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Old 10-11-2010, 05:23 PM   #1
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Default Greetings Everyone ... new guy alert!

Last fall (2009) I went shopping for a new cheap car ... I live where it gets cold (I mean really cold) in the winter, and it's standard practice around here to drive a "beater' in the winter, since it's pretty hard on cars to start in -40 weather. I had a budget of $5K and off I went.

Well, I bought a PT Cruiser but in the meantime, I ran across this Miata for sale. Long story short, I bought both and came in $400 over budget.

The PT is my daily driver ... lots of room and (of course) it has a manual transmission. I got tired of paying for gas driving my truck everywhere.

The Miata is a bit rough around the edges ... it had been in an accident and written off by the insurance company a couple of years ago. Front end damage ... you can tell they replaced the passenger side fender and nose, the passenger side headlamp cover is still AWOL, but everything from the firewall back is straight, clean, and original, as is the driver's side bodywork. It looks like even the hood was undamaged. The donor car was blue and you can see some paint under the quickie red paint job on the front end parts that were replaced.

Most likely the value of the 18-year old high miler car didn't merit the repair bill, thus the write-off. The overall good reliability and integrity of the Miata design certainly plays a role here ... not many 20-year old cars would be worth the effort of getting it back on the road.

To register a total loss vehicle here you have to do a complete inspection including a safety, a mechanical, an emissions, and a frame and body integrity check, so it's not trivial.

That was done before I got it ... it was registered when I bought it and it drives more or less like it should. The title will always be marked "Rebuilt Total Loss Vehicle"; there are stickers on the drivers door sill indicating it passed frame & body inspection, etc.

It's got 280,000 km on the clock (about 175,000 miles). The engine is a bit tired (you can smell oil with the top down and there is a bit of blue from time to time from the tailpipe) but it still runs pretty good and doesn't complain if you run it to redline. Top is in great shape.

It kind of wants to pull to the left a bit but not too badly. That's made worse because the power steering pump is missing ... I'll probably do the "manual" rack mods on that which should make the steering a bit lighter. So, some suspension work is needed.

I bought a JDM 1.8L with transmission ("40~60,000 km"), a SS header, and a new catalyst, but none of that is installed yet. Have a new passenger headlight assy on the way.

I put 4 TRMotorsport 15's and Dunlop Direzza's on it ... total weight wheels, tires, valve + lug nuts 33 lbs (I weighed 'em). I have about 700 km (440 miles) on the tires, so they're just broken in, basically. Tire wear is even but the suspension work won't wait much longer.

The car will never be driven in the winter, so those tires should last for a while, relatively speaking. The plan is for all the above to be done over the winter. Plates expired a couple of weeks ago so it won't be driven until spring.

Aside from that, it is what it is.

Which is ... FUN.

I bought it because it looked like a good candidate for some upgrades/rebuilding without breaking the bank (initially at least). Paid $2200 for it.

I doubt that a turbo is in the cards in the near future, but this seems like a great forum for all kinds of mechanical info, so that's why I'm here.

Hello everyone.

Last edited by Johnny2Bad; 10-11-2010 at 05:37 PM.
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Old 10-11-2010, 05:29 PM   #2
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Old 10-11-2010, 06:46 PM   #3
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Good to have you on board. Much of what you might want to know as you proceed will be in the FAQ thread.

So you only get to drive the Miata when there is no snow on the ground? What is that, six weeks a year or so?
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Old 10-12-2010, 04:48 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by sixshooter View Post
Good to have you on board. Much of what you might want to know as you proceed will be in the FAQ thread.

So you only get to drive the Miata when there is no snow on the ground? What is that, six weeks a year or so?
You know, the summer weather here is perfect for top-down motoring ... most sunshine hours in Canada ... annual total hours is similar to Arizona and as good or better than anywhere else in the US, and if you look at it in terms of summer only, where we're getting 14~18 hours a day from May to September, it's better than anywhere else on the continent.

In June the sun comes up before 4AM and goes down at 10:30PM, and it's "real" sunshine ... not a cloud in a bright blue sky, typically, and no smog. Summer temps normally are in the +20~30 range (70~86F) and it can go to +40 (105F). There's lots of water here (94,000 lakes in SK and if it's not at least a mile long, it's not a "lake", it's a "pond") so, like you in FL, we get plenty of thunderstorms, but they mostly happen late at night ... around 10 PM or so.

Winter (below 0F daytime) starts here sometime in October and is over by early April, usually. My birthday is early November, and about half the time, we haven't had any snow yet by then.

Right now (12 October) it's +20 to 28 in the day (70~78F) and +5~10 at night (40~50F). It's going start to drop below freezing at night in the next two weeks, and probably in the day by November sometime. Last summer was very wet here, like a lot of places, but that's not normal, and I wasn't here then anyway.

We don't get much snow here ... we're too far away from the ocean or the Great Lakes ... everything else freezes over so no moisture from the local lakes. You won't get many or sometimes any winter melts, so whatever falls stays. By the end of winter you can expect somewhere between 6 inches and 2 feet of accumulated snow. Last winter was about 8", the winter before 2 feet ... that was considered a pretty heavy snow year.

I've seen the first snow in late September and I've seen it where it didn't snow once before Christmas, and I've seen it where it melts in February and I've seen it where it hangs around till the end of April.

I've lived in Minneapolis in the winter, where the average winter day is about 5~10F warmer than here ... basically it's 2 months less winter there but the Lake Effect snowstorms they get half a dozen times a year would be once-in-a-decade events here.

People do drive their Miatas in winter here ... they start very well and the heater easily keeps up in the coldest of weather, which is not something you can say for a lot of 4-cylinder cars. Ice is more of an issue on the streets than snow is, although if you get off the main roads you're going to see packed snow too.

But, the Miata isn't my only car, and the Direzza's are useless with even a light dusting of snow (you won't even get moving, period), not to mention any temp below about 40F.

I run Ice Radials on the PT Cruiser + the truck in winter (haven't had to change over yet), but you can only buy so many tires. The Miata will be summer only.

I've used Ice Radials on everything I've owned since the 80's. The best I've found for light cars are the Continental ExtremeWinterContact and for the truck, Cooper WeatherMasters in load ranges C and D. I don't run passenger car tires on my trucks ... what do you have the truck for if you don't haul loads?

The Miata would be sick with the Conti's, by the way, if anyone is curious. Highly recommended ... I've run most of the highly touted tires ... Nokian Hakkapolitas, Bridgestone Blizzaks, Michelin X-Ice, etc

The only other true winter tire I would personally recommend for a Miata are the Bridgestone Blizzaks. If I had to sum it up I'd say you want the Conti's on your car and the Blizzaks on your daughter's car.

FWD is the way to go for overall winter driving, but RWD is way more fun ;-)

People here think nothing of having 4 seasons worth of fun stuff to drive on and off-road; a boat, a quad, a bike and a snow machine in the same yard is hardly unheard of. Some guys have airplanes and if you're a farmer you might have a grass strip ... average farm is 12 sections, some guys farm 20 and 30 (a section is 1 sq mile or 640 acres). I love getting outdoors and I love all four seasons. Winter can be drudgery if you just drive to work and back every day ... you gotta get outside and live a little.

I'm drilling through the FAQ and Rookie Stickies, lots of good stuff there. I'd pretty much ruled out turbos for the engine because the ECM stuff was too intimidating, but you guys have lots of good info there and you're all starting to get me thinking ... Thanks for the shout out.

Last edited by Johnny2Bad; 10-12-2010 at 05:30 AM.
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Old 10-12-2010, 02:18 PM   #5
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If you aren't comfortable with the computer upgrades and you only want to double your stock horsepower, running what we call "band-aids" is a viable option. Band-aids typically include a rising rate fuel pressure regulator (RRFPR is available from BEGi), a timing retard box (Bipes or equivalent), an oxygen sensor clamp (check the stickies in the "for sale" section for the "Olderguy O2 Clamp"), and some slightly larger injectors (not hard to find used stock 305cc Toyota Supra injectors). Once you get these pieces, it really is so easy a fourth grader could do it. Your ninety or so wheel horsepower 1.6l can easily make 180whp with these few inexpensive pieces as the engine management. Beyond that you need a turbo, a manifold, an intercooler, some piping, a better clutch, and a few odds and ends. There will be some other things along the way but that is the bulk of it.

Good luck.

Edit: If you are patient you can find everything you need used in the For Sale section within the course of a month. It will also give you the time to get more familiar with the process.
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Old 10-12-2010, 04:38 PM   #6
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I'm not as afraid of the ECM as I was when I first checked into it ... I went to the Megasquirt and a few other sites last spring and read all I could ... I even downloaded and read the manual cover to cover.

I'm very comfortable with wiring, soldering, modifying electronics. I've got a good handle on how engines work and what affects what, although I'm definitely more comfortable with a carb than an injector. Still, it's not alien to me what's going on with FI and why we prefer it.

I just couldn't get a handle on what the heck was going on with the aftermarket ECMs and it didn't help much that I don't really know what the stock ECM is doing ... too many acronyms, too many options and not enough "this is why" and "when you change this, the ECM does that". There was a bit too much what I call "expertosis" ... it's something we all do once we know a subject well; it boils down to no longer remembering what it's like to not know anything, and you skip important details, thinking "everyone knows ... [fill in blank]". The biggest thing a good teacher has over the usual well-versed guy is the teacher can, for a moment, remember what it was he didn't used to know, and so he starts there.

I'm the kind of person who needs to understand the thing before I'll install it. Just the way I am and I'm too old to change ;-)

It was a few threads I read here on ECM stuff that got me to register in the first place. The thing is, you have to really understand it before you can explain it to someone. This forum is different that way. It seems obvious (now) that people who turbo the engine must have a good handle on the engine management, but it took me a while to figure that out and come for a second look.

But you're right ... I do realize I'll have to go there some day. I know there will come a time when it will just make sense to me, but I'm not there yet.

Thanks for the heads-up on the other mods; that sounds perfect and I'll look into it.

Last edited by Johnny2Bad; 10-12-2010 at 05:11 PM.
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