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This is my fourth Miata/MX5/Eunos Roadster - I had two Roadsters and an MX5 in the UK before I moved out here - and the first one I'm trying to take from stock to where I want it to be all with my own work rather than buying a pre-disastered, sorry pre-modded car.

I've had the car for a bit over a year, modded it a little and took part in a few SCCA HPDE sessions (trackdays, basically, but SCCA is one of the big sanctioning bodies for club racing out here so there will hopefully be Time Trials/Time Attack in my future). It became clear that for once, the car was holding me back on the track. That's a new feeling for me, usually it's the other way around.

So, here it is in all its glory with a mismatched hardtop and dented nose. It's rust free as it originally lived in Southern California before it moved up here to the edge of the desert, but unfortunately the PO has had a bit of an off-road excursion and a lot of the work I've done to it so far was to alleviate the damage from that. Part of the issue is that the PO replaced a lot of the panels himself and did a reasonable job, but underneath the panels a few surprises lurk. Not to mention that the panels were all aftermarket, with the expected fitment issues.

I also have the impression that it was running some thumpin' sound system at some point as there are a few holes for wiring etc that are Sawzall rather than stock. But it's a nice-ish driving car, has only about 138k on it and a new-ish top to boot:



So far, the mild mods on it are:

• Stock MSM shocks and springs
• GarageSTAR front and rear tow hooks and offset license plate bracket
• Braided brake hoses and Hawk HP+ pads all around
• Retrofitted a "real" oil pressure gauge instead of the fake one that the '95 came with
• "Mail-order Bride" seats on original Bride lowmax rails
• Rear suspension and steering rack fitted with polyurethane bushes.

The suspension is still fine on the road, but it has trouble coping with track use. Between that and the all-seasons on the car, something had to be done. Due to some other issues I had to cut short the 2012 track season, but after our house move, I finally decided to start the project proper. Current target date for getting everything back together is April 6th as that's the annual tech day for the local SCCA chapter. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, I'm kinda sorta fibbing, the real deadline is Miatas at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca so if things go horribly wrong I have a couple of weeks worth of a buffer, but I do really want to get it done for the annual tech day as that makes teching the car a lot easier for me.

During the downtime - the car's and mine - I've started collecting parts for the project. This is only a small part of the stash, there is a lot more, some parts are still in transit and several other major parts (suspension, wheels, tires, exhaust) haven't even been ordered yet. Not to mention that I still have to find a bunch of the parts again. I hate moving house.



There's also a roll bar, an undimpled nose in much nicer condition (but the wrong colour), an unbroken air guide, a replica R-package from lip and a couple of complete ARC intakes that may have just become surplus to requirements.

The first job was to get cracking on the roll bar because that had known fitment issues - it was made by a shop fairly local to us via a group buy on clubroadster - and I wanted to find how unhappy I would be with the fit so if I decided I was too unhappy, I could give another fabricator down in LA a call to see if he could fit me in before the deadline. He makes really nice rollbars, but they're also a little spendy. That said, I'm not trying for a cheapskate build this time.

First the job started by adding lightness by removing the majority of the interior and plonking the bar in to get a feel for the fit and see where the parcel shelf would need tweaking:



The trial fitment showed the need for cuts in the expected places, but I also ran into an unwelcome and somewhat unexpected snag. The foot plate on the passenger side is noticeably too wide to fit in between the ECU and the B-post:



The plate looks like it's at least 5-6mm too wide to even fit in the available space. Issues like this tend to upset me, especially because I had to wait for a fair amount of time to get the bar in the first place. This bar supposedly has the fitment issues fixed. Oh well. Not 'appy.

Maybe I'm just a little too Germanic about these things but this is a powder coated (not painted) rollbar that might need - well, the foot plate *will* need - cutting and potentially holes enlarging in order to get it to fit. Because it's powder coated, fixing up the cuts will be problematic (paint would be much easier) and it's not going to do anything nice for the finish, either. Mrmpf.

Now, this wasn't an unexpected problem, but given that I'm striving for a pretty high quality build it's time to call Blackbird Fabworx to see if they can fit me in sometime in February or not. If not, I guess it's time to "adjust" the rollbar and hold my nose regarding the fit.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Would it not be less work to remount the ecu??
That's one option that's been mentioned to me by some of the MX5 gurus over here. It's an ABS-equipped car so I'd have to move both the ABS ECU and the engine ECU over a little, but that might be doable. The two right hand mounting posts for the ECU end up under the foot plate anyway and have to be cut, but I need to check how much slack there in the wiring.

I know that with some tweaks, this bar can be mounted - other people who were part of the same group buy have done it - but I my issue is more the 90% quality approach the manufacturer has taken even after they had been told that there are issues with the fitment. I have this bug about quality and for once was trying to do the build "right" and to my own impossible standards. That's one of the reasons I'm currently trying to figure out if I want to invest the work to make this bar fit or get one made by someone who as a reputation for doing excellent work but is down in LA (about an 8-9h drive minimum.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
And the nice Fedex driver dropped off a few horsies in a box earlier today. Sneak preview:

 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Not much in the way of updates this weekend, need to get my UK tax return prepped so all that is happening is a quick peek into yet another box of parts that arrived last week:



Two sets of NB injectors that I'm planning to set off to RC Engineering to be cleaned and flow matched - the better set will end up on my NA, the other one gets sold. They only flow a little more but have better atomization and given that I'm not planning to up the boost on the supercharger, they should do fine.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
No photos today, it's freezing cold in the garage and I didn't fancy taking pictures and working on the car at the same time.

Removed the ECUs so I don't damage them, then moved all the wiring that's stuck to the B-posts out of the way. Of course all the plastic holders for the wiring broke as I tried to remove them with the appropriate tool - I really need a heater in the garage. At least I managed to trim the parcel shelf a little with my tin snips but really need to get my air metal saw going to cut out the remaining bit of the parcel shelf that needs removing. Didn't want to wake the neighbours, wife or cats though by doing that in the middle of the night so that's got to wait until Sunday.

With the ECU and the wiring out of the way it looks like the bar is going to be a decent fit, just need to buy a few more tools
to mount it properly (like a angled drill).
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
A slight distraction landed here today:



That might throw a bit of a spanner in the works with the MX-5 work but if anything, only for a few days. So far it mainly needs an oil change and some use.
 

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Unfortunately the CRX ate up all the available car playtime so I have made zero progress on the roll bar install. Need to get cracking on it though as I'm planning to throw a big parts order in the direction of Flying Miata and I need to make some progress on this car if I want to hit my April 6 target date for the annual tech inspection.

Despite the lack of progress, the parts stash grew again:

 

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I finally found some time to try and make progress with the installation of the rollbar. Mind you, I had to decide between watching the Superbowl and working on the car, but with the wife yelling at the TV, sorry, watching the Superbowl we had the Superbowl part covered
.

So, first I made a little cardboard template to figure out how much metal I needed to cut out:



Then I got my new bodywork saw out and started cutting. Turns out my small Harbor Freight compressor wasn't really up to driving so it took a long time and the compressor started to smell funny, but I got the job done:





I only needed to remove one of the studs that normally hold the ECU, and Mr Dremel made short work of that with a cutting disk and a grinding stone to grind down the remains of the stud:



Note to self, when trial fitting a powder coated bar, wrap the damn thing in something so the sharp edges don't cut into the powder coating. I'm a little surprised that the powder coating wore off that easily, I thought it should be more robust:



Finally got the bar to sit right but with the foot plates where they are supposed to be, but only the driver's side mounting hole on top of the B-pillar lines up. You can see that the correctly size bolt is still touching the plate on the bar, but at least it goes into the hole.



The one on the passenger side is off by a noticeable amount. I'm not the first one to have that problem, either:



Of course I can enlarge the hole, but that means I'm back to messing up the powdercoating. It's also not the only part that needs attention. For starters, my car has the rare option of a remote trunk release and I need to notch the rear foot plate that's sitting on top of it:



What bugs me most however is that the two plates on top of the B-pillar don't seem to sit in the same position. Well, either that or my car is seriously bent. This is the driver's side, I can easily fit my pinky in between the plate and the top of the B-post:



This is the passenger side, the plate sits a lot closer to the top of the B-post. There is still a gap, but there is no chance I'll stick any finger in there:



Now, none of these issues are insurmountable but this isn't really the parts quality I want to have on my car. *Especially* not if I have to wait out a delay of around two months over and above the promised ETA for the bar.

I guess I'll try to call Moti @ Blackbird Fabworx on Monday and see what the damage is for one of their six-point bars hen fitted by him, and if he can fit me in either this month or next as the April 6th deadline is still looming. Their bars are a little pricier than this one, but they're supposedly very good quality. As I'm not trying to build a cheap track rat, I want quality parts on the car.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
A little more progress over the last few days. I sold the EGR rollbar to a fellow local SCCA member and should hopefully get a roll bar from Blackbird Fabworx in early March.

This evening I decided to work on the car a bit more during the "calm before the storm" as the Flying Miata suspension and assorted other goodies are supposed to show up in a few days.

Time to throw out the OEM radio, so I went from this:



To this:



As usual, things didn't quite go 100% smoothly, the holes for two of the gauges needed enlarging (for some odd reason the housings of the two JDM 52mm gauges have a bigger diameter that the Innovate 52mm gauge, go figure). I also needed to tweak the double-din hole in the tombstone a little - the work on this isn't quite finished as the fit isn't quite there yet. Fortunately I have a second tombstone (if I can find it after our house move move) so I can practise on this one to get the fit right. I think I also might want to get an AFR gauge that's a better match for the other two gauges...
 

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Got a bunch of parcels with suspension parts from Flyin' Miata a few days ago and yesterday I took a little roadtrip down to the wilds of Napa (about 3h from here that took more like 5h) to pick up another piece of the puzzle that I had looking for for a while:





Not that easy to find over here but supposedly worth the hassle of finding one and the price...
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
So between some cat herding, furniture building and aquarium set up, I found enough time to turn this:



Into this:



I built up the suspension from all new parts even though I am already running NB MSM suspension, but this way I have a chance to sell the old struts and springs ready to mount. In order to put the front coilovers together I ended up having to shave the two top rubber mounts by about 1/10" as I wasn't able to compress the rubber enough to start the nut on the thread. A quick call to FM tech support suggested the shaving approach (thanks Keith) and after that, the coilovers went together in no time at all.

I managed to fit one of the rear ones before I ran out of time:



Unfortunately it looks like I have to take both front and rear suspension apart completely - the rear one either needs the poly bushes regreased as they're squeaking up a storm, or the bushes thrown out for uprated rubber items. I have to do the front suspension also, but I haven't got around to upgrading the bushes there yet so I'm a bit on the fence as to which way I'm going. Given that the car needs an alignment afterwards anyway, quickly stripping the suspension to regrease the bushes isn't a big deal, but I'm not sure I want to do this on a regular basis. Anyway, something to sleep on.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Ah yes, the massively delayed update to the build thread. I've been slowly working on the car but haven't had time to post updates, so here we have the mega-update for the last six weeks or so.

First, a quick trial fitting of the radio and gauge mount. The tombstone needs a bit of tweaking, as did the gauge holes - apparently not all 52mm gauges agree on their sizes. Oh well. Of course, neither the headunit nor the gauges are hooked up at this point
:



Then it was back to fitting the various suspension goodies I bought from FM a while back. Starting with the rear anti-roll bar:



Can't remember where I got the suggestion but someone recommended to put a layer of teflon tape on the ARB as that would make it easier for the ARB to rotate in the bushings even with the appropriate grease applied. I eyeballed the locations, wrapped, then installed:



No photos of the installed bar, but trust me, it's on the car
. Now, it's time to take off the NB Mazdaspeed Bilsteins and chuck on the front bar and the front VMaxxes:



My preferred way to replace the front struts on an NA - which might or might not be the recommended way, but it works for me - is to disconnect the ARB and then remove the long bolt that holds the top suspension arm to the chassis. As the car is a desert car it's not a problem to take these bolts out and it makes this a pretty quick job:



Pop the new strut in, they were all pre-assembled and set to what I thought was the correct height:



Lift the assembly, put the top bolt back in, then use a jack to maneuver he whole thing into place:



I also tend to use jacks to lift the car off the jackstands and load the suspension so I can torque the suspension bolts correctly why I have easy access to them.

Now it's time to install the front ARB, guess who runs out of Teflon tape. Organized, that's me:



Everything connected, torqued and all that. All I need to do is put the new undertray back on and take the car off its stands, but in the meantime I have to show off the FM frame rails:



I have the whole butterfly brace but it looks like the OEM cat on the car and the butterfly brace are having a bit of a disagreement as to who wants to occupy the space that the cat is currently claiming for itself. The floor around the driver's side framerail has been pushed up (presumably during some sort of off-road excursion) so that might have something to do with it. Anyway, I was planning to put on the FM high-flow cat and exhaust anyway so I left the brace off for now.

Time for the big reveal, take it off the stands:



Oops, that's quite a bit lower at the front than expected. Maybe I should have read the instructions properly?

Ah, that's better:



Note to self, when setting the suspension it might help to use the settings from the "also for 90-97 with NB suspension" line and not the NA line. Doh. I still need to readjust the rear ride height but I want to regrease the polyurethane bushes there anyway before I do that, plus I want to have the 15" wheels with tires on there.

I tried to get the car ready for today's annual tech for my SCCA region, so I put the ECUs and partial interior back into the car but did run out of time. At least I got a chance to drive it with the new suspension. I'm pretty happy with it so far, it's not too harsh but the car feels much better and does barely lean in corners that are approached in an enthusiastic fashion.

Hopefully my rollbar should be ready in a week or two as that's one of the main missing pieces of the puzzle before going to Laguna Seca in April. Oh, and a set of 15x7 wheels with some sticky rubber on them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
When I came home tonight there was a big box waiting for me in the garage. Let the unpacking begin:



Mostly unpacked:



First impressions are very, very good. It was well packed, the welds looks nicer than on the other bar and I really appreciated the little details like the spreader plates also being powdercoated. Not to mention that it feels really solid, too. Plus, decent instructions, too, although after trying to fit the other bar I probably would have been able to work out all by myself how to fit this one
.

Roll on the weekend!
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Well, it's mainly carpeted because the previous owners of the house used the garage as an office. It was nice when I was working on the car in winter as rolling around on the floor wasn't as nasty as doing so on cold concrete when it's -15C outside. The annoying thing is that you really can't do any sort of oil change or other fluid change on it, but fortunately we have a single car garage without carpet in it also
.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Well, the build thread got a bit neglected while I was trying to get her done in time for Miatas at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Time to bring the build thread up to date, although there aren't that many pictures due to lack of time.

First, I test-fitted the rollbar so I could determine if I needed to cut the parcel shelf further or not compared to the EGR rollbar. The answer was, unsurprisingly, yes. Also, in the spirit of "doing things the right way" - don't do what I did and look at the side striker plate for the hardtop, think "I really need to remove those before I trial-fit the rollbar" and then forget to do so. The scratches in the powder coating are rather visible :(. Anyway, looking good:

miata-build-25.jpg


miata-build-26.jpg


A few more holes in the car later and we have a bad picture of the rollbar bolted to the car:



Everything fit well, the fitting instructions that Moti includes are good and include all the necessary detail and the whole thing went together rather well, keeping in mind that this was only my second attempt at fitting a rollbar.

As with pretty much all rollbars, the footplate on the passenger side and the top bolt that holds the ECU attempt to occupy the same space. I had already remove the bolt, so I eyeballed the ECU mount, "adjusted" it with my Dremel (one tool that is proving invaluable) and it everything went together as it was supposed to be:

miata-build-28.jpg


miata-build-29.jpg


The new radio surround also needed a bit of tweaking so the tombstone would fit, which required a little more Dremeling:

miata-build-30.jpg


miata-build-31.jpg


I specifically picked a "digital media receiver" over a CD receiver so I could mount it low without the center console interfering with the faceplate. Plus, I don't carry CDs in the car anyway - I mean, where would you put them in a Miata?

At this point, things were getting really rushed, so no photos. Not to mention that pretty much all the cool parts like the new exhaust and header, Arc intake etc are still on the shelf.

My local SCCA favourite tire/alignment/universal fix-it shop fitted the tires to the new rims and then had to do a manual alignment as their alignment rig was damaged and the parts didn't make it in time. Given the restrictions they did a pretty good job at the very last minute but between that problem and the invariable fatigue from late night wrenching, we decided to skip Saturday and just go down for Sunday. We did make it to the track though - after losing a balance weight of one of the rear wheels somewhere on I-80, which led to a bad case of "Miata shimmy". Either way, we enjoyed the trip, as I hope the car did, too. Definitely trying to be back next year:

miata-build-32.jpg


Actually it turned out that maybe it didn't enjoy the trip that much or didn't want to go to this weekend's PDX session, because as I removed the exhaust to put the new shiny one on, I was greeted by this sight:

miata-diff-flange.jpg


Should be an easy repair, but the rear hub on that side (driver's side) was damaged by the bent upper A-arm that I got the car with. As the whole thing has to come apart anyway I figured I'll just find a good used hub and change it out at the same time.
 
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