1 day ago in News
We hit the track with Flyin' Miata's latest power adder.
One month ago, a friend passed a rennlist.com advert to me because he knew I needed something dedicated for the track. I contacted the owner and bought it sight-unseen, since the car (in Buffalo) was so far from me (in Washington DC).
This is my first dedicated track toy. As such, I was hoping to start with something suitable from the start. I'll say the car was advertised as "track ready", but it took me every minute of the past three weeks to get it ready for the track. That's ok though. My ultimate goals are to be safe and survive.
Here it is at its track debut, WDC Region SCCA's PDX event at Summit Point Main Circuit this past weekend.
The reason I bought this, even as I was having a blast driving my Ford Fiesta ST on the track, is because I was getting a little fast for my comfort in the Fiesta, at least with no real protection outside a helmet and the OEM restraints.
If I ball up the Fiesta, I'm out $20K, hospital bills, lost work, and a daily driver. If I ball up this here Porsche, I'm out $9K, I likely walk away from the incident, and I drive to work on Monday.
Hard to argue against that logic, eh, SWMBO? (Actually, she said, "You could simply stop driving on the track, you know.")...
..."Oh yeah? Well the jerk store called..."
Seriously, though, she's been supportive. Even though I was in a rush to ready the car for the track, spending every waking moment doing something or another in preparation.
The car came with a lot of goodies, and receipts for all of it. The car was street legal, safety inspected in New York just one year ago.
Stock N/A engine, with receipts for everything, including recent* timing belt, water pump, clutch replacements.
Lindsey racing AC Delete plate
Battery Disconnect & remote external pull switch
Fairly rusty unequal length 4-2-1 headers
Very rusty catless exhaust with resonator and muffler featuring extra holes and an exhaust tip that clangs like a bell
Suspension & Brakes
Kokeln front and rear sway bars (very fancy)
4-piston calipers front and rear from a '92 Base 968
Stainless brake lines
Stainless perforated clutch/brake/accel foot pedal pads/treads
Hawk something-something racing pads (interchangeable front and rear)
AutoPower 6-point bolt-in cage
Momo steering wheel with a working horn
Momo Start fiberglass seats (expired)
5-point harnesses (expired)
ProForm Tachometer & Shift Light
Longacre Lap Timer (infrared kind that you set up with a beacon next to the track - bought in 2011 (who uses those anymore?)
5 lb Fire extinguisher
Interior battery disconnect, pushbutton start, ignition switch, accessories switch
stripped interior from just behind the front seats to the back of the car
Two sets of yellow 16" phone dials with Nitto NT-01 tires, 40% and 20% tread remaining.
One set of silver 17" 5-spoke wheels with really old street tires. All wheels were straight and clean.
Convex cage-mounted rear view mirror
Broken odometer (owner claimed it worked over the phone, but it hasn't budged)
Rusty, swiss cheese muffler
Badly rock-impacted paint. Really bad. Like this car had been tandem-drifting at a rallycross. For hours.
So my thought for getting ready for the first track day was simply to replace all fluids, inspect everything, and put a tank of gas through it.
The former owner had bought this a year and a half earlier for his wife, in the hopes that she would enjoy track days. They drove the car to a couple track events last year, and that's all. So I suspected the gas might be old.
I drained some of the gas and it looked clear and smelled like it does from the pump. So that was good.
I changed the oil. Damn the oil filter location on 944's.
I changed the transaxle gear oil with Red Line MTL. Damn the 17mm hex key you need to go out and buy so you can remove the fill/drain plugs.
I changed the brake fluid with Motul 600. Damn the ATF Blue that stains everything so your entire system remains blue forever.
I inspected the brake pads. Uh oh. Looks like a lazy piston on the left front:
I got a caliper rebuild kit on order. But it wouldn't arrive in time for the weekend, so just to have enough brakes for the first track weekend, I swapped the front and rear pads, hoping the lazy piston was just because of a bubble, now gone from flushing and bleeding.
I drove the car to work one day, and the Momo seats were so narrow that it hurt my hips pretty badly. It was a very uncomfortable drive.
I knew I wouldn't enjoy my first track weekend in the car with that seat, which would be a shame. So I drove on out to OG Racing that afternoon. I'm glad I drove the Porsche because the salesman and I spent a lot of time with a tape measure, measuring seats, measuring the car, measuring my butt, etc.
I never realized how much goes into fitting a seat application. For my size, and the restrictions of the bolt-in cage, there was only one solution that really fit the bill: OMP WRC-R XL seats. I sorta wanted a halo seat, but that wouldn't have fit anyway.
I bought one, and took it home.
Starting with the removal of the Momo seats... this isn't good...
The seats were mounted with a hodgepodge of hardware of various grades, steel channel, and stacks of washers up front to recline the seat.
I removed the Momo slides from the old seats, and I noticed that, except for being closer together, they were identical to the illustrations of the OMP slides in the OMP literature (that I didn't buy). And if only they were wider, they'd line up with the original Porsche seat mounting points. Well, I can fix that.
I just carefully bent the adjustment bar out so that it spanned the correct width.
So now I could take them in and mount them to the OMP seat brackets, and then bring them back out and bolt them right to the car. Using only the metric grade 12.9 hardware provided in the bag of OMP mounting hardware. Fantastic!
So I had to remove the door section of the cage, then slide the seat forward, and attach the rear of the slides.
Then I slid the seat back all the way and attached the front of the slides, and then replace the cage bar. Done!
Well, not as easily as that, as I tried at least two recline angle settings, and of course I forgot to feed the belts in first, and so on, and so on.
The bottom line is that the seat is where it is now. You can't slide it forward because the cage bar prevents it. It can't recline further because my arms wouldn't reach the wheel. Fortunately, it's perfect. Really. I can reach the wheel, my legs are at a good angle, and my helmeted head naturally rests one geometric point away from the sunroof.
BUT... the taller seat (which we chose because it's taller... I'm 6'-3") has a problem with the shoulder strap departure angle. Actually, the original seats had that problem. The steep angle means the driver's and especially the passenger's spines could be compressed in an impact.
I threw one of the straps over the accessory bar just to see what the proper angle should be. That bar was never part of the harness setup. Incidentally, does anyone know what that bar is actually for?
So I had to fix the harness shoulder strap situation, and while I was staring at the car and thinking (I do that a lot), I realized I would need to provide "equivalent protection" to my HPDE instructors. Obviously, a brand new FIA-approved seat and a 2002 vintage seat attached with stacks of washers are not equivalent.
Nor is the harness setup. So I took another trip to OG Racing, and picked up another seat. And two sets of fresh 5-point FIA-approved harnesses.
And I kept on driving to Piper Motorsport where I picked up a 5' length of steel tube. My idea was to weld it across the rear down-tubes at the correct height for a compliant harness shoulder strap departure angle. I discussed it with one of the guys there, and they thought it was a pretty good solution, based on my pictures and description.
Here it is zip-tied about where I'll want it to go. I also hacked off that accessory bar or whatever it was. Too late now, it's gone.
Using a protractor, I figured the angle of intersection in the plane of the two rear down-tubes was 13 degrees from 90. So I took a 1.75" hole saw, put it on my drill press, tilted the table 13 degrees, and cut my notches. It worked out really well...
And then here it is wedged into place with a ratchet strap before I cleaned the paint off the cage with a grinder and acetone:
All welded up and primed:
Perfect angle now! While I was replacing the harnesses, I replaced the old 3/8" grade 5 and grade 8 bolts at the inner lap belt mount points with 7/16" grade 8 bolts, grade 8 washers, nuts, and much wider fender washers to prevent pull-through. The outer lap belt mount points are the factory mount points using even thicker grade 8 bolts.
Now that's what I call equivalent. I have to admit, I've always wanted matching race car seats in a kick-ass race car.
Continuing preparation for the track day... I was sick of hearing the bell clanging from that exhaust tip. Seriously.
I drove a big self-drilling, self-tapping screw into the side of it to draw the internals against the side. That quieted the clang. It's still loud and farty though, with all the holes in the muffler and tailpipe. I went ahead and welded the head of the screw to the side of the exhaust just so it wouldn't back out on the track to become someone else's problem.
I checked the air filter. Ew.
Fortunately I had just the stuff to clean that up...
Here it is the night before the track day, at our first ever visit to the gas station together, just after I gave it a bath.
So nice! Those seats look really tight in there. Good thing you were able to measure seats vs car. A buddy of mine has a 951 sitting in a storage unit that I would love to give this treatment. It needs a motor though, too much boost=really toasted motor....
Good looking car. How did it run at the track?
I'd do research on that header/exhaust these cars were super notorious for being super finicky about backpressure and power. The intake has resonance tuning that gets messed with when you put a header on it. I think only one company ever did enough research to actually add power with a header...
Looks like a really fun project!
Nice! My first seat fitting was an eye opener too.
So the track weekend was a total blast! What a weekend, and what a fun car!
This was my first time driving RWD on a track, and I let my instructor know that. It turned out to be a perfect introduction to it, because it rained like cats and dogs all Saturday morning, gradually moving from downpour to light-rain to just a little damp on the pavement edges in the afternoon.
The car really did well, and with the Nitto NT-01 quasi-slicks, the rain pretty much gave me the experience of a high-horsepower car. We could find its limits really easily in the wet.
(On track photos taken by Bob Hartman at etechphoto.com)
These pictures were taken on the second session when it was already starting to dry up... it was so rainy on the first session that the photographer didn't even get his equipment out! Seriously, there were lakes and rivers out there.
It was fantastic fun, but on the second session, I was trailbraking into turn 10, the fastest corner on the course, and the rear end came around. We slid pretty much sideways through the apex, knocking the little marker cone onto the track just inside the line. I regained control again, and we came in to check in with the steward, and to make sure the car wasn't full of mud or anything. For the rest of that lap we discussed what might have caused the spin... it happened so fast that neither of us could really tell.
The steward said there wasn't anything wrong with the car, except the wheels were the wrong color.
Later the same thing happened in turn 5, to a much lesser extent on a much slower turn, and we both knew it was the late braking while beginning the turn, making the rear lighter and wanting to come around. So I felt a lot better about knowing what I had to do to prevent it.
I drove it home and back (about 1.5 hrs each way) for the night, and on Sunday conditions were perfect. Cool air, sunny, warm and dry track. This car STICKS! It goes around corners really well, and as long as my foot is in the throttle, the rear end stays planted. My instructor said it the way it was able to go around the carousel, turn 6, was "epic". I asked him if he could use that particular word in my student evaluation.
Seriously, we had a lot of fun working on eliminating braking zones altogether, to where I could almost go from 3 to 5 without lifting. And from 6 through 9 without lifting. And we worked on using trail-braking to rotate the car better. Remember that thing I wasn't supposed to do or else we'd spin out on Saturday? Yeah, that.
The car made it through the whole weekend without any major problems. Yeah, the windshield wipers made a piercing, annoying screaming sound, and shuddered as they wiped for a short while, but they stopped screaming after a couple minutes, and at speed they don't shudder.
Here's the best way I can describe the sound the wipers made:
One of the accessory belts squealed pretty badly for a couple minutes between the first and second session, but I never heard from them for the rest of the weekend either.
Other than that, the car was solid. And I'm officially pleased with my purchase, because the idea was that I'd be able to drive it to the track, drive the E36 M3 out of it, and drive it home again. That happened.
In reply to Mad_Ratel:
Thanks, Mad. This is why I post my builds here, because you guys are full of thoughtful advice and questions to consider.
I've read up about them quite a bit... and I'll definitely reach out to the experts when it comes time to update the exhaust.
For now, I'm replacing the muffler and exhaust tip with some stainless examples. A Flowmaster Series 44 muffler and a stainless tip. Eventually I'll work my way back up to the block. But for now, I just want something that sounds a little better.
This past weekend I got started with the TIG process of my welder. It was a fairly successful weekend of experimentation. Next week I hope to have some stainless tube to practice on before moving on to the actual muffler.
I had a 1987 944S taht was my dream car... My wife still says that she only pictures me with a 944.
The car came with these fancy sway bars, and one end of the front bar was missing its bolt where it attaches to the lower control arm when I bought it.
I bought four of the replacement bolts, since they were 80 cents but S&H was five bucks. Not something you find in the poorly organized drawers at Home Depot.
After my track weekend, I found that same bolt was missing again, and the other side was finger tight. So I put it back with loc-tite this time. If it still proves troublesome, I'll buy ones that are a little longer and some nylon lock nuts to cap them off.
They aren't doing anything if one side is just dangling, after all.
kinda weird that many bolts are missing in your car. what was the previous owner been doing with it?
In reply to CarLava:
To be fair, it was only missing one bolt. And the po was doing DE's just like me.
the po was surprised when I pointed it out to him as I picked up the car. And I guess I was just as surprised to find it missing again. How long had it been gone? First lap? Halfway to the track? On the way home?
I will be making frequent checks until it seems to be sorted. Hopefully a good dozen threads full of loctite will do the trick.
i'd definitely grab something longer, you need more thread engagement than what is showing in your last pic. Go to an ace or truevalue hardware store, very nice bolt selection samish prices and it's kept in much better organization...
Or find a fastenal store, they are open to the public and you'd be surprised what they have in store. (and how much cheaper their galvanized bolts are compared to lowes.)
One thing I always loved about my 944's was that they were a car that takes care of you, and doesn't try to kill you in odd and terrifying ways. Congrats on a successful outing and learning the joys of RWD!
I ordered some faux carbon fiber vinyl to cover this up:
But the paint itself was failing, and was sticking to the vinyl. It wouldn't stretch and adhere, and it was looking like doo-doo. Not much paint was left after the first attempt. So I switched gears and painted it roll bar color (Krylon flat black). Maybe after the paint cures I'll try the vinyl thing again. But the mirrors are probably one of the toughest parts of a car to wrap.
In the 80's, it was popular for carmakers to make body-color mirrors an upgrade from the base black plastic mirrors. I kinda think it looks like a base mirror. It looks 10x better, at any rate.
I stripped the paint off mine and polished them. They are aluminum so they take to it well :)
racerdave600 wrote: One thing I always loved about my 944's was that they were a car that takes care of you, and doesn't try to kill you in odd and terrifying ways. Congrats on a successful outing and learning the joys of RWD!
If you call understeering you right off the road a safety feature...
In reply to turboswede:
Really? Mine really seemed to be plastic. It seemed like the primer and color coat were both coming off to reveal the resin. When I sanded it, I was sure not to go into the resin, but only just to feather in to where the paint chips were. I didn't even go that far, and you can still see where some of the deep ones are.
I wouldn't swear to it, but I'm pretty sure it's not aluminum.
Incidentally, I was just watching a "what's my car worth" episode that featured a red 1988 Porsche 911. It had identical mirrors to my 1988 Porsche 944. I'll bet they're the same part.
In reply to CrookedRacer:
Wonder if it's because I have a 79 924?
Anyway, the upper parts are the same. The lower base isn't.
Same with the later "aero" mirrors used on the 968, 911, etc. The uppers are generally the same with the bases different.
Personally the square mirrors are pretty useless compared to the aero ones. So it's a worthwhile, but expensive upgrade for daily drivers/track cars.
In reply to Mad_Ratel:
Properly setup, and driven they don't understeer.
However the strut front end doesn't help since they only work in a specific narrow range.
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