Building a Track Car – Thoughts on the Miata

As I wait for more parts to arrive I am continually reviewing what needs to be done to the car to make it track worthy.

There will no longer be a need for Air conditioning so I will remove all the A/C equipment.  I will still want heat and defrost for those crispy Virginia mornings at the track.

It will be important to get the refrigerant out of the system prior to my disconnecting the parts.  A good friend has the vacuum equipment to recover the R134 and keep it from being released into the atmosphere.  Then all the parts and pieces can be removed from the engine compartment and under the dash.  I will also be upgrading the radiator so it will make the removal that much easier.  I am hoping that it will result in leaving about forty pounds off the car.

This version also has cruise control, which I will also have no use for.  With it removed the engine compartment will not only get lighter, it will become more spacious.

I purchased a “performance package” from the folks at Go Miata that includes some important modifications.  First of all is a Racing Beat four-into-one header.  The kit also includes a Racing Beat dual tip exhaust and Power Pulse connecting pipe.  They were good enough to swap the dual exhaust for a single exhaust and add a Maganaflow hi-flo cat to the system.  This package also includes a Racing Beat high performance intake that converts from the factory intake box to a nice K&N cone filter.   A set of Magnacore plug wires complete the package.

Go Miata has a great brake upgrade that I also ordered.  It is for all four wheels and includes DBA rotors with aluminum hats, Wilwood four piston calipers and the rotors are 11″ in diameter.  Braided stainless steel brake lines are also included along with DOT 4 brake fluid.

The folks at Go Miata also hooked me up with a headlight conversion kit that will rid me of the flip-up headlights that act as air brakes if you use them.  The Go Miata Oracle headlight kit is a flush mount replacement that provides a smooth transition for air flow and still lights up the road (I plan to register the car so I don’t have to deal with a trailer and tow vehicle).  It will be good to rid the car of the weight and complexity of the flip-up headlights that came on this car.

The interior is going to lose all its carpeting.  Useless weight in a track car.  The windows will either be converted from electric to windup or else eliminated completely.  The radio is only more weight that has no purpose in the track car and will be removed.  The stock seats will be replaced with a set that provides more grip.  The initial set of seats will not be ideal, but they will fit my budget and will be an improvement over the factory seats.

The transmission will get a short shift kit, again from the folks at Go Miata.  It is a Ralco RZ version which will result in a shorter throw and silkier shifts.  The center console will go the way of the radio.

The oil pressure gauge in Miatas was originally a real gauge that showed how the oil pressure fluctuated, but in 1995 it was changed.  It still looked like a gauge, but it no longer had a sending unit and only showed if any oil pressure existed.  I found an earlier version on eBay that came with a pressure sending unit and it will be swapped out for the ’97 one.

I am still looking for a hard top.  While the soft top is nice to cruise around in when you have found some twisty back roads, the safety concerns for track days are easier to contend with if I have a hard top bolted in.  I will continue to search for one.

Bracing is paramount for a track car and especially a convertible.  Fortunately a lot is available to stiffen up the chassis.  For this I went with the folks at Flyin’ Miata.  I have installed their butterfly brace kit on Miatas before and have been very impressed with the results.  In addition I will install a set of Frog Arms under the front fenders.

The folks at Flyin’ Miata were at the Targa Newfoundland event last year and were great to be able to meet and watch compete.

Since the stock Miata front control arms do not have replaceable ball joints and cost nearly $300 for replacements I went with Flyin’ Miata’s front upper tubular control arm that has replaceable ball joints and is much lighter and stronger than the stock arms.  They have a complete tubular suspension available, but unfortunately it is outside of my budget.

Flyin’ Miata also has an excellent coil-over setup available that I have on order.  Their V-Maxx version of coil over shocks sells quickly and the 2012 sets won’t be available until March.  They should be well worth the wait.  With them I will not only be able to set the ride height, but I will also be able to corner weight the car.

The front anti-roll (a.k.a. sway bar) will be replaced with a Whiteline version.  The front sway bar mounts on this era Miata are notoriously weak so Mark will work with me to fabricate a solution.  I expect it will involve welding in some form of box tubing. 

All the factory suspension bushings are being replaced with Energy suspension bushings.  These are available through many sources so I have simply searched for the best price of the bushings.  Not only will the control arm bushings be replaced, but so will the sway bar bushings and end link bushings.  I will stick with the factory rear bar to start with.

With 150,000 miles I would be wise to replace the clutch.  Since I am not rebuilding the engine or doing any massive power upgrades, such as turbocharging, I will stick with a high quality clutch by Exedy and a lightened flywheel.  This comes with new pilot and throwout bearings and should get me through at least one season with no problems.  I will look at the hydraulic clutch components, but so far they look fine.  While the tranny is out I will plan on replacing the transmission seals and the rear main seal on the engine.  It might be a good time to convert the clutch line to a braided stainless steel version.  New clutch fluid, of course.

Basic maintenance is also on the list.  All fluids will be replaced.  The timing belt, tensioner, pullies, water pump, drive belts, seals will be replaced.  The timing belt will be a Gates Racing version.  Along with the Magnacore wires it will get a new set of iridium spark plugs.  A new fuel filter will replace the old one. New coolant hoses, too.

I will likely take a field trip out to Bethania to pickup a bolt-in rollbar from Hard Dog fabrication.  They make some excellent bars and have versions approved by NASA and SCCA.  A complete roll cage might be in the future if budget allows.

Wheels and tires are paramount to good handling.  I plan to go to Tire Rack for my first set.  They will be 16 inch diameter wheels as light as I can get away with.  The tires will be Bridgestone RE-11.  I know that many of you track fiends out there will shake your heads and cluck your tongues, but for me track days are all about learning skills I can transfer to the street and therefore I will start with a real street tire.  Granted it is about as high performance as a street tire can get without being a race tire.

At the moment that is my list.  If any of you out there have any suggestions, please feel free to comment.

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

One Response to Building a Track Car – Thoughts on the Miata

  1. drsideways says:

    Ahhh…. Bethania Garage. I learned how to tell time and fractions there as a boy. I would roll around on a pedal tractor that Charlie Wolf took away from his kid. I would pile all of the phillips screwdrivers in a pile and then the straights. Then onto the wrenches and sockets:)

    The problem was there were multiple mechanics that would leave their tools right on the floor or bench Friday at quitting time. My Dad would take me on Saturday mornings for oil changes and what not. By the time I got done picking up the tools, everyone’s were mixed together.

    After high school I worked their with VJ Stewart on Datsuns. I would climb in the window to get there early.

    Alan

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