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Old 6th January 2008, 07:57   #1
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Default My MX-5 blog

Hi all,

Its been a long long time since I posted anything of value here. I've been awfully busy over the past three months and writing on Team-BHP came way down on the priotity list. Between working on my thesis and finishing up with my courses I have had little spare time, but with the latter done I guess I could devote some time to record what I've been up to.

Anyway, I thought its a good idea to start this thread as a blog of my work on my Miata. It will chronicle the history of the car from the time I bought it, and will continue until its fully prepped for the 2008 SCCA Solo Championship. There will be a lot of pics for your enjoyment as well.

However, dont expect any super-level mods like turbo/ITB's etc as the rules of the class I want to run in are quite restricted. Most of the work will be maintenance. Do expect quite extensive suspension mods, the usual breathing improvements, and the finale, scratch-build & integration of a full standalone engine management system.

It may not look like much to guys in India, but ALL the work that I have done or will do on this car, will be by ME. Of course friends will chip in from time to time. But a shop wont be doing any work.


First, a review of what has happened so far.

As some of you may know, I bought this car off of eBay in September intending for it to be a track/weekend/project car. Being an Arizona car, it has never seen snow or salted roads in the past 15 years of its life, and so is very, very rust-free. You have to see it to believe it. Its done 150,000 miles (thats right!), and you cant tell either by looking or driving. And, it is absolutely stock, no "customizing" at all. This car is EXACTLY as it left the Mazda factory in 1992.

Some pics from the eBay ad:







Of course the radio is the only thing that's missing from the car. Even the original steel wheels are there. The previous owner shod them with new winter tires but said he didnt have the heart to drive it in the salt after being so pristine for 15 years! The soft-top is in excellent condition, and even the paint is not bad (though not as good as it looks in the above pics) The car made no weird noises, drove smooth, and brakes were adequate.

I paid around $3k for the car, and drove it straight from Chicago to Detroit (350 miles) without missing a beat. Now that's what I call reliability. Bhupi thanks for giving me company in your car on that trip man.

Upon coming back home, I did all the basic maintenance work. Unfortunately, I took no pics of this. Excuse my dumb a$$ for that. I did the following:

1) Changed engine, transmission and differential oils. The latter two were a pain, I had to buy a set of jackstands to hoist it up, and also a rare-as-hen's-teeth 8-point socket for the trans drain plug. But hey, that adds up to my growing repository of cool tools .

2) Spark plugs. Just regular $2 Autolite plugs I bought at Walmart.

3) When I removed the plugs I found a coating of oil on the threads. This meant the cam cover gasket was leaking,so replaced that as well. While I was in there I also inspected the cam position sensor's O-ring. Apparently those are a pain and are usually shot on a used car. Sure as hell, mine was too so I changed it.

4) The car was running a little rough and some quick online enquiries revealed that the plug wires might be the source of the problem. I wanted good NGK wires but couldnt find them anywhere locally, so just picked up a ghetto set at Autozone. Damn them. Within a week the problem returned, so I just got a proper NGK set off eBay, and that rough running issue was solved.

After doing all of this, the car ran sweet, and was unbelievably smooth given its age. Even quite good on gas too. On my trip back from Chicago the mileage was 39 mpg!! Not bad for an open-top sports car, huh? In the city it was about 25-30 mpg, depending on how its driven (hard to very hard of course, hehe).

So I ran the car like this and drove it daily, it was very nippy and fun to drive. Driving the VR6 after this was like driving a 407 truck. No kidding, its that nimble and you just have to THINK where you want it to go, its already there the next second.

NEXT: My first "race".

Any comments are very welcome.

Last edited by ananthkamath : 6th January 2008 at 08:02.
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Old 6th January 2008, 16:44   #2
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Man, thats a steal for 3000 bucks. The previous owner ought to get an award for keeping the car so clean (original steel wheels?!!!), even the interiors look well worn. Smart on you to get the basic maintainence completed right after picking it up. Would do you good to check on the air and fuel filters too.

Is the missing stereo a double-din? That looks like a huge empty slot below the air-con controls.
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Old 7th January 2008, 18:31   #3
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Great buy Ananthkamath. Just like my car but a little different owing to country specific rules.
My car was identical but came with a remapped ecu and a sports exhaust so that was different.
You car looks in grand shape. Amongst other things i notice that the cover of the oddity box below lovely short throw gear shifter, is missing.
I guess the steering wheel of the car has an airbag. Mine did not. Though it had an original factory fitted Momo sports steering- power assisted and came with leather and power windows too. These Recaro seats are very comfy and have the speaker built in the head rest, im sure you know. The MX-5 is a real value sports car with good performance and the fact that its a rear wheel drive, makes it all the more fun to drive around in. Enjoy the car and post some more pics.
You have decided the best for your car. Keep it stock.. Suddenly it has become the car to have. Good examples are hard to find and the value is gradually rising . Even now its a very affordable sports car to own.
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Old 7th January 2008, 22:14   #4
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Nice write up,Ananth!
Been a while since I heard from you..I was hoping that everything's ok.
Ah the Miata...thats sheer bliss! I had a chance to get the 2007 MX5 as a loaner car from my Mazda dealership,and boy it was so much fun to drop the roof and cruise along the winding roads of The Woodlands. Had so much fun!

Good luck with all the work! I'm pretty sure the Miata's gonna be with you for a long long time..
Enjoy!
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Old 8th January 2008, 04:14   #5
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Thanks guys, yes the radio is missing and also the storage box beneath it. That's why it looks like a double-DIN sized hole. I have made an AA5754 plate to cover it up.

V16, your car appears to be either a JDM or Euro model, because post-93 cars in the US came with a 1.8L engine. Mine's the bare basic model without any frills (lightest MX-5 you can buy).

Ok here's the next installment:

-------------------------------------------------------------------------


Next up was the fuel system. Changing the air filter was no biggie, its just a simple drop-in, but the fuel filter was a pain-in-the-neck, literally. Lots of contortions were needed to get to the damn thing, and even with the fuel system de-pressurized, i got a gasoline facial upon removal. With both of those things done, and a new PCV valve as well, the engine was smoother than ever and ran well. I was getting about 30-32 mpg at this point.

Total money spent so far: <$75.


Anyway, the main objective was to make this a track car, so to get a feel of what autocross racing is like, I took part in some local events during September and October. Attended 6 events in all, and ran in three. The first of these events I went only to watch just to get some confidence about how hard it is on the car. After all, I still had to drive back 50 miles or more back home AFTER the event right?

So with breath held and prayers said, I did my first competitive event on September 16, 2007. What can I say, it was a BLAST! The g-forces and driving the car on the absolute limit is what autocross is all about. On an autocross course you are at much lower speeds than on a typical track, so you push the car much much harder. You have to be very precise, which I most certainly was NOT!

This pic shows how hard cars get pushed:

Chris Amos Photography- powered by SmugMug

I was on the damned winter tires, sliding all over the place, oversteering and understeering instead of steering . Still it was fun and I was like 5 seconds off the pace of my class leader. I believe I actually placed last in my class! Some rather fuzzy pics from that event (MPower thanks for accompanying me to the event):







I learnt quite a lot from that event about how the car behaves at the limit, and the bottleneck was the tires. At no time did I feel an inadequacy in power. The body roll, as you can see in the last pic, is something you can't notice on the street. I learnt that what was a very nimble and nice-feeling car on the street, was but average on the track. Some serious tweaking is needed specially with the shocks.

Autocross that way is very unforgiving on bad handling cars, but not less powerful engines. A Miata or CRX can be faster than a WRX or Evo in the hands of the right driver. This picture I took at a later event sums it up, LOL:



I also met quite a few interesting people. There was this one guy named Tom in my class, he was kind enough to walk me through the course and even gave me pointers on tackling the corners, where to apex, how to balance the car on the throttle, how NOT to "over"-drive etc. Turned out he was faster than most people on that course including some WRX's and Corvettes. In a bone stock, worn out Miata. Now that's something.


NEXT: A weekend of AutoX with the Detroit Team-BHP Group!!
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Old 8th January 2008, 11:51   #6
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Fantastic car & blog Ananth, really enjoyed reading it!! Best of luck with the future projects on her!
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Old 8th January 2008, 21:56   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ananthkamath View Post
NEXT: A weekend of AutoX with the Detroit Team-BHP Group!!
How many TBHP members do we have in Detroit or its whereabouts? I know Bhupi used to be there,until he moved to Chicago (or was it someone else?).
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Old 8th January 2008, 22:23   #8
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The car looks too good for the price u've paid. And it happens to be my fav car in NFS UG II as well!
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Old 8th January 2008, 22:41   #9
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Very interesting blog i say, please continue
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Old 9th January 2008, 08:03   #10
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Dude great write man. I'm looking forward to seeing if you have something to say about our eventful autocross following the one you have mentioned above if you know what i'm saying!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nitin View Post
How many TBHP members do we have in Detroit or its whereabouts? I know Bhupi used to be there,until he moved to Chicago (or was it someone else?).
It was me dude . It was great being in AnanthKamath and Mpower 's company they're both folks with great automotive knowledge and ofcourse great fun to hang out with.
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Old 9th January 2008, 08:58   #11
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Great buy Ananthkamath and your DIY maintenance can be really helpful people like me who are yet to touch something serious inside the bonnet. Great write up too.
Enjoyed every second of it. just waiting for your next piece.
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Old 9th January 2008, 10:10   #12
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Great blog to read. Please continue to update this and with plenty of pictures. It would be a great learning experience to read in detail all your D.I.Y. ventures.

-Biju
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Old 9th January 2008, 22:41   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by highwayblaze View Post
Dude great write man. I'm looking forward to seeing if you have something to say about our eventful autocross following the one you have mentioned above if you know what i'm saying!



It was me dude . It was great being in AnanthKamath and Mpower 's company they're both folks with great automotive knowledge and ofcourse great fun to hang out with.
Ah..thought as much. I'd love to plan a trip and meet up with you guys. Wonder when that would happen,though..
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Old 10th January 2008, 06:46   #14
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Thanks people. The Detroit Team-BHP installment I'd promised last time is not yet ready, it will be posted in a couple of days.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

On September 30th, 2007, MPower & I participated in one event organized by the Michigan Sports Car Club. MPower brought his E36 M3 and boy oh boy, does that car have an amazing power delivery: ideal for AutoX I'd say.

By this time I had settled down into a nice routine of "AutoX Sundays", as I had been involved in this for the past three weekends. The day started early for both of us, 8o clock on a Sunday morning is a little tough! Like I said, I'd settled into a routine so I had packed my helmet, camera, tire pressure gage, masking tape (for the numbers) and some basic tools the previous night. MPower brought along a torque wrench as well because its very important to torque down the lugnuts: by the end of the day, you can find your wheels are coming off!! Gives new meaning to the term, "driving the wheels off of it", eh?

Tom had mentioned to me that tire pressures are extremely important in AutoX. He's been doing this for 8 years now so I'd go by his word. I'd observed that you can tell just by looking, who's serious and who's not. The pros normally carry a large air tank or a compressor with them to every event, a tire pressure gage, a full extra set of tires (either normal street tires or R-compound slicks depending on class), pyrometer to measure tire temperature profile after every run, a full GPS/inertial + OBD-2 datalogger etc. Even for a stock car, the level of prep and equipment is astounding, specially if its a regional or national event. I want to be a little more into the sport before I cough up that kind of cash for all that equipment.

I had crappy tires anyway, but I thought I'll pump them up to 40 psi or so as recommended by Tom. MPower did more or less the same, despite having fairly old tires.

Anyway, the course this time was much better because it was meant for powerful cars rather than the last time, which was optimized for Alfas and other 60's machinery. I wont say much about my performance, it was horrific (due to my tires, of course ) and at the end of the day, I was 6-8 seconds behind Tom, the class leader. MPower was slower than others in class too, but he was damn consistent from run to run: I believe to within +/-0.3 seconds!! I believe he can kick some a$$ with better tires. What say, MPower?

The highlight of the day was not the fastest car, a stock Corvette C6 on slicks, but this guy who showed up in a beat up 240 SX or Silvia:



From his "side-pipes" you can tell its a drift car. He also mentioned having a welded diff which helps "kick it out". He was basically into drifting but came to the event just for fun. His first two runs were a disaster as his car was setup for drifting: every corner he was kicking it out; it looked awesome but hey, its S-L-O-W!! The guy was called in by the marshalls who got tired of rearranging the fallen cones and told him to either stop drifting or leave.

There was also this awesome VW Scirocco on slicks:



He was plenty fast and I remember he placed very well overall. The sound of that VW was also extremely crisp and it was most definitely highly modified: that sweet smell of premium gas is unmistakable!

Some more pics from that event:

Overall view of the course


A very rare Cosworth Vega


MPower & me


See that silver VW GTi in the backside? That guy busted his left wheel when he understeered straight into the curb. The newer VW's, specially with the VR6 engine, are probably among the worst choice of car for AutoX: they're big and heavy, roll too much, and there's not enough feedback to let the driver know what's happening with the tires.

What I learnt from this event was that my brakes were definately not up to the task. A closer look revealed that the rotors had rusted quite a lot, possibly from fluid leakage, and the rear pads were completely shot. I decided to do a full brake job, and got these excellent pads off of eBay for a total of $30 (another awesome deal):





They're the same as Axxis Metalmaster which is said to be an excellent choice for street/track. These are low-dust, metal-ceramic pads with zero-asbestos content as they're made in Australia (where asbestos is banned).

The plan initially was to just change the pads, but when I learnt what I was getting for about $15 a rotor, I decided to change those too:




Can anyone guess what brand these are? They're Brembo rotors, that's right, Brembo rotors sold by NAPA for only $15 a piece!! THAT's what I call a steal.

Having put up the car on jackstands and doing all the prep, I later found that I need calipers too. Money was running thin on the ground and I decided to let that be as it is for a while. This was in September, I still havent gotten around to doing it as yet, but I will in the next few weeks.


NEXT: Trackday!!
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