Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Season opener

My second first-place win!

At my autocross season opener, I managed to win in my class by more than 2 seconds and get 16th overall (out of 90-some entrants). That felt awesome. I was surprised by how fast the car was. I even beat a 'vette and a couple supercharged/turbo Miatas. Hopefully I can still pull those kinds of times at the SCCA events.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Up and comers

This is going to be a big summer all around. Here's a breakdown of the upcoming projects, obligations and goals.

I'm enrolled in a  welding class 2 days a week for the summer term at Kish. It starts at 6, which means I need to be strict about getting to work on time so I can make it to class those evenings. Maybe I'll get a welder for my birthday.

There's plenty of autocross coming up. My goal this year is to attend enough events to at least be eligible to trophy either with the Windy City Miata Club or Chicago Region SCCA. Since there's conflicting days in the schedules of the two clubs, and some events land on days like Father's Day (I already skipped the Mother's Day event to work on the Escort), that could make it difficult. I have to figure out the minimum for each club and mark down which events I have to attend.

I need to order my racing suit, shoes and helmet.

STS Mazda Miata
About a month ago I picked up a 1.6L long nose short block and transmission for free. Yes, free. The block (sans head, hence "short") hadn't been used in about 10 years and braved the elements last winter. I have no idea what shape it's in inside, but the piston tops and cylinder walls are fairly rusty. I'm spraying the release agent of the gods on it regularly free it up.
    The plan is to tear this engine down and see if it's rebuildable with a simple hone. This will be my first engine rebuild, so even if this block is fucked, I will practice on it so I know what I'm getting into when I rebuild the engine that's in my car right now. (At 220+k miles, it's burning a quart of oil every 600-800 miles. Symptoms suggest worn rod journal bearings.) My friend Duncan is going to lend me a head so I can complete a rebuild beforehand and swap engines in a weekend; when it's done, I'll give him my old head for his future projects.

If I get the time and/or money, I hope to replace all the suspension bushings with a set of urethane ones and buy some Flyin' Miata frame rail reinforcements. The high-speed shimmy/vibration is driving me nuts, and I think these two things are the solution. I'm sure all my suspension bushings are completely shot.

LeMons Escort ZLX2 
That's ZL TIMES TWO, bitches!
Tomorrow, I pick up a used Kirkey economy layback racing seat and a neck brace for the race.
Obviously, the engine swap needs to be completed. The wiring harness needs to be pulled from the ZX2 and installed in the LX. The steering needs to be depowered, the belts rerouted, the thermostat housing replaced. Hopefully all this can be done in time to get it to several autocross events before the actual race.

I need to mount my Miata's autocross wheels and see if it interferes with the rear struts. Reports on TeamZX2 indicate that 205/50-15 tires may rub against the strut when mounted to the stock wheels; aftermarket wheels are usually OK. Possible solutions are: using narrower tires, buying wheel spacers, buying aftermarket wheels, using the 14" wheels with necessarily narrower tires, or denting the strut tube in a bit. All these are real possibilities with their own tradeoffs.

Then, of course, all the nastyness of stripping the interior, having a roll cage fabricated, buying and installing all the necessary safety equipment, finding a 4th person to commit to the team, et cetera et cetera.


That's a busy, expensive summer. The Escort has priority; it needs to be done by October. The Miata engine rebuild will more likely be a project for the fall/winter months.

Gotta keep my fingers crossed that Amanda won't kill me.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


I don't exactly have the energy for a full update at this time. I will say a few things though.

Pertaining to my previous post: We managed to luck upon an old machine shop/fabricator man, clearly a guy who had been doing this kind of shit all his life, to bend our shift rod straight for us. Eric guesses this guy to be in his 70s. He set this thing on his 50-ton H-frame manual-pump hydraulic press and fucking eyeballed this thing, pressing it until it was straight. When another guy met up with us and measured how straight it was, he clocked us a total indicated runout (TIR) of .006". Which means this thing was three thousandths of an inch away from being perfectly straight.

And this guy fucking eyeballed this. Really amazing. He was quite the character too, and seeing/listening to him made me feel kind of like I was plopped into a Coen brothers movie.

No, we did not finish the full engine-and-wiring-harness swap. We pulled the drivetrain from the ZX2 and set it up in the garage to get fixed up. Fixed a couple of oil pan punctures, replaced a valve cover and a few other miscellaneous bits. 

We got hung up on rebuilding the transmission. Well, not so much the rebuilding as the reassembly. It won't shift correctly without getting locked into gear. So that blows donkey balls. We'll have to figure all that shit out soon.

I'll post more details hen (if) I get the energy for a more complete update. In the mean time, keep an eye over at assonancerood for his breakdown of the project. If you want to see a few more pictures from the weekend, hit up my web album. Some of those pictures were taken by Eric. 

Saturday, May 1, 2010


Our transmission does not work, and this is why. That shaft? It's supposed to be straight. The tire iron is there for reference.*

We've been working on this heap for about 9 hours. We had just about finished rebuilding the transmission when we discovered that it wouldn't shift into any gear.

So yeah. Goddamn it.

*Please pardon my shitty delivery, and my pointing out the glaringly obvious. We were all very tired at that point in the night.