

Seriously, this month, Automobile leads the pack in a great all around issue with stories on cars of all types. My favorite was a 10 page story on various Lancia models built in Italy over the years, lots of cool photos, and YES, my favorites the Lancia Scorpion and Lancia Stratos!  Five stars for this issue!

Forza: Did I just say something about Italian cars like Lancia? Yes.  If that is one of your interests, then I can ALWAYS suggest Forza!  This is is the magazine you want to read if you are interested in Ferraris. F1 Ferraris, modern street Ferraris, historical Ferraris, Enzo Ferrari, etc. If it has the word Ferrari in it, it's in this magazine. The latest edition features a buyers guide to the 348, the V8 powered car built from 1989-1995 which the magazine now suggests could be bought ranging from $25,000 to $50,000  depending on condition. I don't know about you, but the idea that I could have something like this instead of another new Camry is a VERY interesting idea to have rolling around in one's head. Notice I didn't say brain, but head, or maybe heart if your passion is for cool Italians. Or Cars. Or Ferraris.

Motor Sport: Cover feature is "Europe's Great Circuits", so right there I'm willing to plunk down my American money for this British import magazine to read about F1 tracks like Spa in Belgium, Monza in Italy (where they have all that Italian food), and the Nurburgring (where they must eat a lot of Nurburgers).  That's the best F1 race track joke you're getting out of me today too! Another great article is an interview with AJ Foyt, great reading! Two other articles worth the price of admission: interview with Red Bull Racing's Chris Horner, and more F1 insider news and opinions from former driver Martin Brundle. Add tons of cool British car ads, and it's worth the high cost of buying this imported magazine when the articles are this cool and you like stuff like Formula 1 or AJ Foyt.

Motor Trend:  Another one of the big ones from the USA, this month we find the Acura NSX also on the cover just like over on Automobile.  While I really WANT to drive the next $150,000 car that will be built in my home state of Ohio, well, I REALLY want to drive this thing some day!  Some of the other articles include a mini-van shoot-out, review of the Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, a Camaro Z/28 VS Porsche 911 GT3 comparison, and a compact crossover article that compares the Chevy Trax, Honda HR-V, Jeep Renegade, Mazda CX-3, and the new FIAT 500X. All of those are pretty new to the market, and I'm looking forward to checking out the FIAT and Mazda at least, keeping it all in the Miata/FIAT Nixon Motorsports Stables brand community!  All in all, save your money and pick up Automobile for their NSX review, unless you're in the market for the cars I mentioned here, or a minivan.

Road and Track: Cover feature is "The New AMG GT" from Mercedes. Without reading the article I already know this is a cool, high quality German engineered car that I am nowhere close to being able to afford or interested in driving, but of course if someone wants me to test drive one, I am available! Other cars that are "too-expensive-for-humans" mentioned on the cover are the Corvette ZO6, Lexus RC F, Porsche Macan, Audi SQ5, and the Mercedes GLA45 AMG. Let me just say that if I enjoy reading about cars I can't afford, then it's more fun to just go up to the $200,000 and above range and get into a new McLaren, Ferrari, or Lamborghini instead of all the cars on the cover of Road and Track. Having said that, you should read the article in this issue about the secret tunnel in Pennsylvania that Chip Ganassi uses to test cars, you won't believe it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

First Autocross of 2015

After two months off, it was finally time to put down the wrenches and pick up the keys.  This past weekend we held the annual SCR SCCA Novice School and first points event of the 2015 season.  We were all a little anxious about the chance of rain and cold weather in February, but luckily it turned out to be the perfect weekend for racing with clear skies and weather in the 60s.
Heading out from the starting line.

The novice school on Saturday was awesome with a ton of Miatas showing up and lots of new folks to the club.  I had a great time instructing three of the new drivers and I think they all had a great time as well.  Everyone was really improving by the end of the day and hopefully they'll all come back and duke it out with us for season points all year!
Coming through finish with my fastest clean run of 32.116
Sunday we kicked off 2015 in E Street (ES) class with 6 drivers, all with Miatas.  My runs were pretty consistent, but like last year I was pushing hard and not getting many clean runs.  In the end I had one clean run good for a time in the low 32 second range, just barely losing out to 2013 ES champ, Dan by less than 3 tenths of a second.  In the big picture I achieved my goal of placing in the top 20% of drivers by finishing 9th overall PAX out of 59 total!

Check out another excellent write up from the weekend and some pics with the 99 Miata in them from a fellow gearhead in the area on Jalopnik.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

New Year, New Number!

In a press conference at their HQ in Virginia Beach, Nixon Motor Sports  North announced today that the mighty FIAT 500 Abarth will be wearing the number 70 this year in autocross competitions. As a change from the 2013-2014 seasons #77, NMS-N driver Robert Nixon stated that "well, the ol' 77 wasn't available since another driver was  using it, so I consulted with the spirit of legendary drivers and they told me to go with 70. Besides, I can probably just turn the magnetic sign "7" into a "0" with a little help from a magic marker and not spend any money". 

NMS confirms they will be retaining the FIAT 1.4 liter turbocharged motor that was built in Detroit, twin intercoolers, CIAO wheels wearing Dunlop tires, and K&N air filters in 2015.  With new NGK spark plugs powering the five speed transmission. The graphic design and official paint scheme will be unveiled at a future date, but for now here is an artist's rendering of the anticipated number 70.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Brian's Goals for 2015

Here's what I want to achieve in 2015:

1. Improve in autocross so that I'm consistently finishing in the top 20% of drivers.  Last year I averaged in the top 34%, just barely keeping in the top third for the season.  Toward the later half of the season I was getting a lot of very fast runs in during fun runs or during the event but hitting cones.  I'm going to focus on getting the quick runs in when they count and work on keeping those cones standing up.  I'm not going to focus on where I place in ES class, but really work on keeping up with the top drivers overall.

2. Get out on the track at least one weekend this year.  Right now I'm targeting a track weekend with NASA in May at Carolina Motorsports Park.  I don't have any competitive track goals this year, but rather getting out there and getting a feel for higher speed on a real track.

3. Try rallycross.  Rallycross is just like autocross, where there's a course defined by cones and drivers take turns setting their fastest times except it's held off road.  It looks like way too much fun and I'm determined to check it out at least once.  It sounds like the ol' Ranger, while not legal for autocross along with all other SUVs, trucks and other high center of gravity vehicles, is legal to rallycross.  Stay tuned to see how this turns out.

4. I'm going to reduce the total number of events I compete in this year to open up the budget to upgrade the shocks, sway bar, and add a rollbar to the 99 Miata, but my final goal is to get up to Virginia Beach at least once or twice this year to check out and race at some of those cool sites NMS North has been running at.

Only a few days until the first event with SCR.  Woo hoo!  2015!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

99 Miata Build, Part 9

After just under 4 months, the Miata's maintenance plan is complete!  Time to start saving for some upgrades.  Here's a quick recap of this weekend's work:

A new fender is about $150, so I decided to keep the crunched one and paint it to keep it from rusting.  Step one was to sand down the impacted area to remove chipped paint and smooth out the whole surface.
Starting with the Dremel, the major paint flakes were removed from the more damaged area, then followed up with 320, 600, and 800 grit sand papers for a very smooth finish.
Using the trusty Ranger's paint booth mode, the fender was masked off and painted and then left out to dry.
I decided to go ahead and paint the whole front area to make sure to thoroughly cover it.
 The color wasn't a perfect match, but I already had the paint on hand from covering the rust in the trunk and it kept it cheap.
After masking off the initial area and painting with primer and color, I removed the tape, backed it off  half an inch to add a layer of red and primer, then moved the tape back one more time to add another layer of primer.  Hopefully that will prevent the edge from flaking.
 While the paint was drying, it was time to replace the driver-side rear brake caliper.  The one on the car wouldn't come free and made it difficult to swap out the pads and rotors awhile back, so it was time for a whole new caliper.  Thanks again to Kyle for picking up the new-used caliper for me over Thanksgiving weekend.
Old cruddy rotor and original caliper that would not come free despite liberal use of a large hammer.
 Both the rear brake pads and rotors were swapped out and driver side got a bleed to make sure there aren't any air bubbles left in from the new caliper.
New happy caliper, rotor and brake pads.  The old pads were significantly worn and looked as if they had not been replaced with the other rear brakes indicating this might have been an issue for a long time.
The next day the dry fender was bolted back on and I did a complete clutch bleed for good measure.  The summer tires went back on and everything was test driven.
Big reservoir on the left is the brake fluid, the smaller on the right is the clutch.  The clutch fluid was black before now.
Since the last event the Miata was at it has improved brakes, spark, air intake, fuel flow, and is a few grams lighter from the pile of dirt that's been removed. The car is completely ready for a two day weekend with SCR-SCCA in Darlington. Let's just hope the driver didn't get rusty over the winter break!

Monday, February 2, 2015


If you missed any of the car commercials during the Super Bowl, here's my take on how they stack up to the motoring public here in the good ol' USA. If you missed any of them, check out this link to see what you missed:  Cars Direct-2015-super-bowl-car-commercials
Here we go, in order of appearance, graded A+ as best to F for failing! (yes, I graded some A+ and one F)

Chevy Colorado: Right before kickoff, we thought the NBC network had lost the signal as the TV picture fizzled out, but then it turned out to be an ad for the Chevy Colorado pickup, which has it's own WiFi and used the music from AC/DC's "Back in Black". Caught me off guard, so I liked the surprise.    A-

Toyota in the 1st Quarter had a dramatic commercial with a lady with no legs who still did all kinds of things, along with narration from (I think) Muhammed Ali. Inspirational, dramatic, I give it a B+

BMW i3 electric car also showed up early, with a funny clip from long ago with Today show hosts Katie Couric and Bryant Gumble.  Some good points about new technology related to how they didn't understand the internet 21 years ago, and of course electric cars are the new technology that they didn't understand yet either. Since Brian and I have test driven the BMW i3 I liked this car and might give it an A for driving experience, but can't go higher than B+ for the commercial.

At the end of the 1st Quarter, Lexus had a fairly generic ad for the NX Turbo and NX Hybrid, the cars drove around, some flashy people were seen, there was creatively photographed water flying around, but the commercial came across as an average new car spot, so they earn a D here.

Nissan showed up in the 2nd Quarter, and I have to admit not liking it on first viewing, despite the Nissan race car driver scenes. The story of the ad had something to do with a dad who was a racer, his wife and son were left at home and worried for his safety when the race car crashed on TV, but apparently the intent was to show that Nissan vehicles are safe I guess. At the end of the commercial, dad-driver is home and picks up teenage son from school, they look at each other, and apparently it was the new Maxima. The Harry Chapin song "Cat's in the Cradle" certainly spins it as a dramatic emotional story of dad not having time to be with his son, Race Cars good, long unclear family story of some kind not so good: adds up to a B in my book.

EXTRA SPECIAL NOTICE: Not a car maker ad, but kudos to the WeatherTech guys for an ad during SuperBowl 49. These guys are an all American made-in-the-USA company, they advertise a TON in car magazines, and who couldn't use an awesome set of floor mats in their car? Despite that, it was a very average commercial that described the product, hit the key points, a solid C.

FIAT:  As total disclosure, I drive a FIAT, own a handful of FIAT shares of stock, but I loved the "blue pill" commercial for the soon-to-hit-the-US FIAT 500X. A gentleman's "blue pill" falls out his window, goes through the Italian town, and lands in the gas tank of a tiny FIAT 500, which suddenly grows in size to the 4 door FIAT 500X. Very well done, very funny, Italian content, what's not to love on this one? A+

Halftime:  Toyota #2, another serious take on being a dad, he's taking his daughter to the airport where she seems to know the military folks. Is she in the military? Dating a military person? Who knows, another serious dramatic ad. Even though I also own a Toyota Camry, the ad seemed pretty staged and didn't connect with me too much, so I've got to give them a C for this one.

Still halftime, Toyota #3 showed us the "BOLD NEW CAMRY". OK, let's face facts here, the Camry is the top selling car in the US because Toyota makes a big comfy sofa that you can drive down the street, people love this car, and there's not much EXCITEMENT behind the wheel of a Camry. Great selling car that you would NOT want to autocross, but Toyota is great at what they do with this vehicle. The commercial, not so much, F.

Into the 3rd Quarter, and a real surprise. Out of nowhere, Lexus had a funny flashy commercial for the RC350 with various cars drifting into tight parking spots, and this commercial made you want to check out the vehicle even if you had no idea what it was. Great job on this one, and I've got to give it a big ol' A!

Then a commercial came on that I was sure was one of those non-profit-feel-good-public-service-types, with a series of real people that were around 100 years old giving great bits of advice about how to live life. Then all of a sudden we notice one of these folks is driving a Dodge Charger or Challenger! Wow, a Dodge commercial to celebrate the Dodge Brothers 100th anniversary. Very well done, caught me by surprise, so with their theme of "never forget where you came from", a nice A+.

Next up, we see a producer type giving a story line to former James Bond Pierce Brosnan, where the director is describing "you're driving up a mountain" and see a series of incidents where Pierce is thinking it's a big fat adventure shoot-'em-up scene, but the producer is painting a nice quiet ride up a scenic mountain. Guess what, Brosnan is driving a Kia Sorrento SUV! Darn if they didn't do a great job on surprising us with this one, it was funny, and I even remembered what car it was! A+ for James Bond-ish content, complete with an exploding building!

At the end of the 3rd quarter, after three good ones from Lexus, Dodge, and Kia, we got a really odd mixed message from Jeep.  The music was the classic Woody Guthrie song "This Land is Your Land", which makes most people think of patriotic USA thoughts, despite his long time political leanings towards Communism and your interpretation of the lyrics, but as the song continued we noticed the images were from around the it wasn't a USA flag waving commercial. Let's see, Jeep is a US brand that is based around Toledo Ohio, but is now owned by FIAT the Italian best guess is that even Jeep is now an international big brand that means a lot to FIAT, so they are making some Jeeps on FIAT platforms, and some Jeeps may be built in Italy. Welcome to the new world order of manufacturing in one fell swoop of a commercial. Too much of a grab bag thing for me, so I'm confused, but am willing to give them a B. Maybe get the real Woody Guthrie to sing it next time.

In the 4th Quarter, only Mercedes Benz made an appearance, and this was another odd one. The commercial starts with the tortoise and the hare starting their big race, had some funny bits like a snail telling the slow moving turtle to move over, but then it turns out to be an add for the hot Mercedes Benz AMG GT. Tortoise jumps in the list price $129,000 two-seater awesome car, and wins the race. Two thoughts on this one: Yes, I'd love to have a cool car like that, and No, a commercial for the most expensive car advertised in the Super Bowl didn't have enough cuteness and comedy for me. If you've got a totally cool car like this, just show it doing it's thing without the cartoon characters, thank you very much. B+ is as high as I can go on this one.

Congrats to the members of the A class (no, not the Mercedes A class either!), here's my take on the final standings:

1-FIAT 500X: A+
2-KIA Sorrento: A+
3-Dodge: A+
4-Lexus RC350: A
5-Chevy Colorado: A-

If you want another opinion, check out Car and Driver magazine's take on the ads at Car and Driver: super-bowl-xlix-car-commercials