Saturday, February 27, 2021

Track Time Countdown


NMS-North will return to the track with the NASA NE folks on March 27-28 at New Jersey
Motorsports Park on the Lightning Course. NJMP is big enough to have 2 tracks, so maybe 
we'll go back some other time and run on the THUNDER side too. My track driving is not 
racing against other cars, so I'm working on improving my driving skills in what is called 
High Performance Driver Education, or HPDE. 

Down South, Brian has been getting fully prepped for some serious Time Trialing this year, 
now that he has a TT license. This week he's brought in some new G-Loc brake pads, and a
transponder for that official timing. More to come from him this year in the NMS track Miata 

OK, now that I've had this Cayman for a while, I know how to start the car and put gas in it, 
so those aren't the kind of things I'll learn in driver education. It's a little more advanced 
than that! Groups like NASA have a structured series of steps for drivers to go through as they
gain skills. What do you get for your "education?"  Eventually this can lead to getting a 
competition license if you want to do actual racing against other cars on track. If you don't want 
to go full on racing, fine, you can just improve your car handling skills and have fun!


You can check out the NASA FAQ on these type of events at this link: 

NASA starts drivers in the HPDE 1 group, and as they improve their skills and basically 
show that they can play well with others, progress up to HPDE 4. I'm hoping to move from 
group 1 to group 2 in March, so that's my next goal. You can do this in just about any car, 
although with most convertibles you need a roll bar, in addition to the helmets that are 
mandatory in all groups. Here's a look at the various cars signed up for my HPDE 1 driving 
sessions starting on Saturday:

Lexus     GS300
Honda    S2000
BMW      330ci
Toyota    Supra
Toyota    Supra
Acura      Integra
VW         GTI
Toyota    Supra
Porsche  Cayman
Porsche  Panamera
Subaru    Legacy GT Spec B
Infinity     Q50
Mini         Cooper
Toyota     Supra
Scion       FRS
Nissan     GT-R
Toyota     Supra
Toyota     86
Mazda     Miata
VW          Alltrack
Chevy     Corvette
Honda     Civic
BMW       M3
Toyota     Supra
Honda     Civic Type R
BMW       M3
Cadillac   ATS-V
Ford        Focus

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Autocross Countdown



Here in the frozen north, we're in between snowstorms for the moment, so we've started counting the days to the first autocross of 2021. The NMS-North team (me) will focus on the Metro NY Region Porsche Club of America events, and they'll average about one per month from March to November. Like everything else in life, your mileage may vary, and your  mileage will also be based on COVID conditions. 

Last year we were happy to compete just two times on the autocross trail, so getting to drive a full season in 2021 would be just about the greatest thing since sliced bread. I really don't know why sliced  bread is so great, but I'll guess it's because without sliced bread, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich would be HUGE on two loaves of bread!

Prep wise, we'll need to get the 18 inch OZ wheels back on the car, adjust those tire pressures like Goldilocks (til they're "just right") and then torque the bolts, check the brakes and gas, and get ready to ride. On autocross days, there's a bit more to do, but that's just mostly remembering to bring all the essentials. Sometimes it's the "remembering" part that doesn't go perfectly, and sometimes it's the "essentials" part that needs improvement, so I'm planning to stick with my handy NMS Autocross Packing Checklist, so that I don't forget my helmet, or the head it attaches to. 

Speaking of helmets, my new Zamp helmet is mighty white and plain looking, so it will be good to start getting it dirty and covered with obnoxious stickers. Covering things with obnoxious stickers is kind of what auto sports are all about. The only difference for the professionals is that they are getting paid to put obnoxious stickers on their cars, and the rest of us do it for fun, or to pretend we're professionals. Regardless, each sticker on your car is equal to a gain of 5 horsepower!

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Who Sold the Most Cars in 2020?


According to this article from CNN CNN Auto Sales  Toyota sold the most vehicles world wide in 2020. For the previous few years, it was Volkswagen, and before that, Toyota. And way back in 2012 or so, it used to be General Motors. 

Up here at NMS-North we've done our part, at least in years past, since we own a Toyota (Camry) and a VW product (Porsche Cayman.) In the past we had a grand total of three VWs (2 Rabbits and a Fox, something about the animal names maybe?) but the Camry is our first Toyota. 

We tried to help Chrysler by buying a couple of Plymouths back in the day (Plymouth Neon, Plymouth Voyager mini-van) but heck, you can't buy ANY new Plymouths anymore. We had a few Fords (Mustang, Aerostar mini-van, Fiesta, Focus, etc) as well. Down at NMS-South they are supporting the Mazda/BMW/Chevrolet folks, but no VWs or Toyotas right now. 

Auto sales overall were down in 2020, I'll give you three reasons: Covid, covid, and COVID!

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Miata Maintenance

Believe it or not, it gets a little chilly in South Carolina. Well, in an unheated garage on a rainy day it gets chilly. But, that wasn't going to stop NMS-South in getting some basic maintenance done on the Miata. The team completed 3 basic bits of work that can keep your car running like a champ. On a safety note, the car was safely jacked up and supported with 4 jack stands. Let's get started.  


Not really hard to do, but important to keep on top of regular oil changes to keep the inside of your engine happy. Also, in extreme cases, to keep the inside of your engine ON THE INSIDE! As in, keep it lubricated so it doesn't BLOW UP! Here's a look at the engine bay of the Miata. If you're used to driving mid engine or rear engine cars, don't be confused, the Mazda folks put the engine in the FRONT of the car! 


On the Miata, spark plugs are fairly straight forward to do, with the job made easier with the engine in front, and the spark plugs on top of the engine, and with out a million intakes and other engine bits in your way. Just pull the ignition wires, and you're ready to get in there with your spark plug socket. Miatas are 4 cylinder, so only 4 spark plugs to do. Here's an "after" picture if you're in the market for some used spark plugs. We'll sell these CHEAP! 


The old starter wasn't exactly firing right up all the time, and we knew it was probably older than any item in the local grocery store (whatever that means), so taking out the old one and putting in a new starter was just the thing to help spend a rainy cold day in the garage. Besides, with only 3 bolts and the electrical connection, how hard could this be? 

OK, like just about any car repair you watch on a YouTube video, it's super easy to unbolt the old thing and bolt in the new thing. The FUN part comes in when the starter bolts are WAY down there behind the engine and just a little bit hard to reach. Now, if you're a professional mechanic and have those three feet long ratcheting wrenches (I'm sure someone makes them, if not, I'll go invent one) to make this really easy. But, in our case, it was reaching way down behind the block with a little non-ratcheting wrench and start taking the bolts off one itty bitty turn at a time. There just wasn't enough room to get the ratchet in there. Did we mention the starter bolts are pretty long too? So anyway, it took a while, but finally Brian took off the old starter and put the new one in. 

Here's a new and shiny Starter!

Here are two starters. Maybe you can tell which is the old dirty one? 

#4 FINAL TEST     

Now comes the moment of truth, with our oil change, spark plug change, and new starter installed, will the car actually start? Please, no wagering!

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

The NMS Interview: Walter Chrysler

Walter Chrysler's Long Island home

Reporting to you from Kings Point NY, I'm sitting here talking to the ghost of Walter Chrysler on the grounds of what was his lovely home on the north shore of Long Island. Walter hasn't exactly been keeping up with the auto industry since he left us in the 1940s, but with his experience as one of the founders of the modern automotive industry, we thought we'd have a little chat on the state of the business today. 

NMS: Walter, how's it going
WC: Well, I don't know, you tell me, it's 2021 you say?

NMS: Yes, and we'd like to ask your thoughts on the FCA merger with PSA. 
WC: FCA?  PSA? What is that? A disease I died from?

NMS: No Walter, PSA, now that's the French firm Peugeot, that includes Citroen. 
WC: Oh, French cars, they're nice enough I suppose. 

NMS: Well specifically, they just merged with FCA. 
WC: You're going to have to throw me a bone here, what exactly is FCA again? Did you run out of real names and words in the future and have to call everything by it's initials?

NMS: Oh, sorry. FCA is the FIAT-Chrysler-Automobile company formed when FIAT bought your old business during a world wide economic problem.
WC: (coughs, shakes his head) Some Italians bought MY company? They used to have a FIAT factory just north of New York City, but I thought they closed?  An American company bought by Europeans. Did the owner lose a bet, or lose it in a poker game or something?

NMS: Well Walter, it's a long story, but car companies around the world have combined, merged, and combined again. Don't ask about Mercedes-Chrysler, it's a long story. 
WC: What? Wait? Mercedes? The Germans? I knew it, we lost a bet with someone for sure! Darn it, one day you've just built the world's tallest building, my Chrysler building, and then a month or two later, BAM! Someone comes along with an Empire State Building! Well, anyway, you say the Germans merged with my company too? What other crazy things have been going on? I suppose they make cars in Japan now too! 

NMS: Moving on, we now have a newly named company Stellantis that is made up of your firm Chrysler, Dodge, Ram, Jeep, FIAT, Maserati, Alfa Romeo, Peugeot, Citroen, DS, and Lancia.
WC: OK, look, I get it, things change. Now that I look around my house here, just why are all these people in uniform here? Are they the groundskeepers?

NMS: No Mr. Chrysler, your house is now part of the US Merchant Marine Academy. 
WC: Really? Wow. Can I get on one of their ships and sail out of here now? 

NMS: Now Mr. Chrysler, we've barely gotten started, and we haven't even talked about Stellantis yet. 
WC: You're asking the questions mister, go ahead. 
NMS: So, what do you think about it? 
WC: About WHAT? Is this one of those "who's on first" things? Those Abbot and Costello fellows really make me laugh!

NMS: What we're trying to explain is that a group of French auto makers have just combined with the FIAT and Chrysler group of US and Italian car makers to form a very large company, and instead of picking the name Chrysler, or FIAT, or Peugeot, they used a new name, Stellantis. 
WC: That is amazing, so many brands combined together, it's kind of crazy when things you are so used to change. It's as if the Brooklyn Dodgers weren't in Brooklyn!  Just unimaginable. 

NMS: Look, we can update you on baseball later, what are your thoughts about this new giant car company?
WC: OK, look, if we're going to talk about something, you could at least come up with something new! I mean, for Pete's sake, I started my own company after running Buick for GM, and then turning around Willys-Overland, and all of that was just a warm-up act! I bought Maxwell-Chalmers and turned them into Chrysler, and then joined with the Dodge Brothers. Did you forget that I started Plymouth and DeSoto too? Look sonny-boy, if you think I'm going to be impressed with a couple of car companies working together, you've got another think coming! I said good-day sir!