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Rodan Reader
4/2/17 10:36 a.m.

Well, progress, and frustration...

Things were looking good for getting the car running this weekend, and that was the plan. I had been checking things off the list all day on Friday, and had finished almost everything that needed to be done to start testing the sensor inputs and MS3 outputs. I was down to bleeding the clutch hydraulics, and filling the trans with magic Ford Motorsport synthetic fluid. That's when everything went sideways.

For the first time in 35+ berkeleying years of working on cars, it slid off the jack while I was raising the car...

The jack slid off the crossmember, and drug across the crank pulley as it went down. Took a chunk out of the front of the pulley, broke the crank position sensor, and driver's side fan housing.

Crank pulley:

DSC_0257a by Rodan AZ, on Flickr

DSC_0258 by Rodan AZ, on Flickr

E36 M3.

After I finished throwing things around the shop, and took inventory of the damage, I hit the computer and started looking for parts. Of course, it's 330pm on a Friday... The closest real Miata salvage outfit in Phoenix (90 miles, one way) isn't even answering their phone.... So, I figure since the crank position sensor is critical, and the pulley is also a damper, new beats unknown used and I pull the trigger on new parts. I went back out to the garage, and superglued the crank position sensor back together, thinking it might at least work for MS3 testing, and called it a night.

So yesterday, I filled the trans and finished bleeding the clutch. Then it was time to start testing inputs/outputs for the MS3. Being my first time with the software, things went slowly but I was able to sort things out. I had an issue with the coolant temp sensor, which after about an hour of internet research, wiring diagram scrutinizing and head scratching, I finally figured out and got it working properly.

Spark test went fine, but I was having trouble with the injectors. At first, I could get no response, but after a few runs they started working. Except for one. I don't know how long this motor had been sitting before I picked it up, but it's been sitting over a year since, so I think they were all a little sticky. I clearly remember dropping one injector on the garage floor when I tore the motor down, so that may be the one that's not working.  I got a good cam signal, but nothing from the crank. I'm going to try again today to see if I missed a setting, but I figured it wasn't going to work anyway.

So this morning, I ordered a used fan from fleaBay, and after looking at the prices on stock injectors, pulled the trigger on a cleaned and flow balanced set of 4 from Treasure Coast Miata. I figure if I'm going to pull the manifold to replace one, I might as well do all four, and the set was about the same price as one new injector. So, now it looks like next weekend will be the first start... assuming all the parts show up.

Rodan Reader
4/9/17 10:08 a.m.

Yesterday was a long day on the NA...

I installed the new crank pulley and crank position sensor, hooked everything back up and no crank signal. I had neglected adjusting the pots in the MS3, so I did that, and still no crank. After a couple of hours of diagnosing, I finally found a connector pin that wasn't fully seated in the connector between the engine harness and MS3 harness. Once I fixed that, I had crank signal, and everything looked good, so I got the timing synched up.

Next was installing the new fuel injectors. Once I got those in, a quick test showed they were all working as expected (starting to love the MS3 already!). I hooked up the fuel lines, and ran the fuel pump a few times to pressurize the system and check for leaks. Everything looked good.

Time for the moment of truth...

VVT NA first start attempt

cmcgregor Dork
4/9/17 10:10 a.m.


Rodan Reader
4/9/17 5:34 p.m.


Changed some things around today and eliminated the fast idle from the first start. Ran it up to operating temps, and everything went smoothly, except it wouldn't idle on its own. I'll start with idle tuning tomorrow... need to do some more research.

Still waiting on the replacement fan to show up, so I don't want to take a chance on getting it hot.

Rodan Reader
4/10/17 6:39 p.m.

Replacement fan finally showed up, so got that installed, got the car idling and actually drove it around 40-50 miles today!

Running very well, and a little louder than I wanted, but it does sound good...

Very nice to have it moving under its own power again. I think my tires are a bit flat spotted from sitting, however. Might just be an excuse to pick up a set of the new RS4s...

Rodan Reader
4/15/17 12:11 p.m.

Finally got the NA back in its natural habitat today. 1st real drive since getting the VVT swap running. I still have some tuning to do, but it's already far better than the 1.6 ever was...

The Corbeau FX-1s were also a big improvement over the previous seats.

NA 4-15-17 white spar by Rodan AZ, on Flickr

Old 1.6 pic...

Valve Cover 2 by Rodan AZ, on Flickr

Now with moar VVT:

DSC_0278 by Rodan AZ, on Flickr

Cam cover breather is only temporary, until I can get a catch can system together. Also going to work on some hose/wire routing to make things a little cleaner. Back at home with its (very dirty) stablemate:

DSC_0273 crop by Rodan AZ, on Flickr

It's been a looong year, but the results are definitely worth it!

Rodan Reader
4/21/17 9:43 p.m.

Weighed the NA today...

Last time I weighed it was back in 2014. Basically stock, 1.6, AC/PS/PW, soft top + V8R frame rails, Hard Dog roll bar, NA8 Torsen, eBay "race seats" and 15x8 Flatouts with 205/50 ZIIs and a full tank of gas. 2270 lbs.

Today, as above with 1.8VVT motor, Corbeau FX1 Pro and hard top, and the following removed: AC/HVAC, cruise, a good bit of factory wiring, carpet and soft top. 2155 lbs.

So, in addition to adding a few horsepowers, it lost a bit over 100 lbs.

Still working on tuning. First I had an issue with timing, as I had synched the timing while cranking, but neglected to re-check once the engine was running, so I ended up with too much timing. Lesson #348 in "following the instructions".

At least that was an easy fix.

The basemap I started with had map values up to 200+ kPa (for forced induction), and although the car was running well, I revalued the AFR target and ignition maps for 100 kPa to get more resolution as I will be N/A for a while. I'm still looking for a good VE map for 100kPa for the NB2 VVT engine.

Also got the ZII's balanced, and they feel OK again. I'll check them out on a drive in the morning. I realized today they're almost 3 years old, so they may be going away anyway.

Rodan Reader
5/12/17 12:50 a.m.

Tuning... tuning... tuning....

I got all my tables interpolated to 100kPa, and the car is really running very nicely, so I started working on the VVT. I spent at least a week chasing my tail with values that "should" have worked (i.e. started with values others were using), and kept ending up with oscillations in the VVT advance that I couldn't get rid of...


Backside spiking 3 by Rodan AZ, on Flickr

I finally pulled my head out and started from scratch, and got the VVT working as it should. I've discovered it's much easier to tune at night... much less traffic, and much easier to see the laptop without having to constantly switch back and forth from sunglasses to readers (getting old sucks!)...

Now that the VVT is somewhat dialed in, I can start working on optimizing the VE and AFR tables. Honestly, it's pretty good, just needs a little polishing. It's a hoot to drive, and it would definitely blow the doors off a 1.6 car... I can't wait to get this thing on the track again.

Rodan Reader
5/13/17 2:35 p.m.

Signed up for Miatas at MRLS this morning.

Rodan Reader
5/18/17 9:08 a.m.

Alternator in the NA E36 M3 the bed yesterday...

With no voltage gauge (or warning light), my first indication was when the car wouldn't start after picking up something for the dog at Petco. I ended up walking to the other end of the shopping center to Harbor Freight and bought one of those jumper boxes, which amazingly had enough juice out of the box to start the car. Plugged in the laptop, got TunerStudio up and put a Volts gauge on the TS Dashboard and headed home, watching the volts drop and hoping the car would keep running.

Pulled into the driveway showing 7.8 volts!

I was really surprised the MS3 kept working at that low a voltage, but happy it got me home!

I had picked up the alternator used off another forum, so I knew it was a crap shoot. I'm probably going to need a new battery as well. The battery was in the car when I bought it 6 years ago, so I guess that's not so bad...

The good news is the car has been running really well. I've got the VVT dialed in, and just finished getting the WOT AFRs dialed in to relatively conservative targets until I can get it on a dyno. Even the midrange is running well, but I still have some work to do in leaning it out to optimum efficiency in cruise.

Rodan Reader
6/3/17 4:05 p.m.

So, I wasn't able to deal with the alternator and battery in the NA immediately, because we were getting ready to leave on a trip...

The camper was loaded in the truck, the NC and my bike were loaded in the trailer, and all our stuff was aboard. We were headed for the Black Hills for 5 days, then on to Wisconsin to visit family for another 6 days, then home... Off to an early start, we were a little surprised to find snow in Flagstaff... it's not uncommon for snow in May, but 80 miles south, we hadn't had any moisture at all.

FlagDeparture by Rodan AZ, on Flickr

We slugged it out on I40 and I25 with the truckers through AZ, NM and into CO. Our dog, who's getting older was unimpressed with the scenery, and slept most of the way.

Mocha1 by Rodan AZ, on Flickr

The weather was off and on all day... and ended in a cold rain in Trinidad, CO, where we made use of Sam Walton's RV park...

WM Trinidad by Rodan AZ, on Flickr

The Hilton, it ain't... but it's free. And having the store right there is handy for all the things you forgot you forgot until you got there...

The next morning we pulled out early, and had a beautiful day driving up 71 and 385 through Eastern CO, Western NE and into SD. Ending the day at our destination, the Heartland RV resort in Hermosa, SD. It's not the prettiest spot we've ever stayed in, but it was clean, reasonably priced, and most importantly a great base camp for our forays into the Black Hills. It's also conveniently close to Rapid City, but far enough out to be nice and quiet. As long as the sun was out, the dog approved...

Mocha SD by Rodan AZ, on Flickr

Unfortunately, we had a good bit of rain over the 5 days there. Fortunately we had enough good weather to get out and see the sights, then retreat to the camper in the evenings. It was cold though... price we paid for going early to avoid the touristards. The roads in the Black Hills are fantastic, varying from rythmic and swoopy, to tight and twisty. Perfect playground for our NC!

Of course, the first thing you have to see in the Black Hills is Rushmore. I had been there, but my wife hadn't, so it was the first thing we hit.

NCRushmore1 by Rodan AZ, on Flickr

It really is an amazing accomplishment, one that we would be hard pressed to duplicate today!

Rushmore1 by Rodan AZ, on Flickr

The next 'stop', which was really more of a 'drive' was Custer state park. The roads are excellent when not packed with touristas... and they weren't!

Throughout the park, you may find yourself having a close encounter with the wildlife!

NCBison2 by Rodan AZ, on Flickr

A few days later, I rode my bike through the park, and invented a new game: Buffalo slalom! It was really just a natural result of coming around a blind corner to find a Bison broadside in your lane... We also wandered up into Wyoming to visit Devil's Tower, for a different kind of Close Encounter...

NCDT1 by Rodan AZ, on Flickr

And we had to return to Rushmore at night, once the weather blew out enough for a clear sky...

RushmoreNight by Rodan AZ, on Flickr

I returned a third time the morning I took the bike out.

FJ Rushmore 1 by Rodan AZ, on Flickr

Then it was time to pack up, load up, pump bilges and head out for the second leg of our journey...

Rodan Reader
6/3/17 4:29 p.m.

From the Black Hills, we drove to Hudson, WI, just across the border from Minneapolis. Most of my family lives in the area, and we moved my parents into an assisted living facility there about a year ago. One of my nieces was due to have a baby the day we were arriving, so there was a lot going on!

The drive was torturous across SD and MN. 25-30mph winds the whole way, mostly quartering headwinds. The truck was working hard, and it was slow going but we got there. We did set a new record for low fuel mileage though...

In WI, we were staying at the Willow River State Park in Hudson. Power hookups, but no water or sewer for the camper. Beautiful place, and green like nothing in AZ ever will be!

WillowRiver1 by Rodan AZ, on Flickr

Rain and cold were the order of the day in WI as well, though it never really interfered with our plans, it was always a factor. We pulled in the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend, and by Friday mid day, the park was PACKED. People must of thought we were crazy, coming and going several times a day...

We did do a bit of hiking in the park, and made it to the signature sight, the Willow Creek Falls.

WRFalls1 by Rodan AZ, on Flickr

The NC slogged us to all the family events over the weekend, and it was nice being the only ones not in a minivan or three row SUV...

I even took my mom for a ride (she's 89!), but she wouldn't let me put the top down... might muss up her hair! My niece had her baby (first girl after two boys), we ate cheese curds and brats, and before we knew it, it was time to pack up. I did get the bike out for a ride with my BIL, who has an '06 FJR, and we had a chilly ride down to Pepin, WI and back.

On the way back, my wife wanted to stop at the Jolly Green Giant in Blue Earth, MN for some pics...

JGG1 by Rodan AZ, on Flickr

We also detoured through NE to drive through my dad's hometown, St. Edward, NE. I hadn't been there in probably 40 years, and didn't recognize much. Most of the old downtown buildings were vacant or boarded up. Sad...

StEDsign by Rodan AZ, on Flickr

After endless left and right turns from highway to highway across rural NE, we made it back onto the Interstate at Wood River. I was never a big fan of interstate driving, but with a rig like ours, it's just a lot easier... especially when fueling. I used the heavy truck pumps almost exclusively this trip, which was much easier than trying to navigate the auto side. We stopped for the night in Ft. Morgan, CO, again utilizing the Walton's RV stop. One last day would see us home, though it was a long one at 937 miles...

In Pueblo, CO, we saw a sea of VWs outside Pike's Peak raceway... must have been buyback diesels..??

VDubs in CO by Rodan AZ, on Flickr

Finally rolled into home, got everything unloaded, and the trailer back to storage... NC rolled ~500 miles on the trip, my bike about 250. The truck did the lions share, 3700 miles, burning 435 gallons of diesel!

I'll let you figure the average mpg...

Everywhere we go, the NC brings us enjoyment, and this trip was no exception, even though a minority of the miles were spent in the roadster.

Now, back to the recalcitrant NA.... and of course, today, no one in town has an alternator in stock.

Got one ordered, and the battery is on the charger... we'll see if it comes back.

Rodan Reader
6/9/17 7:37 p.m.

Swapped out the alternator, charged up the battery, and the NA seems happy. Running great, and putting out 14+volts again. Starts better, too. I think the bad alternator was circling the drain from the first startup.

On another note, a while back, I traded the soft top out of the NA for a Project-G bikini top, but had never gotten 'round to installing it. The instructions call for a piece of PVC pipe wedged between the roll bar and header to keep the header against the windshield frame, something I never really liked. So, I decided to try something different. While scratching my head thinking about it, I thought about the extending car washing brush I use on our camper... Kind of like this: Here's what it's supposed to do (not my photo): A little hacking and welding and I had this:

Bikinirod1 by Rodan AZ, on Flickr

My TigFu is coming along...

Bikinirod2 by Rodan AZ, on Flickr

I thought this would work great... easily adjustable, light, and cheap (had to buy a replacement at Wallyworld so we could still wash the camper...). And much more elegant than PVC pipe.

The first test drive proved PVC had one advantage... it won't compress. The adjustable brush handle mechanism wasn't tight enough to keep it from collapsing at highway speeds as the wind pushed the header back against it. Back to the garage, and after some careful measuring, I added a cross bolt behind the 'piston' in the handle to keep it from collapsing. Works great now, but not nearly so 'elegant'... LOL I'm still thinking about making V2 with a threaded adjuster of some sort...


Bikini1 by Rodan AZ, on Flickr

Bikini3 by Rodan AZ, on Flickr


Rodan Reader
6/9/17 7:50 p.m.

So, after our last trip (before the SD-WI trip above) with the camper and trailer, I got pretty tired of being divebombed from behind by cars I couldn't see, so I started looking into rearview camera systems. After a bunch of research, and reading lots of online reviews, I decided on a wired system. In the great GRM spirit, I ended up with a fairly cheap eRapta system off of Amazon. Here's the setup I bought:Rearview Camera system First one I got, one of the video channels didn't work. After a week of no response from customer service, I sent it back and started researching alternatives. After reading a lot more reviews, I came to the conclusion I might as well just reorder the same unit, since the reviews for the high dollar units weren't any better than the cheapos, and they're probably all made in the same factory anyway. The replacement unit has worked fine. I went with a wired unit because of mixed reviews on the wireless. They just didn't seem to be consistent on their performance, and my massive camper being in the way wasn't going to help.

Of course, installation was a little more involved because of the cables, and I had to order some additional cables to get it done. Since the cable ends are preinstalled you have to drill holes big enough for the ends, or cut/splice. I placed a camera on the rear of the trailer, above the door, and high up, forward on each side. I put the fourth camera on a magnetic base, which I can attach to the camper, or to the truck as desired. It's really handy to put on the hitch for hooking up. Cables terminate at the hitch, so I can hook them up when hooking up the trailer.

We used the system over 3700 miles for our trip above, and I can say this setup works really well. My only real complaint is when multiple camera views are displayed, they are very small on the 7" monitor, and it takes some getting used to... my old eyes don't really help. I'm looking into a 9" monitor as a replacement. Another issue is it's a little too bright at night, even dimmed all the way down, and the IR lights on the cameras don't light up much except the trailer itself.

Crappy cell video of system in use on I94 in Minneapolis...

Camera in use

So, if you're interested in this kind of system but want one a budget, this one works pretty well.

Rodan Reader
6/14/17 12:44 p.m.

I forgot to mention I mounted the monitor in place of the rearview mirror using one of these:

Monitor mounting arm

And today, I received a 9" replacement monitor:

9" display monitor

Big improvement, though it does take up some real estate. It doesn't restrict forward vision at all in my Dodge, but could be a bit much for smaller vehicles, though then you probably wouldn't need a rearview camera system... It only really obstructs vision high and center, which shouldn't be an issue.

Connector plug and mounting are the same as the 7" monitor that came with the kit, so it was plug/play. Same remote even works.

Rodan Reader
6/14/17 12:54 p.m.

Had a great drive in the NA on Saturday with some P-car folks and a C7. Even chased down a well ridden R6. Had a nice chat with him when we rolled into town.

Photo taken by local chap shooting on our mountain playground:

WS61017 by Rodan AZ, on Flickr

Link to the photog's FB album for credit and more pics: RCelayaphotgraphy White Spar 6-10-17

I've decided I don't really care for the looks of the Bikini top, but it does work...

Rodan Reader
6/15/17 6:35 p.m.

Finally got around to taking a pic of the 9" rearview monitor in my Dodge tow pig...

9inRVMonitor by Rodan AZ, on Flickr

The screen is a little hard to see in the pic, but the camera is currently attached to the trailer hitch, so it's below knee level.

Rodan Reader
7/2/17 10:23 a.m.

So, apparently Photobucket wants $400/year so you can look at my pics.

Sorry, but berkeley Photobucket.

solfly HalfDork
7/2/17 7:17 p.m.

I have photobuckets $2.99 month hosting and it works fine...

Rodan Reader
7/3/17 2:24 a.m.
solfly wrote: I have photobuckets $2.99 month hosting and it works fine...

So far.

Their new terms are specific in that the only package that will support third party linking is $399/year.

Rodan Reader
7/10/17 9:46 p.m.

Testing Flickr for photo hosting...

Since it's hot, I added some racecar AC:

Vent L Vent R

Rodan Reader
7/21/17 6:22 p.m.

Apologies for the radio silence lately... the Photobucket fiasco put a hitch in my getalong for posting pics, and I really hate picless posts...

I've also been spending lots of time getting ready for our annual trip to FM Summer Camp, which is less than two weeks away.

The NA got a few final mods: RB front and 949 rear swaybars, and 949 endlinks...

DSC_0614 DSC_0615

It also got extended lower ball joints and R model tie rod ends from FM, and a fresh alignment yesterday. I went very aggressive with the alignment, we'll see how it works out. The car really doesn't have enough spring rate (still running VMaxx classic), something I hope to remedy before MRLS in October...

I also finally got around to primering the spot where I removed the factory center console mount ahead of the shifter, and shortened my gauge 'panel'. Much less cumbersome.

Gauge panel short

The tune is pretty well dialed in. I spent some time working on high rpm/ low load cells to smooth out corner entry, and getting back onto the throttle. AFRs are dialed. I'm sure I've left some power on the table, but for now it's safe, and runs really smoothly. I'll worry about max power when I can get it on a dyno.

The NC also got an alignment today (alignment shop is loving me this week! )... went from street settings to track settings. I'll be switching it back after we return from Summer Camp (I really hate my wife's current long commute...). In the next week, it'll get an oil change and a good detailing, which it needs badly.

Rodan Reader
7/21/17 6:35 p.m.

In other news, the truck got a valve adjustment, new fuel filter and oil/filter change in preparation for the trip. The camper got a new stereo/DVD player and TV, since the DVD player was acting up on our last trip. Gotta love that you can buy a 22" LED flat screen for around $100 these days!

I spent the last couple of afternoons installing a winch in the trailer. A few months ago, I picked up one of the little HF winches, and it's been sitting around waiting for me to get around to installing it.

Not really a complicated install, but lots of measuring, and crawling under the trailer about 367 times... One thing it didn't include was any kind of mount/bracket for the roller fairlead, so I had to come up with a mount for that. It is a nice unit for the price, and even includes a wireless remote.

The winch and fairlead bracket are mounted through the floor of the trailer to 2" angle iron welded to trailer frame. Pretty sure it's not going anywhere...



Eventually, there will be a tool cabinet between the winch and the front of the trailer, with a bench top. That will enclose the battery location, and the bottom drawer of the cabinet will just clear the winch.


I will also eventually be adding a second battery, tying them into the trailer DC power, and adding a solar charging system.

I might just be putting the trailer (and winch) to use in the morning... stay tuned...

Rodan Reader
7/22/17 4:21 p.m.

I got to try out the winch this morning picking up Miata #3...

NB 1 NB 2 NB 3

It needs paint (obviously!), and a motor, but otherwise it's pretty solid. And I couldn't pass it up at the price.

And the winch worked great!

Rodan Reader
7/23/17 10:43 a.m.

I gave the NB a quick wash last night, and got it up on jackstands today to take a look underneath.

The seller had told me it had a serious oil leak, which he eventually fixed, but not before running it low on oil a couple of times. That's likely what lead to him lunching the motor. The underside is covered with grime consistent with such an oil leak, but otherwise looks really good. One good crunch on the frame rail where someone tried to jack it, but no sign of any crash damage. And no rust.

The seller also told me it has a Torsen, but it appears to be a base model with PEP, which would be unlikely to have a Torsen. It is a 4.3 ratio. I'm going to call Mazda and run the VIN tomorrow, but other than pulling an axle, there's no other way to determine if it's a Torsen.

The paint on the hood and trunk is toast. But the rest of it doesn't look horrible. Don't get me wrong, it's still a 20/20 car at best, but a little elbow grease and some Meguairs products made a marked improvement in the tops of the fenders and quarters...

Before: Before 1

After: After 1

Going to start looking for a hood and bumper cover after we get back from CO. Getting a matching color is going to be tough, but if I can get away with just painting hood, bumper and trunk, I may just DiY it.

For now, it's tucked away in the back yard. No more distractions 'till after Summer Camp!

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