From the evening the car was dropped off at BOE, I started getting texts from Phil making fun of my engine bay for being hastily assembled and not very clean. He got right to work tearing things apart and found several issues out of the gate: the bypass valve wasn't fully closing, boost was leaking out of the injector holes (the spacers weren't the right size), and the car definitely wasn't making the power it was supposed to on his dyno.
It took several weeks of diagnosing to come up with the conclusion that it was actually a bad set of cams from their supplier (BOE built the motor in the car) -- swapping in stock cams gained 30hp over the cams that were in there, and another set of the same cams was up almost 50hp over where it was at. On Phil's dyno, the car is around ~363rwhp now, having come in with around 300. The muffler setup that I keep on the car is very quiet to make sure that I stay safely noise-legal at 92dB sites (Pitt Meadows and Qualcomm, notably), as well as just for reducing insanity during daily driving. However, it's also robbing ~10-15rwhp according to m my and Phil's tests. I don't know if it's possible to make something that's just as quiet, still fits in the exhaust area of the bay, and makes any more power, but I'm open to suggestions...
While working on diagnosing the power issues, we agreed on a number of reliability upgrades to the engine bay and improvements to the cooling. In the end, the engine bay is incredibly more work-on-able, with much better cooling flow for the water-to-air intercooler radiator system (and a bigger radiator up front). It's pretty much a work of art in there now, far too pretty for my having been involved in it. I'll try to keep it as shiny as I can in there, Phil...
Getting the car home from BOE in time for the Packwood events turned into a surprisingly eventful week. I contracted out with one company who had a truck lined up to take the car, and on the pickup day, the truck no-showed and canceled all their orders without any reason. The company tried to find me a replacement, but 3 days passed and no word had come, so I found another company who picked it up the next day for a larger fee. I hate car transport -- any time I deal with it, it turns into a mess. At least the car got back to me, and a day ahead of schedule, with no damage. I'm still fighting with the first company to get my deposit back...
A few days after this debacle, we tromped down to Packwood for the Packwood NT (champ tour?.. whatever, it's an NT.) The car immediately felt better out of the gate on the practice course -- much better throttle linearity and response, Phil did great work with the tune, above and beyond the power. A lot of the power was picked up at the top end, but even the midrange was more usable because of the tune improvements. The car was just a little faster everywhere. It proved itself out the next day, as well, taking top PAX for the first day. Both days, I laid down a decent first run, then coned away a several tenths improvement, and then blew my last run. It was good enough for first in class by 0.663, 6th overall in PAX, with Duke coning all runs on day 1, so his day 2 blitz wasn't enough to win (but would have been without the day 1 cone).
I only have video from day 2, since I forgot to charge the GoPro the first day. Whoops.
The Prosolo got a little more exiting, for a variety of reasons. Walking course on Friday, it looked like a mega torque/power course and I figured I was completely hosed against Eric Hyman's GTR. I had a good friend's wedding that weekend that I was skipping because the event was important, but I contemplated heading up anyway after taking morning runs if I was going to be super behind. I also went to fire up the car to take practice starts to learn that the car didn't want to start, with a low battery. Perplexed, we jump started it, ran it for a good half hour, did some practice starts, let it idle for a while longer, then turned it off. When I went to start it a couple hours later to go weigh, it was dead again. The battery was acting fine, so we assumed the alternator was having issues. Eric Hyman had a fancy charging unit so we plugged it in outside their RV for the night. It took several hours of charging at 4.5A before it topped out again, but then ran fine the rest of the weekend. So the alternator's getting a rebuild shortly here...
Fortunately, I managed to be way in first after morning runs. For afternoon runs, Eric extracted his head from its hidey-hole and we had a crazy battle of swapping back and forth for the lead by a tenth or two every run. Immediately after I finished my afternoon runs, Russell went out for his runs and the studs all sheared off the right rear wheel on his first run, leading the car to, fortunately, safely skid to a stop on 3 wheels. The video's pretty amusing, I'm not gonna lie. Fortunately, damage was shockingly minimal and we managed to get a replacement combination of wheel bolts and wheel studs from Jay Zelazo and Ryan Johnson and were up and running in full form again for Sunday's competition. I managed to eke out a little bit of time, just enough to keep ahead of Eric for the win by 0.039, and also good enough for my first overall top PAX for a national event!
I unpacked the truck/trailer that evening and plonked the car in the garage, too tired to do anything about the gathering stack of todos. Tonight (Thursday), Russell came over and we tore both clams off the car and stripped them down to get them ready for painting. The mismatched clams and some new carbon fiber panels go in for paint on Monday, and in a few weeks the whole car will actually match instead of being a Frankenkar. We tore the alternator out as well so I can get that rebuilt next week.
Other jobs on the list while the car's being painted:
* Tearing all the shocks out and sending them back to Fred @ BWR to get them lengthened a bit -- with the drop spindles, the shocks have almost no droop left since they think they're at stock ride height (or higher).
* Installing all new studs and getting hubcentric adapters made for the wheels, to hopefully alleviate the whole "wheel leaving the car" problem.
* Replace the crushed ebrake cable (didn't like having 1/3 of the weight of the car dragging to a stop on it for some reason).
* Install SS brake lines while the clams are off. Hopefully get a little more stiffness into the brake pedal.
* Replace the inner heims on my rear toe links -- they're starting to get a little play already, so we're upgrading them to higher quality heims.
After Crow's Landing, I was so drained from the mad rush on the car that I basically didn't touch anything for a couple weeks. I did a regional prosolo and normal autocross event combo for one weekend, where my only competition's car broke badly and so I ended up driving to an easy class win.
After that, I got back to work for some finishing touches. Doug and I designed a simple but effective splitter. We decided that the whole floating mounting mechanism that made the Miata splitter so easy to install and remove, but so hard to properly/reliably measure, wasn't going to work here, so we hard-mounted it to several places on the chassis. Better yet, I can even tie the car to the trailer with the splitter on, which saves a ton of time before and after an event.
Next, I got a smaller supercharger pulley from BOE and we spent a day trying an E85 tune. We, of course, ran into even more problems with the tuning software, which killed several hours, but eventuall managed to come to acceptance that something was definitely wrong with my setup. We managed to get 340rwhp on E85, but it should have been quite a bit higher -- high 300s. Nothing to be done about that, but still happy with the power bump, we gave up for the night and I headed home with the car.
The only other change to the car was that I removed a bit of front camber. From the wear pattern on the A6s at Crow's, it looked like I wasn't getting quite enough surface usage, so I went down from 3.4 to 3.1 on both sides, after buying some more shims to even let me get that low (the original 3.4 numbers were because that was as low as it would go on the stock shims.) The rear toe ended up having drifted a fair bit too, so we corrected that while we were in there.
I picked up a codriver (for likely the rest of the season), Russell Mayer, who towed the car out to Spring Nationals for us in exchange for a codrive. We had an uneventful first day of racing, leaving me a fair ways back from Erik Strelnieks and Randall Willcox in 3rd. On concrete, it was immediately painfully obvious how down the car was on power compared to our competitors. The 3rd session found us with a broken shifter cable, apparently a common failure on these cars (that I'd never heard of before, unfortunately) that must have actually broken at the end of the previous session. Unable to shift into second, this nuked all of our day 2 runs, so I was left in 3rd overall. Amusingly, this was still good enough for 4th overall in PAX.
Magically, being in the middle of nowhere, BOE was actually only a few hour drive away with a replacement cable, and Phil was super nice to stick around on a day off for us to grab it. I tore the car apart to get it ready for the new cable while Russell headed down and picked up the replacement. When he got back, we got about half the work done before they closed the site for the night, and the rest of it the next morning right before the NT started.
The NT was one of those annoying events largely determined by rain. On day 1, the session started out soaking wet but quickly drying. Everyone went out on wets for their first runs, then switched to dries for second runs and barely improved. Third runs came around and the course had dry spots, so line choice was crucial. Second drivers had a huge advantage over first drivers, and so 3 of us went out to put down our only run that mattered and ended up with a big lead over the rest of the pack, including Erik, who got screwed as a first driver. When it all settled, I was in 3rd, 6/10 out of first. Day two was dry and I drove fairly poorly, but held on for 3rd overall again. Due to the rain and general crappy driving, this was 66th in PAX.
After the event, I decided that something had to be done about the power issue immediately, and Eric Anderson generously drove the car on A6s through a rainstorm down to BOE's shop outside Kansas City on their way home to Tennessee while Russell drove home to Seattle with an empty trailer (that ended up losing a bearing half way home anyway, so that was good timing!)
Now we're at April 1st and the car has a barely-broken-in motor. The Crow's Landing NT is 4/17-4/19, so I need to hit the road on the morning of 4/16. This doesn't leave a lot of time.
The first road tests determined that my tuning software was missing a bunch of maps that I needed to do anything useful with the car, including live tuning. So, that stopped me pretty dead in my tracks almost immediately. While debugging that, I killed some time adding a digital boost gauge and wideband gauge to a cute little cheapo Lotus-specific gauge pod that doesn't actually bolt to anything. A little Gorilla tape fixed that problem.
Throughout the week of 4/5 to 4/13, Hannah was off in Europe on a trip, so I had all the time in the world to go batshit on getting the car ready. This turned out to be essential, since I basically barely slept that week. The tuning issues took a few days to sort out, and, on the second outing, the car puked out the lever arm that attaches the bypass valve to the VSV on the supercharger, so it was randomly boosting and not boosting. BOE was awesome and overnighted parts on 4/8 so that on 4/9 I could continue my tuning. While this was all going on, I was frantically trying to line up the last work that needed doing on the car to get everything done in the last week -- dynoing, ballast, alignment, wing mounting, clam cutting, etc.
The front clamshell had still not come in yet from ORE (3 months late at this point). I told them that if it doesn't arrive by 4/10 that I would reject the package, reverse the credit card charge, and just cut up my factory clamshell. I was out of time. Magically, late in the evening of 4/10, I get a call from the shipping depot that the clam actually showed up. It was bashed to shit with lots of cracks, but at least it showed up. A call to ORE had them offer to pay a body shop whatever it took to get the clam fixed to OEM, so home it went with me.
The next morning was dyno day. As it always does, it turned into a total cluster. The tuning software had more issues (you'll notice a theme here), and we had to tune without live tuning. So, any change to any tune parameter required shutting the car off and initiating a 4 minute reflash. What was supposed to be a few hour afternoon endeavor turned into a 13 hour death march.
We didn't even get around to an E85 tune or anything, with all the issues we had with the fuel pump wanting to die if we ran it too warm, etc. We ended up right around 300rwhp/200rwtq on 92 octane. Not anywhere near what I was hoping for (mid 300s), but the best we could do at the time, and it was a nice safe, consistent tune. I put the car back on the trailer and got back home at 4am Sunday morning.
I wish I had pictures of Sunday, but at this point, I was so drained from the last week of absolutely nonstop work that I didn't take any. The clamshell from ORE, in addition to being all bashed up, also had almost no mounting tabs or boltholes or anything precut into it. Fortunately, my friend Scott came over and spent ~6 hours with me as we slowly ground down things, measured and cut holes, and got it closer to working. After he left, my dad came over and spent another 6 hours with me continuing on more of the same. Around 2am, the clam was finally on the car with all the lights somewhat attached (corner lights attached with duct tape since they wouldn't stay in the holes themselves.) I loaded the car onto the trailer and went to bed.
Next morning, the car went down to Chase Race for the final round of work. The car still had no wing, no alignment, no ballast, and couldn't fit big tires. Doug threw it on the scales with all the parts that were going to go on to get a rough number for final weight. We got to 100 lbs of ballast being a good answer. We measured it out and decided a rhombous of steel at the passenger footwell would be the best answer. Doug continued working on the car while I called everyone in Seattle trying to find someone to make me laser-cut steel plates on zero notice. I managed to get someone in south Seattle to make me some plates by Tuesday afternoon, so I ran and got those while Doug got the mounts ready. The plates were exactly 49.9 lbs each, right under the per-segment limit. Perfect! Over the next day, Doug finished creating mounts for the wing, cutting the fenders for the larger tires, notching undertrays to clear the exhaust, and then finally aligning and corner balancing the car. After finding out that, at the new ride height, the street wheels definitely needed spacers, I secured the car to the trailer and dragged it home, having never rolled the car on the race wheels yet. I went home, packed the truck/trailer, and slept like the dead.
Early Thursday morning, we (my dad and I, in separate vehicles) departed for Crow's Landing. After rolling the car off the trailer Friday morning, I changed over to the race wheels and carefully drove down past the paddock area to some open runway and proceeded to slalom a bit at 15mph to see if any horrible noises came out. Much to my surprise, none did. So, I headed over to the practice course and took some runs. On the very first run the car ever took in anger, other than hitting 3 cones (killed em dead, apparently this car actually turns in when you tell it to), it set the fastest raw time of an SSM car on the course and left me with a huge grin from the drivability and handling characteristics of the car -- it just did what you told it. I was already more confident than I ever had been in the Miata. Unfortunately, a quick look at the tires showed a bunch of rubber stuffed against the rear fenders, so I had to locate Ryan Johnson, another Lotus racer on site who, fortunately, had fender-cutting equipment with him, and shaved off a bunch more from the fenders. I took two more practice runs, found more rubber, and repeated the exercise. I guess Doug and I guessed wrong about how much suspension travel I'd get in real-world use...
From there, the rest is history. There's really not much story to it. That weekend, the car had zero issues, and I drove to an 0.875s victory over the class, 17th in overall PAX. We flew home, flew back the next weekend, and I drove to a 1.375s victory over the class, 5th in overall PAX. The course was pretty ridiculously tailor-made for a slalom-happy car, but I was still pretty happy with that showing. Other than the fender rubbing, the car didn't raise a peep either weekend. We drove home and let the car finally rest.
I neglected to take any video at the NT -- I was just too focused on making sure the car worked and learning how to drive it to deal with video. For the ProSolo, I remembered to bring and charge a camera and took some (crappy) video: Left Side and Right Side.
It's cute. I read the end of my last post, and it was so optimistic. I should have known better...
BOE actually had their shit together and sent me all their parts when they said they would. Everyone else missed their targets by varying degrees. The transmission went deep into February before it was finished, so that was stopping me from assembling the full transaxle. Once I got the transmission, though, it wouldn't come out of the first gear I put it in, so it required a couple trips down to Portland to get solved.
Due to all the delays and the transmission issues, it was the middle of March before I got the motor in the car for first fitment testing. At this point, I had blown right through any chance of hitting San Diego/El Toro. There was a brief period where I thought everything might magically come together, but it just wasn't going to happen, so I settled in for what I thought would be the "safe long haul" for Crow's Landing in April...
The E153 conversion kit had several assorted fitment problems, culminating in needing to chop a small chunk out of my frame rail for a lobe on the transmission to clear it -- the same thing Glagola and others have had to do, so at least it was expected. After sorting through that and the pile of other fitment problems (axle clearance, shifter forks having a "bearing" made out of plastic, and other fun adventures), the motor was, finally, hanging in the engine bay supported by engine mounts, and I could start hooking things up.
By 3/22, I'd managed to get most of the important stuff hooked up and dealt with a bunch more random wire routing, bracket fabrication, and shifter cable madness.
The rest of the week was spent finishing up a pile of other fun tasks -- flushing all the oil out of the oil coolers and corresponding lines so that I could plumb them into the intercooler cooling loop (water to air intercooler), figuring out the tuning software since it had several issues getting my car to work out of the gate, slowly filling everything with fluids, fabricating mounts for the intercooler pump, etc. Projects just kept arriving out of the woodwork.
Finally, on 3/28, I had the first startup, which somehow went flawlessly. After spending the rest of the evening tracking down various fluid leaks and finishing up the remaining wiring and Clamhinge equipment, everything was finally in place and the car touched the ground! Some quick driving around the driveway determined that there was a pretty massive oil leak at the oil cooler fittings, which took some time to get working properly.
On the evening of 3/31, the car hit the road for the first time and I managed to get some good early rough tuning in enough to get ~50 breakin miles with lots of engine breaking, varying rpms, and a decent bit of light to medium boost. My Facebook post that evening that came with this picture: "Mismatched colors, a rough-as-hell alignment, and a whole lotta broken-in motor. Damn this thing is gonna be fun."
I was right.
The car is slowly coming together. At this point, the front suspension is completely assembled in final form. Nylatron bushings to replace all the stock ones, 8 new ball joints, 4 new hubs, 4 new drop uprights, V2Arms, BWR rear toe links, BWR front swaybar, BWR Penske coilovers, and BOE floating rotors. The rear is mostly assembled, but I'm waiting on getting the motor and driveshafts in before bothering to attach the new uprights and hubs.
My order with BOE was completed today, and it should be shipping tomorrow. 10.5:1 built Nikosil-lined motor, Rev400TVS supercharger kit, a ClamHinge, the stage 2 tuning kit, and a bunch of supporting ancillaries. With any luck, I should be making ~330-350rwhp out of the gate, and can go up from there as needed/desired, with lots of safe room in the motor. I'm going with an E153 transmission conversion (by MonkeyWrenchRacing) and putting a Kaaz 1.5-way diff in it, and that's currently being built by KORacing in Portland. Hopefully that will also be done in a week or so, to arrive in time with the motor parts.
One of my big angsts with the car has been knowing that I need to cut the clams quite extensively to fit the larger tires. Thinking down the line to the inevitable resale value, I started looking into getting cheaper replacement clams to put on the car and cut, and put the stock clams in the attic, to be put back on whenever the car is to be sold. I found that OnRailsEngineering has deals on aftermarket clamshells for a quite decent price, and ordered a front clam which I'll feel a lot less bad about cutting up. A local Elise owner had a clam that had sustained a puncture from a loose battery bracket, who sold it to me for a distressingly reasonable price. I had a local body shop check it out and they can fix it for almost nothing, so that will be what goes on the rear half of the car. It'll still hurt quite a bit to bust out the sawsall, but a lot less than if it were the original body panels. The ORE parts won't arrive until near the end of January, which is probably around when the 10.5" wheels will be done as well, so the timing should be good.
The west coast schedule has moved up a bit this year. The San Diego events are the last 2 weeks of March, so I'm down to a hair over 3 months to get a car built, tuned, and sorted if I want to make those, with the Crow's Landing events soon after that. I'm desperately trying to get all the parts together in time to have the car running before the new year, but there's a couple straggling items that may push it into the first week of January. The build is coming together a lot faster than the Miata build did, so I'm cautiously optimistic, but things could still easily fall apart if a single critical part gets delayed, of which there are still many in the fire...
My last post was full of optimism for a serious attempt at a season of autocross with the car. Unfortunately, the reliability gods decided against that. Over the course of the season, pretty much everything in the engine bay caused some sort of problem. The season started with the supercharger breaking at the Crow's Landing Prosolo before I could even take any runs, then taking way too long to get fixed because, as always, vendors suck at keeping to their promises. That caused me to get it back on a Thursday night, throw it frantically into the car (the night before the Packwood Pro), where, during practice runs, the car showered its engine bay down with oil when something else failed. Later that event, the upper ball joints broke out of their press fits, requiring frantic tearing apart of the car between run groups to get them welded back in. It's just been a year of a series of unfortunate events everywhere I tried to take the car. In the end, after considering the option of towing my car out to nationals, I instead just went to nationals in Ron Bauer's DP car after almost bailing on the event altogether for the first time since I started.
This April, despite the Miata seeming to be in okay shape, I enacted phase 1 of my SSM contingency plan and picked up an Elise from New York and drove it back across the country to Seattle. The plan was to daily drive the car (I had been dailying our Forester for a while and was getting bored of that for some reason) and slowly just mod it into a fun and fast street car. I also knew that, in the end, it was probably a better platform for SSM than the Miata, and that it would likely someday take over, but I was thinking it'd be a couple years before that plan started unfolding. I was wrong.
Shortly after the SC blew up at Crow's Landing, I tentatively made the decision to move up the timetable for the Elise. The first step was that I wanted to make sure that I could actually kill two birds with one stone with the car. I wanted the true unicorn -- the daily driveable SSM car, and not just "could" daily drive, actually "want to" daily drive. So, I decided that the first thing to do would be suspension/wheels/tires for the car, so that it was in basically full SSM stiffness trim and I could try that out before committing to the full build.
While researching how I wanted to do that, an opening came up in a local performance driving school (high speed exercises + instructed lapping of Pacific Raceway) that I'd wanted my wife to take for a while. I had the perfect excuse to throw some money at the car and test it out at the same time. After talking with Fred Zust at Blackwatch Racing, we hatched a plan to quickly ship me a bunch of parts and get the car together in time for the track day. Much to my surprise, everything showed up on time and I had time to actually get the car aligned and do some shakedown on the street before the event. Needless to say, the car was a blast on the track and worked great, despite being somewhat down on power (which I later verified on the dyno as ~15% down). I daily drove the car for a couple weeks and quickly decided that I was completely fine driving the car this stiff on the street.
When the Miata had the several issues at the Packwood Pro, it was really the death knell, after I had already gone that deep into the Elise. In a local event right after nationals, I took the car out officially as the "last hurrah", and, of course, to spite me, it immediately catastrophically broke again. It made it nice and easy to take the car home, roll it into the garage, throw it on jackstands, and immediately strip every sellable part from the carcass without remorse. Since then, I have been selling off the parts at a reasonable pace on all the major Miata boards.
With money coming in from the Miata parts, at this point, I've paid for a good portion of the first phase of the build of the Elise. I hope to have everything together by the end of 2014 to have a winter/spring to work on the tune and really dial in the car to be ready for the season next year. I'll be posting more detailing the build of the car as the more interesting parts start showing up and the motor comes out. The site will soon transform to only have history of the Miata on it and instead be focused on the Elise, so keep in touch.
I took much of last year off, made some poor suspension choices, and didn't pay much attention to the car. I got my butt kicked in most events I went to, and wasn't very happy with the car or my driving. In the end, though, it gave me what I needed -- most of a year off. I flew around the country and codrove with the Woottons a few times, autocrossed a bunch of random cars, and had some fun anyway. I also noticed that, despite lots of attention to the car everywhere I posted it for sale, no one even sniffed around at a real offer, so I know that, someday when I do actually sell, parting it out is the way to go.
For this year, I'm going to make a little more of an effort again. We moved into a new house last year and didn't have a good way to deal with the towing situation, so this year my dad sold his giant trailer and I bought a tiny little trailer, perfect for a Miata. Most importantly of all, I can back the trailer, with the car on it, into my garage, and leave it there, ready for an event at any time, with the truck parked in front of it. I'm hoping that I'll find a lot more motivation to autocross when it means spending 5 minutes in the morning and 10 in the evening loading/unloading instead of 2+ hours on each side getting the truck/trailer to/from my parents'.
I decided to attack some of my root annoyances with the car as well this year. At the end of last season, I realized that my traction control system was a little flaky. While it often helped, it often cut in when it had no reason to. I spent some time debugging it at the first event this year and learned that it is, in fact, cutting fuel even with the system completely disabled -- when I bypass the unit and plug the injectors directly into the ECU, it runs perfectly. I've been working with RaceLogic the past couple weeks trying to narrow down what the problem actually is. So far, we think it's the adjuster unit, but it will require further diagnosis. Until I get that sorted out, the unit is staying fully disconnected, forcing me to learn how to modulate a gas pedal -- something I'm not very good at, apparently.
Another big annoyance was the general tune of the car. In addition to feeling like I didn't have enough power, there was always a bunch of hiccups in the tune (above and beyond the RaceLogic-induced ones). Throttle pump (tip-in) was always sketchy, leading to unpredictable power levels on corner exit. At 2012 nationals we noticed that underhood temps were crazy, and put a hole in the hood for the intake. Since then, I'd switched back to a more traditional intake, but pulling air from the driver's side headlight area. I also upgraded to Flyin Miata's big flex fuel kit, which is a pretty awesome setup, and upgraded to ID1000 injectors in preparation for E85.
Last spring, I changed from an AEM to a Hydra Nemesis for an ECU, and immediately was able to improve the drivability of the car quite a bit. However, it was still far off what I wanted/needed it to be for consistent driving. I gave the car to Kris Osheim of KO Racing early this year and he spent a few weeks road tuning it to help with drivability and low end torque. The car is an entirely different beast now -- mashing the gas at 2000 RPMs produces an instant wall of torque, and different rates of tip-in actually produce linearly proportional amounts of power. Using the flex fuel setup, I can now put anything from full pump gas to full E85 or any mix in between, and the car fires right up and makes a safe amount of power for whatever ethanol mix I'm running. The car now makes 359rwhp/279rwtq (Dynojet corrected) on E85 and 316/256 on 92. The old power numbers were falsely inflated by the previous dyno I was using -- he applied a fixed 20% correction factor, so this is actually quite a huge bump in power over the old setup.
Suspension-wise, I knew I needed to change things. In 2012 I was running 700/450 springs, and based on the math said we should be running 800s in the front, so for the 2013 season I tried just bumping to 800s. Of course, the car went from fairly well balanced to ultra-pushy. I spent the limited season trying to dial it out with shock adjustments, but for 2014 I went up to 550 rear springs and added a small rear swaybar. Two events into the season, the balance of the car is proving to be a huge improvement over last year, which makes it a lot more fun to drive.
The brakes had always been a big complaint of mine with the car -- they were a little unpredictable and, especially on concrete, you were essentially unable to bring the car into ABS. For 2013, I upgraded the fronts to Flyin Miata's little big brake kit with the 11" rotors, and went to a 1" 929 master cylinder with a dual diaphragm brake booster, which were a huge improvement. I'll likely upgrade the rears to their rear little big brake kit this season as well, but I haven't pulled the trigger on that yet. I've also changed out the rear wheel bearings and front hubs for this season, as they were starting to get some play in them noticeable as pad-knockback after hard cornering.
I'm planning on attempting to get the car out to several big events this year -- Crow's Landing, Packwood, Spring Nationals (Lincoln), and Nationals. There's still a bunch to get working on the car for real -- Eric Anderson's car proves how effective the RaceLogic can be if I can work the demons out of my system, dialing in the new suspension setup, and learning how to drive a car that can break the tires loose at will in a straight line in 2nd gear on Asphalt.
With several things going on in my life right now (not having much fun autocrossing the past few years, switching jobs, tired of being broke) I think the best move right now for me is to get rid of the car and get my life in order for a few years before trying autocross again. I was hoping that the SSM experiment would bring the fun back into autocross for me, and while it did somewhat, it still isn't enough for me to justify how much money and time I'm spending on all these out of town events. Maybe when I have enough money in the bank to not be scared anymore, and I've stopped doing so much side work that eats all my time and stress, I'll come back, but I think my best move right now is just to get my life in order.
As such, I'm putting the project up for sale as a whole right now to see if anyone bites, and if no one does, I'll start parting the car out. I have something over 45k into the project, not including tires, repair parts, a ton of misc hardware, and probably a thousand hours of labor. The car can win nationals right now as it sits with the right driver, and with a few simple mods can go even faster than that. If you're interested in individual parts, feel free to shoot me an email as well -- if there's enough interest in the parts I may just go that route even sooner. The detailed parts list is available both all over the Wiki, and also in the Expense Log.
Quick important bits list:
- 1991 Chassis, 316k original miles
- Dyno: 330rwhp, 258rwtq @ 19 psi peak, on 92 octane pump gas
- Car weighs 2030 lbs dry, well short of its min weight of 2057 lbs
- Built 1.87L 99 Miata Motor -- should be good to 9k RPMs, but I've been keeping it at 8k for longevity
- 5-speed transmission case rebuilt with a Quaife custom gearset and all new Mazda parts. Car does 49mph in 1st gear and 75mph in 2nd gear (GPS verified), and is built to survive twice the torque the car is making right now
- RB Header with custom 3" stainless exhaust, runs at 92-94 dB at most sites, with a clamp on extra muffler and turndown for San Diego
- Custom BEGi intake manifold with a Lysholm (Whipple) 1.6L twin screw supercharger with custom half-width intercooler setup for short charge pipes (incredibly quick throttle response)
- Coolant reroute with custom half-width radiator -- in 100 degree heat at nationals the engine never got above 192 degrees during/after a run
- Carbon Fiber hood (5 lbs), front fenders (1 lb each), and seats (6 lbs each!)
- Custom splitter (now shorter than it used to be), removable for getting on and off a trailer
- Ciro Designs/APR latest-generation rear twin-element wing
- AEM PnP EMS, fully tuned for safe power and drivability, with Zt-3 wideband
- RaceLogic adjustable traction control (includes launch control)
- AIM Evo4 data acquisition system + MyChron3 dash, integrates with the AEM EMS to display and log all engine parameters, combined with internal GPS, accelerometer, and oil pressure
- Flyin Miata little big brake kit (powerlite calipers with custom adapters) up front, SS lines on stock calipers in the rear, with Carbotech AX6 pads all around
- 2004 Miata next-generation ABS unit retrofitted
- FatCat Motorsports double-adjustable custom shortened-shaft coilovers, racing beat front bar, no rear bar
- Rear upper control arms by EPMiata, all other control arms currently stock with Delrin inserts on all connecting joints to reduce play, with long wheel studs, and V8roadster ball joints
- Deutchwerks 300LPH fuel pump (quiet) with 720cc Injector Dynamics injectors on a dual feed fuel rail -- upgrade to 1000cc injectors and jump to E85 for a nice power bump
- Custom modified wiring harnesses to cleanly build in all modifications (speed density sensors, 2004 ABS unit, coil-on-plug, etc.)
- Custom headlights to save 19 lbs off the front end (and still shine better than the stockers)
- Full access to pick my brain for a long time
- Comes with 15x9 6ULs with nearly new (1 pouring-wet event) H20s, and two sets of 15x10 6ULs with nearly new (one 20-run set, one 12-run set) Goodyears
I'm asking $35,000 for the car. If you're interested in either the car or a set of parts, shoot me an email (akilla at akilla.net) or call me (206-276-0433). Car is currently in Redmond, WA. Happy to ship at buyer's expense.
Nationals was an ... interesting experience this year. I originally didn't want to go, due to being broke, not terribly into the sport right now, and knowing the car wasn't ready, but was convinced by my dad and some friends to make the trip. So, out we went.
At the Pro Finale, the car wasn't handling terribly well, and was bogging miserably coming out of slow corners again. We tweaked some suspension settings and that improved the handling situation a little bit, but we couldn't figure out what was up with the bogging. So, I finished out the pro in 4th place, 1.2 out from the win overall. There were a bunch of slow digs that the car couldn't get out of its own way for, so that time was easily there, especially if I could have landed a left side run (I was only 0.3 behind the winner on the right, 0.9 on the left.) I was generally happy with the car's performance at this point. It was obviously capable of running the times, especially if I could fix the slow corner problem.
So, we spent Monday driving around the streets of Lincoln with a laptop, working on trying to smooth out the AFRs on tip-in. I fixed a bunch of stuff, which made the car feel like it drove much better, and so my dad (who didn't run the Pro) took practice runs on Tuesday, and ... after a couple runs got the same misfiring under tip-in as before. This time, I pulled data from the AIM system and saw that with each run, our intake temps were jumping by ~20 degrees, culminating in 180 degrees during our practice last (and very misfirey) run.
That seemed likely to be the problem, so we drove all over Lincoln, bought a hole saw and some tubing parts, and cut a hole in the hood right over the supercharger, put a 90 degree bend on the inlet, and popped the filter through the hood. We bought some more practice runs for Wednesday morning, spent more time on the street and really got the tip-in working pretty solidly, and then had no problems with heat or misfiring Wednesday. The filter through the hood isn't the most attractive part of the car, but it's certainly doing the job.
Thursday came and the car was awesome -- handling's still a little quirky, but better than the Pro, but after the runs, I was in 2nd, only 0.4 off Carter, with 3rd several tenths more behind me. Joy quickly turned to disgust, however. We were immediately protested by Jake Namer for an illegal splitter, which was later upheld, and gave us a 1 second penalty on all of our runs. We then lazily shaved off enough of the splitter to be a couple inches under the limit. I was disgusted enough by the whole process that I just went back to the hotel and caught up on work all night instead of walking the other course, so for Friday runs I didn't really know my way around, and coned all 3 runs. It was a long drive home, but at least by 2pm Friday we were on the road instead of having to go to the banquet, and, as such, got home at midnight Saturday night, so I got a full Sunday to unpack and unwind.
For reference, the splitter in question is pictured at the right. The green photoshopped area is the legal area of an SSM splitter (which we are almost a square foot below.) The little green penned area on the chopped off part (3/8" deep by a few inches wide) is the illegal area of the splitter, as determined by the protest committee. When Bill and I built the splitter, we measured it in my garage to be 5" from the bumper (a full inch under the max rule), but somehow since April, our mounting mechanism has bent out to bring it over 6", and hence illegal. Turns out that using sliding forks to locate the splitter isn't a great idea for autocross, since there's the maximum forward distance rule. We were hoping it would help absorb cone hits, but that turns out to be less important than staying legal. Oh well. That's autocross. Live and learn.
On the bright side, the car is very competitive, even in its primordial form right now. 0.4 off Carter is better than I ever would have hoped, and the data showed that there was a lot more time on top of that run. So, it's proof that the SSM Miata concept is viable, which was the goal of this year.
I haven't posted much in the last month because, well, not a lot has happened. I've been mostly just driving the car at events and playing with setup ideas while planning the next phase of the build. I've now ordered a full set of custom control arms and spindle modifications with a 1" drop from Jon Brakke. They won't be finished until after nationals, unfortunately, but that's what I get for not ordering anything until this late. He's seen the pictures of the failed EPMiata arms and couldn't believe how underbuilt they were, so it'll be interesting to see how much stronger his will (hopefully) be.
Due to my dad running over the old hardtop at Lincoln this spring, I've also ordered a new CF hardtop from Axis Power Racing before realizing that they possibly weren't legal (it's a bit of a grey area, apparently.) There's a proposal out to make them explicitly legal, which will hopefully pass, or else I'll have to use the top on a time attack car or something... I also finally picked up the FM Little Big Brake Kit which required minor clearancing of the calipers to fit on the 9" rotor with the 15x10 6ULs, but is giving quite a bit better braking between them and the SS lines I finally added to the rear. The V8Roadster Bump Steer Kit finally arrived as well, but I haven't had a chance to put them on the car yet. Hopefully in the next week or so.
In the last few events, I'd been noticing that the traction control seemed to be getting increasingly invasive, so last weekend at a practice, I tried turning the TC system completely off, and was still getting massive misfiring coming out of corners (getting on the gas early.) I tried replacing my 3 remaining Chinese Toyota knock-off coil packs with genuine Toyota ones, and, shockingly, my misfire problem disappeared, which was a welcome development. At this point, it suddenly seems like I can put a lot more power down than I thought I was able to, so it will soon be time to up the power by quite a bit. I keep finding myself floored and waiting coming out of slow corners. Even with ~220 ft/lbs at the wheels that low in the powerband, I'm getting killed out of those corners by Bob Bundy, who has more like 350 ft/lbs down there, so I think some power bumps are in order for next season.
The only major issue the car's had for a while now was last weekend, when an apparently undertorqued crank pulley bolt came loose and bent/embedded itself into the crankshaft, while simultaneously allowing the supercharger to shear off the woodruff key and spread the keyway wide open on both the crank and the pulley boss. Oops. So much for that crank. I picked up a new crank from Coop's Miata, got bearings overnighted from Flyin Miata, rebuilt the motor Thursday and Friday, threw it back in the car, and towed up to Canada for the VCMC Super Challenge this weekend.
The event went pretty well. The course was an uninspired set of 7 very tight corners, each connected by either essentially a straightaway or a 180 degree sweeper, which isn't the greatest set of elements for the car -- all the grip in the world isn't terribly useful when you still are floored for 2-4 seconds out of every slow corner. The event format was really neat, though. At the end of the event, they take the top 30 drivers on PAX, add 10 randomly drawn drivers, and everyone takes a single run. The bottom 20 PAXed times are eliminated, they change the course, and repeat. Halve two more times, then the last group of 5 run for the final finishing order. It's an interesting variation on the ProSolo challenge idea and really forces you to be both consistent and fast. I managed to finish 4th overall, which was several spots higher than I was expecting. Our current tires are up to ~50+ runs and the course was not well suited to the car in it current state, so doing this well was an unexpected surprise. I also tried some Hail Mary setup changes between Saturday and Sunday which helped a fair bit (the car was very loose Saturday.)
Looking ahead to Solo Nationals, I've organized a local test and tune for Friday, where I'll finally have my first chance all year to really mess around extensively with shock and pressure tuning. Unfortunately, with how absurdly busy I've been the last few weeks, the 2-driver reg deadline for the Pro Finale came and went without us noticing, so we're now on the waitlist. If we don't get in, we might not even bother making the journey. The idea of spending 8 days and a few thousand dollars of gas, hotels, food, and general costs for 5 minutes of racing time on an unfinished car isn't the most appealing thing in the world right now. As annoying as it would be to work toward this all year and then not go, it may be the right decision to make when the time comes. In the meantime, we'll stare at the waitlist and hope.