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R Leete's blog
R Leete's blog
My place to spout off.
Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Nobody else is posting, so I will.  We'll see how long it takes before anyone notices.


Miata modifications, improvements and fixes is ongoing, with a pause these past several months due to weather.  Unheated garage makes for poor working conditions in the colder months.  But on-line reading and purchasing of parts continues.  So far I've aquired a new canvas top with glass rear window, door sill protectors, a shock tower brace, a grill for the nose and just now a limited slip differential.  I did get a style bar, but am reconsidering a full roll bar, or just leaving it off altogether.  I also bought a rear trunklid spoiler, only to sell it off several months later without ever installing it.  I've rebuilt the clutch master and slave cylinders, repaired the guage cluster hood, installed a remote oil filter kit (moves the filter to a more accessable location) and cleaned up the interior.  I installed the radio, but have yet to fabricate a guage panel to cover the space below it.


I did a small modification that disables the interior trunk release with the key, in order for more security.  It's a common mod, and actually came standard from the factory in later years.  I also started a modification adding small lights to the interior, which is very dark.  Since I have yet to drive the car at night, this is very low priority.  Hella e-code headlights are being considered, but again are low on the scale, so I'll wait on those.  Foglights were poorly mounted, and the wiring was a cob job, so I tore it all out.  I'll reroute the wires, and hook them up to a factory switch I got used.  The brackets had some surface rust, so I'll paint them before reattaching them.  I haven't decided if I want them in front of or hidden behind the grill.

The worst part of the car is the exterior, where the front and back bumper covers have faded to nearly pink.  I tried buffing out a section of the front bumper cover, but it really needs a lot more.  I plan on getting a cheap buffer and taking off a lot more oxidation in the spring.  Since I intend to eventually paint the whole thing (same color as now), I won't spend a lot of time on it.  I polished the shock brace and style bars, but haven't installed either one.  The rear finish panel (between the tail lights) is oxidized as well, and I have removed the badges and intend to fill the holes and repaint that, too.


The next mod is power steering.  It isn't done, because I haven't found the right bracket to mount the pump.  I'll get one from a salvage yard soon, and that will improve lower speed steering effort.  I may undo this later on, but I wanted the PS rack, as it gives a quicker turning ratio than the unpowered one.  A used leather steering wheel will replace the one on the car.  The current one has a common problem of the core separating from the outer grip, and it is not something that can be repaired easily.


I have bought new shocks (KYB AGX 8 way adjustables) and boots.  I'm still debating stiffer springs or reusing the stock ones.  Those will be done before the steering rack is attached, as it makes getting the fronts mounted easier.  Brakes are good - no need to fix anything there.


Plans in the future include supercharging, after I have the suspension sorted out.  Since the Miata's best feature is the handling, I want to get that tweaked in before I go adding a lot of other stuff.

rleete posted @ 19:49 - Link - comments
Sunday, 21 January 2007

Well, I finally did it.  I bought a sports car to work on.

I've looked at probably a dozen cars over tbhe last 6-8 months, and most of what I looked at was more of a long-term project than a car.  This one, however, is drivable, so it will mean less chance of just sitting and never getting worked on.

It's a 1994 Mazda Miata, 1.8Liter DOHC, 5 speed.  Red, of course.  The only option is A/C, and all miatas are convertibles.

It runs well, no noises.  New stock exhaust, and it sounds good.  Revs like crazy (7000 redline), and no smoke.  Hard to tell the condition of the clutch, because of the slave cylinder problem.  Slave cylinders are for the clutch, and a common problem on Miatas.  Slave cylinders are 40-55 bucks, and an easy fix.  I'd venture a guess that the clutch will go another 20-30K miles unless I abuse it.  If I replace it, I'd go with an aftermarket performance one, about 225 bucks.  Stock ones are $150.

It has got some scrapes and dings, but is surprisingly clean as far as rust for a '94.  As in, I found a little surface rust on the control arms and such, but none whatsoever on the underbody.  You'd think it was a much newer car from underneath.  All the bushings look good.  The plastic nose section is pretty oxidized.  I may be able to buff some of it out.
Top is pretty much shot, having a couple of small tears.  The rear window is junk, and the zipper is torn.  New tops are 375 and up.  From what I've read, the glass windows are worth getting, so it will be closer to 450.  I'm shopping around.  I will do the top installation myself.

It's pretty dirty, and needs a thorough cleaning; lots of accumulated gunk in all the cracks and crevasses.  Interior is all in good shape, just needs to be vacuumed out.  In reading the Miata forums, a lot of people complain how dark the interior is.  After seeing it, I agree.  No dome or mirror lights sucks.

Suspension feels good, but it may need shocks in the rear.  As it is, they will do for now.  New tires, yokohama.  Missing one center cap on a wheel; I may be able to find one on eBay or in a junkyard.  It has the M edition wheels.  New brakes in the back, and front ones are good, but will need pads within a year.

The best part is, no modifications except some small aftermarket driving lights mounted in the nose.  I'll rewire them, as it was kinda a kludge job.
No cheesy interior pieces, no engine add-ons and no silly stick on trim parts.

I'm going out to get it next weekend.
rleete posted @ 16:31 - Link - comments (4)
Thursday, 20 July 2006
Yesterday, I went to look at a 1974 Fiat 124.  It was $880, and he said that was about as low as he wanted to go.  I'm not sure he wouldn't have taken less, but I didn't offer.  I went out Tuesday night (an hour drive away), and spent about an hour and a half looking at it and talking cars with him.  Wife was kinda pissed at me for getting home so late.

It had three major issues: rust, some collision damage and a broken windshield.  If it only had any two of those, I might have gotten it.  There was a lot of little stuff, but most of it was pretty minor, and was more cosmetic than anything.

Windshield had a crack from top to bottom along the driver side, about 4-5 inches in.  Water had gotten in and delaminated/cracked it all along the side.  It had turned brown and nasty looking.  I'm sure it wouldn't have passed inspection.  Windshields are $280, plus shipping, and I'd also have to replace the gasket while I was at it, so figure about 400 bucks.  Used ones are only 65, when available.  Strike one.

Car had hit a small tree in the front left corner of the hood.  Bashed in, but possibly repairable.  The inner hood where the front pivot (hood tilts forward) meets the fender was pretty bad (twisted out of shape, pivot unattached), and starting to rust as well.  Fiberglass repro and used hoods are available, but I don't know how much.  Also, the driver's rear fender had scraped another tree, and it had flattened the wheel flange along the arch, and pushed it in, in front of the wheel.  It had mostly been pulled out, but it definitely needed bodywork and repainted.  Last, the lower valance under the hood hit had been pushed in, and the grille was bent.  Repairable, but more work.  Strike two.

The floorboards were previously fiberglassed, and pretty solid.  Rocker covers were good, but the rockers themselves were starting to go.  It was originally a Rochester car, so it had been Ziebarted (undercoated), and places you'd normaly find rust (wheel arches) were very good.  But, bubbles in the paint, like around the gas door and on the rear valance meant it was going.  I really hate working on rust repair.  Strike three.

The convertable top was nearly new, but whoever had put it on hadn't installed it correctly.  The bows were rusty, but solid.  More work.  The rear seat and side panels were not installed, but included.  Tonneau cover was there.  Front seats needed recovered, and the driver's seat probably needed new foam.  You can get NOS interior kits for about $130 (cheap!), so not a deal breaker.  Carpets in front were missing, but it had Fiat floormats.  I played with the defroster controls, but forgot to check the blower (supposedly a weak point) and never turned on the wipers.  Running lights & directionals worked, but headlights were unhooked.

It was a poor repaint over the original flame orange, and would need a lot of fussy work to make it look good.  Wheels were alloy, but someone had painted(!) them silver, and it looked like they used a crappy brush.  Tires had good tread, but were dry rotted, and would have needed to be replaced.  Side marker lights all sit in a "chrome" plastic shell, and the fake chrome was mostly gone.  If it was repainted, I'd just remove the lenses, mask, and paint the shells  the body color.

On the good side, it was relatively solid for a 32 year old car.  It started (once he jumped it), but ran a bit rough.  It was running rich (dirty carb), and I found a plug wire off later on, so that was probably half of it.  Sounded plenty strong, and didn't appear to smoke at all.  Gears shifted, but I didn't drive it.  Weber carb, intake, header and Anza exhaust were all aftermarket (and typical upgrades) and in good shape.  Brakes looked good, and had a solid pedal.  E-brake needed a cable.  Dash was dirty and had some cracks, but gauges were all there and looked good.  No radio.

All in all, it looked like a fairly well cared for car the had reached the end of it's rope.  Mostly due to the elements, and not abuse or excessive milage.  But the kicker is, resale on Fiats is piss-poor, so sinking a lot of money into it would be a bad investment.  Surprises me, as they have a lot going for them: DOHC, good revving engine, RWD with trailing link suspension, 4 wheel disc brakes, 5 speed tranny, and fairly light at 2100 lbs.  Best of all, smog exempt (screw the tree huggers!).

Mostly, it was just more work to get to fair condition than I'd ever get done.  It would sit and rot further, and never get driven.  Mechanically is was in very good shape.  It was the bodywork part that was hurting.

It would be absolutely perfect as a donor for a locost project.  The problem with locosts is the fact that it is an open cockpit, and is completely impractible for Rochester weather.  If I could somehow solve that, it would be the ideal donor.  I'm still considering it on that basis.
rleete posted @ 13:22 - Link - comments
Thursday, 13 July 2006

Looks like the Bradley project is a no go.  I have been talking to the guy, and it appears to be a cobbled together (former sandrail) project that was abandoned.  When all is said and done, it's still a VW engine, and that is the final straw.  I really want a smaller car (which the Bradley isn't), a two seater (which the Bradley is), but a front engine/rear drive one.

I guess I'll continue to look.  I found a Fiat Spyder which might be promising, but it's 2400 bucks; more than I want to spend right now.  It is easier on my budget to spend money over time than in lump sums.

More and more I keep coming back to the concept of a locost.  Maybe a major body redesign is in order to make for a convertable/semi enclosed cockpit.

rleete posted @ 18:30 - Link - comments
Wednesday, 12 July 2006

Just because no one else seems to be writing much, I'll add something.

True to form, I have started on yet another project.  Actually, this is a continuation of a lifelong one, namely cars.  Recently, I have been looking for a small sports car to restore and drive.  I have considered a "locost" project, one where you put a small 4-banger in a homebuilt frame.  That doesn't really satisfy my requirements, mostly because it is an open cockpit, with no provisions for bad weather.  Not a good thing in Rochester.  Modern small cars have absolutely zero appeal, as I consider front wheel drive to be the worst thing to ever happen to autos.  So, the search has centered around the small foreign imports such as MG, Austin, Fiat and the like.  Convertables have never held a huge fascination for me before, but I really like the idea of a very small car, especially in today's world of bloated SUV's.

Just today I found a Bradley GT kit car.  These are the kind where you put a fiberglass body on an old VW Beetle frame.  By just removing the original steel body (and associated weight), you can increase performance considerably.  This particular example is in rough shape; it does run, but it will need just about everything else from interior to wiring to bodywork.  I assume I'll have to do quite a bit of work before it is drivable.  Nothing I haven't done before.  On the plus side: it is cheap, fairly close by, and a reasonably simple machine.  Parts for VW's are readily available as well.

If things go as planned, I will use this blog as a place to post pics and chart progress.

rleete posted @ 17:05 - Link - comments (2)
Thursday, 01 December 2005

Okay, so I've been getting a lot of questions on the Tiger project.  Status: currently stalled until I come up with yet another track design that I think both works and is something that I will actually build.  The garage is unheated, so probably not much will be done on it before spring.  I have started the turret rebuild (first one was smashed when it was discovered that I messed up some dimensions), and that can be built in the basement.  Engine rebuild is complete, but I am having trouble figuring out how to make the exhaust system, and all the wiring is yet to be done.

I need a new program for creating the web pages.  I used to have MS Publisher, but no longer.  Any suggestions as to what to try (it has to be cheap or, better yet, free) are welcome.  Anyone that is a web designer that wants to get in some practice can give it a shot if they want, too.

Currently, I have been puttering on the hobby lathe making parts for my small "steam" engines (powered by compressed air) and playing Civilization III.

rleete posted @ 16:56 - Link - comments
Monday, 28 November 2005
Okay, Joe.  It works.  Now what?
rleete posted @ 21:25 - Link - comments (1)
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