Rodan New Reader
Nov. 25, 2016 7:14 p.m.

I've always been a gearhead, but I was never a Miata guy. When the Miata debuted I was busy drag racing 5.0 Mustangs. A Miata was about the same MSRP as a Mustang GT (not to mention the premiums they were bringing), and had 100hp... you're kidding right? I had Autocrossed a mildly modified 280Z in the mid 80's, but in the 90's it was all about the quarter mile.

Eventually, I moved into drag racing bikes, and then into road racing bikes. I had always had street bikes, and my wife had often ridden with me, though after a couple of neck surgeries, wearing a helmet in the windstream was getting uncomfortable for her. And that brings us into 2011. At the time, my 'two-up' bike was a '97 Honda ST1100, a truly wonderful bike that was exceptional at its intended purpose.

One day, I noticed a Miata sitting at a small dealership in town. The shop is owned by an acquaintance, and I knew that he also dealt in bikes. I didn't really need the ST1100, as by that time my wife wasn't riding anymore, and I had a Hayabusa for solo riding. So I dropped by and asked to take the Miata for a test drive. I was thinking that it might be a fun replacement for the bike, and give us back a fun vehicle for 'Sunday rides'.

The car in question was a 1992 (NA, I would soon learn), had ~155k miles and was riding on three different brand tires. Even on those tires, and with what felt like the original shocks, I was amazed at how it handled down our local mountain road! I was hooked immediately... The car had a new top, and what looked like a MAACO quality single stage repaint, as well as a fresh, dinner plate sized dent in the passenger door. But it had no rust and seemed mechanically solid, and was 100% stock. I went back to the dealer, and haggled a straight up trade for my ST1100... and I became a Miata owner!

I took it home, and with a little elbow grease, it cleaned up pretty well, minus the door dent... So I just took pics from the driver's side...

Now, my wife had no idea what I was up to, and when I showed up at home with the Miata, she thought I was nuts. So I sent her off for a drive... and she came back with a great big smile on her face. In 2014, she got her own Miata... but we'll get to that eventually.

For now, we'll start with 'his'... our NA.

Rodan New Reader
Nov. 25, 2016 7:32 p.m.

So, first things first...

The tires were crap... three different brands, all three hard as enamel and dry rot to boot. At this point in time, I didn't know a whole lot about Miatae, or even what my end goal with the car would be. I had some vague notion of a Monster style 5.0 swap, since it was a drivetrain I was intimately familiar with from my drag racing days, but really had no idea where I was going with the car. I picked up some cheap 15x7s that I thought looked good, with 195/50 S.Drives...

They were heavy as hell, but like I said, I didn't know any better at the time, and at least the tires were round, and new!

Next was to start baselining the maintenance, and make sure the car wasn't going to strand us, and would go, stop and turn as required. I changed all the fluids, and went through the whole brake system... new master, rotors, pads and stainless braided lines. I was ecstatic that the entire brake job cost less than $400 in parts! I couldn't believe how cheap parts were. I was also happy with how simple, and easy to work on the Miata is...

Next item on the list was that dent in the passenger door. I scored a straight door out of the local junkyard, complete with glass and power window for $60. It was green, though, so I had take it down to bare metal, and set up the garage paint booth...

Paint shop did a great job with the color match!

Rodan New Reader
Nov. 25, 2016 7:44 p.m.

Over the next few months, I continued with baselining the maintenance and replacing wear items since I didn't know the history. All new belts, hoses, radiator, etc... I learned about the 'cursed water plug', and did the timing belt and water pump. Meanwhile, we were thoroughly enjoying driving the car, and it even made a few P-car friends...

And the upgrades continued... during that first year it got a Hard Dog roll bar, Sparco wheel, some cheap eBay bucket seats (which didn't stay very long...), and a set of VMaxx coilovers from Flyin Miata.

It even got a pair of fender stripes, just to break up all that red...

Rodan New Reader
Nov. 25, 2016 9:42 p.m.

So, a year in, Summer 2012 and we took the NA on it's first road trip. A week in the Colorado Rockies, culminating with Flyin Miata Summer Camp.

Packing for a week for two is tough in a Miata...

Fortunately, a lot of touring by motorcycle helped me out here. I did have to restrict my wife's shoe selection for the trip...

We saw some great scenery, and out of 2500 miles on the trip, the top was only up for around 200 miles of rain.

We ended up in Grand Junction for Summer Camp. We didn't hit the track that trip, but still had a great time hanging out with some great Miata folks.

Rodan New Reader
Nov. 25, 2016 9:45 p.m.

In 2013, things got seriously sidetracked...

Jambo New Reader
Nov. 25, 2016 10:02 p.m.

But in a good way, it would seem.

Rodan New Reader
Nov. 26, 2016 8:53 a.m.
Jambo wrote: But in a good way, it would seem.

Well, that's what we were hoping... unfortunately it didn't turn out that way. But we'll get to that in a bit...

In the spring of '13, my wife was driving a Kia Soul that we had owned for a few years. Great little appliance, but pretty boring. It was time for something new. After taking the NA on our Colorado trip, we decided it was time for a GT of some sort. I had been watching 'Vette prices for a while, and used C6s were within our budget, and seemed to be a great performance bargain. So, we took the plunge...

'05 C6, Z51, 6 speed manual. LeMans blue over grey leather... gorgeous car. I added the ZO6 style wheels above, and the PO had added a cat back exhaust that sounded great. We were in heaven. It was fast, comfortable, and got incredible mileage for what it was.

At this point, the NA was pretty well developed, but still had a stock powertrain. I had added a Torsen diff out of a later NA, upgraded to 15x8 wheels, and better seats w/ harnesses. All of the maintenance was up to date, and it was a solid runner.

It had also done several AutoXs, and it's first trackday.

But, it was getting left at home more often, and the 'Vette was going out more for drives with my P-car buddies. Except with the 'Vette, not only could they not catch me in the corners, they couldn't catch me up hills or on straights...

And one other problem persisted... we still needed a snow car for my wife. We live in the AZ mountains, and we get just enough snow to need something other than RWD for her to get to work on snow days. I have a company car, but after getting rid of the Kia Soul, everything we had was RWD... NA Miata, 'Vette, and an E150 van that I used to haul my RC planes and helis, or my 'Busa if need be. None of those was going to cut it for her to drive in snow.

Rodan New Reader
Nov. 27, 2016 2:17 p.m.

So... I left of in Spring of '13. We'd bought a C6 'Vette and needed a snow vehicle. I had been driving the NA less, and reluctantly made the decision to sell it to fund a 4x4. This would also allow me to focus HPDE energies on the 'Vette.

After a couple months of looking for something suitable, I ended up trading the NA straight across for a '92 Ford Bronco. 351 V8, auto trans, overall in pretty nice shape. I sadly said goodbye to the NA, and drove the Bronco home.

It wasn't too much longer 'till we started having issues with the 'Vette...

First was a ticking noise that I initially thought was a noisy lifter. After a couple days, it threw a CEL, and a scan told me it was the cam position sensor. Of course, I had to buy a new scan tool, as the one I had wouldn't scan the 'Vette. I figured I better invest in a shop manual, so I started shopping for one, and about had a heart attack... $200+ for a shop manual! Used! Holy E36 M3!

So, I found a manual set on eBay, and once that arrived I pulled the cam position sensor...

Well, that ain't right... After doing some online research I concluded the cam gear bolts had come loose and allowed the cam gear to wallow around and strike the CPS. No big deal... pull the front cover and snug the bolts down, right? Not in a 'Vette... the steering rack has to come off to get the balancer off...

After ~$200 in special tools, $300+ in parts and supplies (I replaced the balancer, a known failure item, with aftermarket while I was in there), and 30 days out of service I had the 'Vette back on the road. What a total PITA.... I can't believe some of the engineering decisions they made with the C6 that created all kinds of unnecessary extra work. Still not bad... at dealer shop rates it would have cost me ~ $2k.

That was just the first of many problems... electrical gremlins, 'memory seats' with alzheimer's, cheap plastic interior parts, noisy torque tube bearings, etc...

I even ended up replacing a water pump in my parent's driveway on Christmas Eve 400 miles from home. I was very lucky to talk the dealer down from retail, as it was the only water pump in town, and I was going to get stuck for 4-5 days because of the holiday weekend if I didn't buy it... still cost me nearly $300 for a water pump. I even had to buy a $12 socket set at Harbor Freight, as I didn't have any tools with me. Fortunately, it was not a difficult job. Interestingly, the bad pump I took off was not the original, so the car was now on it's third water pump... at 55k miles.

I was starting to get frustrated with the 'Vette, but it was great when it worked, so I stuck with it...

Rodan New Reader
Nov. 27, 2016 2:35 p.m.

So, January of 2014... my poor NA was still languishing on the lot at the dealer I traded it to for the Bronco. Every time I drove by, I could hear it crying...

After seven months of watching it suffer, I couldn't stand it any more... I bought it back!

Funny thing is, they never even took it out of my name. I bought it from a different sales guy than I dealt with when buying the Bronco, so they had no idea it had been mine until they pulled out the title... I didn't even have to transfer title, and the plates were still good! I had negotiated a pretty good price, too...

I think the 'Vette was jealous, because the weird electrical gremlins seemed to be worsening, but the final straw came in February '14. We had driven to Phoenix for a Valentine's day dinner, and pulling out of the restaurant the temp gauge in the 'Vette headed for the moon. I was able to determine the fan was not kicking on, and the temp stayed down when moving, so I got on the highway and headed for home. Internet research and diagnoses indicated the fan control module was bad, so I got a new one ordered up... didn't fix it. Dug into things further and found one of the connections was heat damaged. Pulled the whole mess, and while removing it, one of the wires pulled out of the protective sheathing... From the looks of it, it had been cut with a side cutter, not all the way through, but enough that it would separate with time. The position of the cut was 6" inside factory installed protective sheathing, so it had to have been cut sometime during the production process... unbelievable! I fixed the harness, and the fan was now working as intended.

The next time the 'Vette left the garage was to drive to a dealer to trade the POS in. In 8k miles over 9 months, I spent over $2k for parts and special tools to keep it running, not to mention the numerous electrical gremlins that I had not been able to address. It was literally, the worst car I've ever owned. And it was a PITA to work on. My wife was refusing to drive it... so it was going away. ASAP.

Rodan New Reader
Nov. 27, 2016 3:12 p.m.

Less than a year after buying the C6 we were car shopping again.... Sticking with the 2dr sports/GT theme, we had narrowed down to several choices for test drives. I'll spare you the details, and just say that the Answer is always Miata...

We ended up bringing home a '13 Club with 6k miles. Took it in the shorts trading the 'Vette after only a year, but I was never so happy to get rid of a car. And now we had His and Hers Miatae!

Rodan New Reader
Nov. 29, 2016 10:47 a.m.

I'm going to back up a little bit and cover a couple of upgrades on the NA that happened previously...

First was the Torsen swap from a later NA... stronger and LSD. Swap is a bolt-in, you just need driveshaft and axles from the later car.

It also got poly diff bushings while I was in there.

Next up was the hubs. I didn't know the history of the current hubs, and with 160k+ on the car, I knew before going on track it would be a good idea to update them. I bought front and rear hubs through the local NAPA, with the intent of repacking the bearings and adding ARP wheel studs. I quickly found out there were variances in the spline/hole dimensions across different hub manufacturers, and had to drill out the rear hubs. The holes in the front were too big, and after a bunch of dithering around, I just ordered prepped OEM hubs with ARP studs installed from a vendor at a ridiculous price.

I ended up taking the rear uprights off the car and to a shop to get the old hubs pressed off and new ones on... my little bench top HF press wasn't going to cut it. I had enough issues with the studs!

It was about this time the Konig Flatouts in 15x8 went on with Dunlop ZIIs...

I like these wheels a lot, and bought a second set which were shod with NT-01s for the track. Unfortunately, they were discontinued soon after and are now unobtainable. I sold the set with the NT-01s when I traded the NA, but still have the other set which I use for my 'street' tires, still the ZIIs for now.

Rodan New Reader
Nov. 29, 2016 10:52 a.m.

Now, this isn't a show car, and I'm not overly anal about appearances, but I do like attention to detail.

The Konig Flatouts came with some ridiculous chrome centercaps, which drove me crazy. I painted them black and had some custom emblems made up with a traditional Miata logo.

Now, that I can live with...

NickD Dork
Nov. 29, 2016 10:53 a.m.

Sorry to hear about your bad Corvette experience. But cheapness of parts and consumables and the lack of stuff to go wrong on a Miata is a big reason why I've held onto mine and been reluctant to move on to a different car.

Rodan New Reader
Nov. 29, 2016 11:02 a.m.

Speaking of appearances, I really liked the look of the NC Club stock. But the wheels were 17x7, which wasn't doing it for me, and I didn't really like the stock Bridgestones much. The NC had already received a set of Progress springs and sway bars, which immensely improved the handling. So, next it got a set of PF01SS with S.Drives. Remember, this is SWMBO's DD, so civility is important, as is the ability to deal with some weather.

I went with 17x8, as I didn't see going bigger as being a benefit at stock power levels on the street. The car was very well balanced with this setup, and we were coming up to summer and a planned road trip to Utah, culminating in Colorado for Flyin' Miata Summer Camp 2014...

Rodan New Reader
Nov. 29, 2016 11:20 a.m.
NickD wrote: Sorry to hear about your bad Corvette experience. But cheapness of parts and consumables and the lack of stuff to go wrong on a Miata is a big reason why I've held onto mine and been reluctant to move on to a different car.

I'm mostly convinced we just ended up with a 1st year lemon. But what did concern me was the cheapness of many of the components, and some of the questionable engineering choices. Needing to remove the steering rack to remove the balancer I understand... that's about packaging. Having all hardline on the AC lines to the condenser, not so much... the way it was put together, you couldn't remove the radiator without disconnecting AC lines and having to discharge/recharge the system. 6" of flexible line on one side would have allowed enough movement to enable removing the radiator, making a lot of other jobs a lot easier. I've worked on a LOT of cars over the years... none came close to the PITA quotient of the 'Vette...

The cost of consumables is huge... a set of track wheels and tires for the NA are cheaper than just tires for the 'Vette...

Rodan New Reader
Dec. 2, 2016 11:42 a.m.

Summer of 2014, and we were off to Utah in the NC...

We stopped at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, and drove through Zion, Bryce and Capitol Reef National Parks.

Our ultimate destination was Grand Junction, CO and FM Summer Camp, and this time we were going to participate in the trackdays. This was going to be my wife's first ever on-track experience, and I decided not to drive so I could concentrate on supporting her. She had a great time, and though she wasn't all that fast, she took ten seconds off her lap times over the course of the day... not bad for a first timer!

I did get out on track for a ride with Keith... gotta love the Targa Miata!

Summer Camp is a great time if you're into Miatas, and there's plenty to do other than just track time... Highly recommended!

Stefan MegaDork
Dec. 2, 2016 1:15 p.m.

Awesome. So when's the Exocet happening?

Rodan New Reader
Dec. 2, 2016 2:20 p.m.
Stefan wrote: Awesome. So when's the Exocet happening?

I would love to do an Exocet, and have some ideas that include one of the lift kits FM is selling...

I have to finish some of my current projects first!

Rodan New Reader
Dec. 2, 2016 3:00 p.m.

So now that my wife had tried HPDE, she was hooked!

And with an NA and NC to work with, I had some decisions to make. I didn't want to compromise the streetability of the NC, and as a PRHT, there were serious issues with installing good safety equipment. So I determined the NA would become the track car, with full safety gear, and the NC would stay a street car, with some mild upgrades for occasional HPDE use.

So the next thing that happened with the NA was kind of unplanned, but will eventually be beneficial. Singular Motorsports had just developed a hood vent kit, and I picked up one of the first as part of a group buy on another forum. It's a great kit, consisting of 3 louvered vents that ship flat, a vinyl template, Gurney flaps, and some trim strips. What really impressed me was that they had gone to the effort of doing airflow and pressure testing to optimize the design.

Louvers after bending

I had them powdercoated black

Vinyl template in place

The hardest part is taking the cutting wheel to a nice hood...

Installation does require removing a fair amount of underhood structure, but once installed, they work great and look great. Overkill for the stock 1.6, but not for what I have planned...

Rodan New Reader
Dec. 2, 2016 3:47 p.m.

Not a whole heck of a lot got done to the NA that spring, and the motor was getting pretty tired at 174k. I knew nothing was going to happen with it that spring, so I decided it was just going to be the NC for Summer Camp again and my focus shifted back to the NC.

The NC got Koni shocks to replace the stock Bilsteins, which were pretty sacked out after trying to keep up with higher rates of the Progress springs. It got a new muffler from Goodwin Racing, and it also got a set of Kumho V720s, their brand new entry into the 200TW market, in 215/45-17 on the 17x8 Enkeis.

Otherwise, the NC was still pretty stock, and we were off to CO again...

This time we both hit the track!

The Kumhos were a huge improvement over the S.Drives for the track, but as the day heated up, by the end of a session, they were starting to lose grip. The alignment on the car wasn't aggressive enough, but I still think the Kumhos are better suited to AutoX. And after 1000 highway miles on them, they were LOUD...

My wife managed to drop another 9 seconds out of her lap times, and I was happy with my first time on that track. Another Summer Camp, in the books!

Rodan Reader
Dec. 2, 2016 3:58 p.m.

Upon returning home, the Kumhos came off, and the S.Drives went back on the Enkeis. The Kumhos went on CL for disposal. The NA got a little surprise, a souvenir from Summer Camp...

Agent98 New Reader
Dec. 3, 2016 2:15 p.m.

Great story Rodan, very useful details, and you probably saved me $15K. I had wanted a C6 Vette ever since my brother ordered a new one, but with all these problems....and from what I have read you are not the only one to suffer. Wonder if there is a C5 year that is reasonably trustworthy. One thing for sure, the only GTO I want now is a 2004. LS1!

So weird when I consider - I've had my 1998 Formula LS1 for ten years, longer than any of the 30+ cars/rides/rolling tetanus shots I've ever owned. Never had a single reliability problem with the Bird, not one, bought it off ebay in TX at 64,000 miles, now have 96,000. Window motors, tie rod ends, frozen brake caliper pins, various bulbs, interior parts disintegrated...but nothing that ever stopped the car. Maybe a newer gen IS NOT better with GM.

(How is the fit of the newer Miata? I'm 6-03 and can't fit in the 1st gen buck nekkid with 10 lbs of axle grease smeared everywhere.)

Thanks for sharing the tale.

Rodan Reader
Dec. 3, 2016 4:41 p.m.
Agent98 wrote: (How is the fit of the newer Miata? I'm 6-03 and can't fit in the 1st gen buck nekkid with 10 lbs of axle grease smeared everywhere.) Thanks for sharing the tale.

There are lots of bigger guys driving and racing Miatas, but some 'alterations' can be required. A lower seat height can be acheived through the removal of some of the seat foam in the stock seat; known as a 'foamectomy', or you can switch to an aftermarket seat. A smaller diameter aftermarket steering wheel will provide some legroom, and a quick release will make it easier to get in/out. In an NA, removing the armrests frees up a surprising amount of room.

The NC, honestly doesn't feel that much roomier, but it does have more legroom than the NA. Best thing to do is go find one to test drive...

Rodan Reader
Dec. 7, 2016 10:20 p.m.

Shortly after Summer Camp a hardtop fell in my lap. I'd been looking, but as most Miata folks are aware, NA/NB hardtops are getting harder to find in nice condition, and they're getting spendy. I mostly wanted it for track use, so I was seriously considering a lightweight race top, but with shipping I'd be paying the same as a nice street top, without all the streetability. Then, a top showed up on a local FB Miata group at a good price...

It was a Snugtop, not a factory top, the latches were junk, the seals rock hard and/or falling off, and it was suffering some serious Arizona sunburn, but the price was right.

I ordered up some Garage Star brackets, pulled out the leftover paint from the door repair, and started researching new seals. It was going to take a good bit of work, but I figured I could DiY it back to decent condition, and still be under the cost of a decent factory top.

Rodan Reader
Dec. 7, 2016 10:35 p.m.

Out of curiosity, I got a couple of estimates to have the top professionally painted...

With that silliness out of the way, I got down to business. I didn't have enough leftover paint to spray the top, and it was over 3 years old, so I dropped what I had off at the local paint shop for a match. I just went for a single stage, urethane enamel... nice and simple, and perfectly adequate for this car.

I debated on pulling the rear window, but there were two problems: replacement seals are no longer available, and replacement windows are no longer available. Research indicated there was about a 50/50 chance of breaking the glass removing it (the seal was hard as concrete), so I decided to just mask around it.

First up was removing the window seals and glue residue, and then priming and repainting that area.

Next was setting up the 'ol garage paint booth.

Fortunately, the interior side still looked great, so it just got masked.

I repaired a few chips and gouges around the rear edge, shot some primer, sanded it all down, and then it was time for some color.

It would still need a cut and buff, but the color match was spot on.

I even had it done in time for a local Cars & Coffee, though the weather wasn't exactly cooperating.

At least I now knew it didn't leak!

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