In order to go faster, you must add lightness

The poor miata. The more we take it apart, the more we realize just how poorly it’s been abused. Everything about this car is shitty. We are slowly doing our best to help it out a little. Part of the fun of an underpowered car is trying to squeeze the most out of the power it makes. The miata was rated at 140 horsepower from the factory. 17 years and 175k miles of abuse surely haven’t done it any favors. The best way to make the most of what it has is to remove as much weight as possible. We’ve removed the majority of the interior, taken out the entire air conditioning system, removed the power steering pump and lines, and generally taken out everything we can get away without. The car has also had the benefit of a number of simple greening the engine bay sessions. There was so much disgusting greasy oil and dirt residue.

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Most of the weight removal and cleaning was biding our time while we waiting for the many boxes of parts we ordered to arrive. We haven’t been able to drive the car much. The steel belts on the front tires were showing and the suspension was so awful that we pretty much had to let it sit until we had the suspension installed, got the brakes, new wheels and tires on, and then had the alignment done. This part of the project has definitely been the most overwhelming. There is just so much to do. We spent about 12 hours at my in-laws’ fancy garage and got started in taking out the old coilovers. While the suspension was apart, the brake stuff came out too. We have new lines, calipers, rotors and of course pads. Seeing just how awful the coilovers were was kind of a kick. I would say that having instructions printed on your suspension components doesn’t say much for their quality.



The car was also dumped so low that not only were the fender liners missing, the tires were rubbing on the insides of the actual fenders. As noted, the front tires were worn so far that the steel belts were out and frayed.

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With all of the small stuff that needed doing, bleeding the brakes, monkeying with sway bars, etc, that was all we really got done, but a lot was accomplished on our first day. The car had all new coilovers and a big brake kit, plus the new wheels and tires we picked up for it.

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This weekend the primary project was getting the car safely drivable. We got partway there. The sway bars needed adjustment so we installed new end links. The tie rod ends needed replacement. It appears as though the impact that damaged the bumper (and maybe the fender too) also bent a tie rod end. All of the tie rod ends were removed (and when that happened we did some more cleaning on the steering rack) and replaced with stuff that wasn’t destroyed. We replaced the radiator with something a lot more robust. The old one wasn’t in great shape and if we end up turboing the car some time in the future, we’ll be glad to have something that can keep up with all of the additional heat the car generates.


The hard top was taken off once again and the seats were removed. The whole inside of the back of the car was cleaned out and all of the old dust cleaned off. I began the arduous and patience testing job of chipping the tar out of the foot wells. We got the new roll bar installed. This new one sits further forward and is a little taller, so Craig’s freakishly long torso can pass the broomstick test.

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We ended up needing adjustable sway bar end links due to the way the new sway bar sits with the coilovers in front (and the back end links literally will not come off the old sway bar) so those went in.¬†Anyway, Craig did a lot more fussing with ride height and toe adjustments with the car before it goes in for an alignment this week. We did learn that the seat bracket mounting points (the bumpy parts in the photo of the floor pan above) are stronger metal than the floor of the car, so when we tried to air chisel them off, we put a sweet hole in the floor. We have a rivet drilling bit on its way right now. The mounts need to come off and we need to fabricate the seat brackets for the new racing seats, and figure out mounting points for the harnesses before we can drive it for the alignment on Thursday. All in all, a great deal has been accomplished, it’s just time consuming and visually the car doesn’t look that different, so it feels a little disheartening. Our next projects are the seats, followed by prepping the car for vinyl, which is going to be its own adventure.

4 thoughts on “In order to go faster, you must add lightness”

  1. Yes! We actually have just recently completed the last part of the puzzle on this bad boy. It had a crankshaft bearing that was starting to get pretty noisy, so the engine had to be pulled so we could remove and replace the crank bearings. That happened a few weeks ago. Craig has a track day scheduled in a couple of weeks so that will be our first shaking down of any other potential problems. I’m driving down separately to watch/hang out/ be an emergency ride home if need be! After that gets worked out, I want to do another track school to get more experience with an instructor on this track and then we should both be good to do more track days. They tend to be way cheaper during the winter too, so if we can avoid record breaking rainy weather this winter, we may be able to take it out a few times.

  2. How has the Miata been doing? I enjoyed reading the detail you put into the teardown / start of the rebuild. Did the car hold up over the past year?

    1. Thanks for the interest! I should post a follow up! The Miata was finally ready for it’s track debut fall of 2017 and drove beautifully. After a little aero to keep it planted on track after the long straight, it’s a beast.

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