Sunday, February 16, 2020

New Car Show: Rhode Island Edition

Recently, those of us in New York had a critical decision to make. While some New Yorkers might have had to decide if they'd take the Ferrari out in the rain, those of us with cheaper cars could choose between new car shows in Harrisburg PA or Providence RI. We went with RI this time, so as a bonus can check that off the list of 50 states we've visited.

While the show wasn't New York, Detroit, Washington DC, or Philadelphia sized, we enjoyed the friendly folks and plenty of other new cars to check out. Here's some highlights. 

Highlight of the show, a 2020 Corvette. The big news is that the ending is now mid-engine, and right about now they should start rolling off the assembly line in Bowling Green KY. 




Another highlight from a different Detroit builder, the 2020 Ford GT 500 Shelby Cobra. 




Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Shine Country Classic 2020

Team Bunch of Idiots loaded up and took the purple car down to Alabama to compete at the 2020 season opener for the 24 Hours of Lemons.

John in grid Saturday morning, read to take on a wet and chilly track.
When we last posted, our engine was coming back together. Unfortunately, as I was tidying up a few final items Tuesday night, I came across an oil leak on the garage floor. Wednesday we tore out the transmission, tracked down a leaky bolt in the oil pan and got it all back together. Major thanks to Jason for the lightning fast wrench skills.
Kyle stays busy while our hardest working EE, Luke said he did his electrical work right the first time. 

Friday we hit the track to break in the motor and get familiar with things. It's been two years since we last took on Barber Motorsports Park, so a refresher was helpful. We sorted a few other small odds and ends that would have otherwise robbed track time during the race. It was extremely productive.
Movie night in the trailer with the guys.

Friday night we made use of the new trailer and reviewed video from the test session and our last race at Road Atlanta. We got a lot of value out of the review session and I dropped at least 3 seconds per lap during the race that I may not have otherwise found. One of our biggest successes is being able to constantly critique and improve our driving together.
Luke laying down some smokin' hot laps on the back straight. 

Despite all the preparation we hit two major mechanical issues Saturday. The belt turning the water pump and alternator decided to jump off of its pulleys and we took about 25 minutes to get the car in and our spare belt put on. Not long after, a failing front wheel bearing was called in and the team swarmed the car and slapped a spare bearing on in only 20 minutes. By this time we'd dropped down in the 60s.

John brings it in Saturday night.
Employing a new pit window strategy we put in some LIGHTNING quick pit stops, capitalized on some full course cautions and then Luke and Kyle banked some incredible lap times as we lifted ourselves up to a final finishing position of 24th overall. Not the result we wanted, but we learned a lot and worked out some solid strategy we can carry forward. Had we managed to avoid the mechanical issues we factored we would have be right around top 10. Oh well.
14 hours of racing complete. 

The new engine held together beautifully, the replacement transmission shifted like butter, no more oil leaks were found, and the engine even stopped consuming oil. We've got a few maintenance items to look at, but otherwise we're starting to prep for our second 24 hour race back at CMP in April. We can't wait!



Thursday, January 23, 2020

Race Ready

This past weekend, the Bunch of Idiots lemons team converged for a final time to get the engine re-assembled and running. After a week of delays and shipping incorrect piston rings back and forth, we finally gathered the correct parts and got to work.
One piston in!

Saturday was spent carefully assembling the bottom end, then mating up the head and all the accessories. Sunday the new-to-us transmission was bolted up and everything hoisted into the car. Wiring was completed, cooling system flushed and plumbed, the exhaust bolted in place and I hopped in and fired it right up! First try! It's like we've done this before.
A little wiring cleanup for our aftermarket water temp gauge.

We went back and cleaned up some of the wiring that we found had gotten mildly damaged. The suspension components were checked over. We finished off installing my larger wheels to roll the car around while Kyle takes our race wheels to get flipped. We're feeling pretty good for the Barber race coming up. We're spending Friday before the race running the test session, spending the time to break in the motor and get re-acquainted with the track so we can push for our first top 10 finish.

Looking Hella Sweet! Ready to race!

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

January Maintenance

Down at NMS South, we're ramping up for the 2020 season with some maintenance. First up, the Lemons Miata was consuming more oil than we wanted in Atlanta last month. We rebuilt the top end of the motor last year, but the bottom end was still Mazda-original, 189,000 miles. It was due for some work.
One gross bottom end of the bad motor. The bad crankshaft was the terminal blow. 

We picked up a free motor from some friends that were also running a 1.6l Miata in Lemons. This one had cooked a head gasket but we had hoped to salvage the bottom end, rebuild it, and just swap out the old one in our car with the donor one freshly built. Once the donor motor was apart to begin the build we quickly realized it was a total dud. Sticking with our theme from earlier in 2019, we've got lots of failure to talk about here.
One of the rings that was too large sits on top of the cleaned up engine block. There's no way we'll be able to compress that down into the cylinder.

The next step was pulling the good motor and disassembly. We found a fair amount of tiny metal shavings in the transmission fluid and knew it might be on its last legs. Once the motor was apart, the bottom end had a few metal shavings in the oil pick-up tube. We decided to strip it all down and send it to the machine shop for a thorough cleaning.
With some extra time on our hands, we installed some air intakes in place of the old turn signals to get some more cooling air into the engine bay. 

The following weekend it was back, looked great, everything checked out, the crankshaft went in smoothly, but then the piston rings showed up in the right box, but the wrong size. We pressed on with our other tune-up items and ordered new piston rings.
Less paint is less weight, right?

Another set of piston rings showed up, but its another batch of right box, wrong rings. To add insult to injury, I parked the car outside while it was lightly raining and then put the car cover on. After a few days in the sun, it must have turned the little bit of water under the cover to steam and bubbled up most of our clear coat. Oh well. It's just Lemons.
The square metal bracket sandwiches between the cable running to the radio and the actual antenna



On the positive side of things, I finally was able to correct a mistake I made with the car last year. I had mis-measured the hole needed in the body for mounting our long-range radio antenna and drilled it out too big. Today I realized it could be fixed by making a small bracket to adapt the size of the hole and got the antenna installed. Hopefully that'll keep us in contact with the driver anywhere on the track at our next race.

Final product sits where the factory antenna was placed and covers up my over-sized hole. 




Wednesday, January 15, 2020

December Lemons Recap

It's way past due, but now that the holidays are over, the NMS South crew is back in full force. December was fairly eventful with the Lemons Miata making it's third appearance and first visit to Road Atlanta. The weekend started out cold and wet, but slowly dried by the race start and continued to warm up over the weekend.
Taking a track walk Friday evening in the misty weather.


The Miata fell back to around 25th Saturday due to a few minor missteps but steadily clawed back. Our consistent driving and ever increasing pace pushed the car to a final finish in 14th position overall.  Were it not for a few laps missed from serving a questionable penalty and a minor spin, the team was on pace for a top 10 finish, keeping consistent with our 11th place from CMP.

All loaded up during a brief stop on the way to the track. 
One massive upgrade the team brought to the event was the arrival of the next generation of NMS towing capability. The 2007 Chevy Silverado 2500 was purchased from friend of the team and Altima teammate, Adam. It brings the 6.6L Duramax diesel engine paired with the Allison 6 speed automatic transmission, four wheel drive, and a full crew cab. This towing behemoth handily totes the new-to-us 24' enclosed trailer to deliver the Miata to the track with room to spare.
Complete with space heaters, chairs and a track-side view, the trailer was the best seat in the house.

The truck and trailer were welcomed by all our friends in paddock around us as we huddled inside with propane heaters to fend off the wind and cold. We're committed to continuing to race, so having an enclosed space that can be heated or cooled will keep us comfortable whenever or wherever we race.
Hanging out in paddock with the 350Z crew.

Special shout out to good friend of the team, Jason who completed the build of a Nissan 350Z and debuted it that same weekend. They had great pace with new drivers but first race reliability and a few black flags kept them behind the Miata. We're looking forward to some great competition from them in the future.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Can You Guess: Top Selling Cars 2019

Will any FIAT or TESLA cars make the TOP TWENTY LIST?
OK class, get yer pencils ready, it's quiz time! 

What were the top selling automobiles (cars, trucks, SUVs) in the USA during 2019?

Is your car on the list? Your next one? The opposite of this would be the least number of cars sold in
2019, which might  be the THREE Lexus LFAs sold last year. Yes, they sold 3 of those, even though
they were built a few years ago. You just never know what's still sitting on a dealer lot for sale out there! Well, unless you have the Internet and can actually Google stuff yourself!

We found this list in an article from Reuters, so let's count 'em down. 

20: Nissan Sentra   OK, good job Nissan, made the list! Former CEO is in exile in Lebanon, but hey, I had a Nissan from about 1986 or so, it was OK!

19: Nissan Altima  Hey, two Nissans in a row! Maybe they're the best?

18: Jeep Wrangler   Our first SUV in the top 20, from our friends at FIAT-Chrysler-Automobiles. 

17: GMC Sierra    Seriously, this is top selling USA autos, so we're going to see a lot of trucks too. 

16: Toyota Highlander  I just can't help it, every Highlander I see reminds me of the old TV show where the Highlander guy chops off bad guys heads and gains their power or some weird magic like that. There Can Be Only One!

15: Ford Escape  Did I mention lots of SUVs and Trucks are sold in the US? We had two Escapes back when they were true rectangles rolling down the road, and I can assure you that V6 power is  more than V4.

14: Jeep Grand Cherokee  Here's our second vehicle from FCA, an even bigger SUV. 'Merica!

13: Toyota Tacoma  Let's see, this makes 2 Nissans, 2 Toyotas, and 2 Fords. I bet we see more from all of them!

12: Honda Accord   All the recent reviews I've read of the Accord give it really high marks in your basic car category, so no wonder they sell a lot. Honda is busy in a lot of motor sports, builds plenty of cars in the USA, and still has a great reputation for building reliable cars. 

11: Tesla Model 3   The only electric car on the list, I was honesty surprised that Tesla sold enough to get on the list. I don't know that they're making money yet, but there are more and more of these on the road every day. 

10: Toyota Corolla   And Toyota jumps into the lead with 3 vehicles on the list so far. The Corolla name has been around for a long time, odds are that you've heard it!

9:   Honda Civic    Honda, again, see comments for the Corolla. 

8:   Toyota Camry      The Camry keeps rolling and rolling, and remained the top selling car (not SUV or truck) in the US in 2019. Here at NMS-N, we both make fun of the Camry for being the Everyman Car, and praise it for being dependable. Ours has over 130,000 miles, and other than regular maintenance, and a recent replacement of the suspension components we're ready for another 130,000 miles on this baby. 

7:   Chevrolet Equinox  A high selling SUV that starts around $24,000? Yep!

6:   Nissan Rogue    Another Nissan, the Rogue is an SUV, and despite their attempts sometimes to tie in with the Star Wars movies, it's their best seller in the USA, starts above $25,000. 

5:   Honda CR-V    Guess what? Another SUV, priced above $25,000. 

4:   Toyota RAV4   Toyota has been building this SUV for a good while now, like most of the top 20 listed here, currently starts at about $25,800. 

3:   Chevy Silverado   Now we're up to the big boys, the top three sellers on these shores, and the Silverado pickup has slipped a spot. Previously coming in at number 2, the $28,000 and up Silverado is still selling like free hotcakes, but has been passed up by a competitor. Still nothing to sneeze at, and in fact, it's considered rude to sneeze at another person's truck. 

2:   Ram   I really want to say the words "DODGE RAM", but RAM is now the brand, so this vehicle is also the Ram model I guess. Now out-selling the top Chevy pickup, congrats to FCA. I'm not a truck expert, so you can buy a RAM 1500 for $32,000 and up, or the RAM CLASSIC for more like $27,000. 

1:   Ford F-Series   Not a surprise, the Ford F series trucks are the top sellers in 2019. Starting in the mid $28,000 range, sure, you can go all out and probably hit six figures on a truck, and you would be looking a long time to find one on a dealer lot for that MSRP price, my guess is that most folks will spend $40,000 for their new truck. Your mileage may vary. 

To recap the brands in the top 20, Tesla has 1 listing. Ford, Honda, and Chevy have 2. GMC (Chevrolet and GMC) Nissan, Honda, and FCA (Jeep and Ram) take 3 spots a piece. Toyota leads the way with 5 different vehicles.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Plans for 2020

Free Hat Courtesy of BMW
Not a Paid Endorsement
But We Do Speak "Bribe"
NMS has wrapped another fun filled year in 2019, mostly it was fun filled because we did a lot of STUFF. Doing a lot of stuff also meant not writing as much about it on the blog, so I guess you can't have everything! Mostly we'd like to encourage anyone reading this to also get out there and DO STUFF, whether with your car or not, just do something! And, if you can do it with your friends, or as a way to make new friends, well, that's what life's all about (besides the hokey pokey, but then, you'd look pretty silly doing the hokey pokey by yourself too, but don't let us stop you.)

Will Drive Lexus For Free!

Look for more Lemons racing from NMS-South in the Lemony-Good Miata, with both NMS drivers also planning to team up late in June at GingerMan Raceway in Michigan for another Lemons event. We haven't driven this track yet, but it's up in a great part of the country, and not too far from some relatives, so that makes it a great destination in 2020. So far this Miata has proven to be easy on the old tires and brake pads, so it's on the economical side for racing. Speaking of GingerMan, here's the link with tons of info on the facility: GingerMan

Oh, and speaking of the 24 Hours of Lemons Races, check out their website, or better yet one of their video race reviews on YouTube for more info. It's a LOT of fun! 24HOURSOFLEMONS

Austin Texas, Even the Rental Car Guys are Into Music!

NMS North is considering another full season of autocross, which could be influenced by purchasing some better wheels and tires. The tires make a big difference in auto-crossing, but either way, it's always fun to drive your fastest in a safe low-cost sport. Other plans for the FIAT will include some more HPDE track action in the Northeast somewhere, with the work schedule sure to play a part in what track we might visit. Watkins Glen last year and Pocono the year before were fun, so maybe someplace new this year would be an adventure. We've been very happy driving with the NASA  folks, check them out if you want to get on track too! NASA 

The new year is sure to be full of other surprises, car shows, following Formula 1 on TV, and just maybe we'll return to Austin Texas for the USA Grand Prix live again too. Or maybe we'll just go to Texas and eat BBQ!  For more info on the wonderful world of Formula 1 racing, here's the official website: F1

Fueled up For Formula 1 in Texas Means BBQ!
Speaking of Formula 1, with new races in Vietnam and a return to Holland in 2020, this should be an interesting year. But don't take my word for it, check out the official F1 site again to see what they think will be the top 10 things to watch for this year! F1 2020

As car drivin' fools, we'll even state that some of us might be looking for some new cars in 2020, subject to budgets, world financial health, garage space, and whatever else comes down the road. Down south, NMS welcomed a used tow rig and a trailer recently, to go with their two Miatas and the BMW, so you can see that the lonely FIAT Abarth at NMS-North is getting out-gunned and out-numbered! We won't release any details at this time, but with a potential move into a new NMS-North World Headquarters with a larger garage, more to follow. Your mileage may vary. Void in Hawaii and Mongolia. Live Music is Better.