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NickD HalfDork
9/11/15 6:30 a.m.

You know what this site doesn't have enough of? Miata content. Okay, I kid, but it's about to get some more anyways.

So, about 3 years ago, I sold of my previous project, a 1990 Acura Legend L 5-speed sedan. Basically, it had turned into a complete electrical nightmare, parts supplies were drying and the car had already accomplished it's goal, which was to prove that I could take a random car and make it get attention.

 photo ProjectLegend7_zpsc5405dd3.jpg

With that nightmare out of my way, I sat things out for a year while I saved up money and then made the decision to buy something I always wanted: a Miata. Through the magic of craigslist, I discovered a 1990 Miata in my favorite color, Mariner Blue, with 111000 miles on it about an hour north of me in Lowville. Went up there, looked at it and talked to the owner, a very nice lady who had bought it 4 years prior and then settled on a price of $3900. She seemed pretty sad to see the car go but needed the cash.

I suppose I should have looked the car over or shopped around first but the car seemed to be in good shape other than the brakes that were junk from sitting, and was rust-free, which was a shocker for a New York car. Other than the awful 17" ASA wheels it was stock, which was a plus as well. In retrospect, the overspray on the radiator and exhaust and the right rear wheel that was bent on both lips should have been a sign that all was not right.

So, the first day I got it home. God, those wheels were awful. Despite the junk brakes and mismatched tires, I was still in love as soon as I drove it.

 photo First pic_zpskungqcl3.jpg And my nice stock engine bay, complete with leaky valve cover.

 photo Original Engine Bay_zpsinxjrd8r.jpg

Now the fun began.

Dusterbd13 UltraDork
9/11/15 7:11 a.m.

The first post sounds ominous.

In for the fight.

NickD New Reader
9/11/15 8:00 a.m.

On getting it home, I did some research and figured out I had a B-Package. The A/C still worked, not that I ever use it, but I do like the cruise control (I take LONG roadtrips fairly frequently) and the headrest speakers. Also found out that it had a VLSD, not great but better than an open diff, and that some misguided person had put in Tokico Blues.

So before driving it, I had to do some work.

 photo Timing Belt and Brakes_zpsncsnjobe.jpg

First was overhauling the brakes. Managed to salvage the rear rotors by turning them on a lathe at work but the front ones were complete junk, so replaced them with some OEM-style blank rotors. Also ordered a set of Porterfield RS-4s from FM, because I'd heard about 1.6L brakes. Putting it back together I discovered that I had a LR caliper that wouldn't retract. That foolish e-brake mechanism was jammed.

This turned into a whole debacle. I got Advance and attempt to order a caliper and get a guy telling me that "rear calipers aren't available for that anymore". I call BS and a few minutes of searching he finds a reman for $140 but it won't show up for a week. I bite the bullet, wait a week and it shows up, head down there to get it and it's a RF caliper. Yell at them, they send it back, wait another 4 days and go back and it's the correct caliper. Get home and the e-brake gear is jammed. Tear it apart and apparently when it was remanufactured, they never cleaned the steel shot out and it's all full of bits of steel shot and rust. Go back to Advance and chief genius asks me if I "can just clean it out and use it?" I tell him that for 140 freakin' dollars I ought not have to clean it out. Another 4 days and a good caliper arrived. And that is how you take 3 weeks to do a brake job. And why I have ceased all business with Advance.

At the same time I decide, considering the mileage and unknown maintenance schedule, that the timing belt is probably a good idea to replace. So, I got the Continental timing belt kit and a Gates water pump dove into a Miata engine for the first time.

NickD New Reader
9/11/15 8:20 a.m.

So, the good news was that the inside of the engine was remarkably clean for the mileage. Leads me to believe it had fairly regular oil changes.

 photo Engine Inside_zpsy5l6mbtb.jpg

The bad news was that every seal on the front of it was leaking. And someone had been in there before and put the timing cover back together wrong and the crank pulley rubbed a hole through the lower cover. Gee thanks.

 photo Old timing cover_zpsrvb93mcs.jpg

So, in went a new crank seal, new cam seals, new water pump, new timing belts and timing cover. Also shot the valve cover crinkle black for that old-school cool.

 photo Valve Cover painted_zpsn6yi1knd.jpg

Reassembled it and everything seemed to run okay, except for a slight stumble at hot idle that I thought was a bad plug or wire.

NickD HalfDork
9/11/15 9:06 a.m.

Needed a set of wheels to replace the ugly, corroded, bent ASA 17" but at this point the budget was getting a little bit low. A little hunting on craigslist dug up a set of the white 8-hole Mini Cooper wheels with some 195/55R15 Falken Ziexs for $240. Not my first choice but I could afford them. In this photo you can also see my 1993 Loyale 4WD wagon that is my DD.  photo Outside New Wheels_zps7daoxzyg.jpg

At this point I learned a few things. A) The antennae was missing the gasket and leaked into the trunk in the rain B) Someone put a top on this and installed the rain rails wrong and it poured water onto the package tray. C) It needed an alignment. Bad.

Took it down to my work to align it and found that it had something like -2.5 degrees of camber and 2.5 degrees of toe-out on the right rear (the side with the bent rim and a crunched frame rail, hmmmm), and 1.7 degrees of toe-in on the LF (which also the LF wheel is set back about an inch in the wheel well compared to the other side. And the rear eccentric bolts are stripped out. Joyous.

NickD HalfDork
9/11/15 9:23 a.m.

At this point in time (About May 3rd or 4th of 2014) my friend from college messages me and says that he's getting married on the 30th in PA and he wants me to come. I now have to thrash it back together because the Loyale would certainly not make it that far. So, I slam in new rear eccentrics and still can't get the RR back in spec. The LF turns out to be that for some reason the outer tie rod is threaded ALL the way in for no damn reason.

End up yanking the entire rear spindle out and discovered that some hamfist had beat the axle to death at some point and mushroomed the end out and then ground it back down. Berkeley it, thing still works. Find the lower control arm-to-spindle bolt is got 2 bends in it. Ah-ha. Put the spindle on a surface plate and find that it is bent by 0.070" at the bottom. Yeeesh. Blow $400 on new spindle, bushing and bearing then wait for it to arrive. Parts arrive May 28th, I have to leave the 29th. Throw car back together and align it the 28th. Throw a set of plugs and wires in it to fix misfire at idle. Nada. Oh well. Set sail the next morning with a car that I really don't know and has been worked on by hacks at some point.

NickD HalfDork
9/11/15 9:54 a.m.

Surprisingly the drive from Rome, NY to Butler, PA had no issues, redeeming the car (and financial expenditure) in my eyes. The only issue was I forgot my hat at home and drove the whole way with the top down, resulting in a nice sunburn on the top of my head. Also, didn't own any sunglasses at this point, and my god, did my eyes feel crunchy afterwards. Encountered this old 740 Turbo wagon at the PA border.

 photo First Roadtripo_zpshztuqggx.jpg

Spent the afternoon getting a hotel, doing a little hiking and getting some dinner. Then headed to the wedding the next day and was greeted by this lineup.

 photo Wedding Lineup_zpsrgus0vdh.jpg

The cool 2WD Tacoma is the groom's. He drove that all the way from Memphis. Eventual plans are a 4-link rear and either a 1JZ-GTE or a 350 Chevy. White Integra was making about 500whp and although you can't see it, was sitting in a puddle of gear lube after it busted the input shaft off giving the groom a ride. The 3rd-gen Camaro at the end is a grassroots drift car with an LT-1 swap, pretty silly.

Wedding was good and casual and there was much consumption of beer. My friend was really grateful I could come. He also gave the Miata a looking-over and thought it was pretty cool, even if he could never ride in it (He's about 7 foot tall.)

NickD HalfDork
9/11/15 1:02 p.m.

Got back from PA, without incident, and did some researching and discovered that my hot-idle misfire was likely the timing being off slightly. But, Formula D NJ was coming up in 3 weeks and I had been trying to get to that for 2 years and failing due to car issues. Really didn't want to have the car apart, hit an unforeseen issue and fail to go, so I drove it to NJ like so. I did change all the fluids with the good stuff (Sadly the Redline stuff did nothing for my notchy 2nd and 3rd gear). Had a great time, met Ryan Tuerck and Vaughn Gittin Jr. and Ken Gushi, rooted for Danny George and overall enjoyed myself.

Planned to tear the timing down when I got back, but then another college friend from TN messaged me and said he and his wife were heading up to Niagara Falls in 2 weeks and he was thinking of swinging by my place. He just so happens to have a 1990 Mariner Blue A-Package with 30K miles he bought 2 weeks after I got mine. Once again, didn't want to have the car apart.

The Brothers meet:

Good to see my friend again, see him about once a year. We had an impromptu drag race (For some reason, my car pulled mightily on his), toured the Revolutionary War fort in the middle of my city, went hiking, ripped around the Boonville Gorge and ate good Italian food.

NickD HalfDork
9/11/15 1:07 p.m.

Lots of driving the car around at this time and generally just enjoying it. Did make a few mods. First, I despised my stock leather shift knob that had turned... gooey. In went a placeholder wooden one that turned a bit more permanent

 photo Shift Knob_zpsfostigcf.jpg

Also grabbed an FM strut bar. That took a bit of work to get fit. Not sure why but even after cleaning the seam sealer off the strut tower top, it still wanted to contact the hood. Ended up grinding down the mounting pad a little to make it work.

 photo Strut Bar Installed_zpsf0wf3ycr.jpg

In front of some cool old hangar up at the decommissioned Griffiss Air Force Base.

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After a morning of dog-fighting with a C4 Corvette on backroads. The 'Vette owner didn't seem pleased that he couldn't escape my smiley blue sport car.

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NickD HalfDork
9/11/15 1:55 p.m.

Every year I go down to Nashville, TN in the fall to visit some college friends and attend the Fall Import Alliance. So, I planned to do some work to the car before I left. Still hadn't gotten around to fixing the cam timing and had to pass on it again, as this time the garage was all full of '87 F-350 getting completely overhauled.

But I did take it and finally got the convertible top fixed so it didn't vent every drop of water onto the package tray. Turns out it had had a top put on it at some point (which I knew) but the installer had goofed up installing the top into the rain rail. Also had the package tray carpeting (MIA since I got it, likely due to being waterlogged) replaced. Don's Auto Upholstery in Utica, NY did all the work and he did an amazing job. Knew what it was as soon as I called him and got it in in a day. And charged me $100 less than he quoted me.

Had planned for a few mods but finances didn't allow everything. I did pull the trigger on an exhaust though and went with the Good-Win RoadsterSport 3.

Mmmmmmm, stainless.

 photo Exhaust_zpsbuwau0rj.jpg

My stock exhaust was dented, rusty, covered in overspray and had a few rattly heatshields. Good bye.

Much better.

And I went and celebrated success with tacos. Instantly loved the sound of this exhaust and I like how it was louder without being obnoxious. I like how the tip isn't over-the-top huge either.

bgkast GRM+ Memberand UberDork
9/11/15 1:58 p.m.

I actually like the mini wheels.

NickD New Reader
9/11/15 2:06 p.m.
bgkast wrote: I actually like the mini wheels.

I didn't HATE the Mini wheels but they weren't in line with my image of the car. I liked that they were light and that they were 15" (much better than the stupid 17" on it and easier to get tires for than the stock 14"s) and the price wasn't bad. I didn't like how narrow they were though and the white paint flat-out sucked. They constantly needed cleaning and the Porterfields make some tenacious dust.

NickD HalfDork
9/11/15 2:41 p.m.

So, then it was off to Nashville in a Miata. A 900-mile roadtrip in a Miata actually proved pretty comfortable. I was in considerably less agony than the last time I did that trip, which was in a mid-size luxury car. Left after work on Tuesday, got halfway there, finished the trip on Wednesday by about 5pm (And that was with a detour to Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, cool place) I was staying with my friend with the other 1990 Miata. The next morning we got up bright and early and headed off to The Tail of The Dragon

On the road again.

Fontana Dam is a pretty impressive structure

This brand new M4 was prowling the Dragon. Guy was from Texas and bought it in NC so that he could drive it over the Dragon. I will say that this thing sounded like absolute garbage though. The stock exhaust is very tinny and rattly.

The guys that owned these two Minis were a riot and we ran with them for a while

Hmmmm, this E28 looks familiar

The Brothers reunited:

We spent the night in Maryville, hooned around most of the next day as well and then headed back to Murfreesboro.

I had never driven the Dragon before (I rode it the year before in the same friend's FR-S that he ditched in favor of the Miata) and was absolutely blown away. It has a good way of exposing problems with the car. First and foremost: even with better pads, 1.6L Miata brakes suck. Quite a few times I had serious fade. Also, the rock-hard Falkens weren't the best tire. And I need more power.

NickD HalfDork
9/11/15 2:50 p.m.

Then came Import Alliance. Some genius decided to hold it at an abandoned mall and charge 20 bucks a car. Gee, great. Some nice cars but this was definitely the low point of the trip. I realized I had outgrown this show. Too many junk cars and stupid people.

Hmmm, this car also looks familiar.

This NB was pretty slick

So was this one:

A 1JZ-GTE swapped Cadillac Catera counts as different

Who knew a Yugo could be so cool?

Yeah, it's stance-y but this Probe is... smooooth

This S2000 with full carbon J's Racing aero was ridiculous

After only a few hours, we headed out to Music City Indoor Karts and met up with the friend with the Tacoma and fooled around on the karts. Those electric karts absolutely haul and are a complete handful

The Taco ditched the stock bed and gained a cool wooden flatbed. Still no engine swap though.

Then it was back to the house where I consumed copious amounts of Fireball and spoke comedy gold.

NickD New Reader
9/11/15 2:54 p.m.

The next day I rose bright and early and cannonballed the Miata back to home. I drove for 15 hours straight, leaving at 8am Central and arriving at midnight Eastern. The 9-10pm region got a bit scary but a few Red Bulls and the determination not to quit 2 hours from home got me there. Side note: I may make a monstrous endurance driver. Anyone want to test that theory?

At this point I began getting nervous about that tire that was set back in the wheel well. I couldn't seem to find an obvious issue so I took it a trusted collision shop> He discovered that at some point my car had had a front clip grafted on ahead of the upper A-arm mounts. Probably during whatever traumatic occurrence bent the wheel and spindle, crunched the framerail and busted off the belly pan and prompted the crap overspray-laden repaint. But he said there shouldn't have been any suspension issue. His suggestion was to try cranking the rear eccentric cam on that lower arm out and seeing what that did.

Finding that my car was a serious wreck victim was actually kind of liberating. Before I had been under the impression that the car was a fairly clean survivor. Now that I knew it wasn't, it meant I wouldn't feel bad tearing it apart and going wild with it if I chose to do so. No qualms about swapping engines or having it flared or any of that.

That was the last time I drove it that year before the snow set in. While the Miata sat parked I began compiling parts for phase 2.

NickD New Reader
9/12/15 6:01 a.m.

From November to March, the Miata sat outside. Wasn't real happy about it but one garage stall has been permanently inhabited by my father's 1969 LeMans Sport Coupe since 2009 and the other was STILL occupied by the same F-350 that'd been there since July (The truck was an absolute mess and required almost full rebuilding). So the Miata sat in the snow, getting started up and warmed up every few weeks. In the meantime I was hunting down parts.

Through a facebook Miata parts group I got some pretty good bargains. Purchased an Energy Suspension polyurethane master bushing kit for $150. Got a set of 1.8L front caliper brackets for $15 a piece. An M-Edition Nardi shift knob for $20.

Also pieced together the rest of my new braking system. DBA Kangaroo Paw rotors in 1.8L size for the front and 1.6L size for the rear. New 1.8L-sized Porterfields for the front end.

Purchased an FM rear subframe brace as well.

And finally, and most importantly, I got some real wheels and tires.

9/12/15 6:39 a.m.

Care to share the facebook parts group? I am always on the hunt for Miata stuff for the Molvo and Canada is not what you would call a hotbed of parts.

NickD HalfDork
9/12/15 6:40 a.m.

When I got the car, I was thinking of getting either Enkei 92s or 949Racing 6ULs. I had already ruled out RPF1s, simply because I'm sick of seeing them on just about every other Miata. But then the Jongbloed 500 Aero wheel hit the market and I was instantly sold on it. The price was extremely reasonable, the weight was light (I'm not a good enough driver that the extra pound or two was going to ruin my day) and they looked amazing. I debated with a few friends on what color to go with for a while. I thought bronze would look awesome, they said I was crazy and I eventually succumbed and ordered a set of 15x8s in black from Flyin' Miata.

 photo Wheel boxes_zpsljkmkiik.jpg

About a week later and these arrived at my work, along with a set of 949Racing lugnuts and valve stems. I tossed them in the back of the Loyale and headed home to unbox them. Also, the same day that the wheels arrived, I got a pretty sizeable raise at work, which was excellent timing.

Let's take a look at these.  photo Jongbloed Wheels_zps96mirtqd.jpg Mmmmmmmm

A few weeks later, I placed an order with Tire Rack and got 4 205/50R15 Dunlop Direzza ZII Star Specs. Took them down to work and got everything mounted and balanced  photo Jongbloed Wheels tires mounted_zpsybggy40q.jpg  photo Dunlop Direzza ZIIs_zpsk5dzbrrz.jpg Couldn't wait to get these on the car but there was other work to do.

NickD New Reader
9/12/15 6:44 a.m.

In reply to NOHOME: Miata Parts For Sale

Here ya go. Yeah, CNY isn't a hotbed of Miata activity either.

NickD New Reader
9/12/15 6:54 a.m.

So, finally the F-350 left the premises and the Miata got its time in the garage. First things first, I corrected the timing that I had been unable to get to since the previous summer. Sure enough, the intake cam was off a tooth.

Next was overhauling the brake system. As I said, the 1.6L brakes had scared the E36 M3 out of me on the Dragon the fall before with some horrific fade.

Hmmm, these rotors look nice. Good enough for Ryan Tuerck, good enough for me.  photo New Rotors_zps95mbuv3w.jpg The size difference is pretty noticeable  photo Rotor size difference_zps07fq6o1x.jpg A little persuasion of the backing plates, and everything was all good  photo New Brakes_zpsipcvx30i.jpg

NickD HalfDork
9/12/15 7:17 a.m.

Then it was on to replacing the bushings. They were all 25 years old and had over 100,000 miles, so I figured it was time for them to be replaced. No photos of the process, but I'm sure you all know what it looks like. Not exactly the most fun thing I've ever did, but it was worth it in the end. The only thing I regret not doing was painting all the suspension parts while they were out, but spring was coming and I wanted to have the car ready to go.

During the disassembly process, I went to remove the left upper control arm and could not get the long bolt out of the arm. Then I noticed that whenever I turned it, the arm would oscillate. Hmmmm. I ended up having to sawzall the bolt in 2 between the control arm and the mount and discovered the bolt was bent. Then I put a straight bolt through the control arm and found this:  photo Bent UCA_zps5rpdpqly.jpg Well, that explains that set-back LF wheel. So, ordered up a new bolt and control arm.

NickD HalfDork
9/12/15 8:38 a.m.

From there it was all fairly easy work. I did somehow goof up and install the rear sway bar upside down and only realized the issue after I had the rear subframe brace in and bolted up and went to install the end links, requiring me to take everything back apart. That was fun.

Around this time, my father acquired this for $1700:

Which meant the Miata had to get out of the garage so that we could start work on the duallie (It needed the brake and fuel lines redone and a new tank and pump Still, a pretty good deal.) Fortunately everything was done, just had to wait for a good day to get the Miata down to the shop so that I could align it and then install the new wheels and tires.

 photo Version 2_zpstnaninwc.jpg

 photo Version 2 Rear_zpskdrhlawh.jpg

The wheels completely transformed the look of the car and I fell in love with the car all over again. I can't count how many times I heard "It looked good with the white wheels, but now it looks amazing". All the mods all paid off as well, as the car drove completely different. It felt very...competent. Come into a turn in the road at 70mph and it basically said "Sure thing, boss". Braking was much improved as well, a night and day difference over before.

Shortly afterwards, I took it out to a car show at the local IT college that they do every year.Once again, strong reception and tons of questions. Strangely I had the only Miata there at the show. Plenty of other cool stuff turned out too: I'm not a Ferrari guy, but I do love the 599 GTB. This one had 70K on the odometer and rock chips on the paint. The owner said "I paid all this money to drive a Ferrari, not to look at a Ferrari." Good man.

Also as surprising as the 599 was this Ford GT. The owner knew the Ferrari owner and had a similar philosophy, with just over 60K on the clock

This Evo looked and sounded the business and the owner mentioned he was waiting for his PPG dog box to show up for it.

Here's a curious one. It's an '03 Impala that the owner swapped a 3800S/C into with a bigger blower, intercooler, cam, rocker arms, pistons, methanol injection and a tune. But he didn't stop there, adding in C4 Corvette brakes, home-made strut bars, Addco sway bars, Crown Vic P71 power steering cooler and other outsourced bits. And the crowning piece was the homebrewed 5-speed swap using a '92 Lumina Z34 Getrag transmission

Stealthtercel Dork
9/12/15 12:19 p.m.

If there's any more information floating around about that S/C 5-speed Impala, I'd like to hear about it.

And yes, the new wheels for the Miata look great.

NickD New Reader
9/12/15 1:07 p.m.

In reply to Stealthtercel:

I don't know of it's anywhere on the internet but I talked to the guy for a while. He bought it with the 3400 and said he tried autocrossing it stock and everything overheated: coolant, power-steering, ATF. So he yanked the 3400 for a 3800S/C and 4T65HD swap and ran it like that for a while and kept blowing up the final drives and he got sick of not being able to select gear himself.

He hunted down a Z34 Lumina with a 5-speed and had to buy the whole car and parted it out and made his own adapter plate but said that one had bad synchros and parts are unavailable. Ended up buying 2 more transmissions and putting the 3 together to make one. The the throwout bearing went south and he modified a 3000GT VR-4 throwout to fit.

There was some other crazy tech. He modified a Bonneville SSEi belt tensioner to get more belt wrap on the blower pulley, because he kept getting slip with the bigger blower and smaller pulley. It was also running a modified Tahoe police alternator to make the belt system fit.

NickD New Reader
9/12/15 1:21 p.m.

Not too long after the car show, I went to the junkyard (I literally live 2 miles from a you-pull-it yard. It's great) to find a door for the duallie and stumbled across a Miata there that I had heard about for the better part of a year and had never gotten around to going to find (In fact, one of the junkyard employees stopped by my house to tell me about it). It turned out to be a Mariner Blue 1990 B-Package, so I grabbed both doors, the LF fender, both headlight assemblies, the front bumper, the tombstone and the rear package tray panel for $315 and then squeezed it all into the back of my Loyale.

 photo Salvage_zpsgka1tceu.jpg  photo Salvage 2_zpsbprdfnif.jpg

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