randman2011 New Reader
March 27, 2017 2:21 p.m.

I originally started a thread over on Kei Kars In The Park, hoping to capitalize on their knowledge of these engines and kei cars in general, but Mazdeuce's R63 AMG thread made me realize that GRM is probably a lot better suited for a project of this caliber, since engine swaps and crazy power seem to be more of an American (and Australian) thing.

I'm getting an early start on this thread. A REALLY early start. It has already been four months since I purchased Kujira, my AZ-1, but I've still got seven months of waiting to go. Kujira was built on the 6th of November 1992, so I have until November of 2017 before I can officially take ownership of the car here in the United States. Here's what I saw that made me purchase a car that I had never experienced in person or digitally.

I should probably start with a list of my goals for the car. A simple cross-product tells me that, assuming no change in weight after modifications, the AZ-1 will need 146 horsepower to share the same power-to-weight as my Focus RS and will make it a fair bit faster in a straight line than my Miata. And since I absolutely hate engine output estimated at the crank, I've somewhat arbitrarily chosen a power goal of 150hp at the wheels, or three times the factory output. As far as how I will use the car, it will probably share DD duties with the Miata, getting me to and from work any time that it's not snowing or too nice to take a convertible, so I expect it to remain somewhat reliable and comfortable enough for a daily commute. Similar to the Miata, this means that weight reduction will be limited to things that aren't visible, so for example AC and the complete interior will be staying. I'd like to get back into autocross, so depending on how things turn out I may be competing with the car, but I have no intention of something more taxing like track days.

So like I said, I have big goals for this car. From what I've read on Cappuccino forums, my goals exceed the practical limits of the stock engine. For that reason and to address concerns about drivetrain age and parts availability, I am hoping to import an HA2xS K6A and FWD transmission from an Alto Works that I can be building while I await the car's arrival. Those powertrains are significantly more plentiful, modern, supported via aftermarket, and are much cheaper. My hope is that the K6A FWD engine and transmission will fit in the narrow engine bay of the Autozam. Given that the displacement and form factor are the same and that both engines were offered concurrently in the Suzuki Alto Works and in the Capuccino without chassis differences, this seems like a reasonable expectation to me. I have some experience in custom engine modifications and standalone engine controllers, so the daunting tasks around achieving high specific output aren't new to me. I will be custom fabricating the intake and exhaust, among other things, so fabricating or adapting the engine mounts will just be one more item on a list of one-off parts. I will already be replacing all of the engine-related electronics with a standalone MegaSquirt MS3X anyway, so adapting that to a different engine won't add any complexity at all.

As far as which K6A to pick, I will probably need some help here. Here's what I have observed based on what is listed for sale on Japan's Yahoo Auctions site. Both the F6A and K6A are ~660cc three cylinder engines, but the K6A is alloy and much lighter than the F6A cast iron block. All K6A engines are DOHC with a timing chain, as opposed to the stock F6A's timing belt and being available in SOHC applications that make parts sourcing very confusing.

Suzuki Alto VIN: HxyzS x = drivetrain; A is FWD and B is AWD y = engine; 1 is F6A, 2 is K6A, and 3 is R06A z = generation beginning with 4th gen; 1 is oldest and 6 is current

Assuming products are correctly classified in their auction listing, HA21S uses a standard cable throttle which points toward the transmission side of the powertrain and has a distributor and single coil similar to the stock setup. HA22S and newer use throttle by wire which points across the top of the engine toward the exhaust side and have coil-on-plug ignition. The only other differences between all of the generations that I have identified are intake Helmholtz tuning and sizing of the accessory pulleys, as well as minor plumbing changes. Suzuki discontinued the Alto Works in 2000 with the introduction of the HA23S, so only HA21 and HA22 engines are turbocharged and under consideration.

The MS3X doesn't have the ability to control electronic throttles and I'm not interested in dropping $2000 for a Haltech that will, so it seems like the HA21S throttle body is what I'm after. The height requirements are pretty different between the AZ-1 and the Alto, and it looks like the HA22S and newer intake manifolds would sit too high to fit under the hood, so again, it looks like HA21S is the way to go on the intake. Both the intake and throttle body can be acquired separately, though, and will bolt to the later engine. I will be using coil-on-plug ignition in this car and having the factory wiring for the factory coils would be really nice. One point to the HA22S. HA22S also appears to have variable intake cam phasing, which could be nice for a minor driveability improvement with such a large turbo, especially if I find a way to get "bigger" cams, so another point to the HA22S.

The K6A and F6A transmissions have identical ratios for final drive, reverse, and 1st through 4th gears, but fortunately 5th gear is numerically lower on the K6A unit. Here's what I have found:

1st: 3.818 2nd: 2.277 3rd: 1.521 4th: 1.030 5th: 0.837 (AZ-1) or 0.783 (Alto Works K6A) R: 3.583

Final drive: 4.705

So that means that the K6A will keep the incredibly short ratios and acceleration of the original F6A unit while offering slightly reduced RPM for more comfortable highway cruising (4100 RPM vs 4400 RPM at 70 mph). Fuel economy might be a little better, but for all intents and purposes I am going to label this gearing difference as insignificant. Given the option, I'd plan to use the K6A transmission. The F6A transmission has a speedo cable instead of a speed sensor and I think all versions of the K6A used an electronic speed sensor. Yes, this would require modification of the gauge cluster to accept an electronic speed signal, but it would allow me to use the stock 140kph speedo and do conversions through the ECU to turn it into a 140mph speedo, which will be more than enough range. It also allows me to easily adjust the speedo to account for different tire sizes. No word on whether or not the AZ-1 halfshafts will fit into the K6A transmission, but there are many companies around me that specialize in custom half shafts and driveshafts, so I will cross that bridge when I get to it.

I spent multiple months picking the correct turbo for the job. The most common two turbos to use are an unnamed GT12 (GT1241?) or the RHB31FW. Both are popular because they are bolt-in upgrades. The latter is a stock turbo with upgraded wheels and the former is an upgraded turbo that uses the stock flanges. Both couldn't get you past 130 crank horsepower even in the best of conditions, so they weren't in the running. Another commonly referenced upgrade is to an unnamed GT15 turbo. It loses the bolt-in status because it has different flanges and it also loses a water cooled CHRA, making it a lot less appealing for a daily driver. As the largest of the GT15 range, the GT1548 seemed like a good fit with respect to supporting up to 200hp, but it isn't very happy with high pressure ratios, and those will definitely be required to make power in an engine this small. And it has been discontinued without a replacement by Garrett and cannot be found, even used, unless you grab one from a diesel application. And that's not what you want. So I kept looking. It turns out that the "up to 20 lb/min" slot is vacant in pretty much everyone's aftermarket turbo portfolio, water cooled or not, so I turned to a turbo that I'm a little bit familiar with: the GT1446. It's the stock turbo on the Fiat 500 Abarth Essesse and Punto Abarth Evo where it makes 160hp and has been pushed up to 230hp in that application. The compressor absolutely loves high pressure ratios and should be right in the middle of its efficiency island when making 150-200hp on the Suzuki engine. The turbine section is unknown and it was hard enough to find a compressor map. I don't think that a turbine map exists for this turbo. And since a turbine is what determines the shape of your torque curve, I won't know what kind of response to expect until I get the turbo on the engine. After seeing a dyno chart of a Cappuccino (F6A) running a GT25, I don't think that I should be concerned about driveability with the GT1446.

The GT1446 comes with a stupid electronically operated compressor mounted diverter valve. I don't have one of those and have no desire to acquire one and then control it, so that's a hurdle. Another hurdle is that Garrett doesn't sell OEM turbos to the general public. Fortunately I managed to find a company that is interested enough in the project that not only would the sell me an OEM turbo but they also said that they'd have a solution for the compressor-mounted diverter valve flange! I'm already going to have to design a new intake system to deal with the new turbo outlet and a water-to-air intercooler, so I'll just put a BOV flange on there somewhere.

Yes, water-to-air intercooler. The stock intercooler is a incredibly small and is wholly ineffective even at the factory power levels. There isn't room for a bigger intercooler in the stock location (driver side rear quarter panel inlet; so Testarossa!) and the extra intake volume from running intake pipe to the front of the car would be really bad for throttle response, so the only options are to run an intercooler on both sides of the car or run water to air. I'm not excited about adding weight to the car since I'd like to reduce the weight, especially at the rear, but this weight is necessary. A heat exchanger up front, water lines to and from the intercooler in the engine bay, a pump, and a reservoir. Cooler charge air means less knock, which means more boost, more spark advance, or both. Either way, it means more power, more reliably.

The GT1446 uses a v-band turbine outlet. The 1.4L Fiat engine is laid out so that the engine is on the right side of the engine bay and the exhaust outlet is forward, just like the K6A and F6A. This means that I might be able to use 500 Abarth downpipes on my AZ-1, and I have found a very nice aftermarket unit with a high flow cat. The whole thing is ceramic coated for heat retention, which will be critical in this cramped engine bay. My other option will be to make my own downpipe with a catalytic converter and wrap it in heat wrap. I have no experience with heat wrap or with ceramic coatings, so I haven't made a decision on that topic yet. For the rest of the exhaust, I probably won't make a decision until I have the car to examine. I will absolutely do quad exhaust a la the picture below, but the presence of mufflers and resonators is still up for debate. The Abarth has just a turbo and catalytic converter for muffling and it is fine. My old Talon had just a turbo and a catalytic converter for muffling and it was tolerable. But those also had 10+ feet of exhaust before the tip, so I'm not sure what to do here.

Brakes.....will need help. I already know that. How so, though, I am not sure. I am hoping that I will be able to bolt on some OEM Miata brakes because they are a dime a dozen and would be a hefty upgrade from what comes on the AZ-1, but like with the halfshafts, I will cross that bridge when I get to it.

The suspension...I have no idea. There are coilovers available all over the Japanese auctions with little to no description or detail accompanying them. I haven't yet tracked down a tuning company that produces them that could provide me with product info. I am hoping that someone might be able to provide suggestions or at least point me in the right direction, because I have heard that the base AZ-1's suspension is pretty soft and I was not fortunate enough to track down a Mazdaspeed version. I went as far as to propose an MX-5 front subframe swap, which would bring with it aluminum double wishbone suspension, a host of aftermarket suspension choices, and certainty that the MX-5 brakes would bolt on, but I have no way of knowing how much work that will be. Even if it bolts on, I'd still have to adjust steering geometry to mitigate bump steer. And since the front end of the AZ-1 is so much lighter, even the OEM MX-5 springs and struts might be too much for the application.

So I have my work cut out for me, I guess. The car arrives in November. The plan is to be well into the engine build by then, and continue the engine build while driving and assessing the stock AZ-1 until I have a chance next year to start the engine swap. So aside from choosing and sourcing a K6A engine and transmission, I also need to buy a TIG welder and start practicing, as my previous attempts at welding have been less than satisfactory. Both of those tasks have not been going terribly well for completely different reasons.

I know that this is ambitious, especially since I am planning all of this without having ever seen one of these cars before, but I'm confident enough in my engine building skills to get this project off the ground. Assuming that I'm held up by something stupid like the engine not physically fitting in the engine bay.

If anyone knows of some Japanese engine importers that would be willing to throw a tiny Suzuki kei engine and transmission into their next shipping container please let me know. I haven't yet been able to find anyone that is willing to help me out with this engine, aside from a company in Texas that is absolutely certain that the RWD transmission attached to their Cappuccino K6A will work just fine for me.

Keith Tanner MegaDork
March 27, 2017 2:31 p.m.

I had the chance to drive a Cappuccino last year. I'd drive the car before committing to a big engine build - the Suzuki had a bunch of character and was pretty fun in stock form.

Love the AZ1. Is that yours in the pics?

Cotton UberDork
March 27, 2017 2:34 p.m.

I really like those little cars, but have never seen one in person, so am not sure I'd fit (6'2" 230lb). What site did you purchase through and how was the experience? Also, please share the details of actually importing once the time comes. Really excited to follow once the build starts!

Dave Reader
March 27, 2017 2:41 p.m.

Not much to add except that I pushed on of those out of snow bank a couple years ago. The owner was obviously pretty dedicated to driving it year around. I'd love one.

Sky_Render SuperDork
March 27, 2017 2:43 p.m.

Wow, you've done a lot of planning!

Since getting parts for those Japanese engines would be difficult (and you KNOW you're going to be breaking things achieving those power levels), perhaps consider a motor that is more easily maintained in the US?

Like the Ford 3-cylinder turbo?

randman2011 New Reader
March 27, 2017 2:59 p.m.
Keith Tanner wrote: I had the chance to drive a Cappuccino last year. I'd drive the car before committing to a big engine build - the Suzuki had a bunch of character and was pretty fun in stock form. Love the AZ1. Is that yours in the pics?

I'm somewhat conflicted on that topic. First of all, very jealous of your Cappuccino experience. That was my first choice, but I couldn't convince myself to sell the Miata and I couldn't justify two roadsters, so gullwing doors it is! I wouldn't be disappointed with either option. I intend to drive the car for several months before making any modifications to it, so that I will have a good idea about what I like about the car and what I intend to change, but the engine build is really more of an excuse to go crazy. The K6A is the direct successor to the F6A and was offered in the later Cappuccinos. It keeps the same astronomical redline and regulations-mandated 64hp, but with the more modern design and variable cam phasing, it produces a lot more low and midrange torque. In stock form, people generally agree that the they are both equally as fun but the K6A is better for actually driving, but not enough to warrant an engine swap on its own. Instead, the upper limit of ~200hp with the F6A is my reason for the swap, as the K6A has been taken past 300hp and I don't want to run my engine right on its limits. With respect to the low power and odd delivery being part of its character, I will have to see. People said that about the Miata and I had the turbo kit picked out after less than a month of ownership. I'm trying to keep an open mind with this car, but this is really just me looking for an excuse to have a project car. If I do agree that this car would be better with the ~110 crank horsepower that everyone is running over in Japan and the UK then I may tone down my engine build ideas, but I still intend to do the engine swap if only for the technical experience. Yes, the pictures that I posted were taken from the ad for my AZ-1. Except the red one, obviously. I just really like that one's exhaust.

Cotton wrote: I really like those little cars, but have never seen one in person, so am not sure I'd fit (6'2" 230lb). What site did you purchase through and how was the experience? Also, please share the details of actually importing once the time comes. Really excited to follow once the build starts!

As soon as I saw a picture of an AZ-1 for the first time, I knew that I wanted one. I've also never seen one in person, but I figured that at 5'11" and 155 lbs, I'd be able to make myself fit pretty easily. I'm sure that I will have a lot of people sit in it just to see if they fit. I will definitely be talking more about the import process. I have opened a YouTube channel (currently empty) that I will populate with details about the purchasing process, import process, and build progress. And whatever other car related stuff I decide to make. I went through JDM-EXPO. They have a location in Albany, NY, but all of my contact has been with their Nagoya office. I would definitely recommend someone consider them, especially if they're in New England, but I do feel as though they could to a better job with providing information. Abror will answer any question that I ask of him, but I have to ask first. After 45 emails back and forth, I'm letting him rest before I bombard him with more questions about shipping and the timeline.

Dave wrote: Not much to add except that I pushed on of those out of snow bank a couple years ago. The owner was obviously pretty dedicated to driving it year around. I'd love one.

I may be crazy, but I'm not that crazy. Even having the car undercoated wouldn't make me feel comfortable about driving this car in the winter. I want it to last more than a few seasons...

Sky_Render wrote: Wow, you've done a lot of planning! Since getting parts for those Japanese engines would be difficult (and you KNOW you're going to be breaking things achieving those power levels), perhaps consider a motor that is more easily maintained in the US? Like the Ford 3-cylinder turbo?

I've had to find a way to keep myself sane ever since wiring my money away last December to someone that I've never met and know nothing about, so I occupied myself with research and planning. Yes, I expect to break lots of things and I've already picked out for example, new pistons, rods, and sleeves. Parts honestly aren't hard to get. It's just that shipping is expensive and the process is kind of slow, but there is a whole host of aftermarket, new, and used OE parts available, especially for the K6A. You have to find a good trusted exporter, though, because most companies don't like dealing with international shipping. By the end of this, maybe I'll have taught myself to read Japanese! I haven't ruled out domestic engines or other engine swaps in general. Although, for reference, the K6A is still sold here in the US in the Arctic Cat T660 Turbo with 110hp in stock form. I want to keep the small displacement and I love the fact that it's three cylinders, so I'd want something along those lines. The K6A fits perfectly, but as much as I love the 1.0L Ecoboost I am not willing to sacrifice the insane redline of the Suzuki units. 9500 on the F6A and somewhere higher than that on the K6A. I've seen the latter run up past 13000 RPM. My Focus Ecoboost complains when I do 6000 RPM. I only haven't looked into motorcycle engine swaps because I don't know that much about what's available. And transmissions would get weird if I couldn't keep the stock one. I do know of someone who is putting a 13B turbo and MR-S 6 speed into one of these, though...

singleslammer PowerDork
March 27, 2017 3:09 p.m.

If you decide the GT1241 is good enough, I have a brand new Garret (not chinese copy) that I need to do something with.

randman2011 New Reader
March 27, 2017 4:08 p.m.
singleslammer wrote: If you decide the GT1241 is good enough, I have a brand new Garret (not chinese copy) that I need to do something with.

I don't know about the Autozam, but if I do manage to convince the boyfriend to trade in his Ranger for a Suzuki Samurai/Jimny then I will definitely be in the market for a GT1241! My current very very tentative plan is to convince him to trade for a Suzuki 4x4 and then drop the F6A from the AZ-1 into that once I do the engine swap. Then some mild upgrades like a GT1241 and he has the perfect work truck! It might not have quite the carrying capacity of a Ranger but with the cloth drop top it will have to be at least as practical as the Integra.

I mean it can't be worse than my Eclipses were or Miatas are...

wearymicrobe UltraDork
March 27, 2017 4:15 p.m.

Love the project idea but man the scope is out of control. Seriously drive the car with 64hp, 100hp is within reach on the stock block. Add in sticky tires, miata brakes which will fit with adapters and a bridgeport and you would have one heck of a car.

Part of the charm of a Kai is the lower power and the rpm.

T.J. UltimaDork
March 27, 2017 4:17 p.m.

Looking forward to updates. November is really not all that far away.

randman2011 New Reader
March 27, 2017 7:33 p.m.
wearymicrobe wrote: Love the project idea but man the scope is out of control. Seriously drive the car with 64hp, 100hp is within reach on the stock block. Add in sticky tires, miata brakes which will fit with adapters and a bridgeport and you would have one heck of a car. Part of the charm of a Kai is the lower power and the rpm.

I agree that the volume of work is pretty extreme, but I wouldn't call it out of control. At least that's not how I see it. I will be driving the car with stock power for probably the better part of a year before anything engine-related goes into it. No matter what happens, I will be using an MS3X to control the engine. I have experience with installing and tuning a MegaSquirt and intend to continue with it. So I can do nothing at all this summer and fall, acquire the car and put it directly into storage, then investigate brakes and tire size compatibility until the Spring when I get it out again to start familiarizing myself with how the car behaves before taking the car off the road, breaking out the wiring harness, and tearing into it late Summer 2018.

OR I can acquire an extra engine (F6A, K6A, 13B, etc.) and spend my downtime this summer familiarizing myself with it and working to control it with the MegaSquirt. While the car is in storage I can work on upgrading this spare engine as necessary and work on fabricating engine and transmission mounts as necessary both to keep me occupied and to minimize downtime while I do the swap. That would then run concurrently with familiarizing myself with the car during the summer and line up with a swap Winter 2018.

The latter option is at the very least a lot more interesting with respect to a build thread and for my spare time in the near future. It also gives me the opportunity to be much more thorough with engine cleanup, rehab, and rebuild. With an engine on a stand for months on end, I'd have lots of time to worry about installing aftermarket internals and valvetrain components. Having a spare engine in the near term makes a lot of sense. And since I'm starting completely from scratch with respect to engine controls, it doesn't really matter what engine I work to control. Swapping engines and transmissions adds mounts, fluid lines, throttle, and shift cables to the To-Do list, but solutions to those can be hashed out pretty well with the new engine still out of the car. Swapping transmissions will require fitting the car for a hydraulic clutch master cylinder to replace the cable clutch that comes on it, and that's currently the biggest unknown right now.

You are right. This is a massive undertaking. The stock block can easily handle 100hp and I can use off-the-shelf parts to get me there quickly and easily. But I'm not trying to achieve power goals the quickest and easiest way possible. I want to do an engine swap, and even if I leave the replacement engine completely stock I'm still coming out ahead, if only slightly. Everything else mentioned above - GT1446, water to air intercooler, custom exhaust, E85 tune, etc. - can happen down the road when it's convenient. I'm not trying to argue that the car needs 150whp or even that it would be better off with it. I just picked a goal whose performance I can relate to so that I had something to work toward. And because I needed a clear goal in order to pick a turbo.

You mentioned brake adapters. Are you saying that I can make some adapters or do you know of some that will fit? I'm not afraid of diving into an engine, but with something as safety critical as brakes I'm not terribly excited to design my own custom solution. Also I'm only familiar with the term 'bridgeport' in the context of porting a Wankel engine. What do you mean?

randman2011 New Reader
March 27, 2017 7:37 p.m.
T.J. wrote: Looking forward to updates. November is really not all that far away.

Thanks for the interest! It's kind of hard to believe that it has already been four months. I'm used to waiting, though. I waited 11 panicked, high-stress months for my Focus and had to watch the dealership try desperately to screw me out of as much money as they could, then as Ford told me that they were cancelling my order and to get lost, then as a different dealership to told me that they couldn't help me because Ford told them to get lost, then for my car to come in anyway but it was sent to the wrong dealership where they sold it before finding out that it already belonged to someone and for Ford to tell me to get lost again.

This 11 month wait should be a lot less stressful. Especially with something to occupy me in the meantime.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ SuperDork
March 28, 2017 5:44 a.m.

I very badly want an AZ-1, and a Beat, and a City Turbo, and a Motocompo, and a Cosmo, and a Soarer, and a Pulsar GTi-R, and and and- I probably need to rent a whole container stacked floor to ceiling with crazy vehicles if I ever import anything. Definitely very interested in how this goes for you, especially the import and registration process.

JamesMcD SuperDork
March 28, 2017 6:45 a.m.

My friend ryan has a blue one as well, also in storage waiting to be shipped over.

randman2011 New Reader
March 30, 2017 12:36 p.m.
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ wrote: I very badly want an AZ-1, and a Beat, and a City Turbo, and a Motocompo, and a Cosmo, and a Soarer, and a Pulsar GTi-R, and and and- I probably need to rent a whole container stacked floor to ceiling with crazy vehicles if I ever import anything. Definitely very interested in how this goes for you, especially the import and registration process.

Haha! Rest assured that you are not the only one with that problem. I'm glad that I decided on an AZ-1 years ago, because once I had mine ordered I started looking into other possibilities and decided that an Alto Works RS/R or Pulsar GTI-R were actually the cars that I wanted. Really anything small, turbocharged, and not FWD. Fortunately my college room mate decided that the Pulsar is the car for him so I can experience his and stop worrying about "what if."

To be honest, I'm hoping that I won't have too much to report with respect to the import process. I was told that I could either pick up my car from their dealership in Albany, pick it up at the (yet unspecified) port of entry, or pay whatever it costs to have it shipped to my door. That makes me think that there will be nothing on my end related to the import process. I haven't spoken directly with them about registration, but I believe they provide a New York temporary tag. Registration here in Indiana is about as simple as it gets. Show up with a title and leave with a receipt for plates. They don't even want to see the car in person. And the last time I was in there they asked me how to spell Mazda. Hell, my title for my Talon had the make as Egal. I'll just call the AZ-1 a Mazda and be done with it. I'll definitely be documenting all of that once I get there, though. I know that there are a lot of people who are still on the fence about importing a car.

I already sorted out insurance. I called up Geico and asked about coverage for the Autozam. I gave them a VIN and they gave me a quote. $200/6 months using the car as a DD is pretty good considering that, by default, they give quotes for full coverage. And then less than a month later is my 25th birthday and I will stop bring up our insurance premiums. My boyfriend was pretty pissed when I jumped on his plan...

JamesMcD wrote: My friend ryan has a blue one as well, also in storage waiting to be shipped over.

That's awesome! Does he have any plans for the car? Do you know when his will be arriving? I know of a few and, oddly, all of them are coming in November. It doesn't seem as though too many people jumped on the 1992 model year...

edizzle89 Dork
March 30, 2017 2:16 p.m.
randman2011 wrote: Registration here in Indiana is about as simple as it gets. Show up with a title and leave with a receipt for plates. They don't even want to see the car in person.

That has been my experience with registering a car that was previously titled in Indiana, but every time i have brought in an out of state title for a car they always go out to the car to verify the VIN but that's really the only extra step. Obviously that shouldn't be a problem for you as long as the VIN on the dash matches the VIN on the title, but its probably good for you to know so that you make sure to have the car there with you

randman2011 New Reader
March 30, 2017 4:02 p.m.

I tried to be productive today. I did a quick search of JDM engine importers and pulled the first 7 pages of results into a spreadsheet with URL and phone number. I have a few that I can cross off the list today but the bulk of my calling will probably be tomorrow and next week. At this point there are 33 businesses left, and I already know that several of those will be the same company under a different name. Hopefully one of them will import an engine for me...

If anyone is wondering why it's so important that I go through an importer, I have been working with a few companies in Japan whose entire business model is buying things in Japan for international customers and exporting them. I bought things like a spare chassis wiring harness and an additional set of headlights for a projector retrofit. I have asked all of them about shipping engines and the response is always the same. Anything over 30 KG must be shipped air freight. The good news is that it's generally overnight shipping. Bad news is that something this heavy comes out to $3500 to $4500 depending on how it's packaged. And the intermediaries all ignore package contents except for customs declarations, so if it gets stopped by the shipping company or customs because it has fluids in it, their only course of action is to try to return it to the original seller, who usually doesn't accept returns. So best case scenario I get my money back but most likely scenario is that I lose everything and they scrap the engine or try to resell it. And since Japan requires lots of additional red tape that is specific toward exporting automotive engines, unless it's the customs officer's first day the package will get stopped.

There are many Japan-based engine exporters, but I have yet to find any that aren't wholesalers whose minimum shipping quantity is one 40' shipping container. I don't know how much that costs, but I'd imagine that it's more than $3500. The car exporter that I'm going through does not provide shipping services for anything that isn't a car, so that was a dead end as well.

So I'm going through North America-based engine importers both to save money on shipping and to have higher than a 0% chance of it actually getting to me and not being intercepted. And that process is going poorly.

edizzle89 wrote: That has been my experience with registering a car that was previously titled in Indiana, but every time i have brought in an out of state title for a car they always go out to the car to verify the VIN but that's really the only extra step. Obviously that shouldn't be a problem for you as long as the VIN on the dash matches the VIN on the title, but its probably good for you to know so that you make sure to have the car there with you

Yeah, I guess they went out to the car when I titled the Focus. They sent someone out to check it out while I did the paperwork inside so I didn't really think much of it. I had forgotten that all of the rest of my cars either already had an Indiana title or never got registered in Indiana before they died or were sold. I'd definitely have the car there with me, but I'm more concerned about them not understanding the VIN due to the aforementioned displays of incompetence. But you have reminded me that I need to make sure that the car comes with a translated version of the original title. Unfortunately I asked all of those questions of them over the phone so I don't have written record of their answers and I'm definitely not going to remember a conversation that took place back in November.

wearymicrobe UltraDork
March 30, 2017 8:38 p.m.

Air freight is not true. They may ask you to pay it but getting standard shipment out on boat is no issue if they have multiple parts loads going out. I do it all the time, I buy 1/4 a container and ship in that for work.

randman2011 New Reader
March 31, 2017 8:01 a.m.
wearymicrobe wrote: Air freight is not true. They may ask you to pay it but getting standard shipment out on boat is no issue if they have multiple parts loads going out. I do it all the time, I buy 1/4 a container and ship in that for work.

Who do you use? I've asked all of the companies that I patronize explicitly about freight by boat and all of them have said that they only do freight via air. I'm paying for shipping anyway. I'm not sure why they would outright refuse the cheaper option. It doesn't answer the unspecified paperwork question, but that would get me closer to being able to handle this on my own.

randman2011 New Reader
April 3, 2017 12:33 p.m.

A few small updates today. I got another package of parts from Japan on Friday. They really are overnighting my parts from Japan. These boxes aren't small because of how thoroughly they're packing my items, and even still, overnight air freight from Japan is only $40. I'm pretty impressed by that price for lighter packages like these. Unfortunately I already know how poorly that economy scales. Anyway, on to what I've ordered.

This might not be exciting to anyone else, but it is a big deal to me. This plate mounts under the rear bumper and is honestly one of my favorite styling aspects of the car. It looks kind of weird with the factory single exit exhaust, but in my opinion it's required for dual and quad exit configurations. I get an architecture boner for Art Deco, so I have had a longstanding fascination with this font. My car doesn't have one of these plates and I don't know why. I think that they were standard on all base models and the Mazdaspeed and M2 versions didn't have them, and mine was just removed for some reason. Or mine's secretly a Speed version. Wouldn't that be nice? This panel is due for some cleaning and possibly a coat of paint. Black or dark grey only.

I got a spare gauge cluster for a few reasons. The first is that I need to pick out a new radio because the one coming in my car is aftermarket. That model is known to be unreliable with respect to CD playback. The radio is "Euro" tuning so it can't get US stations, and it's too old to have Bluetooth or even aux in, so I need a new radio and the one that I get needs to match the factory lighting, which is orange (who knew?). Additionally, I'm probably going to replace the bulbs with LEDs, so this will give me plenty of time to sort out any hotspot issues going from a filament source to a diode source. And finally, the most important reason: the speedo. The AZ-1, like contemporary Mazdas, uses an archaic speedo cable and converts rotational speed into an indication inside the cluster itself. While not terribly unreliable, they do get loud with age and can rust, seize, or shear. They also cannot be adjusted. My goal is to replace the stock mechanical movement with an electronic one from another car that will be controlled by the Megasquirt. I can either use the F6A transmission and install an electronic VSS unit to send the signal to the ECU, or I can use the VSS that comes in the K6A transmission to control the gauge, but the most important part is that the Megasquirt can scale the signal. I can change the signal so that the gauge reads up to 140 mph instead of 140 km/h and I can also adjust for different tire sizes if I need to. I should convert the existing odometer readout from its kilometer value to miles while I'm in there, but step 1 is to locate an electronic movement that will fit the existing openings in the gauge face. I haven't taken measurements, but it looks like the mechanical movement in this cluster is identical to the one in the NA Miata (except for the spacing of the trip counter) so I will take a look into what those guys are using for this job.

Friday was a surprisingly productive day for me. I finished up my engine importer spreadsheet and started making calls at 4 EST. I only got through 17 businesses before 5 PM and they started to close, but that might be enough. Of those 17 businesses, seven said that they don't deal with Suzuki, six said that they only get whatever shows up in their shipping containers and can't take requests, one doesn't do engines (oops), one said that he would check with his suppliers and call me back before this Friday, one said that I should send him an email so that he can forward it on, and the last one said that they could absolutely get a K6A turbo engine and transmission but that it might take a while to hunt one down so I should email him details so that they can be sure to get the right one. I sent out the emails after close of business Friday so I'm hoping to get some sort of acknowledgement soon. if I get the opportunity to leave work early again this week I will continue making calls. I have five leads at this point, but I learned some slightly discouraging news today.

The HA22S was only made for two model years before the Alto Works trim was discontinued entirely and the Alto was marketed exclusively as an economy car, so the number of available powertrains will be small. On top of that, the FWD autotragic Alto Works RS/Z did not receive VVT like the rest of the configurations did, so if I get the engine and transmission separately I need to be sure that the engine came from either an AWD car or a manual car. Most that I see are listed as automatic and some are even listed as CVT. Of the five HA22S engines that I see for sale right now, only one of them has VVT. Fortunately, I think all FWD RS/Zs came with a mechanical LSD. I can't locate my original source on that, though.

ssswitch Dork
April 3, 2017 1:58 p.m.

There are adapter kits I think to bring a Japanese FM radio back into the band of what American radios use, but you're probably better off replacing the entire stereo.

This is pretty exciting - I don't know anyone with an AZ-1 yet, even though I live in a place that gets a lot of JDM imports.

fidelity101 SuperDork
April 3, 2017 2:18 p.m.

April 3, 2017 2:40 p.m.

This is seriously awesome. The AZ-1 is one of those goofy cars that I've always said I'd like to own but never took that step.

It sounds like you've done enough research and problem solving already to get what you want. I'm very interested to see where this goes.

randman2011 New Reader
April 5, 2017 11:49 a.m.
ssswitch wrote: There are adapter kits I think to bring a Japanese FM radio back into the band of what American radios use, but you're probably better off replacing the entire stereo. This is pretty exciting - I don't know anyone with an AZ-1 yet, even though I live in a place that gets a lot of JDM imports.

With how old the radio is, I don't really have any interest in keeping it. It doesn't have any external inputs, so it's not of use to me. It's also in Japanese.

AZ-1s don't become legal for import into the US until August 1st of this year, so you likely won't see any for a few more months. Any that are here in the country (see Bring-a-Trailer) are here illegally and risk government seizure. But with the recent surge in interest (I assume because that legal import date is fast approaching), I imagine that you will see a few before the end of the year. After all, about 50% of production was completed before the end of 1992, so there are some 2000 (or however many are left) AZ-1s that will be eligible by the end of the year.

@fidelity101, that's pretty much exactly how this went. Those that make changes do slight upgrades and not much else. I know that everything can be taken up to 11, so I made that my goal. There's no real downside to targeting a high power goal and deciding later that the car is more fun at a lower level other than having the boost threshold higher than it needs to be. And if that's the case, an OEM version of the GT1238S uses the exact same flanges and connections that the GT1446 does, so it's as simple as downgrading turbos and retuning for more midrange torque. Or, I can always go the other way and upgrade to the GT1752S if I find that the chassis can handle everything that the GT1446 can throw at it. I doubt it, but that's the beauty of this plan.

@The0retical, the research never ends. I spent all of Monday looking into electronic speedo movements and I think that I've found one that will work. It's from the same manufacturer as the AZ-1 (and Miata and FC RX-7) speedos and it LOOKS like it will line up perfectly except for the trip counter reset rod. I'll have to figure that out when it arrives on Monday. I guess that will be the first physical bit of progress for this thread, hopefully followed shortly by some new headlights. These look to be a lot easier than the ones that I made for my Miata, even considering the fact that I have to make these from scratch!

randman2011 New Reader
April 10, 2017 9:51 p.m.

Look what arrived this afternoon! I bought the gauge cluster out of a 1994 base model automatic Integra. The layout seemed identical to that in the Autozam, and I was mostly right. I didn't get a before picture, but I had to cut off the spacers that placed the gauge face above the original movement, because in the stock system they are 3/8" apart but the Integra movement was designed to sit flush. Once I got the movement to attach to the face, I moved on to attach the movement to the housing. There were some plastic protrusions that needed to go, so out came the Dremel. Not pictured: the reset rod thing is on the wrong side of the movement and intersects with the housing, so it had to be removed. That's a big problem that I'm going to have to solve later. The Integra movement attached at the rear by four bolts that are pretty close to the hole left by the original mechanical movement. Easy solution: remove the plastic circuits on the back of the housing and drill some holes. It turns out that my measuring was not the best, but I got there eventually. The top left screw is the signal input. Bottom left is +12v, and bottom right is ground. Top right is not connected. Conveniently the trace on the back plastic over the GND screw is GND. I could just cut a hole through the plastic and then clear the coating off so that the bolt can make contact with the trace underneath. The +12v screw doesn't have any trace over it, so I don't have to do anything special for that one. The NC and signal bolts would cut off the GND and fuel signal traces respectively, so I had to place those bolts underneath the circuit board. ...And it looks like it was meant to be there! Finally, some results pictures! Ignore the speedo needle not sitting properly. The hole in the needle is a little larger than the Integra's rod, so it doesn't stay yet. The trip meter is just as illegible as the original one was, but the window for the odometer seems to be a little bit too narrow. It's not actually that difficult to see with the backlight on, which is the same for the trip meter, so maybe it won't be so bad in the car. I've elected to wait and see on that one. Yes, the illumination is incredibly splotchy, but it was like that before. I don't know why that is, but it will need to be solved before this cluster is ready to go into a car. Actually, this picture looks a lot better than it did on my phone and WAY better than it does in person.

Loose ends: 1) Trip counter reset rod needs to be relocated to the other side of the movement. This shouldn't be too difficult, but I have no experience with plastic fabrication. 2) The screws that hold the gauge face to the movement are now too long. I really need some that are meant for plastic and about half the length of the original ones. 3) Splotchy lighting. 'Nuff said. Replace bulbs with LEDs? 4) GND is hooked up, but +12v and signal are just 12" lengths of wire right now. I need to find a source of +12v on the gauge cluster. Otherwise I'm going to have to add another connector and wiring harness to provide that, and I'd much rather not. 5) Clean. This gauge cluster is filthy.

I have some slight updates on K6A importing and identifying the in-dash radio connector, but those will have to wait until tomorrow. My boyfriend says that it's past my bedtime.

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