Sunday, November 29, 2015

Cars. James Bond Cars!

The latest James Bond film "Spectre" features not only the typical Bond action, Bond women, Bond bad guys, Bond gadgets and etc. but also a new car that was built just for this movie, the Aston Martin DB10. From looking at several automobile magazines at the bookstore today, I'd have to say that the entire world is fascinated with Bond cars, based on at least four different magazines that had cover stories or test drives of the latest DB10 and all the other Bond cars from several decades worth of movies. Check out the article on the Automobile website at:  Automobile Magazine LINK

Of course there is at least one big chase scene in "Spectre" where Bond drives the DB10 while being chased by the bad guy, and even the bad guy has an awesome car, a Jaguar! And since the chase scene is in Rome (Rome Italy, not Rome New York), you will also see my favorite car, the FIAT 500 having a bit of a run-in with Mr. Bond.

A recent issue of Automobile magazine had a cover story on the various Bond cars, and this video from one of my favorite TV shows "Jay Leno's Garage" goes a bit more into depth on the DB10 and how it was filmed in the  movie.  DB10 on Jay Leno's Garage LINK

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Join the Mazda Drive for Good!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Today I just want to share a letter I received from the folks at Mazda, and encourage you to says "thanks" to someone today, and challenge you to find a worthy cause to support. Helping Mazda is one way to do it, and there are countless other ways as well. 


Dear Robert,

Make something you love, like driving, an opportunity to help those in your community. Mazda Drive for Good
® is back. Last year alone, the program helped fund childhood cancer research, feed and shelter disaster victims, donate life-saving blood—and so much more. That's because we raised an astounding 4.9 million dollars and pledged 66,000 hours of volunteer service to worthy causes.

Now let's do it again. Test-drive a Mazda between now and January 4, 2016, and we'll volunteer an hour of our time to more worthy causes. We'll even pledge an additional hour if you bring family or friends and they take a test drive. Better yet, if you decide to purchase or lease a new Mazda, we'll donate $150 to a participating national or local charity.

Click here  Mazda Drive For Good LINK    to learn more about Mazda Drive for Good

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Wednesday Night = Jay Leno's Garage

Jay Leno and his Jaguar

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, which believe it or not is on a Thursday this year! That means that today is probably Wednesday, and that tells me that my newest favorite TV show, "Jay Leno's Garage" should be on CNBC TV at 10pm.

In case you've lived your life under a rock and not watched TV for the past few decades, Jay used to host the Tonight Show on NBC, and for that job he probably got paid a bazillion dollars. Now some people might do different things with that kind of dough, but Jay is like your average guy  because he's spent some of that money on cars. On a lot of cars. On a lot of very cool and expensive cars!

For the past few years Jay has been putting out a little internet show where he describes and drives various cars. Why does he do it? I think it's just because he's a car guy and loves cars!

Long story short, the good news is that his passion for automobiles has now turned into a TV show on CNBC, and you can find tons of videos on line or at the CNBC web link here: CNBC Jay Leno

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Autocross Wrap Up 2015 NMS-North

Factory Five Roadster at final event.

The final 2015 autocross event here in this part of Virginia is in the history books, so let's take a look at how we did this year in the FIAT 500 Abarth. Going into the final event with the Tidewater Sports Car Club, I was in 22nd place overall (PAX), and points wise in a pack of 4-5 drivers that meant there was room to move up (or down) after the last event.

Datsun Z car always looks great.

Long story short, I had an average day at the last event, finishing 40th out of 92 drivers, and ended the season in 29th out of 73 drivers! My calculator says that's in the top 39.7%, so let's round that up to say top 40% of all drivers that competed in the minimum number of events.  In my car's GS class I took first place for the day and for the year, although I'll again confess that not many other drivers competed in this class.

One of two Lotus cars at Pungo.

I also drove a few times (three of the eight autocross competitions) with the Old Dominion Region of the SCCA, and while it wasn't enough events to qualify for the year's competition, I still took 31st out of 81 ODR drivers in 2015.

Lotus, MR2, FIAT Abarth on grid.

Now that I've lived here for a year, I think that having two clubs in the area makes the Virginia Beach area a great place!  During the autocross season from March to November, there were at least two events every month, and if I wanted to drive a bit further I could easily find more events in other parts of Virginia or just over the border in North Carolina. Based on results for 2015, I'll be targeting a higher overall finish in both clubs next year. My current plans are to upgrade the autocross tires on the FIAT for 2016, so maybe that will give me a few tenths faster per run compared to my current two year old Dunlops.

Novice Driver's Course Walk before driving.

You can find the TSCC final results by overall and by each class at this link:  TSCC Standings

1st Place in GS for 2015!
Just for fun, here's the TSCC GS class standings, even though I was the only driver with enough events to qualify, first place is still first place!

GS - 'G Street'
Total Points
Points W/Drops
Robert Nixon

OK, that's enough celebrating!  Now let's start planning and working on the car for 2016!
Nixon Motor Sports has announced a press conference for December 15th, where they are expected to announce drivers and engine suppliers for 2016, so stay tuned! While this might mean that their drivers are negotiating with Indy, NASCAR, and Formula 1 for a full time race seat next year, the word on the street is that NMS will re-sign the same guys as this year.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Quick Fix: Replace FIAT Brake Light!

It's been a fun filled automotive week so far, with autocross on Sunday, and then the unveiling of the FIAT 124 Spider and the Alfa Romeo Giulia at the LA Auto Show. In other Italian car news, today's blog from Virginia goes like this...Only about a week after getting a Check Engine Light signal in the FIAT, this week the car told me that there was a problem with a brake light! Believe it or not, I got home and checked it out, and sure enough the left brake light was not lighting up, so now we get to show you how easy this little repair is for the average guy (me). Before diving in, let me  just say that even if every car has the computer power to tell you that the brake light isn't working, this is the first time I've had a car that had any kind of error message for common stuff like this. Kind of neat if you ask me!

Step one: buy a replacement brake light lamp at the local auto parts store. If you don't know what lamp to buy, the folks at the store will help you out, or you can look it up on line or in a catalog at the store. In the "good to know" department, you might want to always refer to these items as "lamps" and not "bulbs", or you'll get a lecture from a lighting designer like my friend Tom who once told me that "bulbs" grow in the ground!

Tail light assembly, two bolts on the right. 

So, here's the driver's side tail light, and we're going to remove it from the car by just wrenching off the two bolts on the right side of the tail light assembly. In this case, a 10mm socket will get the job done very easily.

10mm socket working on the top bolt. 

With the bolts removed, we can pull the assembly away from the car, and then loosen the clip-in electrical wire, just being careful to not pull the assembly too far away and break the wires. If anyone needs a highly paid "hand model" to hold things like wrenches for photographs, I can put you in touch with the hands used in these photos!

Electrical wires still connected to light assembly. 

I had to use a flat bladed screwdriver to loosen the clip-in wire connector, and then I could take the light over to the work bench to better attack the next step. If you're keeping score at home, that's a total of only two tools needed so far.

Back of the light assembly, Torx screws need to be removed.

Now that we're looking at the back of the tail light, it was time to apply a Torx socket and remove the four screws holding it together. Luckily for me I didn't have any Torx sockets, so it was off to the tool store to buy a set of Torx sockets that work with my 3/8 inch wrench. It's ALWAYS a good day when you get to buy a new tool! That brings our running tool count on this job up to three.

Back of the light assembly, with screws removed. 

 Loosen the four Torx screws and remove the back of the light to reveal the surprise inside!

Inside of the light assembly, the brake lamp is on the right. 

These small lamps easily screw or twist out, and then you just twist or screw the new one in. After that, assembly is the opposite of dis-assembly, and after putting it all back together again I'm happy to report that not only did the brake light work but that the error code on the dash also went out!

Of all the repairs that you can do on your own car, this has to rank up there with some of the easiest. Cost of the replacement lamp was something like $5.50 for two, so I've got an extra one for the next time a brake light goes out!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Indy Cars, Team Equipment Auction!

Hey, who doesn't dream of finding that bargain of a lifetime at the local garage sale, surplus auction, or Craigslist ad? OK, it's a rhetorical question, because if you're one of those types of folks, then I've got a website you will want to check today! And if you're a bargain hunter AND interested in race cars, then this is right up your alley!

Former Indy team HVM Racing is auctioning off a ton of stuff this Thursday in Indianapolis, and you can find it all listed at this website:  (Indy Car Team Auction LINK)
You can bid in person or on line, and all the info is at the link above.

A few of the more interesting items include:

--two Champ cars
--most of an Indy Lights car
--transporters and trailers
--two semi trucks
--various race car parts
--various race car tools
--tool cabinets
--buffers, lathes, other machine tools
--racer and mechanic clothing
--race team memorabilia

and all the other bits that are needed to stock a professional race team.

With Christmas coming, I think you'll find all your shopping and gift giving needs can be met with this one auction!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

November Auto Cross Complete!

Today was the final 2015 autocross event for the Tidewaters Sports Car Club (TSCC), and other than being a bit chilly this morning, it was a great day weather wise! At Pungo Virginia we had about 92 drivers, which included a large pack of 22 in the Novice class. Most of these drivers will have to enter in other classes next year, but for 2015 I hope they had as much fun as the rest of us!

In the G Street class, it was a two car battle and the preliminary results show that the FIAT Abarth finished just a few tenths faster to take the win! From the TSCC website (TSCC LINK) that was posting results as they happened, here are the times from our four runs each, with each drivers fastest time in bold. My first run was my fastest without hitting cones even though the final run was just a bit faster. Those darn cones are a 2 second penalty each, so they don't help your time any!

1TGS77Robert NixonRed39.74440.242+140.70339.671+139.744[-]0.301
2GS89John HendersonBlack42.009+9941.24240.48240.04540.045+0.301

For the season long club championship there were some really fast drivers fighting for the title today, so when the official results come out it will be fun to see who won. I'm happy with first place in the GS class, and will likely end up somewhere around 22nd overall. In 2016 I'll be trying to improve that overall standing, and keep having fun! If you don't have any plans for 2016 yet, why not find some an autocross group near you! NMS would be happy to help you learn more about this fun sport!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Unveiled: FIAT 124 Spider on November 18!

The friendly, fantastico, FIAT family has finally announced that the all new FIAT 124 Spider two seater convertible will be revealed at the LA auto show on Wednesday November 18th!

You can check out the COUNT DOWN CLOCK (cue music for "THE FINAL COUNTDOWN" like the Geico commercial) at this link:   124 SPIDER COUNTDOWN   and it will look something like the photo above.

Just as a review, the ALL NEW FIAT Spider will use the same name as a previous FIAT car (124), and it was developed along with the Mazda folks that have been making the Miata for over 25 years. In other words, the ALL NEW FIAT will be similar to one of the greatest roadsters ever, but with the addition of an Italian motor and Italian styling.

What we don't know yet is what the price range for the 124 Spider will be, so those of us here at NMS are anxious to see how it will stack up against the popular Miata here in the US. We've slowly gotten used to FIAT being back in the US since they returned in 2011 with the (J Lo commercial) 500, then the (Charlie Sheen commercial) Abarth, then the (can't remember the commercials) 500L and now the (hilarious blue pill commercial) 500X, but this 124 Spider will give them a totally new type of car to sell!

Friday, November 13, 2015


Lamborghini, another Italian car just like my FIAT! 
(only about $245,000 more)

When it comes to talking about our cars, our goal at NMS is to be maybe entertaining, perhaps funny, but always honest, so I now have to report that my 2013 FIAT Abarth lit up it's Check Engine Light or "CEL" the other day. As they like to say on the internet to get you to read more, "WHAT HAPPENED NEXT YOU WON'T BELIEVE!"

CEL Code from Auto Zone...Which Problem is it?

OK, you'll probably believe it, because number 1, it's not really very exciting, and number 2 (see, that's the intended funny part right there because I got to say "number 2" which is very funny when your brain's humor button maxes out about at the 5th grader level like mine)...uh, where was I, that was a long bit of parenthetical discourse...

FIAT Abarth, lounging in the shade at home.

Oh yes, you'll probably believe it because the CEL was a result of my own wrong-doing! Oooh, "wrong-doing", now that sounds like maybe some law breaking or extra-curricular activity that happens after midnight in a seedy part of town down by the spooky waterfront, where....oh never mind.

Over 1,500,000 of the new FIAT 500s built since 2007!

So the light comes on the other day, and it seemed odd because the car was running fine, there were no drastic sounds or explosions, no black smoke coming from the exhaust or engine bay, just a big fat case of nothing! After driving home, I checked the car out in my garage and took the air intake off, checked all the various hoses and belts that you can reach inside the cramped engine bay, and didn't find anything out of place. OK, that's a lie, because then I found the gas cap wasn't on tight, and I'd just put gas in it the day before. Hmmm, just maybe that's all it was. I'd read that this happens to cars these days, since they are so sensitive and have so many sensors, that even a loose gas cap will light up your CEL.

Nixon Motor Sports, Sports Car Club of America

What I still didn't know, and even putting this question on a FIAT forum on line didn't get me much help, was if the CEL was supposed to go off by itself if you've corrected a loose gas cap. Being a big fan of the cheapest possible fix, whether it's my car or a broken bone, I was thinking it would clear up by itself.

My research of the owner's manual didn't give me any clues, so I knew it was time for professional help, which believe it or not is FREE! If you get a CEL, and your car still drives OK, just head over to your nearest auto parts store and they'll plug their OBDII reader into the plug in your dash and tell you what the code means. Mine said that maybe the gas cap was loose, and also listed about three other possible causes. This made me feel like we were on the right track, since if it WAS the gas cap, then I'd already fixed that. However, this made me feel bad since if it WASN'T the gas cap, then I'd have to go pay the friendly FIAT folks for the use of their diagnostic computer thing to find out what was up. All this time, the car was running fine, so I decided to drive it a few more days and see if the CEL went away.

The happy ending was that then the next day, the CEL went away! Various theories are that after correcting the loose gas cap that the computer system has to drive a certain amount of miles, or a certain number of starting/stopping before it will clear the code by itself. Regardless, we have a happy ending! Special thanks to Auto Zone for the CEL code read out too.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

99 Miata - A New Engine!

With the 2015 autocross season finally complete it's time to turn attention to getting the 99 Miata back into fighting shape for it's 2016 campaign towards Solo Nationals.
Huge thanks to Tyson for RallyCross WRX, which fit the engine and three adults perfectly while returning much better gas milage than a pickup truck.  The rear hatch's opening perfectly accomodates an engine on a hoist.
A 50k mile Mazda re-built engine was sourced from a fellow Miata enthusiast in Charleston.  The dead motor from my car looks to be mostly re-buildable, but the opportunity to have a complete, running, low-mile engine to drop right in over a weekend won the war for funding.
What do you do when the engine hoist isn't available? Use a tractor.

Thanks to a generous loan from NMS North, and a 2004 WRX station wagon borrowed from another SCR-SCCA member, we braved the wet and cold weather (on loan from Canada) and brought the new engine back on Sunday.
As always, precision driving and operation by Chuck

Currently the powerplant is resting at Chuck's shop, where we've done most of the 99's maintenance to date.  While the rest of the SCR-SCCA guys head down to Roebling Road Raceway for a weekend of driving on the track, new gaskets, seals and accessories will be arriving in Columbia with a plan to install everything in two weekends.
Touch-down.  Only a few days until we're pumping air, gas, and electricity through this bad boy.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Car Spotting

Some serious gold wrap on this one!

In addition to autocross, car shows, test drives, and other fun things, sometimes you just spot an unusual car in every day life. Here's a few that caught my eye recently. Even if I don't know what
they all are, well, here they all are then!

Buckeye Nut spotted in VA

65 Malibu

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Timpani Drum = Gas Pedal Inspiration!

The other day I was watching a band rehearsal, and noticed how the pedal on timpani drums are shaped like your foot. Now I'm thinking that a timpani pedal would make a great replacement for a gas pedal.

Now I want to play timpani. FOUR pedals!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Chrysler 300 Test Drive!

The other day I had the opportunity to drive a new Chrysler 300, and not just any 300, but the 300 with All Wheel Drive. Unfortunately, this was not driving on the side of the Matterhorn or Mt. Everest, or even in a hurricane, so my testing of the AWD capability was limited to some slightly damp roads around sea level. 

Regardless, I'd rate the big Chrysler as worthy of your consideration if you need a big car that rides adult sized people comfortably. This particular land yacht came with a huge double sun roof and I'm sure plenty of other features that some people enjoy, although for me a sun roof makes no sense. Your mileage may vary, and certainly there's nothing wrong with having a sun roof, but I just will summarize my opinion as "convertibles and hard tops were invented for a reason, and anything else that tries to do both is just living in a fantasy world right along with unicorns and healthy fried food".

With the 300, Chrysler seems to be missing a great marketing opportunity to have some slick TV ads with Spartan warriors like in the movie also titled "300". Yeah, I can see it now, the guys with their six-pack abs, climbing out of a shiny new Chrysler 300, wearing their big flowing robes and cool Spartan helmets, brandishing their spears, and then they all shout in unison: "THIS, IS, SPARTA!"

I don't know why people with spears always seem to "brandish" them, but it must be the proper weaponry etiquette handed down by the Greeks. For all I know the ancient Romans also did their fair share of "brandishing".

Bottom line: A nice driving car, comfy, feels very solid, so give it a look if you're in the market for a larger car.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Build Lewis Hamilton's World Champion Mercedes F1 Car!

Build your own paper model world champ Mercedes F1 car!
Congratulations to the Mercedes Petronas Formula 1 team for winning both the Constructors and the Drivers championships this year! One of the team sponsors, Epson, has a cool little paper model of both champion Lewis Hamilton (car number 44) and Nico Rosberg's (car number 6) winning cars which you can build yourself!

Check out the following link, and then look for the link to the instructions and pages of parts you can cut out and build your own winner! While Lewis is now a three time champion, Nico won the race in Mexico yesterday, so congrats to him for his fourth victory of the year.