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  1. #1
    1,000 rpm - releasing the clutch SigmaX's Avatar
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    And now, building for something a little different...

    Preface: Feel free to skip the first post. It's just a story, and I'm not a writer.

    In 2005, having recently totaled my Integra by picking a fight with a tree, I started searching for a new car. I was a single guy in the Army, just starting to see the end of my 6-year term of service over the horizon.

    I wanted a car that was affordable, but fun. I fancied myself something of a skilled driver, despite having just totaled a car by NOT being a skilled driver; and I wanted something I could tear-ass around in.

    After taking a look at the reasonably-affordable, reasonably-new, reasonably-sporty cars available at the time, I was left with one conclusion. A conclusion a few of my friends at the time kept nudging me towards: Miata Is Always The Answer.

    Carmax beckoned, and so I paid $16,800 for a 2002 Miata LS, silver over tan. Six-speed, LSD, leather seats? A big step up. I started driving just for the joy of driving. Back roads or highway, a 30-minute back route to work or a 6-hour meandering journey into West Virginia, it was all good. Within a short period of time, some of those same friends that convinced me M.I.A.T.A., convinced me to start coming out to autocross. Not that it was too hard of a sale - I was single, no bills, and with this nimble little sportscar; I wanted to finally stop playing Gran Turismo and start driving for real. And so, my first introduction to real-life motorsport.

    Lookit me there. Completely oblivious, loaner helmet and all.

    I got out of the Army shortly after buying this, and was making around 3x what I had been previously. What do you do with free income? Spend it.

    I was hooked and happy. Spirited drives on back roads were all well and good, but how do you measure you skill against others on a casual drive? I paid my $40, drove 40-some-odd minutes down to RFK stadium parking lot, worked in the sun for 4 hours, all for 12 minutes of seat time. I was out for every event and trying to improve my times (and finishes) in the ultra-competitive Washington DC Region SCCA. I slowly started going to more car-related events, and slowly started modifying it. My first "major" solo automotive project - swapping a cat-back exhaust from Flyin' Miata in the parking lot of my work. Got the stickiest allowable tires in the stock category. Started figuring out how go to the top of C Stock specification - the sport-hard suspension swap? Let's get serious.

    And then, at one late-summer, event, a new face among my fellow CS Miata drivers. Roll bar, a tire trailer to carry wheels and a toolbox - this guy knew what was up. I went over and struck up a conversation. One this he said intrigued me - "I used to autocross, but once I got out on a track? That was it. The amount of seat time you get is so much better, and it's so much fun - once you get out to a trackday, you won't want to waste your time in the heat and sun out at an autocross anymore. I'm here because one of my friends insisted!"

    I got a big raise. I bought and installed a Brembo BBK. A high-end stereo retrofitted into the stock Bose system. Screw C Stock, I was gonna be track day bro.

    Then life happened. I stopped autocrossing, except very rarely. After a while, I got bit by a bug of a different color. I wanted something actually fast, something rare, something COOL. And I started looking around. And after a year and a half, I ended up with a car that, in hindsight, I shouldn't have bought. And shouldn't have sold.

    A 2002 BMW M Coupe.

    I bought it off a guy on Long Island and drove it home from NY. Within a week it was in the shop, having a $5000 suspension install done. I joined the BMWCCA. I ripped the rear subframe out and replaced all the bushings with metal ones.
    I took it to a dyno day:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDUkMOLOoJ8
    (not my account, but a car-friend's account).

    I went on the annual Philly Cheesesteak Run from MD to Philadelphia and back. (Which is where the above photo is from, thanks, Chris!)

    I got rare, Japanese 19" wheels. I removed the M badging and replaced the M-only chrome vents "vents" with much-less-flashy Z3 shark gills. I got Schrick cams, installed a new air intake and new management system to replace whatever software flash the PO had. I participated in drag races of questionable legality on questionably-closed status tracks. I had the most expensive RADAR/LASER detector on the market, that saved me again and again and again.

    I was $20K into the car.

    Look how bad cell phone cameras were, back then.

    The Miata was getting very little road time at this point. I'd take it out when the weather was nice and I wanted the top down. Track days were expensive, so it was rare that I had the money to spend on one. The BMW took no prep, so I drove it, rather than the still-rollbar-less Miata.

    And I? I was driving with very little respect for the rule of law. I drove the 32 mile-trip from my apartment to a car-friend's apartment in 17 minutes. I once drove from 295, around DC, and back to 295 at about 2 in the morning in under 30 minutes. You don't need to look it up, I'll tell you - the DC beltway is 64 miles around. Sometimes, I got ticketed. I didn't get ticketed a LOT of the time I should have gotten ticketed. I was incredibly stupid and if I could go back and give myself a quick few punches to the gut, I would. My insurance was $1600 a month, more than both my car notes. I had had the BMW for 17 months.

    And then, one of the women I was dating, well... stuff got serious. We moved in together. Shortly thereafter, I got pulled over with her in the car, doing 151 in a 55 at 1 am driving back from a friend's house. I was slowing from the gear-limited 168 top speed when I got LASER'd. The BMW was impounded. I was lucky not to get taken to jail that night. I went to court, I paid huge fines. My license was suspended for a year.


    Both the cars went away so I could save up for a house for us. I lost a shitload on the BMW, but at least I wasn't paying a huge car note for something I couldn't drive - and insurance was an even larger load off.

    Time went by. I switched jobs a couple times. We were both working near each other, so she would give me a ride to and from work.


    The relationship started going south. One of many sticky points was having to adjust our schedules to each other to deal with only having one car. I got my license back. I bought a highly-modified, stripped out VW GTi from a friend, around October of 2011 if I recall correctly. A drive-it-once-in-a-while-on-the-street trackday car. It had no interior, it had a straight-through exhaust, it had a cryo-treated transmission with aftermarket LSD, it had a far-too-stiff coilover setup; it had a turbo that had grown three sizes during one moving Christmas moment in Whoville. The mod list was longer than this post. Flooring it at 2K rpm produced only a whirring noise until the turbo finally kicked in 1400 RPM later, at which point the vehicle was suddenly bouncing off the rev limiter and you were going much faster, much more loudly, than you intended. It dynoed at 260wHP and 283ft/lb of torque. In a car with no interior but the front two seats and dash, and weighed around 2070 lbs.

    I only have a couple photos with it anymore. This is from when I was replacing and painting the front passenger fender, to repair some damage it was sold to me with:



    Things went off the rails with the lady. We broke up. I needed safe, reliable, comfortable transportation to get to and from work.

    I took Friday off of work with the intention of buying a black-on-black 135i six-speed hardtop with cold weather and luxury packages from a dealer 40 miles from home. I called the dealer, told them I wanted it and I was on my way. It took me four hours to fight DC traffic and get to the dealership, by which time they'd sold it out from under me. There were no other 135i six-speed hardtops in the state, in any color or options combination. Rather than waste the time, I sat at a restaurant, eating lunch and using my phone to see if there were any other cars of interest around. There was a Carmax 20 minutes away - I didn't even look at their inventory, just finished my fries and started driving. I told the "sales assitant" what had happened at the BMW dealership. He got a glint in his eye.
    "What're you looking for? Something like that BMW?"
    "Yeah?"
    "How about a Corvette?"
    "I'm not a big fan of domestics."
    "How about a Porsche Boxster?"
    I thought back to my old Miata, top down, cruising down the highway with wind and the sun - maybe this was a better idea than any old BMW? And so I test drove that Boxster. It wasn't quite for me - not enough wind in my hair. But a $23K Porsche? It beat the snot out of the WRX and 350Z I also test drove. I got back home and started searching. And the next day, I ended up getting a ride in a friend's S2K down to a Porsche dealer in Northern VA.

    Lemmie tell you, guys, it was the softest sell I've ever encountered. I walked in, told the first salesman I saw I wanted to test-drive the black Cayman. He glanced up at me with a bored expression, and said
    "Black one's in the process of being sold, you OK with yellow? It's got the Xenon package and cold-weather package over the black one."
    "Sure."
    "Gimmie a minute."
    30 seconds later he was back with the keys to a bright yellow sportscar and a dealer plate.

    "Take it for a spin, I suggest you go south first, have it back in an hour or so."

    And so, a test drive and short discussion with the salesman later, and I had my reliable, safe, comfortable transportation.


    Within a couple weeks, I drove the VW down to Florida and sold it to a guy down there as a project car.

    I started easing back into driving for reasons other than just getting around. Cruising in the Porsche was sweet - long road trips were no problem. It was so composed, so competent, so comfortable. The gas mileage was decent (anything's decent compared to the 8 MPG I was averaging with the old M Coupe near the end), and there was plenty of space in the trunk for an overnight bag (and in the frunk for a toolbox and low-profile jack).
    I went back to trackdays.


    The Porsche was so good. It's still the best stock car I've driven on track. The brakes held up without issue, the engine, the gearbox. At this point I was doing most work myself. The BMW taught me a lot.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BRKDWL2UwBY

    I took a new job, in NC. I dated around a bit, got serious with one woman again. We moved in together. Went on trips together. And she started pointing out - she always drove. The Porsche was too small, it couldn't fit two people's bags. She couldn't bring anything to the track unless we both drove and her car was the mule. I started considering what I could buy - new. Something nimble, that could seat four and take some bags, but that would be really fun. Something that could do it all.

    And without what I was beginning to realize, was the worst feature of the Porsche - it was TOO good. Driving around in such a composed, capable, and fast car - even doing 90 it didn't feel like it was being pushed at all. I wanted something I could have fun with on the street without falling into old habits. Something I could beat the snot out of and still be doing the speed limit, something that I could thrash around corners without getting the evil eye from other drivers.

    And so I was "convinced" to buy a Fiesta ST. It seems like it was just right - light, like my old Miata. (Man that was a fun little car). Space in the truck for a couple bags. Seats four adults, as long as the ones in the back are under 5'5". Turbocharged 1.6L engine with all the torque you need and without so much of that obnoxious, get-you-tickets horsepower.


    It was blue. It was "loaded" with Recaro package, Navigation package, and sunroof. LOADED, I tell you!

    It was a fun little car, for about a week. And then the issues started becoming clear. Like the fact that it had been delivered to me straight from the factory in Mexico with pieces missing from the body. The ridiculously uneven panel gaps. A "feature" you couldn't turn off that hung onto high RPM while shifting, so if you didn't shift 1-2-3-4-5-6 it'd burn your clutch. The Recaro package that I had to order it to get was so poorly designed that it forced my head forward, pinching a nerve in my neck and making me unable to drive it comfortable for more than 10 minutes. The brake rotors cracked and then collapsed from normal wear. And the Ford dealership treated me like shit when I went to them with any of the numerous problems it came with.


    The calipers were sticky, too, so the brake pads wore unevenly. At one point the rear-swept half of my brake pads came off the backing plate and forcefully ejected themselves out the front of the caliper.


    Nevertheless I kept on. I replaced the brake system, bought intake from Mountune, intercooler and piping from Cobb, AccessPort'd it. I took it to the track.

    It was... not great. Even with the modifications to help with cooling, the "torque-vectoring brake eLSD"-thing make the front brakes overheat by the 2nd hard lap. It pushed out through most corners. The engine would cut power mid-corner if the eLSD couldn't keep up. I took it to the track 3 times; had it for 18 months.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ASxnwiWcuQc
    Enough was enough. This car was obviously not working out. Tried, and failed. So I went searching again. And after a couple months?


    A BMW 135is. Yes, i S. The limited-edition, more-power, more-features version of the 135i, the one that got away 8 years ago.

    I did it with... not as much planning as I should have done. It's a good car. Very nice; a good combination of comfort, sport, reliability, space - all of it. But it turns out that to make a 135i or is really perform on track, it's around $8000. You have to replace the front bodywork and suspension components with factory components from the 1M, you see - to even up the track and get a square stance, otherwise it just understeers and overheats, forever and ever off into the sunset.

    You know what costs less than $8000?

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  3. #2
    1,000 rpm - releasing the clutch SigmaX's Avatar
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    Yep. The car that had REALLY made me fall in love with driving, the car that had introduced me to car control and motorsports, the car that I had a tendency to think about when thinking about what car to get next - the NB Miata.

    I picked this one up for $3100 in Feb of 2018. It included some spare parts. It included a bunch of modifications and "fixes" that, perhaps, warrant punishment; either to the previous owners for fucking it up so badly, or to me for buying one that'd been fucked up so badly.

    But it was a VVT engined Miata with little-to-no-rust for under $3500. After I drove down to FL and back for a rustbucket, and then checked out two other cars a couple hours away with major issues, some hacked-up HIDs and mismatched body panels didn't seem so bad.

    This was a track car.

    With a neighbor's help, I was able to mostly-strip the interior and replace the Deuce rollbar with a HDHCHT bar.

    Things were going so fast at this point, I don't even have pictures of all the different stages the car was in.


    I bought Falken Azenis RT615K+s.
    I borrowed a hard top from that same neighbor and got my ass to my first Miata trackday, in March. Yes, a month later.

    At this point, I figured - why not more colors? We can be Patchwork Racing.

    It got Hawk brake pads - first HP+ pads for a couple trackdays, and then DTC30s. I found a red non-heater hardtop a few hours away for cheap. I bought a small-diameter wheel and quick-release hub. I started buying up cheap parts from the local Miata wrecker. I replaced the damaged door with a fresh one. I painted dumb shit on the car.
    Dragging the woman along to every trackday for the past several years, she even got interested herself. Here's a (bad) video of one of her first-ever runs at the autocross:
    https://photos.app.goo.gl/jGhDCWE12idgeyUq6

    I had fun. I got faster. I got signed off to run the top trackday group with NASA (I used to drive with SCCA before I moved to NC). And all of it was for the plan. The plan I'd been failing to execute all those years ago, when that wise old man with the Miata told me trackdays were more fun. I got a Miata track car.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V9vhHNW1kUc
    I went to Miatas Before the Gap with JZilla.


    I went to every trackday NASA hosted a Virginia International Raceway this year.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Hw3Ouv2wkc

    All, except the season-ender. And that was because of the reason that same neighbor absolutely insisted that I finally post a build thread.

    I sent the car off for the first step it in really becoming a race car.

    A month and a half ago, I drove from Raleigh NC, out to Statesville NC, with the Miata in tow, for its appointment at Long Road Racing. LRR is the sole, official builder of the Mazda MX5 Global Challenge Cup, a.k.a. the ND race series. They're the only US authorized distributor of SADEV race gearboxes, a factory-authorized reseller of Mazda Motorsports gear, and one hell of a good race support provider.

    I contacted them to give the '01 the "Spec Miata package". They strip the entire interior, remove all sound deadening and body filler, wire-wheel the paint, weld in a fully Spec Miata-compliant rollcage, paint the entire interior firewall to trunk, and re-assemble. I also had them install a dropped floor pan, a race seat, fill the holes from both old rollbars, install the mount for a window net and center net, and they even put in a removable petty bar.

    I may make a separate post just about the visits I had to their shop, but I can't resist posting a couple photos anyways.






    You'll note my photo-taking skills haven't really improved in 10-plus years.

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  5. #3
    1,000 rpm - releasing the clutch SigmaX's Avatar
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    And that brings us to today. Or yesterday, I guess; it hasn't moved since I got it home Wednesday afternoon.


    We'll start at the back. Here's the freshly-painted trunk, with battery tender. Gotta keep that AGM battery full.


    More trunk. It's really nice work, a really smooth paint job. Especially considering what it looked like before.


    Excuse the tight nature of the garage. I'm overflowing with home improvement leftovers, and it's competing with Miata parts space.


    Crossbracing with the LRR logo. Classy. And the rear bars go back BEHIND the rear upper shock mounts.


    Here's the passenger side. I have a ballast box that mounts to the stock seat location. I'll also be getting a race seat mount that goes into the stock seat mount location, so I can either bring a rider with me, or a box of metal.


    The removable petty bar upper mount. Solid.


    And lower. Also solid. Note how the lower door bar has a bar heading off adjacent to it up behind the dash. There's another crash bar back behind there.


    Passenger's view to the left. Even with a dropped floorpan, there's not much wiggle room between my big torso and the ceiling bar.



    Door bar close-up. That's beefy work and check out that taco gusset.


    The Spec Miata package also includes gutting the doors to accommodate the door bars, and fabbing up a little door latch release mechanism out of the stock parts.


    It's a nifty little thing that lets you keep the stock door handle and key on the outside, and the stock door latch, but still allows for quick opening in the event of an emergency.





    And finally, here it is:

    The workspace.


    As the car sits, it's still pretty stock. The shocks and springs are the originals, with 170K miles on them. The engine is stock, aside from a not-class-legal intake. The brake pads are race-only pads, and the rotors are just plain Centric blanks. The plan over the winter is to replace the control arms with stock replacement units I have, with upgraded bushings. I'm also looking at trying to get the new-for-2019 Penske race shock Spec Miata suspension kit. I'll continue to do trackdays in 2019, the lady will dip her toes; and I'll shoot for a 2020 date for starting competition with a refreshed engine. But what's bugging me lately is how bad the outside looks compared to the inside. I may replace the beat-up front fenders and try for a Maaco paint job on the exterior, just to wipe away previous mistakes and have something clean to put sponsor decals on.

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  7. #4
    Super Moderator tsingson's Avatar
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    I was going to say. About time you posted these up.

  8. #5
    Individual-1 ☚ ☻ ☛ Agent☣Orange's Avatar
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    I feel like I just got off of a roller coaster. My head is still spinning.


    "No bueno..." Mrs. Phatmiata

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  10. #6
    3,000 rpm - starting to feel the power MX5Wisher's Avatar
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    Same. But you are a liar. You said you are not a writer, but that is a marvellous effort.

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  12. #7
    1,000 rpm - releasing the clutch SigmaX's Avatar
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    Alright, having to work 5pm to 4am sucked, but I rested up and decided to get some work done this Saturday. Let me just go out to the garage with my new vac bleeder, and...



    Fuck's sake.


    2 hours later and one broken mirror later:



    2 hours after that:


    I obviously need to see about lighting. Working on this this with the door closed during the winter months is not going to leave much light to see by.

    I now have nearly enough space to work in, all the trash "spare parts" are out of the garage, all of the home improvement/woodworking/paint shit is on one side, all of the automotive tools and parts are on the other side. I'm try to sell the Deuce rollbar for a few spare bucks, but the trashed fender(s) and original seats are going to the dump next weekend.

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  14. #8
    Super Moderator tsingson's Avatar
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    I am still trying to make it out to a place in Durham that buys scrap metal. Hopefully after I get the Expedition registered, I can make it happen.
    Last edited by tsingson; 11-18-2018 at 07:53 PM.

  15. #9
    1,000 rpm - releasing the clutch SigmaX's Avatar
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    Been a while since I updated my build thread here.

    Before the holiday timeframe, my new jackstands came in and I put it up in the air. I also removed both front fenders (which had been damaged by a PO), and the front bumper cover )which had been badly damaged by a PO).


    I also did my best at cleaning out the brake system, including the sediment accumulated in the resevoir:

    That's not the finished state.


    After cleaning out the sediment, I went to flush the brake lines and do a bleed - the first since I got the car. Then this happened, on both fronts:


    Soooo, I obtained some rebuilt front calipers and R&R'd the ones that had been on the car for 170K miles. It was going to happen soon anyways, so why not now?



    I started getting the cage padding set up, as well. The rulebook calls for "all portions of the roll cage that the drivers' head could come into contact with" to be covered. Well, when? Getting in and out of the car? In a wreck while being violently flung about? Just sitting there normally? I also did padding on the passenger's side to protect helmets of folks getting in and out when I'm in passenger mode.




    My current list of stuff to do:
    Mount pass. seat to removable seat base and test-fit.
    Install driver's side belts.
    Install passenger's side belts.
    Teflon-wrap brake bleed screws on F D&P calipers.
    Finish bleed of brake system.
    Oil + filter change.
    Replace ball joints on D&P side.
    Buy and install new battery with some sort of restraint system.
    Remove current upper and lower control arms, front and rear, and replace with refurb units and Mazda Competition bushings.
    R&R engine mounts with Mazda Competition units.
    Replace driver's side front fender.
    Remove&Replace pass side front fender.
    Remove wiring and assy of aftermarket side markers.
    Obtain + install spoiler-less trunk lid.
    Wire-brush and cover the paintless spots on the body to prevent further rust.
    Get more aggressive alignment (excessive wear on outside shoulder of tires).
    Use remaining SFI padding in appropriate areas for safety (vs. for compliance).

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  17. #10
    1,000 rpm - releasing the clutch SigmaX's Avatar
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    Two weeks ago:
    Finally (?), an update! Work's been hard, guys. In the past 10 weeks I've had three weekends to myself.

    A bunch of parts came in. Including my new-for-2019 Penske Spec Miata suspenion.


    This weekend, I finally made the time to work on getting it on. I used a modified long-bolt method for the swap.

    With the wheels off and the car in the air, which is where it's been since the last update:


    Front side with the rollbar uninstalled, upper control arm bolt coming out:


    Bolt out, unit removed. The eagle-eyed reader may notice that I've already pulled the other side:


    Not awful condition, for a nearly-20-year-old car:



    Nearly all the way back in. So smooth, so sexy:


    Front axle complete:



    The passenger's side rear is also complete, which I didn't get any pictures of. Unfortunately, other duties called me away before I could complete the driver's side rear.

    I've missed the first event of this year and have been getting worried I wasn't going to be able to find the time to get the car ready before the April event. Saturday's work has helped me feel better, but at this point there's still plenty to do to get the car ready.

    After getting up under there a little more, the ball joints and tie rod ends are a MUST.


    Last weekend: Working on the race car, two weekends in a row? It's like I got off my ass, or something. A little bit.

    I didn't get a lot of pictures for the work I did. My neighbor came over and helped, and I didn't want to waste his time by stopping every 5 min to snap a photo.

    The first thing I started working on was the passenger seat mount.

    Sparco NA/NB seat mount, aluminum side mounts, and a Sparco Sprint.

    Unfortunately, even at the lowest mount point (above), the seat doesn't fit my neighbor (who is not a very tall guy) with a helmet on. Helmet is ON the fiberglass roof, so I have to get it lower. I figured, easy - I'll just bottom-mount the seat onto the seat mount, gain an extra inch and a half, and there'll be some wiggle room at the top.

    WRONG.

    The bottom mount bolt positions on a Sparco Sprint don't meet up with the bottom mount holes on a Sparco NA/NB seat mount. Brilliant. I'm going to have to buy or borrow some punches (because I wrecked the only one I had) so I can drill new front bolt holes on the base, 10.4 inches from the rear holes (as opposed to the 12-inch default distance).

    Some of you may have noticed I didn't show the rear suspension in in my post from last weekend. That's because I only got the passenger side in. Because of

    This


    Mother


    Fucker


    Right here.

    Even with all the stuff stripped away, this is still a huge pain in the ass to get to unless you drop the fuel filler neck. It took about 20 minutes of constant, millimeter-turns wrenching, to get the driver's side rear out.

    The passenger's side was easy:


    The driver's side, what a pain in the ass.

    But, with both of us slowly turning it (mostly my neighbor), we finally got it in.

    Bolted everything back up, attached the new ARB and adjustable endlinks (we'll come back to that), and stepped back to admire our work when I noticed I MOUNTED THE GODDAMN THING BACKWARDS.

    So. On to fixing other stuff, I'll come back to the rear driver's suspension when I have regained patience.

    I finally got around to addressing the brakes. Teflon tape was obtained from Lowes; they had a Spring Black Friday sale this weekend and some pretty good deals. Not on teflon tape, though.

    Turns out, it wasn't the bleed screws. The new calipers came with new banjo bolt crush washers, and I torqued them to Mazda spec. Turns out, Mazda spec is not Generic Brake Caliper brand spec, and every time I was pumping the brakes from inside the car by myself, the banjo bolts were leaking at about 19 psi. With my neighbor in the car I was able to see the damn leak. After-retoruqeing them to "quite tight, like really very", the leak stopped and bleeding them was quick and easy.

    Now, back to the endlinks. The front endlinks didn't quite fit when matching them up to the install instructions. The instructions for the rear assumed you had two ears for the bolt to pass through on the lower control arm. I'm not sure what Miata it was that had two ARB endlink ears on each control arm, but mine sure does. Following the instructions (and figuring out what clearances I needed in the assembly) I got left with this slightly-scary contraption:



    I am NOT comfortable with that. Having the mount point of the endlink so far down the shaft of the bolt makes me wonder how long it's going to be until that bolt shears. Anyone ever run a endlink attachment setup like this? That is Bolt, washer, ear, three washers, endlink, three washers, nut

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  19. #11
    Super Moderator tsingson's Avatar
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    Hey man. I am good if you wanted to snap pictures of the process. That bolt took forever anyways.

  20. #12
    1,000 rpm - releasing the clutch SigmaX's Avatar
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    This Friday was my birthday. That means I had THREE days to slack off on working on the car. Unfortunately I wasn't able to bring myself to spend the entire weekend of mid-70s temps sitting inside in a dark room.
    So I woke up bright and early Friday morning, headed out to my favorite local coffee shop, and had some breakfast. Unfortunately, unlike my usual trips, the place was taken over by a group of runningwomen. If you like in a small-sized city or upwards, I'm sure you know what I mean. That group of 6-12, mostly middle-aged women that gets together one or two times a week to jog together - and afterwards, the whole group descends on some nearby shop to grab a coffee and chat. My partner is a member of one, as well. That, and the two parents who'd brought their single-digit-aged kids with them and fed them coffee meant my normally idyllic early-morning reading experience was turned into something more closely resembling a sports bar on game night.

    I abandoned the coffee shop and drove over to Harbor Freight. I entered meaning to pick up a set of pickleforks and a sledge. I ended up spending an hour wandering the store, letting everything I was seeing soak in; hopefully jogging some spark of memory loose in my brain that I needed something.

    $200 later I had a sledge, pickle forks, a bench vise, a set of random bolts'n'nuts, a set of cotter pins, some drill bits, and some other various odds and ends in the back of the BMW.

    I headed home, pulled the haul into the garage and distributed it over the once-again-shrinking choice of storage surfaces, and got to work.

    During the week, I pulled the muffler off:


    Today I started off light, by getting the midpipe off:

    It took me 30 seconds of wailing on those bolts with my impact to get them off. God, I'm grateful for electric impact wrenches.

    The brackets for the O2 sensor cable were... pretty rusty.

    I ended up using the impact to get them off, as well. No point in working harder when I could work smarter (and the entire section's being replaced with a Springfield Dyno race exhaust).


    A little tugging and moving around at the rear axle, and

    turns into


    Yeah, that wasn't budging, and I am missing my O2 sensor socket. I was able to borrow my neighbor's later on in the weekend and got the sensor out, no problem.

    It was getting on towards 10:30 at this point, 71 degrees with very high humidity, and I was out of Gatorade. Time to find an alternate source of hydration!


    Side note: I've got no hesitation recommending the UltimateEars WONDERBOOM BT speaker for your part-time garage music needs. That thing pumped out 10 hours of jams at garage-filling volume with no issues.

    After grabbing a drink or two, I got to work on the front end again.

    The tie rod ends are quite shot:



    Straighten the cotter pin:


    Pull it out:


    Get that tricksy (not tricksy any way at all but damn if it wasn't rusted on there) castellated nut off:


    It's somewhere around here I realized I really should lock the steering into place. I made the excellent decision to lock it facing straight forward.

    Immediately afterwards, struggling to remove the lower ball joint spindle nut, I realized my decision was utter trash and I needed to lock it full lock.

    Time to get my brand-new, very fancy Harbor Freight pickle forks dirty:


    And, then the tie rod ends come off easy:

    And the new ones go back on, easy:

    I'm not so sure about Duralast's decision to move from a castellated nut to a nylock nut.

    I'm replacing the lower ball joints with the SM-allowed Bauer extended LBJs - both because the current ones are definitely the OE with 170-some-odd thousand miles on them, and also to be able to get the negative camber a Miata needs for track driving. Getting the old ones out was relatively easy, but that many miles means a lot of dirt, grime, and surface rust making it difficult. The spindle nut defeated my cheap extension.

    But, fell to my early-2000s Craftsman extension.

    My new pickle forks definitely got a workout with these balljoints. I was swinging that 4lb sledge with enough force to cause serious damage to myself if I missed - remember to keep all your bits away from the swing and rebound paths.
    They're only mildly trashed, I swear:


    The drivers side was actually rusted inside. The ball itself, rusted. I couldn't move it with my bare hands.


    A direct comparison of just how extended they are:


    I got both fronts, and buttoned everything back up; torqued to spec and ready to rumble. Then I started checking clearances, and the passenger's side tie rod seems to foul on the new rollbar drop link mount:

    I'm not real comfortable with that. It won't foul on the nut with weight on it, but it WILL foul on the link itself. I'm going to be writing the manufacturer today to ask for clarification on the install instructions. There were pictures included, but they were tiny, black and white images I just couldn't see.

    That can't be right.

    And the final thing, which I have to pictures of; it's been sitting up on jacks for 6 months and hasn't run in 4. I've had the AGM battery on a tender, but I decided to start it and let it warm up, idle for 15-20 minutes. The only engine-related thing I've done is swap the aftermarket air intake for the stock assembly (which I didn't mention/document, because blah). Of course, she won't start. Cranks for maybe 10 seconds before it just won't turn over anymore. I think the battery has given up the ghost from sitting for so long, and it's not like it didn't have difficulty starting in the cold and after sitting for a month or so already.

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  22. #13
    Super Moderator tsingson's Avatar
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    You definitely get more pictures done when I am not there.

    And you didn't tell me it was your birthday so happy belated birthday man.

  23. #14
    2,000 rpm - light wheelspin, no bog here!
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    Turn the hardware around on your sway bar end links so that the bolt head is pointed towards the front of the car. The head is much thinner than the nylon lock-up.

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  25. #15
    1,000 rpm - releasing the clutch SigmaX's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Midtenn86 View Post
    Turn the hardware around on your sway bar end links so that the bolt head is pointed towards the front of the car. The head is much thinner than the nylon lock-up.
    You're not the first person to suggest that! However, it changes the shear forces being experienced by the mounting hardware; I've got an e-mail in to the vendor about changing up the mounting method.

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