May 23, 2013
Holy crap. Project Miata's new catalytic converter has really reawakened this ol' tic-tac. To recap, the car had been feeling gradually less peppy, and finally the check engine light illuminated. At that point the car was also more detonation-sensitive than before and drivability had degraded a bit, too. But none of these aspects were overly prominent, just a collection of incremental nuances that I apathetically chalked up to age and hard use.
May 21, 2013
I decided to rotate the tires on Project Miata recently, and in doing so was reminded just how much chassis stiffness is afforded by its 6-point GT3 roll bar by Blackbird Fabworx. See that? In the picture above, there's a scissor jack supporting the front jacking point, and that's it. Both the front and rear tires are dangling in space.
May 7, 2013
If you've been following our Project Miata lately, you know it's had some issues.
May 3, 2013
If you, like us, reside in California, you'll quickly find that replacing your catalytic converter is a thorny issue. The replacement cat has to carry an exemption order from CARB to be allowed for sale in California (a so-called "50-state" cat), and not all catalytic converter manufacturers bother to certify their cats thusly. As a result, choices can sometimes be slim, especially if you drive a car that wasn't sold in great numbers in CA.
May 1, 2013
Project Miata's check engine light is illuminated. This is why.
April 30, 2013
Project Miata's check engine light is on. This is the code that came up: P0420.
P0420 is a catalyst efficiency code. This could mean that our cat's not functioning properly, or an oxygen sensor is on the fritz or even something else.
April 29, 2013
While we've got a big upgrade in store for Project Miata. In the meantime, it continues to be driven. And, surprise, a check engine light.
April 26, 2013
That's not an underdrive pulley above, it's a crankshaft damper by BHJ Dynamics. I want to be clear about that, because friends don't let friends install a solid underdrive pulley on the crank of a production-based engine. It's one of the brain-deadest things you can do to an engine. Forget that the reduction in inertia will be essentially nil in light of the manhole cover (a.k.a. flywheel) bolted to the opposite end of the crank. The bigger deal with solid underdrive pulleys is the big gamble they place on the durability of your crank, bearings and oil pump.
Many Miata owners learned this the hard way when their engine's oil pump shattered to pieces shortly after installing an underdrive pulley on their turbo Miata. To understand why this happens, the nerds at BHJ Dynamics have written one heck of a .pdf technical whitepaper for you. If that reading's too dense this early in the morning, try this: imagine what it's like to be a crankshaft.
April 22, 2013
If you've ever been around aftermarket turbos, you can probably already appreciate the TiAL Sport stainless v-band GT28 turbine housing, shown here on Project Miata's engine, sans Garrett GT2863R turbo. No bolted flanges! The v-band inlet and discharge are seriously convenient, and they eliminate the possibility of threaded fasteners relaxing, galling or seizing in the manifold.
What you can't see is that the housing is investment cast from Nitronic 50, a high-grade, heat-tolerant austenitic stainless steel. Its properties at elevated temperatures are superior to traditional turbine housing materials, so the geeks at TiAL Sport were able to reduce weight by roughly one-third without a loss in structural performance.
April 18, 2013
When it comes to sorting out ancillary hardware like a turbo, wastegate and associated plumbing, an engine on the stand is worth, like, nine in the bush. That's how that saying goes, right? No? Well, it should.
One of the handful of reasons that Project Miata's new, stronger Keegan Engineering-built heart still awaits installation can be seen plain as day above. There are other, far less impressive excuses too, but I'll spare you the tedium of chronicling them here. Besides, there's a happy spinny thing to discuss.
Getting to Phase Two in Project Miata's power plant has been an incremental process. Clearly, we're approaching critical mass. Recall our goal for Phase Two of maximizing the powerband on 91-octane pump gas, an objective that requires flow, and this means turbo. No single piece of hardware influences engine performance more than does the choice of turbo. And corking up Keegan's long-rod 1.9-liter VVT BP with the wrong turbo would be counterproductive and just plain sad.
April 8, 2013
Sometimes I think I'd like to go racing. Get a dual-duty car, a sturdy daily driver that can handle a monthly track day. Buy some dedicated wheels and tires, have Mike Monticello show me the best line around a track, then ignore his advice entirely. Work my way up to the Porsche Club and start embarrassing all the teeth cleaners and plastic surgeons (a tip from experience: if your dentist likes to go racing, find another dentist). The cars, the champagne, the trophy wives: it all looks like a fun time.
April 4, 2013
I can't remember when I last drove a modern five-speed manual. Might have been our former long-term Mazda 2. Five-speeds don't come through the garage too often these days.
March 21, 2013
Now, a word of thanks.
A lot of people did their part, and did them very well, to make this whole road trip/track day/dream come true happen.
Our Miata has been flawless. It's proven that you can actually run a dual purpose car on a budget. During the course of the weekend, I used every bit of this car, from the air conditioning, cruise control, defroster to the anti-lock brakes. I remember there being some doubt as to why Jay had decided to leave the conveniences of this car intact, but he was right to do so. On the road, it behaved like a road car and on the track, like a track car. What more could you want?
March 19, 2013
Now there was this little matter of getting home.
After my soggy days at Laguna Seca, the mostly clear skies and drying pavement were a welcome sight. It was well after 4pm when I rolled into the closest gas station I could find, but I knew the road home pretty well: get to the 101 and drive south for a few hundred miles, pick up the 405 south and I'm home before I know it.
I was so relaxed that I popped into the usual coffee chain, grabbed a sandwich and a latte (it was a big, manly latte) and finished them both before getting back into the car. I even thought of reattaching the stereo faceplate for some music. Hey, at least I thought about it.
There was no stress as I reset the trip meter, eager to compare my on-track mileage to an honest tank of 65 mile an hour highway driving, and drove towards the 101. The sky was clear, the roads were dry...and that was to be the last I saw of those conditions.
March 18, 2013
It's still raining.
The intermediate group is out on track and while I can tell the track is just soaked, I didn't know just how wet it was until the Evo VII tried, in vain, to put its mostly stock power to the ground going up the front straight. The driver was pedaling, trying to get the Evo to hook up, but every time he got back on the gas, the tires broke loose. There was so much standing water that an all-wheel-drive car was struggling to find traction.
I'd had enough of watching that, and since my run group was up next, I walked back over to the Miata. Before I could get in the car, I was met by a man with a warning for me.
March 14, 2013
I wasn't able to keep up with the other three cars on our drive up, so I'm perfectly all right having excused myself to the novice group. Oh sure, I've driven Laguna Seca before but only in a simulation. And as good as that was, that's not real. Not even close.
So, for my introductory time at this legendary track, I've wound up with an instructor, Don. Apparently, riding shotgun with some guy in a supercharged Miata made more sense than taking out his own supercharged NSX. The latter would have made Don brave. The former, makes me wonder.
So how did I get on?
March 5, 2013
February 13, 2013
I first noticed that the alloy wheels on our Miata had two valve stems when we last tested it and I intended to do a little research to find out why.