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.

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