Greg and I have dueled it out in BMWCCA events when I still had my E36 and it’s been a pleasure watching him take his NA Miata through it’s paces. The first thing that you see when you take a look at his car, is his focus on creating what he considers a perfect chassis. When you look at it as a car as a whole, you’ll notice balance, power, and braking performance, while still keeping the car able to be usable in a daily situation. It gives me great pleasure to feature Greg’s awesome little turbo NA Miata for the November 2015 edition of apexjunky’s Garage Files. But first…..check out this awesome video filmed and pieced together by Justin Cheng for this very feature!
Now on to the feature. Settle in folks, because this, is a good one.
What type of car do you have?
I own a 1992 Mazda Miata.
A lot of people give their cars nicknames/actual names. Do you have one for the Miata?
I never really liked naming my cars, so I do not have any nickname for it!
Is this car your daily driver? If not what is your everyday car?
I drive the Miata seven days a week, I wouldn’t have it any other way. To me, half the fun of owning a heavily modified car is being able to show it off on the highways, gas (e85) stations, and at friends houses.
Mod List! Let’s have it!
- OEM 1.6L Long Block @ 206,000 Miles
- Garrett GT2554R
- K&N 3” Filter
- Full 2.5” DIY Intercooler Piping
- CX Racing 27”x7”x2.5” Intercooler
- “Type-S” Knockoff BOV
- Begi Directed Pulses Cast Manifold
- Begi Separated Gases Downpipe (Modded to full 2.5”)
- 2.5” Catless Exhaust / Dynomax Race Bullet Muffler (Full V-Band)
- Five-O Motorsports Black Ops 750cc Injectors
- Five-O Motorsports 340LPH Fuel Pump
- LS2 Truck Ignition Coils
- NGK BKR7E Plugs
- Fidanza 7lb Flywheel (200mm)
- SuperMiata Pressure Plate / ACT 6-Puck Sprung Race Disc (200mm)
- Garage Star 1.8L Billet Water Pump Pulley
- Garage Star 1.8L Billet Alternator Pulley
- ATI Super Damper
- Gates Racing Kevlar Timing Belt
- 1997 5-Speed Transmission + Driveshaft
- 2002 Type II 3.909 Torsen LSD / 99+ Axles
- Megasquirt MS2PnP w/ AFM Delete + Seq. Inj. + VTPS + E85 + EBC
- Tuned by Myself & Advanced Engine Dynamix
- 254 rwhp @ 6600rpm / 231 lb-ft @ 5100rpm (~13.3psi, E85)
- 85% of peak torque available from 3400rpm to 6800rpm
- Rota Grid Concave 15×9 et16 (20mm VMR Spacers)
- Nitto NT-01 225/45R15
- Muteki Extended Steel Lug Nuts
- Wilwood 11” Front Brakes
- Garage Star Brake Master Cylinder Brace
- 949 Racing SS Brake Lines
- Wilwood Proportioning Valve
- Carbotech AX6 Rear Brake Pads
- Motul DOT4 Brake Fluid
- Bride Replica Bucket Seat
- Pro Car Innovations Solid Seat Mount
- Takata Drift 3” Harness
- Redline Goods Shift Boot
- Grip Royal Class 350mm Steering Wheel
- NRG Gen 2.5 Quick Release
- NRG Short Hub
- Custom Gauge Mount/Climate Control Delete Plate
- AEM Electronic Boost Control Solenoid (Controlled by MS)
- Innovate G2 Boost Gauge
- Innovate G2 Water Temp Gauge
- Innovate G2 Oil Temp Gauge
- Innovate MTX-L Wideband
- Powertrix SS Coilovers
- “RobSpec” Sectioned/Shortened Rear Cup
- 10k/7k Swift Springs
- NB Miata Front Sway Bar
- Powertrix Z32 End Links F+R
- Hard Dog Hardcore “X-Brace” Roll Bar
- Hard Dog Harness Bar
- Garage Star Delrin Door Bushings
- GV Replica Front Lip
- Rear Bumper Cut
- BWR Quick Release Bumper Kit
- KG Works Spoiler
- OEM Hard Top w/ Garage Star Solid Mounts
- Much Roll. Very Flare. Wow.
- Mishimoto Radiator + Dual Fans (Controlled by MS)
- Mishimoto Coolant Reservoir
- SuperMiata Coolant Re-Route with DIY Hose Route
- Lower Radiator Hard Pipe Delete (Straight Route)
- Garage Star Cooling Plate
- 90’s Head Unit
- Two Blown Speakers
- iPod that works sometimes
- Power Steering
- A/C (Factory)
- Cruise Control (Factory)
- Interior Climate Control (Retained Blower Fan)
- Airbag & Sensors
- Carbon Canister
- Windshield Washer Tank
- Trunk Interior / Spare
- Air Valve
- Rear Bumper Support
- 2250lbs, Full Tank / No Driver
What was the biggest “surprise” obstacle you faced when you worked on the car (as in what was maybe supposed to have been an easy task but ended up being a pretty huge undertaking)?
The biggest battle I’ve had with the car is the ignition system. I have run through a few sets of wires, plugs, and gap settings just trying to get the stock ignition system to hold up to the amount of boost I want to run without high-RPM misfires, before finally upgrading to Chevy LS2 coils from a Silverado; at which point I couldn’t even get the car running for a few days. Frustrated, I returned to the stock ignition and switched back to the LS2 setup twice, re-soldering the entire ignition harness each time, along with rewiring the standalone ECU and several other troubleshooting tests, to finally find out it was a bad set of ignition coils, despite coming from an established online seller. Something that should have been a simple 1-2 hour install turned into 3 weeks of frustration.
Have you always wanted to build a Miata? If not what other cars have you built/modified?
No. In fact I didn’t know I wanted to build a Miata until I got my second Miata! I caught the bug first with a 1993 300ZX, which I still own today. However, it was stolen from my driveway in 2010 and completely stripped of $10,000 in modifications. It’s been a “project car” ever since and is not back on the road yet. In the meantime, I’ve owned a modified E30, and a second 300ZX. The plan was to daily drive that Z until I got my other one back on the road. But that 2nd Z taught me a very important lesson about myself: the car I drive everyday is the car I will continuously modify to no end. And the phrase “Got a daily, need a new daily” was born. So I built it up and started autocrossing much more frequently, until the engine completely seized in 2012 on the way home from a driving event at Qualcomm. I parted out the car and bought a ‘beater’ 1993 Miata to daily drive… “I’ll just daily this until I get the old Z back on the road.” Okay maybe I hadn’t learned my lesson yet. I just wanted to add a few simple mods though! Coilovers, wheels, roll bar… that’s it I swear! Until seven months later I found a pristine 1992 Miata WITH a hardtop up in Palm Springs, which I bought the next day. Swapped the parts over and sold the old Miata. Once I started autocrossing these things, I understood what all the hype was about. But I wanted more. “Alright, just a simple, budget turbo system for some extra umph.” I couldn’t really tell you what happened to the ‘simple’ or the ‘budget’ part, but I’m extremely pleased with how the car is coming along. My number one goal since day one has been to make it as fun as possible; the performance is really just a side effect.
Your NA Miata is extensively used in various disciplines and just keeps on going, and not be a downer, but have you considered getting a tow rig in the event that the unforeseen happens?
I have definitely considered a suitable tow rig at this point, but besides not being quite in the budget yet, I’m really on a mission to find out just how bulletproof these cars are. Since I’ve had this car since it was 99% stock, I have had complete control over the quality of the modifications; and have done everything I can to maximize the reliability. I have as many safety nets in the tune as the ECU will allow and run lots of gauges to keep tabs on temps, pressures, and ratios. It seems to be working well, as it still starts up every morning at 5:30am without a hiccup. Although I don’t think my neighbors share my appreciation for loud exhausts. Someday though, I’m sure 3rd gear will end up having as many teeth as a ping pong ball, or a connecting rod might just exit stage left down the front straight at Streets of Willow. At 206,000 miles and dozens of various racing/driving events, I will not say it was unexpected. I’ll be a little more in the market for a nice manual transmission diesel tow rig once I learn my lesson the hard way.
You’ve gone a bit off the beaten path when it came to suspension. What made you choose your current coilover setup as opposed to the Flyin’ Miata kits or even the 949 Racing XIDA options which some say are the more “serious” setups?
The answer lies right in your question. This car is street driven nearly every single day, and it’s far from a “serious” race car in my opinion. I run a coilover on my car made by Powertrix. They are big in the 300ZX world, which is why I know about them, as I’ve had three sets of their coilovers for my Z cars. Their goal is to provide a coilover for the every day street user who just wants to lower their car and still have good ride quality, but will still perform at the track. As generic as it sounds, I believe that it is an extremely important category of parts. So I inquired about having a set built for the Miata. After 57,000 miles of personal torture testing and several revisions, the Powertrix coilover for the Miata is now on the market; and what they ended up with is a base model that’s around half the price of a set of XIDA’s, but have more performance features and the same level of adjustment than any of FM’s V-MAXX line. Oh, and it helps that they’re based in San Diego, and have excellent customer service, which I value greatly.
Has there been an alignment setting that seems to be a “happy-place” for your applications, or do you realign the car based on the application (street/track/autocross). Would you be willing to share these settings with the community for those that may be wanting to set the car up once for all applications?
My alignment is pretty much a copy & paste from 949 Racing’s “Dual Duty Alignment” settings, with a few minor tweaks. I run a little extra negative camber (Around -2.5* Front, -2.0* rear) because the grippy NT01’s seem to like it. I have the car a little bit lower as also, because street cred. Hey, I still want to look cool rolling down the road. I do not change the alignment for different events, because my goal for this car has always been to drive it on the track in the same trim I drive it on the street. No swapping tires, brake pads or fuels. Is it the optimal alignment for my setup? Heck I don’t know, but the car sure feels well balanced to me! If I feel it needs a little tweak for the track layout, I’ll typically adjust my tire pressures and shock damper settings.
It’s hard to miss the snail that gives your Miata that extra ‘umph’. One of the biggest issues we’ve seen on pieced together turbo systems is the exhaust manifold not being able to handle the heat, and cracking. Have you had any issues with this as the car has undergone testing?
I’ve had a few issues with various items under the hood melting and cracking, but the manifold isn’t one of them. I did a ton of research before I purchased a single part for the car. I knew from the get-go I needed a stout, cast iron manifold. In comparison to tubular manifolds, cast units can take a lot more abuse and are not as prone to cracking. I’ve seen cast manifolds glow cherry red and just keep going. I’ve had just about every other exhaust component crack or completely come apart at some point though, which is why I stress that if you want a reliable exhaust setup, you need to invest in a quality system, especially the manifold and downpipe. I’ve worked out a few more kinks with DIY turbo setups as well, some of which I’ll be covering in my new YouTube series Broke & Boosted.
Is there a track that seems to favor the car more than others in current configuration? What do your times look like for the Socal faves (Autoclub Speedway/Fontana, Buttonwillow, Willow Springs, etc).
At 254rwhp, 2250lbs, lots of tire, and lots of brakes; there aren’t many situations where the car is slow. Naturally it excels when it gets really tight and there are quick transitions (I LOVE slaloms) but is can hold it’s own in the high speed stuff too. I’ve only taken it up to Streets of Willow (CCW) once, but I ran a 1:27.250 which seems to be a decent time from what I’ve looked up. At autocross I’ve never been a big fan of building the car to compete in a certain class, I just want to try to hang with whatever fast cars show up and have fun doing it. I spend most of my seat time in the X-Class at BMWCCA autocross, sometimes known as the “Miata Class” since they usually fill the podium. I haven’t managed a first place yet, but every new 2nd place trophy I put in the trunk gets me a little extra corner-exit traction. I’m gunning for it every month.
What’s your favorite track to drive? What is the time goal that you want to set for yourself and achieve in 2016?
Although I have the most fun at autocross, I’d love to shave off a couple seconds at Streets and Adams Motorsports Park next year. I’m also planning a trip to Laguna Seca, as I’ve only been able to enjoy it from the comfort of my recliner via Gran Turismo 5 thus far. Lastly, as I mentioned before, I don’t want to leave 2016 without an X-Class victory!
Having no ABS means you’re constantly threshold braking. How hard is this to do in a track setting when you’re chasing down your rival or just attempting to set a fast time? Was it something that you find hard to adjust to when you’re driving a modern car with ABS?
The first few events I drove with a non-ABS car took a little getting used to, especially when a single front tire would lock and the car would start magically veering off track. After a few +2’s and the occasional frightened corner worker, I got the hang of it. Now before you think I’m trying to make it sound easy, remember this is a very light car with lots of grip, by the time I can even get a tire to lock, I’m probably going too slow for the corner. The larger hurdle has been fine tuning the rear brake bias with a proportioning valve for each track layout so I can maximize straight-line stopping force, but not have it set so aggressive that I’m locking the rear wheels during trail braking or mid corner corrections.
Are there any sponsors you would like to acknowledge for their assistance in getting your car to the way that it is?
There are two companies that have had a big part in where the car is today. Without Advanced Engine Dynamix, it would not be the fire breathing, tire spinning beast it is today. Working with Toby has been so much more than just a tune. Three tunes to be exact; but the technical support and advice in parts selection and street tuning in between those “big days” has helped tremendously in keeping the car alive, and unlocking its maximum potential. Without Powertrix Performance & Styling, I would not have had the opportunity to test and help develop the new Miata coilovers over two years into a final product that is suitable for street cars, perform well at the track, and fit right into the average weekend warrior’s budget.
As most of raced cars undergo continuous changes, what are the next plans for the car?
I plan on leaving the engine alone for now (I’m very close to the limit of the transmission, clutch, and connecting rods at this point anyways), but am getting ready to start a forged & hopped up 1.8L build as an eventual replacement for my 1.6L after it decides to turn its last rev. The suspension still has a few tweaks to come as well, I have found that with each new bit of horsepower, the suspension needs some revisions to be able to put it down effectively. Aside from that I just want spend as much time in the seat as possible and focus on upgrading the most important part on the car, the driver-mod.