Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Tow Rig Tune Up

The NMS South team gets around courtesy of a 2007 Chevy 2500 with the 6.6l Duramax turbo diesel engine. It was purchased from a friend in 2019 and is quickly closing on 260,000 miles. These engines can run 500,000 miles without major engine maintenance, so it is just getting broken in. It does have some signs of its long life that needed some work before the trip to NCCAR.

The truck has been showing two fault codes when towing after a few hours. One is most likely an indicator that the fuel injectors are due to be replaced and the other suggested a clogged EGR valve. I brought the truck down to the local dealer and spoke with their diesel mechanic and got a quote to complete the repairs. At $10,200 it was going to cost as much as the whole truck. No thanks.

I decided to start on the work myself. Step one was addressing a possibly failing EGR cooler and cleaning out the EGR system. For $200 and a couple of cans of brake cleaner, I was already up $10,000! The job looked simple enough, so I got the truck into the shop and started disassembly. Sure enough the system was caked in sludge and restricting air flow. Above is the before, dirty intake housing and below it is clean and the new EGR cooler is attached and awaiting install.

All of the components were cleaned out, the new cooler was installed, and then it all went back together. Hey, no spare parts! Toss in a fresh oil change for about $60 (still $9,940 ahead) and it should be good to go for the weekend. If all goes well, there should be one less light glowing on the dash this trip. If it goes poorly, I'll get to write another article about how to properly fix it. 

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Farewell FIAT

2019 at Watkins Glen International, with Kyle Ray-Smith Instructor
Photo by Wind Shadow

I was going to make this blog all about my FIAT Abarth being for sale, but, it sold in just a few days on the Facebook Marketplace, so you'll have to go do your used Abarth shopping somewhere else. Here's a look at some great memories and highlights of owning a 2013 FIAT 500 Abarth for 7 years, 11 months, and 9 days. 
Brand New, About to Leave the Dealer Floor at Stateline FIATin SC, September 2012. 

The Virginia Plated FIAT Ready to do Some Charity Laps at Virginia International Raceway. 

Early in 2012 I test drove a regular FIAT 500, since I'm a fan of all things Italian, if by "all things" you mean food and cars. Not being in the income bracket of people that buy new Ferraris, the return of FIAT to the USA meant I could afford an Italian car! The normal 500 made about 100 horsepower at the time, and while it was fun to drive, it somewhat lacked in power, so I held out to test drive the turbo Abarth 500. How did the 160HP Abarth compare to the regular 500? Like night and day. 

HPDE Track Weekend at Carolina Motorsports Park
Photo by OG Racing
After the test drive I figured that I'd like to get a red one, and even trade in my 2004 Mustang GT convertible to get one. Since the local dealer didn't have any in stock, I got to order one from the factory. The North American model Abarth was being built in Mexico, in a factory where they used to build the Chrysler PT Cruiser, and since FIAT had bought out Chrysler after the 2008 economic meltdown, a US version FIAT would be a unique Italian car built in Mexico for the USA. Hey, it's an international thing, and I'm all for world peace too! By the time I ordered the car, the run of 2012 (first year of production) Abarth had just ended, so my car would turn out to be a 2013 year model, basically the same as 2012. The wait began. With a link to the right website, I could track the production in the factory, and then track the car movement on it's railway journey to South Carolina. There was a hurricane threatening New Orleans right about this time in September 2012, so the train diverted from the southern US to farther inland. This was kind of fun to follow along, but also made me hope I didn't have a car that I didn't even own yet get derailed or flooded in a hurricane before I'd even seen it!

FIAT at Home in Virginia Beach, it's 2nd Home. 
Remember, Every Sticker is Worth +5HP.

Finally the car arrived at Stateline FIAT, on the border of SC and NC (the first FIAT dealer in SC), so I picked it up on September 21. The window sticker even had my name on it, so that was a nice touch! After the first 500 miles of careful driving, which the owner's manual recommended as the break in period, it was time to do some faster driving. This lead to starting to autocross with the Abarth, the birth of NMS, and a huge boost to the economy as we bought more wheels, tires, brake pads, travelled, and had a blast with this little roller skate (as my friend Sarah calls it) up until today. Thanks to my job making me move, I've been able to compete in autocross and drive some fun track days in several locations, while living in SC, VA, and now NY. If you can't find a fun place to drive or a car show to visit where you live, I'm going to guess that you either live on a houseboat or don't get around much!
NMS South and North: Assemble the Red Cars!

Joining the Sports Car Club of America and competing with the South Carolina Region was a great place to have fun and meet people, and the Abarth entered events at Darlington, Charlotte NC, Myrtle Beach, Charleston, Carolina Motorsports Park, and at the Michelin Proving Grounds. Oh, and also the big banked NASCAR track at Charlotte Motor Speedway and the Martinsville NASCAR track. Competition wise, the Abarth started in SCCA GS class and I tended to finish right behind the leaders in season points, and kept trying to get faster. Next stop on the Abarth tour was living in Virginia Beach, and with two great autocross groups like the Tidewater Sports Car Club (TSCC) and the Old Dominion Region of SCCA in town, there was a lot more driving to do! From here I also drove a few track day events at Virginia International Raceway, the North Carolina Center for Automotive Research track, and a fun event at a secret location in NC. Most of the autocross events in Virginia Beach were at the former Pungo airfield, and a great location on the Chesapeake Bay on the Little Creek Naval Base. The highlight for me was that the TSCC had not only the year long competition for each small class (I won three in a row against very few people that entered events all year, so no big deal) but they also had a points system for ALL cars in all classes each year. This was a lot of fun to work on improving my driving, excuse me, I mean, improve the Abarth's performance, and from 29th place the first year, then up to 20th place the next, and then 10th overall in my last year there, that was a ton of fun. The TSCC also offers great door prizes and trophies at their end of year dinner, and my little 10th place may not sound like much, but I think it's pretty cool.

Welcome to State #3 in NY, With Just a Little Bit of Snow.
The Abarth then moved on to New York, and has only competed in a few autocross events with the SCCA there, out at Splash Splash Waterpark, and the Nassau Coliseum. Definitely the highlight here has been joining the National Auto Sport Association (NASA, not the outer space guys) for track driving (with a coach, I REALLY need a lot of coaching!) at Pocono and the awesome Watkins Glen International. Driving on tracks like this explains a lot of brake pad wear and new tires, but man oh man it's a blast, even in a little red Italian-Mexican car that's not really a race car. Watkins Glen has hosted NASCAR, Indy Car, and even Formula 1 back in the day, and with some long straights, lots of corners, and elevation changes, just a really nice facility to say the least.

Showing Off the 2017 Tidewater Sports Car Club Hardware, 1st in
Class and 10th Overall for the Year.
All Earned by the FIAT More Than This Driver!
 So the FIAT has been sold to a new owner in Manhattan, and NMS-North (since I seem to keep moving that direction for the past 10 years) is driving another car, but it was a lot of happy times in the FIAT.

Rosso (Red) FIAT 500 Abarth, Now Living in Manhattan!
Stealth Technology Looks Like No Driver!

Saturday, August 1, 2020

NMS-North Shifts to German Engineering

NMS-North announces the addition of a Porsche Cayman to the stable, which means a dramatic increase in the percentage of German cars in the team. The Porsche and the NMS-South BMW are in addition to the long standing Miatas and the FIAT Abarth. In further developments, team managers have decided to offer the FIAT Abarth for sale, as the NMS squad seeks bigger horsepower gains, more track time, better road handling, more tires and brakes, as well as what scientists call "money."
This is a 2009 Cayman in Ruby Red Metallic, currently wearing 19 inch wheels. The Cayman is the hard top version of the convertible Boxster, and 2009 marks the first year of the 2.9 liter flat 6 engine, and the PDK automatic transmission.
Rated at 265HP, the Cayman tops the Abarth power by 105 more HP, and with the rear wheel drive will require the NMS-N driver to actually learn how to drive! Observant car fans will know that the Porsche crest shares a black horse with the famous Ferrari logo, so we'll just conclude that if your car has a black horse on it, uh, well, then good for you!
While Porsche has a long history of German engineering, the Cayman was assembled in Finland, which gives NMS a nice Germany/Finland car, to match the Mexico assembled Italian/Mexican FIAT. While many people think that the Miata is assembled in Japan, rumors say that they are really built by elves living in a hollow tree that moonlight building Keebler cookies. Nothing else explains the fun of driving a Miata, so we're willing to believe it.

Friday, July 24, 2020

24 Hour Racing Lemons Style

The Bunch of Idiots know how to win at Lemons!
Prize money? That's about 500 dollars worth of nickels in those boxes!

Coming up in September, the NMS-South team will join forces once again with the Bunch of Idiots racers in their hooptie Miata race car for another Lemons race. What's a Lemons race? Glad you asked!
Camden Lemons Block Party

A car that keeps having mechanical issues is a lemon, right? Plus, perhaps you've heard of the most famous 24 race in the world at LeMans in France? So, combine those two concepts and pronounce the French LeMans like you don't speak French, and VOILA! There you have the 24 Hours of Lemons!

Everyone has fun at a Lemons race!

Take a car that costs less than $500, install all the safety gear you need (roll bars, helmets, HANS device, race seats, tow straps, etc) and then round up some bunch of idiot friends, and then go on track and race 50-70 other similar cars on a track. The race at CMP on September 12-13 will be a full 24 hours, so the cars will have headlights, drivers swapping out, lots of pit stops for fuel, tons of cars breaking down, and teams wrenching through the night to try and get back on track. Tires will be used up, brakes replaced, heroic mechanical repairs will be attempted, and for 24 hours in a row the cars will keep racing.

You might meet famous people and cars!

Of course, the main thing is to get a lot of time behind the wheel and drive the car, and there are plenty of safety officials, fire, and medical crews around to run a safe event. What makes the race in South Carolina so unique is that it's the only Lemons race in the country (and there are races across the USA all year long) with a pre-race block party. IF the Covid conditions allow, Friday September 11th will be where you can hang out and view all the Lemons racers in downtown Camden.
Coming off track after winning Class C at CMP!

Check out the 24hoursoflemons website for more info and current schedule for September 11-13:


Sunday, July 19, 2020

NMS South - Summer Update

Temperatures are soaring down in South Carolina, but it's not stopping progress on the race trailer and preparation for the fall 24 hour Lemons race at CMP. The trailer has been slowly progressing with added storage, organization and safety. More modular E-Track has gone up, giving me more mount points and ways to hang straps and cables. I mounted a marker board for those trackside planning sessions. A first aid kit, fire extinguisher, and CO/smoke detector were all installed. Door handles and latches added to the cabinets. The next few weeks will see the bare plywood floor get cleaned and epoxy coated to round off most of the upgrades. 
We were gifted a whole parts car, which was torn down to make considerable contributions to the spare parts collection. Several modifications are coming up, including a new rear differential with a special ratio, improved manual steering rack, and improved wheel hubs. Miatas are famous for eating wheel bearings, so we invested in some beefy aftermarket units. After losing 20 minutes to swaps hubs during each of the last 2 races, we're hoping to avoid more lost track time. 
In a couple weeks I'm going to attempt to cut up one of the free hoods we got and make hood vents. I've been reading about the benefits of drawing more air out of the engine bay and I think we can make some effective improvements on a budget. During the endurance races, and especially the 24 hour races the engine bay gets saturated with heat and the engine has trouble making maximum power. Anything we can do to keep temperatures lower will be helpful. 
Leading up to the September race I'll also compete in the 99 Miata at the SCCA Time Trial event at NCCAR in North Carolina. This will be my first Time Trial event, so I'll be curious how I stack up. Either way, I'm just looking forward to getting some more seat time. SCCA has been very cautious about hosting events with COVID and they have a number of precautions that will keep us all safe. I'm looking forward to having the trailer's air conditioning in the August heat to keep comfortable between sessions. The old NMS livery was recently removed, so the Miata will run naked until I develop the next scheme for the car. 
If all that excitement isn't enough, the truck is due for some more maintenance before hitting the road to NC next month. More coverage to come. 

Friday, July 3, 2020

Join the NMS Formula 1 Fantasy League! FREE!

Yes, you read that correctly! You can join our official NMS Fantasy 1 Racing League for FREE, for a limited time only! That "limited time" is also known as "until the F1 season ends, which nobody knows, but let's guess December, or whenever they stop racing during the Covid 2020 season."

Here's the link to the NMS F1 Fantasy League 2020: https://fantasy.formula1.com/league/169482

The NMS League code is: 59696924b9

Do you like big money PRIZES? So do I! Who doesn't? We don't have any prizes, but we'll come up with something for the winner at the end of the season. Something like a t-shirt, not something like a bazillion dollars!

OK F1 fans, not only is the season starting THIS WEEKEND, the NMS team is asking you to join us in our OFFICIAL FORMULA 1 FANTASY LEAGUE! That's right, you can pick your five drives and one constructor's team with a fantasy budget of $100,000,000 dollars! No, you don't really get the hundred million dollars, but if you say it with an Austin Powers Dr. Evil voice, it sounds really cool!

Maybe you've played fantasy football, or rotissiere (fantasy) baseball. This is the same thing, but it's with Formula 1, so check out the website with the official Formula 1 folks, and get entered. You can have up to 3 different teams, so that's a cool way to use some different strategies. you can maximize the top drivers that cost more and end up with a cheaper constuctor, or go for say the top notch 6 time champion team Mercedes, but then have less money so spend on your drivers. Woo-hoo! Life is all about choices, so go ahead and make some!

One extra credit type of thing in this league, you can pick ONE driver per team that is your TURBO driver. This means it's one of the less expensive drivers (under $20 MILLION DOLLARS), and you'll earn extra points when your TURBO driver scores well. If you're familiar with the Moneyball book or movie (Brad Pitt), you know that just having the biggest budget doesn't always win the contest, if you can find those players that over-perform for their value. That's pretty much the idea behind having a Turbo driver. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Formula 1 FINALLY Kicks Off 2020 Racing!

Formula 1 Finally Returns For 2020!

Coming up this Sunday, July 5th, the Formula 1 racers return to actual racing at the Austrian Grand Prix, starting just after 9AM US Eastern Time on ESPN. If that isn't exciting enough, they'll have another race on the same track, and then a week later, a hat-trick of races with the Hungarian Grand Prix completing the three Sundays in a row kick-off to the season. 
Ready To See Some Cars On Track, Like This Red Bull!

The F1 season almost started on time in March when all the teams were in Australia and getting ready for the first practice of the first race weekend, when a crew member from one of the teams tested positive for the Covid-19 virus and the race was cancelled. Since that time, we've been waiting to see how the conditions around the world evolved, and right now it looks like F1 is going to compete without fans for an opening series of eight races in Europe. After that, just maybe they'll complete some more races in Asia and the Americas, and just maybe with spectators. 
This weekend the F1 season will start, with a race in Austria at the Red Bull Ring on Sunday. Like most Formula 1 weekends, it is a three-day schedule with two practice sessions on Friday, another practice Saturday morning, qualifying on Saturday afternoon, and the race (finally) on Sunday afternoon. Since there is a little time difference from New York to Austria, we'll be watching the race at 9AM Sunday morning here. 

Reminder: The Word "FAN" Is For "FANATIC"
(Race Car Hats Anyone?)
TV coverage will be on ESPN and Univision, as well as the pay channel of F1TV if you want even more statistics, and your choice of camera angles from any of the 20 cars at any time. 
Like other sports right now, there won't be any fans in the stands, so pretty much just the teams and a small number of press allowed, in addition to all the support staff that makes a race go. The F1 folks will do it all again a week later with a 2nd race on the Red Bull Ring, so it should be interesting to see how things play out with the same cars and drivers doing the same race a week apart. The track in Austria is one of my favorites on the Codemasters official F1 computer game, with a fairly short clockwise loop and some good high-speed corners (especially with the computer set on "easy.")

Alfa Romeo F1 Car

I'll be cheering on a few teams and specific drivers, and with 10 teams and 20 drivers, there's plenty of storylines to follow, your choice of heroes and bad guys to cheer for or boo, and with the awesome scenery in Austria, this would be a great race to experience live someday too.  My choices are the Italian Ferrari team and the US Haas F1 team, so we'll see how they kick off the unique 2020 season this SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY!

Sunday, June 28, 2020

NMS-North Reveals New HQ!

Garage On Top Floor!

The northern half of NMS has relocated a few miles away, and today held an open house and press conference to announce a substantial upgrade in facilities. Harkening back to the early days of NMS (way back in 2013), when we started out in South Carolina with a 2 car garage,  the NMS-North squad now finds itself in a historic two car garage. This unique motor sports facility is part of a 4 car garage for a mansion on the scenic north shore "Gold Coast" of Long Island. The HQ building is not only a garage, but also a 1 bedroom home to NMS-N, with living quarters one floor below the garage!
It Looks Big Enough For Two Cars!

How do you have a garage on the top floor of a 3 story building? Easy, you just build the garage into the side of a hill, have a driveway for the garage side and another driveway for the basement side.

Big Enough For These Two Cars At Least!

While the Northeast part of the USA is slowly opening up to life with the Covid-19 virus, we're hopeful that the new HQ will soon be home to some good old car wrenching and preparing for autocross and track days before the summer is over. In the meantime, we've got more boxes to unpack!

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Awesome Auto Auction Action!

Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Signed Racing Suit, Gloves, and Boots
Bid on a signed race suit from 6 time champion Lewis Hamilton (left)

While we haven't returned to any autocross or track driving action, that has freed up some time to check out other automotive activities like auctions for example. Starting tomorrow, the fine folks at Sotheby's will be offering a big collection of autographed race suits, helmets, and other items from famous drivers. This auction is titled the Race Against Covid, so you could check out some cool racing gear, place a bid, and support the fight against the virus. Check out this link to see all the items up for auction: https://rmsothebys.com/en/home/lots/fa20   

Sebastian Vettel Ferrari Racing Suit, 2019 -
You can bid on a Sebastian Vettel 2019 Ferrari race suit!

While I was checking out that auction at Sotheby's, I found another cool car collection, check out this auction of old pedal cars for kids! This auction of 57 pedal cars starts June 17th, check it out!  https://rmsothebys.com/en/auctions/pp20

Ford Mustang, 1964 -
1964 Mustang Pedal Car

Monday, June 8, 2020

Start A Relationship With A 25 Year Old!

Unboxing Honda Integra 1995 Type-R (Japan Spec), JDM Tuners Jada ...
1995 Honda Integra R

Dear USA Car Fanatics,

You might have noticed that all of the cars on the planet Earth come in two flavors, chocolate and vanilla. I mean, cars that are sold in our country, and cars that are NOT sold in the USA. You can pretty much just look around outside, or watch some TV commercials, and read some magazines (remember those?) to see what cars are sold here. Most of the cars sold here are trucks, and SUVs, but for now we'll just say cars. Of course, if you're in the military, there is a three letter acronym for the three letter word car: POV. Your POV is your Personally Owned Vehicle, so please don't get confused by this Point of View (POV).

Anyway, so there's all these trucks/suvs/cars sold here and then there are the cars made just for other countries. Shoot, some of them would be illegal to import here, because they may not be built to meet the US mandated safety standards or whatever our MPG and pollution requirements are right now. For all I know they still have Fred Flintstone cars with brake-by-foot or coal-powered cars somewhere. However...

There is this little law that allows cars that are at least 25 years old to be imported, regardless of the safety and pollution controls. This has created a bit of a cottage cheese, I mean, cottage industry of folks that import these gray market autos. So, if you're looking for the latest 25 year old cars to import now that it's 2020, here's a couple of cool cars to consider. Lucky for you, you can read this article in Motor Trend that lays out their picks: MotorTrend25YearOlds

You might have heard of the Acura Integra R, which came to the USA in 1997, but, two years earlier in Japan there was the Honda Integra R. Hey, my math isn't the greatest, but I bet 1995 is at least 25 years ago, so why not get a cool (acronym warning) JDM Honda Integra R? (JDM=Japanese Domestic Market)

Or if you need an Italian auto that wasn't sold here way back in 1995, how about the Alfa Romeo 146? They weren't selling any Alfas here in 95, and this car certainly isn't a Ferrari or anything like that, but you'd likely be the only one on your block to be driving one. Only one in your county or state more likely!

Way back in 1995, before we formed NMS, Brian and I moved to Germany, so, if you're looking for a cool German auto from that year to import, how about a BMW Alpina B8? The Motor Trend folks say it's based on a 3 series, but wait a minute. Way back then the biggest motor in the 3 was a 6 cylinder, but this Alpina B8 has an 8 cylinder. Again, using math, that's at least like 2 more cylinders!!

BMW Alpina B8
All the cars mentioned here make GREAT Father's Day gifts!

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Secret Car Gold Mine Part 1

Looking out over a small section of the cars.
This week I had the opportunity to explore a gold mine of cool old cars in the Columbia area. I've driven past it for the last 5 years and with Monday off work, I was able to line up a visit through a friend.
1950s Jaguar limo hidden in the main building.

Kyle and I took the adventure with our good friend, Chuck leading the way. He's been through the property several times and was willing to act as our Sherpa on this jungle adventure. With such a sprawling lot, it's tough to maintain the vegetation in the spring. We might come prepared with machetes next time.

The first build we inspected held all kinds of great stuff including a bunch of car parts, old books for researching car parts, and a couple of great Jaguars. The best of which was the beautiful Jaguar XJ120.
Stacks and stacks of cars.

We came around the building and down a ladder to the main yard where we first found a whole row of Jaguar E Types in various stages of rusting away. Nearby there was just about every British car you could imagine taking their slow journey returning to the Earth. MGs, Triumphs, Jags, everything. Sprinkled in were a few BMWs, Mercedes, and VWs.
A row of Jaguar E Type coupes. 

The International Harvester truck they used as part of the operations for many years was parked in the weeds as well. If I could pick one car from the entire collection, I'd want the XK120, but man that truck came a close second. Very cool styling and that awesome patina and hand lettering paint job. Not pictured, and swallowed by even more vegetation was an old White cab-over truck with a funky dome shape.
Ford bus.

We continued to push into the woods past several old buses full of more parts. There were more cars than you could even comprehend. There were cars we couldn't even identify. A few Rovers popped out of the growth, a Mazda RX-7, a few Volvos, dozens more TR-7s, MGBs, Spitfires, Alfas, Fiats...it just kept coming!
Interior of one of two '80s Maserati Quattroportes

The Peugot 505 Turbo was a cool surprise. Not a lot of French cars around town day to day. Next to that, we saw another Fiat 124 sedan. When we got up close we realized it wasn't a Fiat, but a Lada! Okay, pretty much the same thing, but it was cool to see the neat Lada badge on the grill.

Columbia Sports Car Garage truck.
There were so many cars I couldn't cover them all here, but if you follow @nms_south and @96formula6spd on Instagram, you'll be able to follow along as we post more of our finds.
Morris Marina being swallowed by vines.

All in all we covered about 1/3 of the inventory in about 2 hours. Rain started falling pretty heavily so we decided we'll go back another day and check out more.
Peugot 505 Turbo.

If you're interested in any parts or cars from this collection, get in touch! The owner is always looking to sell parts and he has an absolutely incredible collection of mostly 1960s-80s British cars. We're hoping we might be able to get something from the collection to compete in a Lemons Rally in the future.