Sunday, May 19, 2019

In The Garage

Lately I've been following a lot of the work of Adam Savage online. You may be most familiar with him as one of the main co-hosts of the Mythbusters TV show. As a generalist, he makes all kinds of cool, nerdy stuff. I like making cool, nerdy stuff...including race cars.
The drawers are all pretty full, but I still have stacks of tools and parts needing homes.

One of the biggest things I've taken away from watching him and the crew from Tested, is that it's important to show the process and even failures and not always just the shiny final results. I'm hoping to run with that idea in future posts, because especially with my experience in the 24 Hours of Lemons, nothing comes easy and there's a lot to learn in all the struggle.
The new tire trailer fits! ...When the toolbox is unbolted and you lean it carefully against a wall.

Today I made a lot of progress cleaning up the one car garage. Speaking of failures, buying a one car garage then trying to build race cars in it and have an active car hobby is pretty high up there! It's a lot of work keeping the small space clean enough to get anything done, but at last, the purple car is back inside!

There's still several boxes of spare bolts that need sorting and organizing. 
I've been continuing to invest in more shelving for the ever-increasing inventory of spare parts and tools, but I've managed to also kill a lot of working space around the sides of the car, so even getting a jack under a Miata is a tight fit.  It's also pretty common that I just can't get all the tools and parts put in their homes (or find them a home) quick enough between projects.
Miata, Miata, Honda...the lawnmower just barely fits.

It will always be a work in progress, but for now, everything fits inside and I can still walk all the way around a Miata, so I call that a win!

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

USMMA Auto Show Part Two

Hey, we've got more cars to share from the United States Merchant Marine Academy's 2019 annual Auto Show. Thanks to the Academy, and all the car owners for  bringing these cool vehicles to our show!

1936 Chrysler, Parked at Walter Chrysler's House! The Details
of the Older Cars Knock Me Out, From the White-Walls and Spare Tire to the
Rear Brake Lights. 

48 Chevrolet Featured at the Flag Pole


Nice Two-Tone Oldsmobile Starfire

Ford: I Noticed the Wood Frame for the Convertible Top!

As ZZ Top Sings: "What's the Word? Thunderbird!

Hot Rod, Flames. 'MERICA!

Buick Grand National!

Ye Olde Speedometer, Goes All the Way to 85!

Buick Grand National
Did You Know That Decades Ago, Ford Had a Hard Top Convertible?

Willys Jeep


Colorful 40 Ford

One of the Midshipmen Shared His Civic Type R

This Ford Was for Sale Too!

Plymouth Fury, When America Was Covered in Chrome! 

Plymouth Fury, Great Detail in the Lights

Now THAT'S a Steering Wheel! 

Spoiler Alert!

Sunday, May 12, 2019

USMMA Auto Show!

The United States Merchant Marine Academy hosted their annual auto show on May 11th, and the cars, the weather, and the setting on Long Island was beautiful! On the north shore of Long Island, on the LI Sound, and the former home of Mr. Walter Chrysler, the grounds of the Academy make a great setting for cars of all kinds. As one of the five federal service academies, the Merchant Marines produce some outstanding young people that are trained in operating ships around the world, many of them with engineering majors, and as you might guess they are handy at working on cars too!

Two highlights I want to share include a Tucker, specifically number 1044, and if you're not familiar with the Tucker story, I suggest you start Googling that right away! Also, a new brand of car to me, in this case, a 1923 Gardner Radio Special!

Tucker, popular with civilians, Midshipmen, and dogs!

Central headlight turns with the steering wheel

Suicide doors

Why is there an air intake on the rear wheel quarter panel? Because
it's rear engined!

Rear lights are very unique.

Also unique at this show was a Gardner. I'll confess I'd never heard of Gardner, and I had to get Googling on this one! You can find more info on the Gardner line at Wikipedia, or this Gardner website: GARDNER MOTORCARS

They were built in St. Louis, and the family had previously been a big builder of wagons, and then Chevrolet's. At one time, a Gardner automobile held the record for driving across the country. They produced cars from 1920-1931.

This was cool to discover a brand of car that was new to me. 

Gardner 1923 Radio Special

No frills on the dash in the 1920s!

Did you notice the solid wheels?

Monday, April 29, 2019

Twenty. Four. Hours.

Yours truly, first stint in the new car! Thanks, Aaron for the awesome shot!!!
Just over five months ago, five friends decided they were stupid enough to buy a "new" car, tear it apart, spend way too much time and money and then commit to running it as hard as we could for twenty four straight hours on the racetrack.
John and Jason working on car prep Friday. 
I kicked off the race as first driver in the car at 11 am on Saturday. Handing the car over to Kyle around 1 pm, he came in mid-stint after seeing a spike in temperature, which turned out to be the water pump and alternator belt had come off. We threw the spare on and sent him back out. 
Our LED headlight rig quickly clips on to the hood pins. One center 12" bar illuminates ahead, while the two 6" lights help make sure we make all the turns. The stock headlights still work, but don't do the job at full speed. You can just see a black cable loop sticking out of the front opening in the bumper to quickly pop open the hood. 
Kyle handed off to John, who handed the car to Jason. We saw a fair amount of tire wear and threw on the second new set of tires and kept on racing. At some point we lost the belt again, but this time noticed it was getting caught on the timing cover, so we removed that plastic cover and solved that issue. At the same time, other teams had told us they saw fuel leaking and we finally tracked down a clogged spot in the emissions system, cleaned it out, and solved that issue.
That's Lemons one point Saturday, four of the five cars between all our friends were in paddock for repairs.
The car generally did it's thing, and as the sun started going down, we quickly attached our LED headlight rig and kept on charging into the night. I was back in the rotation around 9 pm, carrying the car through to 10:30 pm. Back to Kyle, John, Jason, then Luke. Around 4:30, Luke was feeling the brain fade and made the call to get out early. I was originally scheduled to be in the car at that time, and I was concerned around that time of morning brain fade would be an issue, so I could have seen myself making the same call.
Twilight during Friday testing so we could aim the LEDs.
I was back in the car around 5 am and pushed on through until around just after 6am when there was some light in the sky again. Luckily my strategy of 45 minute naps between pit stops kept me fresh, but I was ready to come out after about an hour. That put me at almost four and half hours behind the wheel in 24 hours. Kyle took back over and immediately came back in, noticing some vibrations in the car.
The team stands by, ready for a pit stop under the generator lights set up only for pit lane. Big thanks to Thomas (left) who helped out prepping the car leading up to the race AND hung out all weekend to help with the race! 
We ended up finding a loose suspension bolt and failing wheel bearing on the front right. We tightened the bolt and swapped in our spare wheel hub to replace the bearing. Kyle continued to click off some real quick laps. We were just loaded up to do the pit stop to get John back in when the Miata showed back up. The car was driving like it was on ice.
Kyle wheels the car at night (center). For most of the track, the only lights were the ones on the cars.
We quickly figured out the rear left wheel bearing had gone bad, and we had just used up our spare. It was 8:30 am, 2.5 hours left, and the team was spent. We made the decision to park the car until the last 15 minutes and send it back out at a crawling pace to take the checker, missing out on over 2 hours of running.
We added some LEDs to our Hella Sweet pit sign. No missing that thing! (photo credit: Alicia)
t was a tough weekend, but it was also good to get all the first time race car issues out of the way. We had good pace, great pit strategy, and consistent driving. Everything that broke is easily fixable with stock, cheap parts.
Some time around 9 am. Everyone's pretty dead and the bacon wasn't quite ready yet.
Racing at night is insane! We loved it! It was an incredibly unique experience and I think we'd all be willing to try it again...maybe after another 12 months of sleeping and recovery.

It's a Coronet! It's a Miata! It's the 24 Hours of Lemons! The cable looped on the left pops the fuel door. The squiggly metal rod on the right originally was connected inside the trunk to the key lock for the trunk lid, now we can slide it to the right and open the trunk where the cool shirt cooler is mounted for quick filling during pit stops (no key needed!)

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Lemons Race Unofficial Results

The Team Coronautski (AKA: A Bunch of Idiots) Miata Finishes Under the Checkered Flag!

(This blog post subtitled: Way Too Many AKA's in Parenthesis)

Brian Nixon (AKA: NMS-South) and the rest of Team Coronautski (AKA: Bunch of Idiots) just completed another 24 Hours of Lemons (AKA: LEMONS)  race, and this one was a real 24-hours-straight-no-stopping-go-all-night automobile race with 80 cars in various states of disrepair trying to compete on a track that turns both ways at Carolina Motorsports Park (AKA: CMP). While the Coronautskis had previously run their circa 1972 Dodge Coronet, this time they scaled back on car size, (and expense for gas, tires, brakes, etc) with a 1990 Miata. We're happy to report that overall this event was a success, and the team finished somewhere around the middle of the pack despite a wheel bearing and some other minor issues that found them off track for a few hours on Sunday morning.

Driver Schedule
Above is the ideal perfect great plan of splitting up the driving for 24 hours, and of course before the first stint was over this schedule went right out the window! There was a long full course  yellow for safety during Brian's opening stint, so instead of 90 minutes he stayed out for about 2 hours. I guess racing is like combat, no plan survives the initial contact, or "the enemy always gets a vote."

The first challenge of racing 24 hours in a row seems to be to have a car that actually keeps moving under it's own power, and the drivers wisely chose the standard Miata instead of a car that is no longer made! While those amateurs at LeMans and other real races may spend millions of dollars, and have  hundreds of support people, Team Coronautski and their 5 drivers still managed to run the distance and rack up some 425 laps on the 2.27 mile road course. My math isn't real great, but my calculator spits out over 964 miles! When's the last time you drove nearly a thousand miles, got no sleep, but got to also spend that time with your best friends and 79 other similar crazy people? That's kinda sorta what Lemons racing is all about.

South Carolina Racers, Team Altimate, Team Coronautski, Shellie's House of Speed

Our friends from Team Altimate (the green one above) finished with a great Futurama themed car, and placed even better than their last Lemons race, likely because yours truly (AKA: NMS-North) wasn't driving for them this time! Shellies House of Speed brought two awesome cars under the guise of Senior Citizens Club of America (AKA: SCCA), the Datsun B210 Dirtie Dirtsun and another equally old Civic.
Team Altima!

We'll let Brian fill us in on some of the details later, so for now that's it for this report.