Sunday, July 30, 2017

Exhausting Coronet Work

While at our testing day at the track in May, we discovered we had an exhaust leak.  To make things even worse, one of the studs on the engine broke, making sure we couldn't fully tighten the exhaust manifolds onto the engine.
The engine comes out again.

This weekends we decided to tackle the issue and pull the engine from the car. Once out, we could more easily address all the issues.
Burnt gasket.

With the exhaust gaskets off, the burned areas were clear signs of the exhaust leaks. What we discovered was that the cheap headers were actually not ground down flat where they were welded.  John spent some quality time with a metal file and got everything all sorted out so they'll sit flush with the engine and properly seal.
Cleaning up some really cheap headers to hopefully finally seal the leaks.

Another issue was that some oil had mixed with the coolant when we quickly re-sealed the intake manifold before the May test weekend. Time to fully flush the block and radiator with water.
Flushing the engine.

What came out was in no way related to water or coolant, but rather seemed to be the hydraulic android fluid from Bishop in the Alien movies.
Almost fully flushed now.

Plug all the holes to drain maximum old gunky fluid.
Having fun flushing the radiator.

And don't forget to clear out the radiator fully.
Old mufflers on the left, one of the new ones on the right.

With all that back into shape, we loaded the motor back in the car and got onto some exhaust upgrades. We started by replacing the cheap mufflers that came with the car with lighter weight and free flowing ones to pick up a little more power.
Much more direct air flow through the new one.

With the exhaust now flowing more freely, we added an H pipe to the system. By connecting the left and right side exhaust together, it helps balance out the flow and helps pick up a little extra torque down low in the rev range of the motor.  Hopefully this will help pull us out of corners quicker during the race.
Fresh piece of pipe to make the H in the system just behind the transmission.

Our final project this weekend was fabricating and installing tow hooks for the car. Having an easily accessible metal loop on the back and front end of a race car is required for all racing series so the car can quickly be towed if it gets into trouble on track.
One of the new tow hooks bolted right below the rear bumper.

Saturday, July 29, 2017


If you are a Formula 1 fan, I know you're pumped up for Sunday's race in Hungary. If you are a Ferrari fan, you are doubly pumped up because the red team from Italy will start first and second on the grid, after Vettel set a new track record to take pole position, with Kimi 2nd.

On row 2, using the Noah's Ark "Two-by-Two" method, we have both Mercedes cars, led by Bottas and then Hamilton. The long run down to the first corner (since F1 starts from a standstill, unlike NASCAR and Indy) should be VERY interesting, and whoever survives or gets there first "should" be able to win the race.

As an added attraction to the Possible Mayhem Menu, we now have the two drivers from Finland starting close to each other, so watch for any possible Scandinavian Connection (get it, connection, like if they hit each other?) between Bottas and Raikkonen.

Row three, both Red Bull drivers, led by Verstappen, then Ricciardo. This was a bit of a surprise after Ricciardo was fastest of all in both Friday practices, but then before qualifying RIC had a break down on track, so maybe they haven't tweaked his car back to 100% yet. Look for him to be driving hard to take advantage of all mistakes ahead of him in the race. Young Max Verstappen has out qualified his team mate, so look for him to also be aggressive attacking Mercedes and possibly Ferrari from the start.

Row four ends up being both McLaren drivers, thanks to a penalty that drops Hulkenberg out of their way, so congrats to McLaren-Honda for finally getting some good performance out of the car. Here's hoping the have a great race, both score points, and avoid the issues that have plagued them the last few years.

Our American team Haas drivers start 14-15, pretty unexciting so far this week, so I'm afraid they will need some cars ahead to DNF if they are going to get up in the top ten and score some points.

One final driver note, Williams driver Felipe Massa drove in the three practice sessions, but then had to pull out for qualifying and the race due to illness, so best wishes to him. The same wishes for his replacement, Williams back up driver Paul Di Resta, who even though had never been in this year's car on track, should be able to do a good job since he's got several years of F1 racing in his past.

The race starts just past 8am Eastern, with an hour long pre-race show at 7am, all on NBC Sports Network.

Friday, July 28, 2017

What To Watch TONIGHT: The Tesla 3!

The Tesla electric cars have been growing in popularity, despite their high price. By high price I mean north of $50,000. Uh, north of $85,000 actually. Well, the wait for a cheaper Tesla ends TONIGHT, when Tesla unveils/delivers the first Tesla 3 live on line. The 3 has a range of over 200 miles on a charge, and starts at just a  hair above the average selling price of new vehicles in the US, at $35,000. The Tesla video states that 35K is before any tax credits, so depending on where you live and what the current laws are, you might end up paying less.

Now for the bad news. From what I've read, there are something like 400,000 people ahead of me in line to buy one. Production is predicted to be up to 20,000 cars per month, so by doing some math with those two numbers, it looks like if you want one you're going to wait something like 20 months for one. Maybe a few of those 400,000 folks won't actually get one, so let's just say you'll be waiting a bit for a Tesla 3.

One article about the reveal tonight also includes a cool video with more info on the car, you can go to this link: Business Insider

And I'll bet you can find a LOT of Tesla information at the official Tesla website: TESLA

So far there are two countries that have decided to phase out gas engines by 2040, and the popularity and technology of electric cars continues to increase. The NMS team have test driven some electric cars like the BMW i3, and we're willing to test drive a Tesla if you want to pull one up to the garage!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

F1 Takes a Vacation

Over in Europe, the Formula 1 racers have this little tradition where they take some time off in the middle of the racing season. No, it's not like Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, or the National Hockey League, where they take a handful of days off to have an All Star game in the middle of the season. The F1 teams take about four weeks and have no racing, with I think two weeks of the time where they are not allowed to have people working on the cars. Considering that the mechanics and engineers have probably been working 20 hours days for months, that's probably a good reason to take time off, but man, for the fans that's a month of no racing!

Hey, but the good news is that August is also chock full of NASCAR, IndyCar, drag racing, and about a bazillion other kinds of racing too, so there is always something going on somewhere in the wide wide world of racing. 

Here at NMS, our August schedule looks like this so far, not counting stuff like "work" or "looking for work":

5      Cars and Coffee Virginia Beach, VA
5      Ladies Day Autocross "Women at the Wheel", Myrtle Beach, SC
6      ODR Autocross 5, Pungo, VA  
6      SCR Autocross #6, Myrtle Beach, SC  
13    SCR Rallycross, Midway Motorsports Park 

17    SCCA Track Night in America, Carolina Motorsports Park
18    Richmond International Raceway Charity Laps, 5 laps for a donation 

18    "Wear Your Helmet To Work Day"
20    TSCC Autocross 6, Pungo 

That looks like a pretty good month, with a variety of car shows, autocross, rallycross, and maybe a charity event driving on the Richmond NASCAR track just for fun! Maybe we should get out the NMS team stationary and invite all the F1 drivers to attend these events since they don't have any racing going on for a while! Being such nice friendly guys, we'd even let Fernando Alonso co-drive an NMS car too!

Friday, July 21, 2017

July Virginia Report

Porsche 914

On a HOT (how hot was it? was July-In-Virginia-Beach-HOT!) HOT day, the TSCC returned to the Pungo Autocross Center of Excellence (PACE), with 62 drivers competing. When the dust settled, it was still really HOT! Along with the heat, NMS grabbed another first in HS class (ok, so there weren't any other HS drivers, I can't help that!) and fastest Italian of the day, along with 21st out of all 62 on PAX. This moves the FIAT up to 14th in the club championship for the year, so the NMS team remains right on schedule for their targeted finish in the top 15.

With the field split into two run groups, we headed out to work on course for the first run group. Drinking plenty of water, there weren't too many cones being hit, so it was great to be able to observe how the first half of the field attacked the Pungo layout. One of the challenges of Pungo in a fairly small area is to set up a course that has some unexpected or new elements, which makes autocross so challenging. The other way to do it I suppose would be to run all your club events at the same location and set the course up the same all year...boy does that sound boring! So, with a new challenge at each different event, it's important to arrive early and walk the course to learn the path, and then figure out how best to attack, where to brake, where to get back on the gas, etc.

Driver's Meeting

Once the first group finished their five runs, it was time to swap places, get the motors running, and line up to drive. Over five runs of the same course, my day started bad, for some reason I hit a cone on the first run when I normally am going at less than 100%, just to make sure I've got the course in my head and not going too fast. Oh well, with five runs, losing the first one is no big deal, since only the one fastest run counts.

Run two, I knew where I'd hit that one cone the first time, so this should be easy to get a clean run! That's what I was thinking to myself, but sure enough, in the middle of a slalom section my brain disengaged and I went on the wrong side of a cone. This gave me a big fat DNF (did not finish) to go with my 1 cone two second penalty on the first run. After two runs, I'd normally be focused on my time, and thinking of where on course to go faster and gain a few tenths of a second, but with the cone and DNF, I didn't even know what my times had been...and it didn't matter! The only thing that matters is getting a clean run as fast as you can, so I just tried to not think of the first two runs, and concentrated on the next one.

Finally on run three, no penalties, no cones, no thunder and locusts, just a clean run at 37.764 seconds. After watching the first run group and hearing some of the times from the announcer, I was pretty happy to be under 40 seconds at least, but of course the fastest drivers are several seconds ahead of me, so the odds of me being in IndyCars next year are still being calculated. In between runs, time to check tire pressures, walk around and shoot a few photos of all the cars on grid, and then sit down in the shady car for a few minutes. Put the helmet back on, fire up the GoPro camera, and get ready for two more runs.

Fourth run, and nothing good to report. I dropped about a tenth of a second from the previous run, and hit another cone for a two second penalty, so this run was officially a 39.898. Only one good run so far, so it was time to drop some more time. My plan was to go faster on the long stretches before the sweepers, and also to try and go faster in the slalom section. I'm not sure about everyone else, but I try to find at least one spot on the course where I know I can drive faster for each run, so when this strategy works it feels good to see every run get faster. Hopefully, you're thinking to yourself, "Well hey Mr. Brainiac, why don't you just skip all that and start faster?" That's a great question, and I'm still trying to figure out how good drivers do that!

Final run, so before hopping in the car I was chatting with David Smallridge. He asked me my plan, and I told him that I thought I would try and go faster. To quote Dave's reply "I agree", so we both got ready for the final run. Honest, David said I could quote him on it!

David Smallridge

At the end of my fifth drive, the timing system said 37.354, so at least I ended the day on a good note by dropping 0.41 of a second from my previous best. Maybe five more runs and I could have kept gaining faster times, but five runs was the limit for today. Given the heat, that was fine with me...did I mention it was HOT?  Let's go to the video of that last run, so you can see how the course was set up this month.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Monday Night with a Coronet

Tonight we knocked out a few more items on the big Coronet to-do list. 

Not the prettiest setup, but it works!

First up, I added a little vinyl on the corners of the trunk lid and some felt adhesive pads on the metal tabs that hold the top of the trunk in place to prevent the paint from scratching when it's taken on and off. 
Front end back together!

Secondly, we re-installed the front grill, now with the cool black metal mesh to prevent other hap-haphazardly attached Lemons car parts from finding their way into our radiator. 
Getting those new bolts in there.

Up next we replace the camber bolts on the front driver side suspension.  These are two bolts on each side of the car that have an offset washer on them that allow the bolts to be tightened down at different angles to adjust the car's alignment settings. 
This washer was spinning around on the car and causing the car to pull hard to the left under braking.

These washers should have a D shape hole to fit a D shaped portion of the bolt so that it holds the position.  Unfortunately, as we found out on track in May, ours have rounded out and were completely useless. 
New wheels!

While we were adjusting the suspension we test-fit our new-to-us wheels.  Pretty classy!
Rolling out for the night.

Nice to start seeing the car come back together!  Later this week we'll spend some time dialing in the alignment and seeing if we can tweak the corner-balancing. 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Scenes From an Autocross

July 16th was the monthly autocross competition with the local Tidewater Sports Car Club TSCC. Believe it or not, it was kind of hot! Early in the morning we also had some dark clouds, so the shade was nice, and it didn't rain. With two run groups, the competition went from about 9:45 in the morning to just past 2pm, so overall a bit shorter than most events. Given the heat, that was fine with me, and everyone still got five runs on the course. While we're waiting for the results to be posted later this week, here's a look at some of the sights, and a video of my fastest run, so you can see what kind of layout we drove at Pungo this time.

See, I told you it was dark and cloudy!

I always liked the Ford Probe GT 

Yes, you can autocross a Ford Ranger!

Yes, you can build your own Factory Five kit car!

Is this a Mustang GT? "NOTTA GT"

Course Walk

Timing and Scoring control headquarters

Drivers meeting


How to drive and steer a kart without sitting down

More Mustang

1969 Camaro

Numbers and class


Classic Honda


More Porsche

Run group 2 in grid

Corvette gunning for fastest time of the day

Launching the Porsche 914

Thursday, July 13, 2017

July 13 = New Jaguar Day!

Brian in the Jaguar F Type

Yes, TODAY, on Thursday July 13th 2017 you can log on to the Jaguar Facebook page at 3pm Eastern, Noon in California, and watch the unveiling of a new Jaguar! The NMS team members are big fans of Jaguars, so we're excited to see what this new Jaguar E Pace will be like. Of course, being normal people with normal jobs, we can't afford any shiny brand new Jaguars, but of course it's important to maintain your automotive research so that one can be a well informed consumer when one wins the lottery. Or finds a billion dollars on the ground. Or gets credit for the idea of "Chocolate Cheerios" ten years before the General Mills folks actually made them.

Jaguar is mostly known for building classic sports cars, but like most other makes they've expanded into the SUV business as well. If you're keeping score at home, that means that SUV buyers can now shop Jaguar, Porsche, Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Mercedes, BMW, and tons of other builders like Ford, Chevy and Dodge. For many years the Ferrari folks have stated that they will never build an SUV, but who knows, they might just change their minds some day. One final tidbit about Jaguar, is that they are also combined in business with Land Rover, so maybe you should shop both Land Rover and Jaguar if you're in the market.

We don't have any Jaguars, but we have driven some of them at a Jaguar event that helped get us into auto crossing, so we kind of owe the Jaguar folks a big thank you for that! So, tune in Thursday to see the new Jag E Pace, which is their second SUV, along with the current F Pace. Here's the website: JAGUAR FACEBOOK

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Mid-Summer Motoring Magazine Mash-Up

I don't know about you, but I've got a bunch of car magazines around the house, and they just don't read themselves, so here's some highlights from the recent batch of reading material. Not a book report, not a summer reading list, and there is no quiz at the end. 

Here's a BREAK THROUGH in automotive journalism, a comparison of a Mustang and a Camaro. Hmm, why hasn't anyone else thought of this before? This time, it's a pair of over $50,000 V8 powered versions of Detroit's finest pony cars (sorry, nothing personal Dodge). The Ford Mustang is a Shelby GT350R, and the Camaro is the ZL1. Hundreds and hundreds of  horsepower in these cars, and both must be a hoot to drive. The other comparison on the cover is the Mazda CX-5 and the Honda CR-V, battling for supremacy in the hyphenated SUV battles. As tested, these two SUVs were around $34,000, so at least that is more affordable than the super-duper Stang/Camaro options. 

Other highlights in Motor Trend included reviews of the new Chevy Equinox, Volvo XC60, four different cool Audis that all seem to cost $55,000, and then a kind of comparison of the McLaren 720S and the new Ford GT. As much as I already complained about so many 55 thousand dollar cars, the McLaren and Ford GT are measured in hundreds of thousands of dollars, so they are purely in the "when I win the lottery" category for us normal people. 

Speaking of the Ford GT at $450,000, it's also on the cover of Automobile! This carbon fiber car has already won at LeMans basically has a cage built into it's body, so if you can afford it you will surely be safe and secure, even if you can ever find enough road (or race track) to take it over 200mph! This month's Automobile gets my pick for best of the month, based on the variety of articles, and I'll even give them credit for slightly increasing the size (width) of the paper it's printed on too!

Other highlights include a story on the Gypsy Rose, the most famous low-rider car from the LA car scene, and a big description of the many car events during Monterey Car Week held every August in California. Two other articles are helped make this issue into my top pick: one was a story about Horacio Pagani and the fabulous cars he builds in Italy, what a cool true story! Finally, a not-super in-depth article on aerodynamics on cars, but to be honest, I'm sure I don't know enough physics and math to understand a real in-depth article on this topic! Do I look like a scientist?

You may not be a Formula 1 fan, but if you are, F1 Racing is made for you. Featuring different drives, teams, history, and cars every month, this one comes all the way from Great Britain, so other than the odd use of "our" language, I look forward to this one every month. Current leader of the F1 drivers championship Sebastian Vettel is on the cover, so Go Ferrari!

Speaking of Ferrari again, here they are on the cover of Octane, which gives us some tidbits from A to Z that cover the 70 years of Ferrari. On the negative side, it's also from Europe, so these magazines cost a bit more than the latest issue of People magazine, but I can't imagine there's a lot of automotive information in that type of publication! Guess what? Just like two other magazines this month, Octane also includes a story on the new Ford GT! It's still incredible, fast, awesome, and still ridiculously expensive. 

SportsCar is the magazine of the Sports Car Club of America, so let me just give the SCCA a plug and encourage you to hit their website SCCA to learn more about the club, and even join. The magazine may not interest you until you are a member, and as far as I know it's not sold on news stands anyway!

Grassroots Motorsports  is always good for some fun articles, and it always comes across as being written by real enthusiasts that are out driving and fixing cars all the time. As proof of that, this (and every other) issue has articles on a few on-going projects that the magazine staff are working on right now. A few of them include: building your own garage, tuning a recent Mustang for better performance, refurbishing an old ramp style tow truck, and converting a Miata to a rotary engine! That's a lot of territory, so whether or not those particular projects interest you, they at least  are inspiring to read what normal folks are doing to their cars in real life. 

Saturday, July 8, 2017

A Safety Gear Excursion

A little rain didn't slow down Team Coronautski at AMP!
Today most of the Lemons team took a trip out to Atlanta Motorsports Park to find the home of Discovery Parts to get fitted for all the safety gear we need for the race.

Pretty impressive collection of gear at Discovery.

Even though the cars in Lemons may be rust buckets and absolute junk, safety is still a priority.  Most of us are just starting to get into real track time and needed most of the gear, so here's some of the stuff we bought.
Lots of suits to choose from here.

The most obvious is a racing suit.  Most are made of Nomex or another aramid (fire retardant) material). Suits come in a large range of safety ratings, and different features and styles.  After trying a few of the mid-entry level range on, most of us settled on different styles of the Alpine Stars brand. Finding a good, comfortable fit while sitting in a race-seat position is key here.
With the help of Discovery's pros, Team Coronautski evaluates some new kicks.

Up next we tried a number of gloves and shoes on. Pretty straight-forward here.  Again we looked for comfort and fit in an acceptable price range. All of these come with fire-resistant materials and ratings that will be required for the race.
Head And Neck Safety device signed by the Talladega Nights cast.

We all have helmets, but I still needed a head and neck restraint system.  Every major racing series now requires these devices that work by tethering the back of the helmet to a collar of some sort that helps distribute forces in the event of a crash to significantly reduce neck and head injuries mostly caused by whip-lash. Pretty important stuff. Discovery even has a Hans brand device signed by the cast of Talladega Nights. not taste as good as baklava.

We picked up a few other fire-resistant accessories like socks, underwear, and under shirts to fully round-out the equipment.  Now that the team is looking the part and much safer, now we just need to knock out a few more work days to wrap up the car and practice our pit stops and emergency escapes.
Helmet, Suit, Shoes, Gloves, Hans, Balaclava, Nomex shirt, and Nomex socks all keeping me safe.