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Woody GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
1/14/15 3:48 p.m.

I've wanted to try ice racing ever since I read an article about it in Car and Driver over 20 years ago. The problem is that I live in Connecticut, and I'm a couple of hours away from decent ice and the people who race on it.

Fortunately, I live pretty close to Lime Rock. A few weeks ago, I got an email announcing that they had recently added snow making equipment and were starting a Winter Autocross Program. The events aren't cheap, but once I factored in the time and fuel costs that would be involved in trailering a car north to go ice racing, not to mention the stress of towing a trailer in the winter, playing in the snow at Lime Rock started to sound like a reasonable alternative.

I decided to find a dedicated car for winter autocross, keeping in mind that the less money that I had tied up in the car, the more events I would be able to afford. I narrowed it down to a few choices that didn't have much in common, aside from the fact that I might like to own one: RWD BMWs, FWD Volvos (S/V/C 70s), normally aspirated Subarus or, just maybe, a cheap, high mileage Boxster. Then I stumbled upon an ad for a Miata that had been posted within the hour, even though I wasn't really looking for one. It showed up when I searched "motivated seller" on Craigslist. I actually feared that it might be a scam ad, because it was listed on both Western Massachusetts and Long Island New York Craigslist. Fortunately, I had already sent an email on the first ad before I saw the second.

The next morning, I had a response to my email. The seller was at her place in the Hamptons, but the car was at her ski house in the Berkshires. It still sounded sketchy, but we exchanged a few emails, then texts and then phone calls. It was pretty clear from our conversation that it was the real deal. She was the original owner and was pretty honest when describing the car's flaws, though she assured me that the car wasn't rusty. She said that it hadn't been driven much for the past few years, as her husband had been sick and they had been spending most of their time in New York. She also told me that she was very nervous because she had never sold a car before and just wanted it to be over. I was pretty sure that I could help her out with this. Then she said that if she left now, she could be at the house by two o'clock. I gave her a bit of a head start, hooked up my trailer, grabbed some tools and a spare battery, and pointed the truck towards the Berkshires.

These were the two photos from the ads:

 photo 2000Miata2_zpsc6aa7293.jpg

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I got to the house a few minutes before she did. The car was filthy, inside and out, and the battery was dead, but it had a new top and solid rocker panels. She was embarrassed and very apologetic, but I swapped in my spare battery, got it started and took it for a ride. The tires were old and flat spotted, but the car ran and drove well. After a bit of negotiation, we made a deal and I loaded the car onto my trailer. She took pictures and had tears in her eyes as I was getting ready to leave. She clearly loved the car.

On an interesting side note...

...I had mentioned to her that I had owned two Miatas in the past, but I didn't say much about the other cars in my life. As I was getting ready to leave, she said, "It's too bad that you're not interested in Porsches. My 80 year old neighbor has one that he won in a raffle and he wants to sell it because he can't drive it."

Off we went to look at the Porsche...

He was a nice old guy who had won a used Boxster in a charity auction a few years earlier. His late wife had bought him a ticket for his birthday. I may have actually bought a ticket for the same car. Anyway, I was anxious to get home and wasn't really too interested in the car at that point. He got my attention when he mentioned the price that he was willing to take. Had I not just loaded the Miata onto my trailer, I would have gone home with the Porsche. Needless to say, I have his info. Fortunately, he is not actively advertising the car, so maybe I'll go back in a month or so when I'm done with the Miata.

Anyway, here's what the Miata looked like when I got home.

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Woody GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
1/14/15 3:50 p.m.

I'll also add that all of this happened on a day when the temperature was five degrees. I gently bumped one of the trailer lights with my knee and it shattered into a hundred pieces.

Woody GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
1/14/15 3:58 p.m.

I got right to work on the car that night, cleaning and vacuuming it out. On the phone, the seller kept mentioning that car had fleece seat covers. While I couldn't wait to take them off and throw them away, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that she must have put them on the car when it was brand new.

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There's not even any wear to the driver's side bolster.

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The interior cleaned up pretty nicely.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
1/14/15 4:07 p.m.

My first thought on the exterior shot was "ooh, foglights, you could use those as inlets for brake ducts". On second thought, that may not be a priority

Richard Dekker in Alberta used to ice race his turbo 1990 15 years ago. I'll send you his contact info.

Woody GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
1/14/15 4:11 p.m.
Keith Tanner wrote: My first thought on the exterior shot was "ooh, foglights, you could use those as inlets for brake ducts". On second thought, that may not be a priority

We're about to get to that part^...

Woody GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
1/14/15 4:16 p.m.

Fortunately, for its intended purposes, I don't need to do a whole lot to this car. Grip will be so low, that I don't need to add stiff springs or sway bars, and lowering it would be a bad idea, so for now, the focus will be on generally tidying things up and taking care of some basic maintenance.

Since Keith mentioned the fog lights, I'll start there. One of the factory fog lights had a cracked lens and the other was discolored. Rather than buying at least one new one, I decided to remove both.

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 photo Miata012_zps072a0efe.jpg

Much better.

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Woody GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
1/14/15 4:19 p.m.

I've heard some bad things about the 1999-2000 factory fog lights. It seems that they like to overheat and melt. Looks like that's what happened to one of these.

 photo Miata009_zps381846fe.jpg

That's not broken, just melted and deformed. Moral of the story: If you have a 99-00 Miata with factory fog lights, get rid of them.

Woody GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
1/14/15 4:37 p.m.

I had previously mentioned that the car was filthy when I bought it. It was nice and dry because it was stored indoors for a long time, but it had spent some time parked under the trees. There were pine needles everywhere, some sap on the hood (but fortunately, not the top) and the paint had a lot of dirty stains. No photos, but I unbolted the bottoms of the front fenders and got rid of all the dried out debris from the trees before it could collect water cause a rust problem.

Under the hood, it was a real mess, as it suffers from a leaky valve cover. It was also really dusty.

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It finally warmed up to a toasty 33 rainy degrees, so I got the engine good and warm, soaked it down with Foamy Engine Brite, hooked up the hose to the hot water and power washed absolutely everything.

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The engine will be much more pleasant to work on now.

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I've already ordered new plugs, wires, belts, fuel, air and oil filters, and a Marathon battery. Those will be installed in the morning. I also have a new valve cover gasket set coming, but that will probably wait until it gets a little warmer.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
1/14/15 4:43 p.m.

Valve cover is quick and easy. When it's off, give it a shot of silver paint. Does wonders for the look of the engine bay.

Woody GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
1/14/15 4:47 p.m.

The tires were old Dunlops and needed to be replaced regardless of what my plans for the car were. While researching my snow tire options, I found this tread, and, specifically, these two quotes:


HiTempguy wrote: The Generals aren't even hakka 5 ripoffs; they ARE hakka 5's. General bought the old molds and rubber compound recipe off Nokian since they retired it and are selling the (I think they are up to) 7's now.
procainestart wrote: General is owned by Continental, which also owns Gislaved. The Altimax Arctic is the Gislaved Nordfrost 3 -- same tire, not a look-alike, and not Nokian-based. The Nordfrost 3 was Gislaved's top-of-the-line tire several years ago. When my buddy's Nokian Hakka 2s wore out on his Saab TSD rally car that sees a lot of winter events, we replaced them with Altimax Arctics: they are equivalent in every way...except they're not expensive. I've got a set, too.

Tire Rack delivered a set of General Altimax Artics to my door for $291 including tax and shipping. That's about $50 less than the Porsche tire in the background.

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McTinkerson Reader
1/14/15 4:55 p.m.
Keith Tanner wrote: Richard Dekker in Alberta used to ice race his turbo 1990 15 years ago. I'll send you his contact info.

Up until 2010 he was also autox-ing a NC miata at the local winter Auto-X events. Cool dude and knows his miatas - incredibly fast as well. Especially on the snow/ice.

Woody GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
1/14/15 5:07 p.m.

Even though the car needs a tuneup, it breezed right through the emissions test on half a tank of old fuel. It's fully registered and no longer wearing temporary plates. The new tires are mounted and I've been driving it daily.

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I addressed a couple more quality of life issues.

There were leaves and pine needles in the HVAC fan that were driving me crazy, so that came apart and got cleaned out, so it's nice and quiet now.

The driver's side window didn't go up or down very well, and the passenger's side wouldn't move at all. I removed the door panels and cleaned some of the old, hard grease out of the window regulators. It's still so cold out that, rather than adding more grease, I soaked everything down with silicone spray for now.

The driver's side works like new, but the passenger's side still wouldn't move, even though I could hear the motor and engaging and I could see tension on the window. I discovered that the cable that goes from the motor to the regulator mechanism was supposed to be clipped to the inside of the door. It had become unfastened and the cable was getting caught under the glass, preventing it from lowering. It was a little tricky to get at, but I was able to get the clip back into place and now it works as well as the driver's side. I've had three Miatas, and this one has the fastest power windows.

The paint still needs to be buffed out and there are a few other cosmetic details that I'll take care of when it gets warmer. It drives great and I'm already having a lot of fun with it. I like driving a Miata in the winter.

I've owned the car for exactly one week today.

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Woody GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
1/14/15 6:08 p.m.
Keith Tanner wrote: Valve cover is quick and easy. When it's off, give it a shot of silver paint. Does wonders for the look of the engine bay.

Less than optimal painting conditions around here right now.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
1/14/15 6:38 p.m.

I see a garage. Is it heated? All you need is a big cardboard box for a paint booth

Woody GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
1/14/15 6:40 p.m.

The garage is not heated. But the firehouse is...I painted an entire Mustang in there, one piece at a time.

Woody GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
1/14/15 6:47 p.m.

I've used BBQ Black on valve covers before. I love the way that it flows. I just wish it was available in silver.

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Sonic SuperDork
1/14/15 9:07 p.m.

Boxster details maybe?

Looks like fun, I'm interested to see how the snow cross works out.

Woody GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
1/14/15 9:17 p.m.
Sonic wrote: Boxster details maybe?

Sorry, I'm sworn to secrecy on that one.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
1/14/15 10:00 p.m.

I suspect that Woody has provided enough clues to get you close, should you be of a detective frame of mind.

Woody GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
1/15/15 4:56 p.m.

A bunch of boxes showed up yesterday...

 photo Miata001_zpsbb6af213.jpg

...and just about everything inside went onto to the car today.

I started off with a pair of Lloyd's RubberTite mats. I have WeatherTech FloorLiners in my truck and I really wanted a set for this car so that I could just dump out all of the snow that's destined to get inside. Unfortunately, they don't make them for NB Miatas, so I settled for the Lloyd's. They're not deep like the WeatherTechs, but they fit well and cost about $100 less. They are nice and thin, so they also give me a little more leg room than the thick original carpeted mats.

 photo Miata002_zps4da54e12.jpg

Next up was the leaky valve cover gasket. I decided to take Keith's advice and paint the valve cover when I changed the gasket. It was a little harder than I expected to get the coil bracket bolts off the back, but removal was otherwise uneventful. Prep work was limited to wire brushing, degreasing and a little masking tape. I used Dupli-Color Cast Aluminum Engine Paint. It's not perfect, but it looks a lot better than it did before. The garage was really cold, but I drove the car for about an hour before removing the cover so it was still warm and I had the paint inside until I was ready to spray.

 photo Miata003_zpscc1e087f.jpg

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I'm not very good at waiting for paint to dry but in this case it was easier than usual. I had only ordered one new spark plug instead of four, so I was able to keep my hands off the valve cover while I ran to NAPA. When I got back, I changed the alternator and power steering belts, air filter, and all four spark plugs. Moving to the other end of the car, I dropped in a new Marathon battery. I replaced the wheel locks with four lug nuts that I found in the garage and by the time I was done, the valve cover was dry enough to handle. Installation was the reverse of removal and then I added a new set of NGK plug wires.

The only thing that I didn't get around to was changing the fuel filter, but I plan to tackle that tomorrow.

So now it looks a little better under the hood and it runs a lot better. With the old battery, in combination with some very worn out plugs and wires, the first start on these cold winter mornings was always a bit of a nervous struggle. I don't expect that to be an issue tomorrow.

 photo 2000Miata008_zpse0d55148.jpg

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beans Dork
1/15/15 5:30 p.m.

I was hoping for BBQ black again. I love painting Honda valvecovers that color, works so well. I really like the Duplicolor high-temp ceramic silver, too. Sprays on a GORGEOUS color but dries kinda "blah." Wish it would stay nice and shiny like below:

On another note, I must live your life through my dreams, because I JUST had a dream about snowflogging the crap an NB the other night. Really looking forward to this.

Woody GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
1/15/15 6:36 p.m.

I think I'm going to use BBQ black again next time. I didn't think it would work on a Miata, but it might. Even the Cast Aluminum came out kind of shiny for me. I have a can of Plastikote Aluminum engine in the basement that I wrote "Too Shiny" on the cap. Too shiny looks like bad fake chrome. BBQ black just looks right.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
1/15/15 6:40 p.m.

I think we've used Duplicolor silver engine block paint in the past. Now we powdercoat almost everything.

Woody GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
1/15/15 6:52 p.m.

In reply to Keith Tanner:

Thanks for talking me into painting it. I am happy!

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
1/15/15 8:48 p.m.


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