Adaptive Bi-Xenon Headlights in a ’94 Miata

I’ve built a few sets of headlights now. The first was pretty good however I ended up selling them. The second was a flop. These, I think, are a winner.

The headlights that I built, last minute, before I did my road trip to California from Michigan seemed pretty good…but then I tried to do some night time canyon driving and quickly realized that they were grossly inadequate in that setting. My primary gripe was that the projectors did not put enough light out to the sides. I was entering turns blind, which isn’t safe or confidence inspiring. I had to come up with something better.

Adaptive headlights have been on my radar for a while. Driving cars that are equipped with them has always been a treat. Making a set just wasn’t a high priority. Then I was an idiot and forgot to reinstall my hood pins after washing the car. The hood flew up and I needed a new one. Putting headlights behind the windshield was something that I had also been contemplating because getting the performance I desired from the stock headlight location seemed unlikely, so I had a new hood made that blocked off the stock headlight openings and that put things into motion for high mounted adaptive lights to actually happen.

Anyway, photos….

Covers to block out glare:

Pulley, bored out for the steering column.

A 10 turn pot went on the small pulley. This proved to be a cheap and easy way to track my steering inputs.

The belt driven steering angle sensor ended up having a propensity to skip and applying enough tension to prevent that would have been hard on the potentiometer. I switched to this gear driven setup and haven't had a problem since, even after a few thousand miles. The downside is that this approach is incompatible with the stock ignition switch, steering lock, and stalk controls, which had to be displaced via angle grinder, mini-sledge, and chisel.
The belt driven steering angle sensor ended up having a propensity to skip and applying enough tension to prevent that would have been hard on the potentiometer. I switched to this gear driven setup and haven’t had a problem since, even after a few thousand miles. The downside is that this approach is incompatible with the stock ignition switch, steering lock, and stalk controls, which had to be displaced via angle grinder, mini-sledge, and chisel.  #Flint

To answer the most likely questions….

-No, I haven’t been pulled over with these yet. That said, I keep an excerpt from the Michigan motor vehicle code and a tape measure in the car so that I can prove that at least as far as mounting height goes, they’re legal. They’re aimed to be fairly courteous to other drivers.

-They do not obstruct my view in any appreciable way. I sit low and am only 5′ 9″. Taller people would have a tough time driving my car, which is fine because I don’t really pass my keys around.

-They’re controlled by an Arduino. Servos, equivalent to what you’d find on an RC car, move the projectors.

-Glare is negligible.

-This is what they’re like in heavy rain. It sucks but I expected that. That’s why I have the LED spot lights in the front bumper. They make the car plenty drivable in poor weather.

-I intend to eventually read the VSS output so that I can scale the headlight movements based on vehicle speed.

-They work great. I went to the tightest and most twisty local road that I know of. They threw tons of light where I needed it most.

7,200 Mile Road Trip in the Fun Facilitator

Over the course of about three weeks, I drove 7,200 miles, to California and back, with a number of stops along the way to visit friends and do cool things. My Miata probably wouldn’t be most people’s first choice of vehicle for such a trip but when you consider that people used to go out west on horseback, gaining sustenance via the consumption of rattle snakes sprinkled with gun powder, my car, with special amenities such as a seat…and another seat that I sat a cooler on…made the trip not only bearable but genuinely pleasant. *Not applicable were the two instances where I encountered flash flooding and had to wade through literally a few inches of water. That was quite unpleasant. But even so, the thing was pretty damn reliable and I’d totally do it again.

Auto-x in Nebraska. I dominated X Prepared, which just consisted of myself and a rough looking z3.

Claiming victims

American muscle……bro…

Utah salt flats. No I didn’t drive on them.

This is the street we stayed on in San Fran

Prepping our cars for the track in a cul de sac. A track day at Laguna Seca was the following day.

After the car meet pictured above I went to the Wal Mart parking lot that my friends were at, trying to fix the Camaro. The torque arm mount fell off. Using what was available to us at 1am, that being a clothes line from a nearby grocery store, I employed my eagle scout knot skills and some redneck engineering tactics and lashed the torque arm to the crossmember. Then we drove from LA to Vegas…and eventually on to San Antonio where the yarn was replaced with a new mount. This didn’t budge at all.

We all wore these for the drive to Vegas because not doing so would have been pretty silly IMO.

Then we water skied through New Mexico…

2014-2015 Off Season Upgrades

First up, the engine… What started out as concern for the sustained well being of my stock valve springs ended with me installing ported ls6 heads, with some nice stiff springs that shouldn’t be phased by what I subject them to, and a more aggressive cam. The lift on my cam isn’t particularly high, a decision I made for reliability, however the duration and overlap have gone up drastically. It’s now a full embodiment of of the things that people who hate v8’s hate about v8’s. Loud, lopey, and very much not epa friendly…which I’m not proud of but on toy like this I’ll let it slide. Still not a power monster(in v8 terms, not Miata terms), but based on what’s done the wheels should rotate with the strength of nearly 400 horses, or unicorns since this is a Miata. Also for reliability I installed an ls2 timing chain. It’s a bit beefier and less apt to break when I occasionally scrape the rev limiter.

While I was at it I cleaned the hell out of everything that I encountered. Selective OCD at work…

I’ve also picked up ABS components from an NB. This project isn’t complete and is moving slowly. So far, there’s a mount for the ABS module and I’ve switched to ABS compatible front hubs and uprights. Next up is figuring out the mounting for the rear wheel speed sensors and tone wheels. I may have to stick my axles in a lathe to bring the OD down to the ID of the oem tone wheels but I still need to investigate the viability of that. Then wiring harness which is easy and plumbing which is just tedious.

I touched on the cooling system as well. Last season I ran a universal radiator that had been modified to work with my setup. The welds ended up being kind of dirty and there were some pinhole leaks that I repaired, by redneck definition, with some epoxy. That got me though the season. I have too many teeth and not enough flannel to leave the system in such a state so I had a new radiator made, by somebody capable of making welds that don’t leak, to fit my specifications. It’s nice–whether on track or sitting in traffic in a 105 degree desert, my water temp won’t budge.

Water pump bracket:

I’ve also installed Xida Clubsport v2’s. I chose 800 front 500 rear. The car may be a little over-sprung right now but I chose those spring rates with the intent to add some down force in the not too distant future and also because the F/R wheel rate ratio is about the same as what I had with my previous setup, which actually provided a pretty satisfactory balance. Also, I think my unibody must be in really awesome shape because I made literally zero adjustments to achieve 50% wedge. I just set the collars to be an equal number of threads up from the bottom and stuck them on the car.