New wheels

Here’s a post that isn’t particularly substantive to hold over my hardcore readers until I have time to pick up a wrench again.

I ordered these wheels before I blew the transmission and they came in the week after the car went down. I also have 225 Hankook RS3′s–same story. They’re bronze 15×9 6ul’s from 949Racing. +36 offset, 13.6 pounds each. They’ll look great on my car and they’ll provide me with much more grip than the old setup(stockers with rt615′s).

Back to school

This build is going to be moving slowly for the next couple of months. The only work that will be done is that which I can fit in if I find myself home for a weekend. The good news is that I will have all of the parts together by the time my lengthy winter break starts. During that break, I am going to have no life and I am going to finish this thing.

In the mean time, the car has been prepared for dormancy. I covered all of the bare metal with three different types of spray paint that I had on hand and cleaned all of the steel dust off of the paint. It’s ready to sit, but hopefully won’t have to sit for too long. I’m hoping that I can get the transmission tunnel finished and the engine bay painted before the weather turns cold. That may be a lofty goal for sporadic weekend labor, but I’ll do what I can to make it happen.

Pre-body filler and it looks pretty good.

These are going to look excellant once I touch them up with a little bit of filler.

Not much evidence of this thing having heat in a previous life.

I also patched up the corners of the engine bay.

The car hasn’t been this clean in weeks.

Mr. Function Over Form has a shaved bay?

Good design is an uncompromising blend of form and function. Why sacrifice one when you can have both, particularly if you can make them compliment one another. I had tons of holes in the firewall that weren’t going to be used. They were ugly and they’d have let fire through. What’s the point of a firewall that doesn’t effectively block fire? Idk, but now they’re plugged so no fire will get through and an eyesore is gone. The strut tops were also really quite ugly. That’s unacceptable. I triangulated them to the frame rails. That’s good, and looks really good.

If you’re thinking about shaving your bay…stop. Seriously, cut it out. Save yourself the agony. The process requires tons of mindless labor and will leave you feeling broken in the end. It’s a lesson on how much manual labor sucks, and makes me glad that I’m going to school. But then again, I got most of this work done in a single day. Who knows, maybe I won’t be so bitter towards the process later as I am now–just waking up with a sore back. 22 year olds aren’t supposed to wake up with sore backs. I’m normally far too youthful and robust for that. If you’re old, shaving your bay will cause you to become an alcoholic.

Anyway, check it!

I started by cutting out the sections of frame rail that were raised for the stock fuel, return, and evap lines. I welded new metal in place.

The previous owner cut a section out of the frame rail to clear the turbo. I patched that with some new metal.

I started on the strut tops after I got the frame rails cleaned up.

I made templates out of paper, cut metal to the right shape, twisted the metal to follow the controur, did a little bit more trimming, and tacked it in place. The center segment is entirely flat, but the sides required some light bending with my design.

The factory gussets weren’t exactly symmetrical from the factory so I had to weld in a wedge of metal to make both sides level. Now the gusset meets up with my plate.

Then weld.

This is what they looked like when they were nearly done. I’m certainly not the first to box the strut tops on a Miata, but as far as I know, I’m the first to go about it this way. Mine look the best…and are the strongest. Winrar!

I did the grinding with 60 and 120 grit flapper disks.

These will look amazing with the tiniest amount of filler and some paint.

Then plugged the holes in the firewall.

Because heaters are for those who do not have jackets:

Because AC is for men who carry handbags:

I also got rid of the two big holes that scary masses of factory tentacles run through. Welding in those cramped areas with poor lighting and no visibility was kind of tricky. My welds looks pretty lousy, but this isn’t structural.

This is how the bay looked when I went to bed. All I have left is the hole in the passenger side frame rail.

In other news, my Flyin’ Miata v8 sway bar came in yesterday. It looks good. My Sanderson ceramic coated block hugger headers came in a few days ago. They look good. I also picked up a Getrag differential from a local salvage place. 3.23, so second gear may serve a purpose if I have race tires on there, 4k miles, and I got it for a good price($250). Hooray!

I have a V8!

I drove to Cleveland Pick-A-Part the other day to pick up an LS1 and T56 from a 2004 GTO. The engine has 47k miles and came with a warranty. I’m impressed with Pick-A-Part. They thoroughly inspected my engine before sellin it. That inspection included a compression test, measurement of oil pressure, and measurement of vacuum. They also took a video of the engine running. The engine and trans looked immaculate when I got them. There was no grease or grime to be found. I took a peak under a valve cover as well. It looked as though they had taken everything apart, steam cleaned all of the components, and reassembled them with lubricant. The valvetrain looked brand new. You can certainly find parts for less on craigslist and so on, but quality salvage places like Cleveland Pick-A-Part are the way to go if you’re not looking to gamble with your money. I know exactly what I bought and I know that it works. That feels good.

Removing the parts from the trailer was interesting and involved my dad creeping forward in his van while the pallet was tied to my Subaru. The unloading went perfectly.

Oh my!

A quick test fit.

The big parts that I still need now are the V8R swap kit(ordered) and a Getrag rear differential.

Chassis Preparation

The idea of this swap is to put a big engine into a small car. The concept is simple, but proper execution takes a bit of work. Clearance has to be made in the engine bay to make room for the engine itself and the transmission tunnel needs to be expanded ~2″ on each side to accept the larger LS/t56 bell housing. Many people leave it at that. I wanted to stiffen up the chassis some via stitch welding because the new engine will produce three to four times more torque than a stock BP. That, and stiffness is good for handling. Since viagra doesn’t work on cars, I grabbed my trusty Harbor Freight angle grinder, borrowed a MIG welder, and got to work.

The chassis comes packed with seam sealer. There’s a lot of the stuff and it’s everywhere–particularly near the seams. The seam sealer is important as it prevents moisture from reaching the crevices and rotting the metal, but you can’t weld over the stuff. In fact, you can’t weld over anything. All of the seam sealer, paint, and primer needs to be removed from the seams so that clean, contaminant-free, welds can be made. Although removing the seam sealer is messy business, an angle grinder with a good wire wheel gets through the stuff relatively quickly.

Not fun

99% of the seam sealer is gone. The remaining 1% is stuck in the seams and takes about as long to remove as the first 99%. More paint and primer need to be stripped before welding can take place.

The engine bay needs to be stripped as well. The process is the same. You can see that the gusset in the corner of the bay has been removed. That makes space for the engine.

I took care of the stitch welding once all of the contaminants were stripped from the seams. Stitch welding involves putting short lines of weld along all of the seams at short intervals. I had ~1″ of space between most of my welds. Don’t stich forward of the front strut towers or behing the rear strut towers. This will provide no benefit and will compromise crumple zones–making the vehicle less safe. I had never welded prior to this project. Fortunately, MIG is easy to pick up.

I then stitched the pinch protrusions that are revealed when the doors are open. Numerous layers of steel merge at this point, and stitch welding them together is supposed to make a tangible difference in itself. Plus, they’re easy to get to.

I cleaned up the seams once again after the stitch welding was complete and packed them with new seam sealer.

Clearance
Making clearance in the engine bay is really quite simple. There are gussets in the back corners that need to be removed. I removed mine with an angle grinder and cutoff wheel. That said, my tool of choice would have been a plasma cutter. You can see that the firewall seam is gone and that a number of holes are filled. This isn’t at all necessary–it’s strictly for aesthetics. I’ll write a post about the engine bay shave once I’m further along.

The transmission tunnel needs to be expanded as well. If you do this swap, I recommend that you not start this process until your engine and transmission are present. The tunnel needs to be expanded for, and only for, the bell housing. The bell housing is wide where it meets the engine, and quickly tapers down. Accordingly, the transmission tunnel only needs to be flared out where it meets the firewall. I didn’t do enough research and started before my drivetrain was present. I expanded the tunnel to the widths that were specified in the Flyin’ Miata instruction manual, but I went too deep with the expansion. Now, the gas pedal hits the tunnel. A v8 Miata with a gas pedal that can only be depressed 20% isn’t particularly useful. Bashing the metal back in will cause more fatigue and the finished product would be an eyesore. Now I need to cut out those sections of beat up metal and fabricate new ones. That should be reasonably straight forward, but it is more work, and it’s the kind of work that could have easily been avoided.

Check back–there’s more to come.

The Teardown

The first step was to remove all of the things. Although that sounds vague, it aptly describes what I did. This post only shows you the beginning.

First, the engine and transmission were removed. I had never pulled an engine or a transmission prior to this point, and conveniently, it was properly simple. The key is to triple check that everything is unbolted and disconnected. Having a load leveler helps(mine was from Harbor Freight), and so does periodically checking clearances as you’re lifting out the drivetrain. I wasn’t worried about scratching the paint because I knew that I’d have to repaint the bay, but I was still quite careful.

As you can see, the garage was a huge mess at this point–car parts and other junk strewn about. Thanks to craigslist, forum classifieds, and family, I got much of the stuff cleared out and ended up with some more money for my fun fund.

Keeping the OEM wiring harness didn’t make sense since the car is stripped. I marked and separated what I wanted to keep and hastily removed the rest. This is where a wiring schematic of the vehicle really comes in handy. I saved most of the wires coming off of the steering column, the exterior lighting wires were labeled and set aside, and the wires going to the rear of the car (lighting, fuel pump, fuel level sensor, and main power supply) were coiled up and set aside. The car will go back together with the LS1 engine harness, aftermarket gauges, aftermarket fuse blocks and relays, and all of that will be tied together by myself. I’m doing this for weight reduction and simplicity.

The state of the interior: