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AxeHealey GRM+ Memberand Dork
8/27/21 2:40 p.m.

Why did Olaf the Miata have to go? Because Sven the Miata was on his way. 

When we were prepping the usual black Miata for Nelson last month, one of my teammates was like, you know, we have that car with that cage in it that's been sitting in that guys garage forever. You should adopt it and finish building it so we 1) actually have a nice, fresh/ish racecar to use and 2) you can use it for any other stuff you want to do. 

Works for me. 

I then meet this car and it gives me pause. The cage was cut out of another car and welded into this one...not the worst thing I suppose. But...

It was cut in half. Heebeegeebees. Apparently at least the door bars were sleeved but the top bars surely don't look like it. So I then decided, well, OK, I'll just have to get the front half of the cage rebuilt (either by me or someone else). The body doesn't look too bad but it's definitely crusty. 

At this point the same teammate was like: "Oh, you know what? The car we pulled the last engine and turbo out of for the black car was from California." Interest piqued. A couple weeks ago, I went to check that car out and, other than someone doing a nasty job rolling the fenders, it's essentially rust free and totally clean. Sven (the California car) was a 1.6 and this car is a 1.6 so the plan is to pull the engine and trans out of this car, plop it in Sven and then drag it down to McMahan for a nice cage. 

So, another thread started before the car is in the builder's possession but at least I have possession of its heart. In actuality, I hope the timing works to pull the engine and trans out of this car, chuck it in the garage, swap it with Sven and then take Sven down to McMahan as a roller. He's OK'd that as long as timing works for everyone. If I have to wait a while for him to be ready, I'll just bring Sven back to my house and get it running. 

My goal is to have it ready for the 2022 racing season. 


Edit: Almost forgot - I'm intending to build it to STL specs. That seems to be a pretty light-weight spec for a Miata that also allows aero. If I eventually turbo this one, I can then hop up to STU (I'm pretty sure). I am so far undecided whether to go .120 on the cage to fit LeMons rules but definitely intend on running with ChampCar and AER. 

AxeHealey GRM+ Memberand Dork
9/4/21 4:59 p.m.

I poked around on work breaks this week to be ready to pull the engine and trans this morning and...

I definitely didn't forget to drain the trans fluid. Only an idiot would be that dumb. 

Worst part is I consciously thought to myself this week "Make sure you at least put a drip tray under there..."

I'm going to spend some time taking a closer look but it seems it'll at least need a valve cover gasket and oil pan gasket. It will then get a thorough cleaning as it is guhross.​​​​​​

captainawesome Dork
9/5/21 8:52 a.m.

Ya, I've NEVER left trans fluid in before pulling. NEVER. Can't imagine what that's like to be honest.

AxeHealey GRM+ Memberand Dork
9/11/21 6:26 a.m.

YIL that the winch on my trailer works. Out with the old... 

In with the uhhhhhhh new? Sure.

First things first, wash it. It's been sitting uncovered in a warehouse for quite a long time so its filthy. I spent about 2 minutes with some CarBrite and a microfiber on the trunk too. Maybe this will be my excuse for getting a RO polisher again?

What's been accomplished so far - washed, passenger door card removed, seats removed, soft top and frame removed, 1/4 of the bolt-in roll bar removed, hard top plopped on top. There are no side catches present for the hard top but I believe all the orgs this will run with require it to be bolted in anyway. I suppose aside from rallycross should it ever see the dirt.

Things I've learned about Sven. It really is SUPER clean. There's one spot of minor rocker rust I've found, pretty awesome. The only surface rust on the underside is on the box sections of the floor where they've unfortunately been smushed and had the paint/undercoating scraped off. The guys I race with have a bad habit of moving cars around on fork lifts... This one also appears to have been strapped down over the body at some point. It has a ton of maintenance records - not terribly relevant to this car anymore but I learned a lot. Sold new in CO, moved to CA, then to IL for like a year and then to CA for the vast majority of its life. It also got an oil change in VA at some point... It was definitely black from the factory but the hood has been replaced at some point. No idea why.


  • The obvious - engine and trans
  • PPF and driveshaft. I was unaware they removed them when they pulled the engine
    • Still have the parts, just need to go back in
  • The wheel wells are badly hacked which is a huge bummer. We've got good spares for the fenders but the quarters are just going to be E36 M3ty for the time being.
  • Front tow hooks. I guess to put the intercooler in that this used to have they chopped out a lot of the structure in front of the radiator and also removed the factory tow hooks
  • Lightness added
  • Cage
  • All the normal maintenance stuffs / track prep

Oh and it's got berkeleying dynamat.

slowbird UltraDork
9/11/21 8:05 p.m.

Hey, I saw this car today! And Queso!  Boy I'm glad I pulled the handbrake in time. I would've felt so bad if I totaled Queso with my E36 M3ty parts car.

Stampie GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/11/21 8:21 p.m.

In reply to slowbird :

I'm jelly. 

AxeHealey GRM+ Memberand Dork
9/12/21 4:02 p.m.
slowbird said:

Hey, I saw this car today! And Queso!  Boy I'm glad I pulled the handbrake in time. I would've felt so bad if I totaled Queso with my E36 M3ty parts car.

Hah! Always fun to realize there are no brakes while the car is moving. Great seeing you.

So, yeah dynamat sucks. Does anyone know if it works with the dry ice trick?

I started with a heat gun because that's what the internet suggests but so far the best method is just to yank pieces off and then use a ball of the adhesive to pick the rest up. Totally hit or miss though. I had a long flat strip come off completely clean and then others where all of the adhesive was left behind. 

Know what else sucks? Aftermarket alarms and, yes, it's got a little toggle switch wired into the ignition. Joy.

Stampie - feel free to cruise by next time you're in the area!

AxeHealey GRM+ Memberand Dork
9/13/21 7:55 p.m.

Verdict - dry ice works on dynamat. If you peel the foil off of the adhesive, you can then hit it with a hammer after icing and it'll chip like the factory stuff. It also works to just peel it all off together. 

AxeHealey GRM+ Memberand Dork
9/15/21 6:01 a.m.

The passenger floor now looks like the driver floor. All that's left is what's on the trans tunnel. Maybe I'll try a bottle of that plumber freeze spray?

I took a closer look at the engine yesterday. Definitely valve cover gasket, likely CAS o-ring and I've just decided to do the whole water pump/timing belt/cam & crank seal service because the whole front is wet and I have no history for this engine. I don't think there's a oil pan leak but what I'm considering is the possibility of a rear main. Now would be the time to do it but then we land in our favorite spot of while-you're-in-there and it'll be a clutch job too.

That last picture is what makes me question whether there's a rear main issue. It's definitely leaking out of the top of the engine in the back but it's wetter at the top and the bottom and not so bad in the middle.

Anyone have thoughts for me?

AxeHealey GRM+ Memberand Dork
9/20/21 9:04 p.m.

Other things have taken my attention over the last week but I was back at it with Sven today. Engine oil and trans drained and I started cleaning.

I'm trying really hard to not get carried away.

AxeHealey GRM+ Memberand Dork
10/4/21 9:53 a.m.

I had taken Friday off to get the other Miata to PittRace but we were back by about 1PM so I decided to spend the time working on Sven. It was really nice out and the car is still sitting in the driveway so I tackled getting the alarm system out (along with the antenna cable). 

That took a while and then Friday evening I started pulling the front of the engine off along with the valve cover. Despite how grungy it is on the outside, the valve train looks fantastic. 

The cooling system, however... Itsagunna need a flush or three. 

bonylad GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
10/4/21 2:40 p.m.

As a fellow Miata enthusiast....its amazing how simple a car can be SO wrong.  SMH  I dropped way too much on parts that didnt fix the car just to find more E36 M3!  God speed my fellow. God Speed..............

AxeHealey GRM+ Memberand Dork
10/10/21 8:23 a.m.

I've been cleaning up Svens engine getting ready to reseal and on Friday the time came to do the cam seals and the front crank seal. Timing was locked with one non-locking crescent wrench, one locking crescent wrench and a c-clamp holding the two of them together. I bought all the FM tools. 

I started on the exhaust cam and the tool didn't press the seal all the way in. Hm. Moved on to the intake cam and voila right in. BUT. When I went to loosen off the nut, it pulled the un-lockable crescent wrench right off the cam. Uhhhhh..... Rotated things back to where I thought they should be and tried the exhaust side again. Got on the phone with FM who suggested that the pin on the exhaust cam must stick out a little too far and should try tapping the seal into place - which I did.

Moved on to the crank seal and as I was tightening the tool down the damn crank rotated about 1/8 turn. These tools are well made and pretty slick but I doubt I'll use the cam/crank seal tools as intended ever again. I think I'll use them solely to ensure the seal goes in straight but then tap the seals in the rest of the way.

So, I follow the process for setting initial timing that came with the new timing belt kit, compared that to stuff I found on Spec Miata site and I'm pretty confident I've got everything back in the right place. If anyone out there sees something wrong, please, please don't hesitate to yell at me.

I also did the CAS o-ring yesterday. Next step for the drivetrain is separating the engine and trans to do the rear main and clutch. I may first wash the engine bay though as I'm intending to paint it, it's supposed to be gorgeous today and nice outside days are limited this time of year in Cleveland.

AxeHealey GRM+ Memberand Dork
10/12/21 2:50 p.m.

I'll just ask again if anyone sees something glaring about how I've set the timing/belt. I'm pretty confident that the cams/crank are good in relation to each other because they always come to the same spot after two rotations. How does the belt tightness look? It's probably at the low end of the deflection suggested but it seemed loose otherwise. 

Either way, baby steps.

Dashboard and hvac out.


Valve cover painted. More on this later. 


Kendall_Jones Dork
10/12/21 3:35 p.m.

I've got a long term project miata of my own (rolled SM thats going to STL or something).  Anyway - I pulled my dash out to pull the wiring but I'm keeping the defrost ducts in place to work as defrosters (with either the HVAC blower or bilge pump). Just something to think about.

AxeHealey GRM+ Memberand Dork
10/12/21 4:04 p.m.

In reply to Kendall_Jones :

I was actually noodling on the same thing this afternoon re: fogging and what to do about it. Good thinking. 

In other news, the car is headed to McMahan either at the end of this month or early November. 

AxeHealey GRM+ Memberand Dork
10/26/21 11:11 a.m.

Not much big work on Sven at the moment. I'm really not terribly motivated to do much with it until the cage is in. I did, however, go raid the team parts stash and scored a whole bunch of good stuff including one perfect and one non-hacked front fender. This started me down the path of thinking I should fix the rear wheel arches because they're so gross which lead me down the path of bodywork/painting which led me here. 

I think the top is the front runner. My idea would be to "match" the E21 with the green/yellow /orange. I've also been working on another cosmetic thing but I'll post that up once finished. 

AxeHealey GRM+ Memberand Dork
11/23/21 1:58 p.m.

Dashboard back in the car because... it's headed to the cage guy this afternoon. FINALLY. He originally told me the last week of September but it should be well worth the wait. In the meantime, lipstick, meet pig.

Far from my best work but there's a greater than 0% chance it gets ruined in short order. If nothing else it's a good side project until I can really dig into the car. 

fusion66 Reader
11/24/21 6:14 a.m.

In reply to AxeHealey :

Valve cover looks great.  Care to share any of the process to get to that level of detail and quality? Nice job!

AxeHealey GRM+ Memberand Dork
11/24/21 8:16 a.m.

In reply to fusion66 :

Thanks!  I used high temp primer and matte white for the base paint and the rest is just free-hand with Sharpies. 

AxeHealey GRM+ Memberand Dork
1/19/22 3:26 p.m.

I wish there was more of an update here but I just spoke to the cage builder who said it's next in line and should be done mid-Feb. 

Seeing as though I've been next in line since September, I'm not holding my breath. At least I know it'll be a really, really good cage. 

The biggest pain in all of this, truly, is that the "tiny garage" as my daughter calls it looks like a Miatabomb went off in it. Car parts take up so much space when they're not on a car. 

AxeHealey GRM+ Memberand Dork
3/13/22 8:51 p.m.

Believe it or not, Sven is done, back in my possession and other than having a mysterious new dent and badly cracked driver-side taillight I'm very happy. The Roll Cage Guy does tremendous work. 

Look at the cut where the down bar goes into the trunk. Almost no air gap.

He also does this cool thing where he keeps the top ~2" of the window track in place so that the glass windows can be dropped in for storage and transport. 

So, now it's time for action. A Happy Meal from FM arrived last week and I've now got just about all parts needed to make it a runner again. I also think I've landed on wrapping it rather than paint.

AxeHealey GRM+ Memberand Dork
3/16/22 10:49 a.m.

Between Monday night and last night I cleaned the inside of the bell housing which, no joke, had a full on 1/16th inch of gunk/grease/dirt caked on most of it. I then replaced the shaft seal and tossed in the new throw out bearing. The TOB has more side to side movement on the shaft than I would expect but for all I know that could be totally normal. I'm going to toss the old one on at some point today and compare. 

I started into the rear main and it was just not coming out so I called it and will get it out/replaced today sometime. The valve cover is coming along and I'm going to call it quits soon to get the engine buttoned up. Again, it's just going to get ruined in short order so it's not worth spending much more time on it -  it was mostly a diversion while I was waiting to get the car back anyway. 

AxeHealey GRM+ Memberand Dork
3/25/22 2:43 p.m.

I've now completed as much cleaning/removing dynamat adhesive from the floor as I'm going to do. The last thing to do before paint is modifying the trans tunnel (see: hammer) so the special-fit seat mount fits. Strange that they didn't take the 5 minutes more it would have taken to get it to fit with no modification. At least I bought it used. 

AxeHealey GRM+ Memberand Dork
4/11/22 10:22 a.m.

Work, life, picking up the M3 and various other things mean garage time is limited these days but I'm now ready to do the final clean and mask to paint the interior of Sven. The last step was to cut out the doors and factory crash bars. 

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