Klayfish PowerDork
7/16/19 6:24 a.m.

Never thought I'd post a build thread, but here goes.  It may also be a very, very slow going build thread due to lack of time and little mechanical skills.  However, my son and I are going to do this and we're going to make it happen.  Long story short, his desire is to come LeMons racing with me at some point.  He turned 15 a few months ago and has a learners' permit.  Let's just say we have a lot of work to do before he's ready for public roads, let alone a race track.  surprise  Knowing that we'd need a 3rd car eventually, my wife gave me permission to start hunting for a good DD for him.  Thanks to an incredibly kind GRM member, about a month ago I found a '97 Lexus LS400 that we got for an unbelievable price.  It had been owned from new by a wealthy suburban VA woman who took meticulous care of it, and it shows.  It has 176k miles on it, but runs like it has 17.6k on it.  Everything works, and I mean everything...a/c, power adjustments for seat belt height, etc... It has K-Sport coilovers on it, as the GRMer I bought it from was going to use it in the Challenge.  I need to figure out how to sort those, as right now the ride is punishing on anything other than glass smooth surfaces.  Otherwise, we couldn't be happier. 

However, we knew this car was not destined to be a race car for him.  It was going to be his DD, and with our insane schedule it will be a huge help to my wife and I when he gets his license that he can drive himself around.  He is also taking auto shop 101 in high school this coming year and has expressed an interest in being a mechanic and LeMons racer.  Surprisingly enough, and to her credit, it was actually my wife who pushed the idea of getting him a project car that he can turn into an autox and just maybe an HPDE car.  We needed something cheap, as we wanted our son to invest his own money into it, so that it may help give him extra motiviation.  It also needed to be something narrow, as it would live in our basement.  It's a walk out basement and has a 21'x24' room which is perfect for a car.  However, the doors are only 6' wide...if I take them off, so in reality we only have about 68-69" of width to get something in.  We've been poking around GRM and CL, had a ton of possible nibbles.  At lunch yesterday, I did a quick CL search and damn, an NA Miata popped up.  Asking price in the ad was $900, but in the description the seller said she'd even take $650.  Ad said the car ran and drove, but had title issues.  Reached out to her and found out that she bought it from a guy who had obtained it from IAA.  Long story short, seems she had gotten hung up in the red tape that is the GA process for obtaining a salvage title and was just fed up with it.  I offered her $300 and she took it.  Met up with her, and her mother and brother, at the grocery store near her house last night and put it on a tow dolly to come home.  She was very sweet and everything very much seems on the up and up, just a bit of a paperwork mess.  However, since our plan is to turn it into an autox and HPDE only car since he already has a DD, we don't much care about the paperwork.

I only drove it around the grocery store parking lot, onto the dolly and then one quick run up our community road, so I haven't shaken it down.  But for $300, the fact that it even runs and drives is amazing.  Observations so far:  This puppy is rust free.  I'm sure it has something somewhere, but in the quick few minutes I looked I didn't see any of the obviuos spots that plague NAs.  Even underneath is amazingly rust free.  Engine has no funny noises at all, sounds exactly as it should.  This is my 5th NA Miata, so I'm familiar with how they sound.  Has headers on it and a slight exhaust leak somewhere, so we'll have to find that.  Shifter is good and crisp, but the clutch engages pretty high.  Boots on the steering rack are dry rotted and completely ripped.  While the engine makes no funny noises, there's a fuel or spark issue.  Driving up and down our community road, with a 45mph speed limit and a hill, the engine clearly was breaking up under about 3500rpm, then would come to life around 4000rpm. 

So the plan for now is to get it in the basement, put it on jackstands, get the wheels off and do a full inspection.  Start with the obvious things I outlined above, then go from there.  I'll get more pictures, but I only had time to snap one last night before I had to finish cleaning out the van, return the tow dolly, etc...

bmw88rider SuperDork
7/16/19 7:00 a.m.

Great looking little car for $300. Sounds like a great little project to get him started. 

kevinatfms Reader
7/16/19 9:07 a.m.

$300 is a steal.

Klayfish PowerDork
7/17/19 8:01 a.m.

So I actually got to put the car up on my ramps last night and get a really good look underneath.  The PO had told me it had been at IAA previously, and I was also aware she was having trouble getting a salvage title, so I fully knew the car had been declared a total loss.  Now I found out why.  Right front rail is kinked pretty bad.  The hit also shoved things back to where the pulley is rubbing a bit on things.  I actually feel pretty bad for the girl I bought it from.  The impression I get is that a flipper bought it, slapped the front end back on and sold it to her...she fell for the scam of "Oh, don't worry, it'll be easy to get a title".  She paid $1000 for the car, according to the paperwork she gave me. 

Anyway, being in the business I'm in, I know I can pull some strings and get a shop to do a floor pull, or maybe a quick rack pull for me.  It won't be free, but I won't pay retail price.  I just want it pulled out enough so that it's straight-ish and nothing is rubbing.  I really don't want to scrap the car.  Besides this ugliness, what I love about it is that it is just amazingly rust free.  I honestly can't remember the last time I saw an NA this solid.  Rockers, floor, you name it.  All solid.  What's even more important to me is that since this is a project car for my son, the lack of rust means that nuts/bolts look as if they will all come off super easy.  Should make his job so much easier instead of having to deal with rusted and frozen parts. 

Dusterbd13-michael MegaDork
7/17/19 8:17 a.m.

Subbed for father/son awesomeness 

TurnerX19 HalfDork
7/17/19 3:25 p.m.

If the wheelbase is still the same on the crushed side, take the bumper cover off, chain the front of the crush zone to a big strong tree and back up hard a few times until it is close to the right position and reassemble.

alfadriver MegaDork
7/17/19 3:54 p.m.

Since this is the front frame rail- given the front subframe, does the bend change the front alignment?  

It sounds like it's not, and if you can get it reasonably straight and reasonably strong, you will be good to go- which is incredibly cool.  Your son is fortunate to have your vision!  And you are fortunate to have a son who wants to play, too!

Once you have it running, what's the overall plan?  Stock, the slightly modified classes, SP?  I know my opinon is worth the pixels that is being seen- I'd start with ES the best you can.  That way you can really sort the car, and make sure nothing else is wrong, AND you can then let your son generate the plan for what class he wants to end up in and the changes to do that.

RedGT Dork
7/17/19 4:00 p.m.

If the rubbing you mean is that resonance chamber on the pulley, 'they just do that sometimes'.  I think the plastic ages and warps and rubs under load/wind load at speed or something.  I've had 3 Miatas that exhibited that and there's no way all 3 were in undocumented and perfectly repaired front end collisions.

Stampie PowerDork
7/17/19 4:11 p.m.

Don't know if they fit your plans but we have a set of Flying Miata lowering springs you guys can have. Well be in the Atlanta area soon so free shipping. 

Dusterbd13-michael MegaDork
7/17/19 4:19 p.m.

At some point i will have tge current roll bar from my challenge car for sale. Its a custom built bolt in 4 point. Will NOT clear a functional soft top. Hard top only, or roofless. But, ive got $250 in it....

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
7/17/19 4:29 p.m.

If that bend is in front of the subframe, it shouldn't be a problem. You can be fairly casual in your yanking it back.

The car has been painted - red Miatas should have black rockers. I'd poke away at the sill in front of the rear wheel to make sure it's solid and not made of Bondo and newspaper. It's probably okay, but just in case.

The frame rails under the floorpan are often damaged, it's what inspired us to start building our frame rail reinforcement kits.

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
7/17/19 4:57 p.m.

If the female owner had some issues with getting the car titled, how are you not going to have the same issues? 

alfadriver MegaDork
7/17/19 5:45 p.m.
John Welsh said:

If the female owner had some issues with getting the car titled, how are you not going to have the same issues? 

Hopefully more patience.

Justjim75 HalfDork
7/17/19 6:07 p.m.

Im in Montgomery if yall need anything 

Scottah Dork
7/17/19 6:35 p.m.

There’s always the “Vermont trick” for a title. 

Our Preferred Partners