Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Car and Driver Top 10 Cars for 2024: Nailed it!

Accord and Maverick, BAM!!

The latest issue of Car and Driver magazine features their annual TOP TEN CARS, and the TOP TEN TRUCKS and SUVS. Don't take my word for it, check it out online! Here's the link to the Cars: 


NMS would just like to point out that our recently acquired 24 Honda Accord Hybrid is in the TOP TEN! Hey, maybe we got lucky? Nah, because even though our 2009 Cayman isn't a 2024 Cayman, the 2024 Cayman and Boxster are on the TOP TEN LIST TOO! But wait, there's more!

2009 Cayman, not 2024. 

Yep, the new NMS Ford Maverick is ALSO ON THE TOP TEN TRUCK LIST! BAM! That's 3 for 3 at NMS-North! Here's your link: 


I'm sure there are other top ten lists, but, since we nailed 3 out of 3, well, this list must be the best! Oh, and one more thing: anyone with a brand-new Cayman want to trade for my 15-year-old one? 

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Studs in the Garage!

Just showing off my new McLaren hat Christmas present. It was chilly in the garage, so the hat was a big help! Also showing off the new belt-drive garage door opener.  NMS is now in the 21st century and we can open and close the door with an app on our phones, although we didn't splurge for the even fancier one with a camera. Garage door opener trivia from the expert that installed it: if you've heard of the LiftMaster brand, they are made by Chamberlain, so you just might be able to save yourself some money if you buy a Chamberlain at Home Depot like I did, instead of a LiftMaster. We bought this new one because the old one broke. Considering it was 19 years old, it had a good run. 

Back to our blog post title today, Studs in the Garage isn't the name of a rock band, it's the latest project on the Cayman. I changed the wheels from normal lug nuts to studs. Here's how that went: 

Here's the "before" picture. 
The wheels have 5 regular lug nuts. 
These nuts are kind of a big deal. 
They hold the wheels on!
Don't leave home without them!

Step 1: old lug nuts removed.
OK, before that I loosened them and jacked up the car. I also had breakfast.

      Step 2: Wheel studs ready to be installed. They just screw in where the old lugs were. 
     The solid end goes into the wheel, and the outer end will have the 5mm hex bolt fitting         sticking out so you can tighten them down. 

Step 3: The studs will also get some of this stuff, because you do NOT want those studs getting loose and the wheels coming off. Well, I don't know if YOU want my wheels staying on or coming off, but I want them to stay ON!

Step 4: The kit came with studs, lug nuts, liquid Vibra-Tite, and this handy little 5mm tool. 
Later I bought a real 5mm hex bolt socket so I could check the torque on the studs. 
You know, safety. 

OK, the first 5 studs are in, so according to my quick estimate, there are approximately 3 more wheels to do too! Sorry my car is dirty. Caused by actually driving it. On the caliper you can see one of the two brake bleeder points. The other one is on the back side of the caliper. During this operation I found one of the little caps had come loose, so I tightened that thing down and checked that my brake fluid in the reservoir was still good. You know, because sometimes you have to STOP the car. 

Step 5: New lugs for the studs. The rounded end goes on first, so that you still have the bolt to wrench down to 96 ft-lbs. Again, because safety. 

This is a front wheel, so maybe I could have gone with a shorter than 75mm stud. 

Step 6: Torque the bolts. PRO TIP: ALWAYS go with having the wheels stay ON the car! 

Floor jack and another great present, the rolling bucket padded seat top! This made working on the wheels much more comfortable! The other great solution would be having a full lift for the car so you could get the wheels up in the air, but we don't have one of those in the garage. Yet. 

Checking brake fluid level, it's above the MIN line, and not all the way up to MAX. To get this view I have to stick my phone in a little side port to see where the fluid is resting and
take a picture. The entire brake fluid and other parts of the car in the front trunk are all hidden under plastic covers. 

Sunday, January 14, 2024

If It's a Weekend, I Must be at a Cars and Coffee!

Always go full COMMANDO!

For those of you in the back, IT'S 2024, so high time to hit the monthly Cars and Coffee over in York SC. Thanks again to Southern Touch Bakery for hosting and serving up the coffee and other goodies! Let's ride!

Thursday, January 11, 2024

NMS-North Outlines Plans for 2024

Also coming in 2024: a red Ferrari. 
Assuming I win the lottery. 

Like most things in life, it can be helpful to actually plan in advance what you're going to do, or what you're going to TRY to do, so let's take a little look at the NMS-North team goals for 2024. 

--There will be more autocross in the NMS #77 (Ruby the 2009 Porsche Cayman.) In 2023 I drove with 4 different clubs, so this year I might do the same, but my main goal this year is to stick with one club for their entire season and see where we stack up at the end of the year. Living near Charlotte opens up lots of possibilities from 2 SCCA regions (the Central Carolina Region where I technically live, and the South Carolina Region where NMS started), the Carolina Region Porsche club, and the TRIAD Sports Car Club. Ruby has been upgraded to new tires, so we'll see how the Yokohama A052s run. Team management are being jerks and say there's no money to pay me to drive, and they say the primary focus will be running in SCCA B Street class with the Central Carolina region. Most of their events take place at the big parking lot of zMax Dragway, with others on the even larger lot at Michelin Proving Grounds. zMax is the closest autocross location to the NMS-North garage, so that will save the team some expenses too!

--There will be more track driving, thanks to several locations within driving distance, as well as tons of groups that sponsor track days. The easiest (read "cheapest") way to spend more time on track in 2024 (Hey "MORE IN 24" sounds like a slogan or something! You can quote me on that) is some more Track Night in America events with the SCCA. They use Carolina Motorsports Park in SC and Charlotte Motor Speedway (Roval) close to home. Beyond that, it would be great to return to Watkins Glen in NY, since up in the Empire State they've got an early October event sponsored by 2 of the NASA regions. Virginia International Raceway is also on my driving wish list, so we'll see how it goes. 

As we gear up and continue planning for 2024, we've already booked the NASA Southeast Winter Meltdown weekend at CMP during President's Day weekend in February. One clear advantage of living in SC instead of NY; you can count on being able to hit the track in JAN or FEB instead of waiting a few more months. Sure, it will be smoking hot in the summer, but it's not like VENUS hot or anything. Besides, Venus is a really DRY heat. 

--Off track, the big news here is that after retiring (again,) NMS-North is now enrolled at York Technical College for some Automotive Technician courses! Yes, the oldest member of NMS is a college-ish student AGAIN! This time with a focus on practical and useful knowledge about working on cars, I think classes will be WAY UP on the FUN CHART, educational, and possibly keep me off the streets at night! My "Special Secret Triple Probation" reasoning is to also use what's left of my GI Bill benefits to pay for the first bit of school too, so a big THANK YOU Mr. and Mrs. Taxpayer out there! Expect a lot of blogging about this experience, and if you already work on your own car and have car knowledge, I guarantee you can laugh at me all you want. I promise not to blog every day about every class and act like I have to explain how a 10mm socket is used. Maybe once a month or so will be plenty on this topic. Oh, and forecasters are predicting a 100% chance of new tools appearing soon. In the Army they encouraged everyone to be a "Life-Long Learner," so hopefully there will be some learning, as well as more life! 

--Family wise, this brings up the continued adventures of NMS both North and South, now that the entire team (yes, both of us) and spouses live in the same state. In 2023 we competed at exactly one autocross event together and went to a NASCAR race together, so look for more combined joint-forces-combined-firepower activity from both drivers in 2024 also. 

Saturday, January 6, 2024

NMS Highlights From 2023

We hope your 2023 was better than this sculpture in Amsterdam!

Before we plan all of 2024, here, in no particular order, are our HIGHLIGHTS from 2023, which was another fun year at NMS!

The Bunch of Idiots "Bees" get into B Class!

Brian and the Bunch of Idiots team once again entered a Lemons race, tuned up the Miata, packed up the trailer, and headed north. Along the way they got stopped for a few hours by an Interstate accident up ahead of them that shutdown the road for 2 hours in Indiana, then they kept going north, and finally raced their #287 Miata at Road America in Wisconsin. This is definitely a bucket list track for drivers, so when these guys saw that the 24 Hours of Lemons series was returning to RA, they signed up! On the very positive side, and considering the track has long straights (meaning HIGHER SPEEDS) and their Miata has a small engine (meaning SLOWER SPEEDS) they were able to get in Class B instead of the usual Class A where the fastest cars compete. At the end of two days on track, they overcame some small issues, executed a great driver/pit stop strategy, and still came home in 18th place overall from about 140 drivers! 


Robert ran into some elves living in a tree or something, because thanks to their magic "fast autocross" beans he somehow pulled off the first ever NMS 1st place PAX at an autocross event in our 10 years of competition! All this time we thought the secret of going fast was PBJ sandwiches! Not long after that 1st place New York Metro Region PCA performance, and after moving to South Carolina, he also took a fastest Porsche car on RAW time at Carolina Region Porsche Club autocross event, which was also the 2nd fastest RAW time on the day. Note to self: Get More Magic Beans!

NMS-South continued developing what some people call "Project Z." We can neither confirm nor deny that Project Z exists, whether it might exist in the future, or even if this ridiculous blog actually exists. An unidentified source was quoted as saying that "Project Z will be revealed soon...or not. Don't ask me, I just know things." Look for Project Z launching in 2025. Or sooner. Maybe later. You didn't hear it from us. NMS manager Brian Nixon stated that "Huh? What? Well, there's a BMW Z4 and Nissan makes a Z car, is that what you're talking about? Do you mean ZOD, like the bad guy in the Superman movie? The letter Zed like in German?"

NMS-North completed the move from NY to SC, once again unifying the entire two-man NMS team within the confines of just one state. Pro tip: Once you're out of the military, the government doesn't just move all your stuff at no cost, who knew?

Anyway, this move has no connection to the billion-dollar Scout Motors electric vehicle factory being built an hour away in Blythewood SC by the Audi company. However, NMS is open to the idea of serving as test drivers for any new vehicles built in the Palmetto state! On a related note, while we don't own any electric cars, two new hybrid vehicles found a place in the NMS garage this year. 

One of the original Shelby Cobras, at the Simeone Museum in Philadelphia. 
As in, one of only SIX of these bad boys on the planet!
FUN FACT: This car was once owned by rock and roll producer Phil Spector!

It was another year of some of our favorite activities; driving at Track Night in America, visiting the Simeone Museum in Philadelphia (above) and driving some BMWs at their Ultimate Driving Experience (again.) 

Our view of the start, Formula 1 in Miami!

Robert and Julie attended the F1 race in Miami. There were big crowds and hot weather in May in southern Florida, surprise! Overall, we rated it in 2nd place of all the F1 races we've attended, which includes Austin TX in 2019. Yeah, so dead last place in other words. Next on our list is the race in Montreal Canada, which usually takes place early in June. It's probably less like a foreign country than going to the race in Las Vegas. 

Brian and Robert head to some seats at Darlington.
Thanks to the VetTix group for cheap tickets. 

Besides the F1 race, Brian and Robert attended the NASCAR race at Darlington in September. Guess what? It was loud! After the first few laps, the pack was spread out enough to cover the entire track, so from that point on the volume level never let up. Except when it did, like when they stopped all the cars on track because some of the track lights didn't come on. After a minor delay, back to the loud!
2023 Maverick Hybrid XLT
Outside the track and autocross events, NMS-North switched things up in the garage, with the addition of two hybrid vehicles. While new cars aren't cheap, we're loving the gas mileage in the Honda Accord Hybrid and Ford Maverick hybrid. 

In the "Go Big or Go Home" category, AKA "If I Win the Lottery," here's my idea for a great TV show. "Lap Record USA." This show would involve the NMS team AFTER winning the lottery, hiring a camera crew, buying the fastest car on the planet, and then systematically visiting all the racetracks in the USA in an attempt to break the track records for a single lap. Other than the big money to fund it, film crew, a network that wants this project, and an awesome car, it's pretty much ready to shoot! If you're the president of a major network or Internet channel, let's talk!

"If I Win the Lottery" idea number B: Buy a former Ferrari F1 car, let the Ferrari folks keep it in Italy and do all the maintenance, and then maybe a couple times a year have them take it to some awesome track and let me drive it. This is a real thing, but if you have to ask how much it costs, you can't afford it. Ferrari F1 Clienti