Destination SSM One Miata's Journey through Hell


Bent Frame

Posted by David de Regt

There's been no updates in a bit because shortly after the last post, while measuring the radiator area for planning the intercooler setup, I noticed that something wasn't quite right.  More careful inspection revealed that a frame-bending accident had been concealed by a previous owner.  The car had hit something pretty hard with the front right at some point.  The rad support is bent pretty good (how did I not notice that? sigh.) and looking under the headlight reveals pretty extensively crinkled metal.  The lower rad support is bent inward too -- the radiator is visibly slightly torqued.  Having found these things, I looked around more and found a pretty malformed area in the left of the trunk as well.   Well, crap.

Having bought it from Davin, I neglected to even bother carfaxing it, but a quick Autocheck report showed terrible things in the car's past.   In 97 it was declared a total loss, and somehow came out of it without a salvage title, and then had another accident in 04.  I thought briefly about trying to get the important part (front corner) fixed, but quickly decided that was a terrible plan.  Miatas are cheap enough that I might as well get one in definitively good shape to start the build with.  I'm going to be adding enough metal stress to this poor car that I don't need to start with one that's been through 2 accidents and a frame jig.  The search began.

The days surrounding Thanksgiving were mostly spent searching all over the country for Miatas.  At this point, if you've posted a Miata for sale west of the continental divide anywhere on the net, I've seen your post and have probably emailed you for more info if you're remotely in the right price range.  I spent the first several days narrowing down what I want to one of three things:

  1. 93 CA-emissioned ABS-equipped car -- The Unicorn Car.  Very rare combination of equipment.  However, it would mean I would need to transplant zero wiring harnesses from the current car to the new car.  I tracked down several leads only to find people with wrong-year cars or not knowing what ABS was.  At this point, I've basically given up on this idea, not that I'd ever placed much hope in it in the first place.
  2. 91-93 ABS-equipped car -- Much easier to find.  Preferably with manual windows/mirrors and power steering, but at this point I can drum up the parts to make any option package work.  This means I don't need to transplant the ABS system, rear body harness, or dash harness.  The front (hard) and injection (easy) harnesses off the current 93 car will need to transplant to retain the sequential injection that I'm using with the RaceLogic traction control setup, but that's a lot less work than all 4.
  3. Failing that, any light, correct-optioned 1.6 car will work.  However, at this point I'd rather spend a little more money on #2 to save myself a lot of effort and time, and after looking at Miatas, I'm not convinced that the options I'm looking for increase the value of the car at all anyway, so I might as well wait for the right one.

The last few days I've been narrowing the search for details on a few cars I'm interested in.  Up until late tonight I had been tracking down one last possible Unicorn car and waiting to hear back from a couple local ads, but then tonight, somehow, everyone got back to me with the info I needed, and I think I found the car I'm going to buy this week.  I'll update more after I find and purchase a car.  In the meantime, I'm stripping Davin's car down to the frame and disposing of what's left.  At least I'll get a bunch of spares out of this, and I should be able to sell enough parts to break even.  He with weak mind has strong back.  And empty wallet.  Or something.  C'est la vie.

At least research on the project has continued.  I've bought a bunch more parts (RaceLogic Traction Control, OS Giken, AIM Evo4/MyChron3, and the rest of the internals/valvetrain for the engine build).  I've collected almost all the  subframes/uprights/etc. that we need for the drop spindles project, and that will kick off in the next couple weeks here with measuring everything and generating CAD models to play with geometry and see what the factory gave us.  I'll post in more detail about some of the choices I've made as parts start showing up and they start going onto the car.  For now, I'm focusing on trying to find the right car to keep the project from getting too far behind schedule while also doing whatever research I need to keep that flowing as well.

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Cleaning/Lightening Session One

Posted by David de Regt

With Hannah off performing maid of honor-type wedding dress moral support duties, I had an afternoon to tear into the car. It had been drying in the garage for a few days, and the disturbing stench had not yet abated, so it was time to dig in.

First step: out came the seats. The car is a 93 LE, so it has all the fancy schmancy leather options and headrest speakers, so the seats were not light (36 and 39 lbs), in addition to vast quantities of free spare change. With the seats out, a cornucopia of delightful things were revealed unto the world. Davin, you are a dirty dirty man. Half an hour later, I'd managed to vacuum the 10 square feet of carpet mostly clean, and recovered around 4$ of spare change, and probably accidentally vacuumed up almost that much again.

Next step: off with the soft top. The top had been pushed through at the base of the rear window, so it wasn't doing a very good job of sealing the car. Having secured the broken (but sealed) hard top from my rolled Spec Miata car, I no longer had any need to keep the top on it anymore, and so it was time to see what the car was actually going to weigh. Off it came, revealing a soaking wet carpet and insulation layer, so out came all the removable carpeting from the rear deck and behind the seats to hang up to dry. By the time I finished weighing the car, the puddle under one of the pieces had spread to a river flowing under the garage door. I think I found most of the smell (I hope).  Time to let the car continue to dry out for another few days.

After that, I did some little stuff: pulled the A/C expansion chamber box from under the dash, pulled the airbag sensor next to the horn in the engine bay, and then completely emptied out the trunk, which yielded another plethora of oddities (including a few dollars more coins and a pair of warmups).

Not a bad haul for a couple hours of tooling around.  Hannah got home, so I decided to call it quits for the day.  The next steps are going to be a lot lower yield, and require removal of the entire dash (removal of radio/airbag wires from the loom) and probably parts of the engine bay, so I'll hold off on that for another weekend day with Brian and beer.  The moment of truth had arrived -- it was time to weigh the car.  Time to see where we were at.

The corner weights are going to need some serious work.  Not surprisingly, without the soft top and the seats (all of the rear weight) and with a nearly empty gas tank, we're at 55 frontward weight bias.  Fortunately, most of the remaining weight removal is going to focus on the front half of the car, so we'll chip away at it.  I realized that was without the steering wheel, so taking into account swapping to the final race wheels/tires and the steering wheel, we're at 2006 lbs.  This gives us a good starting place for continuing to remove weight for the inevitable weight gain from the supercharger.  Our final min weight is going to be around 2050 lbs, plus or minus a few pounds, depending on final displacement.

A bunch of parts are on the way, but the most important parts are the Megasquirt and the 99 motor, which are both around 2 weeks out.  When those get here in early December, I can get the car running on the full 99 setup and see where we really sit on weight and bias, since I can tear out the current AFM-based intake tract, among other things.  Until then, I'm just going to be working on little weight saving things and gathering random parts on the shelf as they show up.

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Finishing up the KLiata

Posted by David de Regt

As part of this new build, I need to do something with the KLiata.  I struggled for a while with a few options:

  1. Try to continue supercharging it
  2. Keep it with the ITBs and try to fix the terrible behavior
  3. Try to get some sort of smaller manifold on it to make it completely driveable and get a non-ridiculous hood on it

I eventually settled on #3.  #1 would continue to be a time and money sink, and probably not end up working that well.  As is the car, tuned terribly, with probably ~160rwhp, with a V6 torque curve, is quite fun.  If I could get a decent manifold working on it, then it'd be a fun car to keep around, or maybe sell if I really wanted to focus only on the SSM car and/or needed the scrilla.  So, I went down that road.

The stock KL-ZE manifold is designed around a FWD car, with the engine mounted transversely.  As such, the throttle body, in the KLiata, would be somewhere around where the driver's wiper mechanism is.  Pauli-exclusion principle dictates that this will cause problems, so we set about a different answer.  Doug Chase and I stared at the car, the ITBs, and the KL-ZE manifold for a while.  I eventually decided, "what if we lop off the entire inlet side and then shove the throttle body in the middle?"  A crazy plan was hatched, and Doug's band saw was turned on.


From the ridiculous plan, a viable solution emerged.  3 hours of hemming, hawwing, measuring, and cutting, yielded a manifold that fit nicely in the engine bay, and we had some decent plans for how to get air into the thing that might even flow decently.  I left Doug in charge of taking the project a ways further, and, as his summary email to me tonight was titled, "If we're not careful, this just might work."  With any luck, soon I can put the KLiata to rest and fully focus on the new SSM car.

Speaking of the SSM car, I've been doing oodles of research, and have purchased all of the components for phase 1 (MegasquirtPnP, a 99 motor, a diff conversion, some plastic parts for the interior to bring the car back to full legality, etc.)  I've decided to go with the Whipple W100AX and sell off the Lysholm unit.  Given all the custom fabwork required for the supercharger, it's not something I want to do twice.  The first round of parts from Mazdacomp arrived on my doorstep today: 2002 oil pan/pump/baffle, a full gasket rebuild kit, and some stiffer engine mounts.  Also on its way are the 1.8 motor conversion kit from Flyin Miata, a wideband O2 package, an RB header, an 05 ABs unit, a 99 starter, and an oil pressure sensor conversion fitting.  Lots of little misc things that will eventually go together.  Tomorrow I'm going to order an Evo4+MyChron3 dash + DAQ, when I get some final details from Optimum Motorsports.

Everything I'm researching and questioning is on the Build Wiki.  If you're wondering what I'm up to, check on there.  The Related Changes link will show everything I've been changing, so you can see what I'm pondering endlessly. As things start getting more finalized and more parts start showing up, I'll be posting more often. I cleaned out the garage and finally pulled the car in to dry out tonight. Tomorrow I can start working on stripping stuff out and prepping it for all the parts about to show up.

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The Plan

Posted by David de Regt

The really short version of the plan for the car is to start with basically an all-out CSP build, and then add the following:

  • 1.8L motor (based mostly on a 99 engine), which will be twin screw supercharged (Lysholm or Whipple) with a target of 330-350rwhp.  This is potentially the most ambitious part of the project, and also what it all hinges upon.  That's how I roll.
  • Full Aero (front splitter, canards, and rear wing)
  • Custom suspension (we're designing drop spindles and custom control arms)
  • Lightweight body panels (fiberglass+kevlar front end, hood, and rear bumper)

Given that, PAX-wise, SSM only needs 0.74 seconds over CSP on a 60 second course, that should get us a good portion of the way there.  I'm sure this will suddenly turn more complicated, but this is the basic starting idea...

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The Project Begins

Posted by David de Regt

As most of you reading this will know, I've been working on a KL-DE-based Miata for SSM (starting with Mark Snell's KLiata) since March 2011 or so.  Due to numerous issues with the build, I recently started researching going a completely different direction for a new build.  Several things had nearly simultaneously become apparent to me, independently: the KLiata was too heavy, and that I didn't need a KL to make the power levels I was looking for.  So, the search began for a new car to start with.

I started looking for 1.6 cars with ABS.  I searched up and down the west coast.  I found a few that looked vaguely interesting (but nothing really "right"), and started communicating with the sellers.  I'd started to get a short list when, on a frustrated Facebook post of mine, Davin appeared out of nowhere to offer his car for sale to me.  I checked it out today -- weighed it and inspected it in the dark parking lot of building 33 at Microsoft.


It looked good to me, so we agreed on a price.  This weekend he will upgrade to Dennis Hannah's STS Miata (Peter Umino's build) and I will pick up his car and start my new build.  The motor has a blown head gasket (among other potential issues) and the top has a major tear, but that's pretty much the point, since I don't want either the motor or the top, so it was a pretty perfect candidate.

I didn't keep a running blog of the build of the KLiata, which I later lamented, so I'm going to rectify that with the new build, and start documenting it from square one.  This is at least as much for my records as anything else, but hopefully others will enjoy it.  My friends Brian and Duncan are also going to be helping me with the project, mostly with the custom suspension bits we're going to be building, and they'll be posting here as well.  I've also started a Wiki that will be where we keep the majority of our project documentation.  I don't really want to keep much of anything secret, so there will eventually be pretty detailed plans in there for future people to follow.

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