Going fast: don’t we all love it?

It’s been a good week for racing, and both vehicles have taken quite a beating. I started last Saturday by attending a rally-x in the Subaru. Myself and the guy who codrove my car left with second and first respectively in a class of 12. Not bad, and I’d have won if I hadn’t hit two cones during my parade lap. :facepalm:

I had an auto-x on the agenda for last Sunday. My original plan was to take the Miata, but the weather forecast motivated me to take the Subaru instead. This was a mistake as the course resembled a drag strip and it didn’t end up raining during the first run group. Even so, good times were had and I won in my class of one. They gave me a beer mug.

I went to a track day at Gingerman on Tuesday, and put some work into air management before that.

Radiator ducting:

Under tray and splitter:

The radiator ducting worked great–the temps stayed rock solid no matter how hard I pushed. The splitter worked too well. The car gained a tendency to oversteer and I had to shift my brake bias more towards the front. In hind sight, the brake bias adjustment may have also been required because I was cooking the front brakes.

Then……pretty early on, I went off and met some tires. A combination of my forgetting about a turn that’s obscured by a crest and the brakes being too hot to do much with such late notice resulted in an off track excursion. The car is fine, however I lost all of my aero stuff and blew out the alignment. I’m kind of bummed, but **** happens and the car handled better without the splitter. After removing the mangled aluminum and performing a trackside alignment, I was up and running again, and finished the day strong.

Anyway, this car is tremendously fun on the track and I can’t wait to take it out again. The biggest problem that I can fault the car with is brake fade, and that should be easy to fix with ducts and some more serious pads. I was running Hawk HP+’s. Here’s some video of part of one of my last sessions. Watch the brake fluid reservoirs for a rudimentary G meter.

Yesterday, I went to an auto-x in Lansing, and it was about the most fun I’ve had in this car to date. My strategy for the day was to take it easy, avoid cones, and really focus on my driving. That strategy paid off as I won my class of one(woohoo), and got the second FTD. A guy in an ASP Corvette, with massive Hoosier A6′s, was faster by a second. I’m thrilled with the results, although a set of 275 A6′s would be fun to play around with.

I’m happy with the way that the car handled, too. I had an understeer problem at the first event I went to. Installing the rear swaybar made that problem go away and the car feels quite neutral now. Throwing the car into turns is extremely satisfying.

I’d consistently smoke the inside tire under braking. Kind of aggravating as I think it’s largely unavoidable unless I install ABS.

Here’s a video of my fastest run. I ran a 49.9.

Progress report

Despite my best efforts, I have not been able to break this thing. Believe me, I’ve tried and tried, and tried again, all to no avail.

I have been daily driving the car for the past few weeks, basically since I first made it run. In fact, my Subaru has really only been used to transport my bike. During that time, I’ve put around 1,600 miles on the car. As ridiculous as the car looks, it’s very livable. The seats are comfortable, the windscreen wiper works well, the headlights are phenomenal, the top keeps me dry in the rain, and the fuel economy was pretty good for as long as I could bear to not abuse the thing. In fact, I was able to average 25mpg with a mix of highway and city driving without annoying fellow motorists in the process. That means that this car has road trip potential.

Because photos are fun, here are a few recent ones.

I have also made a little bit of progress on the car since my last update:

Version one of the gauge cluster is now complete and properly mounted.

I also installed my remote brake bias adjuster. This thing is awesome. Optimizing the bias takes no time, and it’s easy to adjust for different surfaces conditions.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have a proclamation. It works!

In fact, it works quite well. After more than a year of down time, I took the car for it’s maiden voyage about two weeks ago. Now, the car has about 900 miles on the clock and 8 auto-x runs. So far, it has been a joy. The power is excellent and the delivery of the power is even better. The chassis is phenomenal–my efforts to firm things up do not go unnoticed behind the wheel. Gone are the days of the front and back of the car feeling disconnected. The steering is precise, the handling is sharp and predictable, and the brakes cause awkward facial expressions. With warm tires, the car grips in second gear. I’m thrilled to have these kinds of results, even before the car has undergone any development.

With the above said, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing.
-I had a leaky slave cylinder fitting. The fix for that is outlined in my previous post.
-The water temp has a tendency to climb if I leave the engine idling for extended periods of time. I thought I had fixed this by relocating the fans, however I now believe the problem to lie with the radiator–it has a defect which causes a drastic reduction in airflow through certain parts of the core.
-The car demonstrated understeer on the auto-x course. I have since installed a rear sway bar, hopefully eliminating the problem.

Without further delay, here are some photos:

2,240lbs with no top, oil cooler, or accusump. This means that my end goal of keeping the car under 2,300lbs is achievable.

The interior is sparse, just how I like it.

And some auto-x footage:
LS1 Miata, first auto-x.

It’s all about the details

What’s the difference between mediocre and great, between frustration and fun? Oftentimes, it’s the little things. Here are a few examples of my trying to go the extra distance to help keep this project enjoyable.

Here is my oil cooler, mounted forward of the drivers side wheel well. This location is good for providing the cooler with a steady source of cool air. That said, due to the packaging constraints of the Miata, the corner of the cooler is very close to the bumper cover. In fact, the two are almost in contact. This makes the oil cooler vulnerable–a small impact could damage the cooler and cause me to lose oil pressure. My solution to the problem: a short piece of 1/8″ aluminum angle stock, bolted to the bumper support. For the oil cooler to be damaged by a frontal impact, the aluminum piece must be damaged first. A hard collision with an auto-x pylon, grazing a tire wall at the track, or a low speed collision with another vehicle are now much less likely to leave me in need of a new engine.

I prefer for my wheels to stay attached. Most probably share that sentiment. My rear hubs came with ARP extended wheel studs. They’re strong and long enough to thread all the way into my long-body aluminum lug nets. This was fine and dandy. What wasn’t, was the front. The aluminum top hats, of my Wilwood rotors, seem to be thicker than the top hats of the old all-steel rotors. My new wheels may also be a bit thicker than the stockers. This made for a situation where the stock lugs were insufficiently long, in my mind, to thread sufficiently far into my aluminum lugs. Worried that stresses could potentially lead to a catastrophic failure, I treated the front hubs to the same studs as the rear. Here is how the ARP studs compare to the OEM studs. Which would you feel safer with?

I’ve read reports of improper oil pickup depth leading to oil starvation. Oil starvation can destroy an engine very quickly. Naturally, I wanted to protect my investment and ensure that my pickup was positioned properly, relative to the bottom of the oil pan. The acceptable range is supposed to be between 1/4″ and 3/8″. I used my highly specialized depth finder tool to see where my pickup was. The tool consisted of 3/8″ mounds of silly putty pressed against a piece of packaging plastic. I set the tool in the pan, and pressed the pan against the engine block with the pickup installed. If the screen of the pickup leaves an imprint on the putty, the distance is not too great. I got the exact depth by using calipers to measure the thickness of the putty at a point where it had been depressed by the screen. I measured .3″, which is bang on.

This wasn’t so much preemptive as it was a fix to a problem that I had encountered. I’m sharing this to boost awareness of this problem and hopefully spare fellow swappers the hassle of finding this on their own. The fitting that comes with the V8R swap kit didn’t properly fit into my slave cylinder. I am not the only one to encounter this problem. I ‘made’ the fitting ‘fit’ and went on with assembly. Unfortunately, the fitting ended up leaking, causing me to have to frantically find a place to park after the clutch engagement point started to rapidly approach the floor. Adding fluid got me home, however the real fix required me to lower the transmission, make a new fitting, and replace the slave cylinder as I had damaged the original one in my attempt to make the swap kit fitting work. To make the new fitting, I cut the swap kit fitting in half, as it had the 4an male fitting that I needed. I also cut an OEM fitting in half as it had the portion that fits into the slave cylinder properly. I welded the two fittings together and ended up with something that, so far, works well. Here is my DIY adapter fitting, compared to an unmodified OEM replacement fitting.

As an interesting note, the new slave cylinder that I purchased at Autozone, which was marketed as a Duralast product, has a nearly identical casting to the OEM cylinder. This leads me to believe that it’s a worthy replacement.