The Miata Project – part 4

This is the part you have all been waiting for.  This weekend we return this pocket sports car to its owner.  I cannot wait to find out what he thinks of it.

It started out as a request to fix the broken power radio antenna and put a set of good brakes on the car.  The first part involved going to the local Mazda dealership and buying a new mast section, removing the motorized unit, and disassembling it enough to get the broken part of the nylon gear out of it.  Then reinstalling the motorized antenna and inserting the new mast.

The brakes took some decisions.  Knowing that this would not be a track car it was safe to use Brembo drilled rotors and pair them up with some Hawk street brake pads.  Both were obtained through Tire Rack.  While we were at it we changed out the old brake and clutch fluid for some fresh Brembo brake fluid.  We also used VHT black caliper paint on the brake calipers to keep them looking fresh and clean.

We took the car out for some test drives and re-adjusted the anti-roll bar settings and the Tokico Illumina shocks.  It had been equipped with Flyin’ Miata springs a few years back along with the shocks.

We were ready to return it to the owner when the request came in to do all appropriate maintenance.  That meant:

  • Change rear differential oil
  • Change transmission oil
  • Change fuel filter
  • Replace timing belt
  • Replace water pump
  • Replace tensioner and idler pulleys
  • Replace drive belts
  • Replace thermostat and all coolant hoses
  • Oil and filter change
  • Replace spark plugs and wires

We also fixed a problem with the way the cold air intake failed to hold the K&N air filter element.  Then we cleaned and painted the valve cover in wrinkle black paint.  We flushed the anti-freeze by changing it twice.

We cleaned the contacts on the power window switches and replaced the gear oil in the shifter linkage.

We also installed a front spoiler and rear aero pan on the car.  We found a lot of carbon on the piston tops and cleaned it all out with Mopar Combustion Chamber Cleaner.  We also cleaned the throttle body and intake.

We took out the oil gauge that came on the ’96 Miata and replaced it with a real gauge and sending unit from an earlier model Miata so that it now had a true oil pressure gauge.


We used a Gates racing timing belt because of the low mileage this car is likely to see.  It provides an extra margin of safety if the years roll by but the odometer doesn’t.

At that point we returned it to the owner with a couple of suggestions.  One was to equip the car with a roll bar to protect the driver and passenger in the event something bad happened.  The other was to fix the rear suspension’s tendency to bottom out as well as the general rough ride. 

So back it came to us for some more work.  We installed a Hard Dog roll bar with padding.  We also installed a Flyin’ Miata Butterfly Brace that provides incredible amounts of rigidity to the chassis.  Then we replaced the shocks and springs with a solution that would tame the rough ride, but still allow this to remain a great handling sports roadster.  Bilstein shocks and Eibach springs were complemented by Flyin’ Miata’s special rear shock mounts.  That meant good-bye to bottoming out in the rear and the track car ride. 

To take advantage of the new suspension we added a set of Chaparral wheels and Bridgestone Potenza tires along with a Flyin’ Miata recommended chassis alignment.

So take a look.  I know its not the same as an actual drive, but believe me, it is a fantastic ride.




This entry was posted in Automobiles, Car Stuff, Care and Feeding, Cars, Life and Cars, Modifying Cars, Servicing Cars, Sports Cars, Suspensions and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to The Miata Project – part 4

  1. markitude says:

    Great update – You’ll have to tell us what he thought. Last time I saw it, the shift knob was dinged up chrome. Did you wrinkle paint that too? You’re too much.
    There are people that you don’t want to loan your car to – it’ll come back wrung out, dirty, and with an empty tank of gas. Jim is one of the people you WANT to loan your car to. You’ll note that the car looks detailed in the pics – it is. Jim uses premium multi step process to clean, moisturize and protect the leather surfaces. He’s compulsive – if it can be cleaned, polished, lubricated, adjusted, re-painted, or whatever, he’s going to do it.
    I’ve been trying to loan him my Z06 for some time now….

  2. Tim Supples says:

    How did the new wheels & tires improve the handling since you did the suspension?

  3. jimsgarage says:

    The wheels went from 14″ to 15″ diameter so that the width could increase to 7″. One of the big changes is to the offset. It is now 38mm which brought the wheels and tires closer to the outside of the car.
    The tires are much stickier than the Michelins that were on the car. The Bridgestone Potenza RE750 tire gets high marks in dry traction, cornering stability, and steering response. The compound is fairly sticky and the sidewalls are quite stiff so I am starting the tire pressures at 27 lbs. The factory recommendation is for 26 pounds.
    This tire even has quite good traction if it rains. I don’t expect the owner has any plans for rainy day drives in this car, but you never know when the weather could change.
    I took the car out to scrub the mold release off the tires. I think I described to you what happened when I <strong>didn’t</strong> do this on a new set of tires on my Evolution. I didn’t want the owner experiencing a tail happy car because they had not been scrubbed in.
    What I found was quite a contrast to how the car handled prior to the changes. With the other springs and shocks the car would “chudder” if you threw it into a corner. It was mostly in the rear as the springs fought not to bind and the tires lost grip off and on. With the new set up the car is very planted. The tires don’t want to give up any grip and let let you know by staying stuck – not making noise or vibrating around a tight corner. The butterfly brace and roll bar have combined to provide a highly tortionaly ridged chassis. This allows the springs, shocks, and anti-roll bars to give the tires a predictable platform. The car has a great deal of compliance when transversing a rough road, yet when you need to corner it hard it will follow the course you steer like it is on rails.

  4. Krista says:

    Jim: Good looking roadster. Wonderful job. Do you have a shot showing the roll bar you installed?

  5. jimsgarage says:

    Yes at there was a write-up on that as well as before and after photos.
    Are you thinking of a roll bar for your BMW?

  6. Ted III says:

    Well – I am the son of the owner….and I had a chance to test drive this latest multi-part project to roll out of Jim’s Garage. I have to say that the transformation of this car is unreal!
    Prior to the project – it was extremely rough to drive (fun for a few miles – then tiresome!)… the car handles well – and does not beat you up. I could tell as I backed it out of the garage that the Flyin Miata brace had increased sturctural rigidity in a really noticeable way……the wheels are just what this car needed – they fit perfect and are what the car really needed to look tough. The roll bar fits perfect and also adds a nice tuch of “mean factor” while protecting my dad’s head! Brakes are fantastic – the pedal feel is perfect!
    I can’t say enough about how Jim goes the extra mile for his projects! The car came back with a complete binder of all receipts and work performed – as well as a custom cover with the car’s picture on it! The extra touches Jim does are so beyond the call of duty – but are so appreciated – the crinkle paint on the valve cover, the new shift knob, the detailing (including the inside of the exhaust tip!) – I could go on and on – this car rocks – and Jim is the master of the garage! If you are thinking about a project for your car – you would be tremendously lucky to have Jim’s Garage on board! I know – he did my TSX last July!

  7. Stephen says:

    Jim, amazing work and great attention to detail… Are you for hire? I have this old sport bike that needs some brake work. 🙂

  8. sam says:

    Wow I’m quite late to the party. Car looks fantastic.
    The shocks/springs and mounts are exactly what I’m looking at. What did your ride height settle to? (Center wheel to fender lip).
    What bump stops did you go for?

    Again fantastic looking car

  9. sam says:

    Ahhh did you not go for fcm stops?
    What happened to this car?

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