Rat Retardation

Update by Joe Gearin to the Mazda Miata project car
Dec 18, 2006

Over the last year or so, our Rat miata has gone from being a really gross, smelly, sticky place to spend time, into a pretty nice daily driver. Sure it won’t win any beauty contests (unless there are a bunch of Capri XR2s around!), but it serves us quite well in day to day use. We decided to give the little car a bit more attitude recently by spray painting the wheels a lovely shade of flat black. This extra attitude came in heat resistant BBQ paint form. We have learned that when doing paintwork, a little extra prep, and cleaning time pays large dividends in the final product. We started by sanding, and cleaning the wheels thoroughly, and then removed whatever was left of the gunk by using a bit of Acetone. Once the surface was sanitary, we masked, primed the wheels, and applied the paint in even, light passes from about 6 or 7 inches away from the surface. We ended up putting 3 coats on each wheel. The finished product looks great, and makes the Miata look a little more like Soundgarden, and a little less like Morrissey.

While we had the wheels off we inspected the rotors and pads — well, what was left of them! Brake help was needed, and came in the form of new vented and slotted rotors supplied to us by Disk Brakes Australia. What sets these rotors apart, besides the super cool chrome colored boxes they come in, is the painted heat indicator strips embedded in the rotor. These painted lines change color as heating temps increase. The Green line becomes white above 458 degrees C, the Orange line becomes Yellow at 550 degrees C, and the Red strip turns white when the rotors surpass 630 degrees. This simple color coded system makes general temp readings an easy task at a glance.

If you have never changed Miata brakes before a word to the wise: Do not compress the rear caliper piston with a C-clamp, or vice. This will end in you breaking things, and scaring the neighborhood children with profane language. Instead, check out miata.net like we did. There is a small allen screw hidden behind a bolt on the backside of the brake assembly. Once this screw is accessed, the piston moves easily to make room for the new pads. This is also the e-brake adjustment screw.

Now that the Miata is looking a little more butch, and has a nice firm pedal, and fresh pads (stock Mazda pads), we will be looking to upgrade the hopelessly worn out suspension on the cheap. All told, this car has still had less than $2,500 spent on it, including purchase price! We will keep the low cost in mind when choosing the next step. Stay tuned!

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