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cafcwest HalfDork
8/10/20 10:21 a.m.

((I am doing a copy/paste from another source, so that I can share this with the GRM community.  Apologies about questions and such that are no longer topical.  This project started in April 2020.))

For years I have dreamed of doing atypical cool (at least cool to me) stuff to a cheap Miata. About four years ago I acquired a pretty nice 93 Miata but I consider it slightly too nice to mess up with shenanigans. Earlier this month, a running/driving 90 Miata popped up on the local Craigslist that had started to be parted out. Eventually a deal was stuck at $750. When I went back to pick up the car with my truck/trailer, I traded him some surplus (and useless to me) parts that I had acquired with my 93, so my actual out of pocket is down to $550.

This thread will serve to document forthcoming shenanigans. Understand this isn't much of a 'build', especially when looking at some talented fabricators we have on this forum. Let's call it a 'hack' and hopefully enjoy it for entertainment purposes if nothing else.



cafcwest HalfDork
8/10/20 10:21 a.m.

1.  Acquisition/Baseline/"Before"

I'm really quite terrible at remembering to take 'before' pictures - I start in on something and half way remember "Oh yeah, I should have taken a before photo".

When I bought the car, it had no fenders, no hood/trunk, no tail lights, no front bumper cover installed.  Test drove it anyway and found it to be a mostly running/driving car as promised.  The previous owner threw in a crappy front bumper cover and an even more crappy LH fender.  I dug into the surplus parts that came with my 93 and installed some mostly embarrassing yet functional tail lights.

So let's call this the beginning(ish):

cafcwest HalfDork
8/10/20 10:22 a.m.

2.  Windshield repair

Yup, one of the reasons for the cheap purchase price was the spectacularly destroyed windshield.  Previous owner said he had a guy who would do $227 installed onsite and offered contact info - I politely declined as I said I was "More a DIY kind of guy".

So, here's my windshield repair in 1 easy step:





Which yields you this:

And with a little more trimming on the door pillars:

Now you know why I'm calling it the MIAT - it's only 80% of a Miata :-)

cafcwest HalfDork
8/10/20 10:23 a.m.

3.  Front bumper/headlights

My 93 Miata is a decent car though it had some questionable modifications done to it by the second owner.  Something that has irritated and embarrassed me during my four years of ownership is these LED headlights:

They are brighter than stock 7" sealed beams (which isn't saying much), but they don't have much in the way of a lighting pattern and I absolutely hate the look.  Hate it to the point that I'd park the car "in" and intentionally not walk around the front.  I'd casually tried collecting some stock headlight buckets but didn't have everything needed to put it back stock.  But now that I've got another red Miata sitting in the garage...

Ahh, so much better.  And yes, that means for the short term the MIAT gets this wonderful boy ricer look:

cafcwest HalfDork
8/10/20 10:24 a.m.

4.  Mirrors

This car also did not include mirrors.  I have some pieces sitting around that I could probably assemble some out of surplus, but they are power mirror housings and the doors are for manual mirrors.  I didn't want to spend a day cobbling parts together and I didn't want to drill a bigger hole in the door for some reason, so I pivoted.  JEGS was able to hook me up with these budget busters:

Playing with some double-sided tape, trying to figure out where to mount them:

Option 1

Option 2

Option 3

Option 4

Option Floor

I have a bit of a preference (I think) but final location still TBD.  Opinions are welcome.

cafcwest HalfDork
8/10/20 10:25 a.m.

5.  Seats

Miata seats are fine I guess, but the long term vision is for something much different and more minimalist and rugged than cloth and carpet and pansy comforts like that for this car.  So out with the old:

And a magic and invisible fastener test - in with the new:

cafcwest HalfDork
8/10/20 10:26 a.m.

6.  Cockpit Cleanup

So in the process of repairing the windshield by hacking off the frame, I managed to break the turn signal actuator arm.  So this afternoon I picked one up from the guy I bought the car from.  As I was bolting it onto the steering column, I was struck by the two arms - turn signal on the left, windshield wipers on the right.  Windshield wipers controls for the windshield....that I don't have, controlling wipers....that I don't have.



Also for some reason as I was reassembling parts I noticed and was struck at all the scratches and chipping paint around the ignition switch.  No idea why as it'll probably get a toggle switch and kill switch at some point, but I broke out the 2000 grit and some metal polish 'cause I have a polishing problem.  No before picture and I didn't even take a deliberate picture of it, but:

cafcwest HalfDork
8/10/20 10:27 a.m.

7.  Cold Air Intake

In one of the very few 'Before' picture, here is the air intake tube that was on the car.  Note the antenna mast spanning from cam cover to shock tower holding up the air flow meter and the abundance of zip ties:

Digging around in my junk drawer yielded a generic $1 'L' bracket which I clamped under the factory air box bracket and then used a spare nut/bolt to secure to the AFM:

When visiting the pick-n'-pull junkyards back in the day (we are talking 10-20 years ago), my buddies and I use to grab every bit of Volvo intercooler piping, couplers, crappy aftermarket air intake tubes off Civics and Eclipses and whatever else we saw and cone filters of any size.  Obviously this was way before the era of eBay being full of Chinesium tubing and couplers and filters.  Having such scraps around have been invaluable over the years for stitching up intakes for whatever was the project of the day.  It is well picked over now from the years and not being replenished, but the one box I could still find in my warehouse looks something like this:

Looking back at the engine bay, my stock exhaust manifold shield is missing, and actually one of the brackets to retain it has broken off the manifold.  A source of cold air was needed BAD.   A few minutes of beer drinking, cutting a few brackets off the brake booster vacuum tube and bending around some clutch and brake lines, hole saw action and spending ZERO dollars yielded this:

The next matter was to find a filter that'd fit in the cowl.  I had rough measurements and I knew that I needed 2.5" inlet diameter, but a few minutes on eBay and I was feeling a bit hopeless at the task.  Then a brainwave hit me - maybe K&N had some catalog tool that'd let you search by dimension.  Thankfully my dreams were utterly and completely answered.   Now I know that K&N isn't the end-all/be-all of air filtering technology, and their filter oil has been known to kill a few AFM/MAFs over the years.  But this online tool is so utterly and completely awesome  that I'll gladly continue to give them money if for no other reason than this tool.  I highly recommend you check it out for your unique air filter needs:


Anywho, $30 later (which also means $30 all in!) and I had me an actual cold air intake.  And yes induction noise right in front of the driver sounds wicked cool!!

At some point I'll try and make up a heat shield for the side of the intake tube.  And I think I've got some reflective gold tape somewhere.  Alas, another project for another day.

cafcwest HalfDork
8/10/20 10:28 a.m.

8.  Interior updates

Been off the (forum) for a few days, with a busy work sprint, home schooling and a few evenings binge watching a show.   Some of these are a little mixed up in time order, but a few updates:

Finished mounting the bomber seat

Bought some aluminum tubing and misc. fasteners from McMaster-Carr.  Sometimes I go awhile without using them and I forget how much they rock.  Anywho, some tubing cut like pictured, some rubber isolaters, and fender washers and I have the seat decently mounted in the car.  I might come back with some aluminum flat bar later and span the bolt holes, just to prevent 'rip-out'.  But for now, for street car, it should be fine.

I moved over the chrome not-roll hoop thingy from my 93 Miata.  I wouldn't call it a roll hoop as it is about a half step above exhaust tubing as far as wall thickness.   Thanks to the generosity of the (forum), I have a few boxes of free expired harnesses, so I threw a red one in the car for now.  End result:

Steering Wheel

I have an old Momo around that I picked from the junkyard ~20 years ago that has been in a number of cars over the years.  A $15 Chinesium hub and $15 Chinesium quick disconnect, and it is now part of the MIAT (installed crooked the first time of course)!

The anodizing or whatever coating of the center has faded to this blue from age - do you all think I could just sand it bare and polish?

Tombstone radio delete plate

I had a plastic block off plate, but the interior needed less black IMO.  I had some 1/8" aluminum plate in the materials drawer, so a little cutting with the jigsaw, a little wet sanding and elbow grease and...

Fender mirrors


All put together (last weekend):

Other misc. item:

I was looking for some rando part or researching some idea and came across Adam Wolf/revlimiter.net.  I wasn't planning on spending $250 that day on something I didn't even know I needed (ok, wanted) but I fell HARD for his "Zen" gauge faces.   This is my shameles plug for him and the corresponding link:

And what I bought/installed in my 93:

The reason I bring it up here is that I am working with him to do some gauge faces for the MIAT based on the Zen design, but even more minimalistic.  His lead time for custom work is a few months out, but I'm in the queue.

cafcwest HalfDork
8/10/20 10:32 a.m.

9.  Wheels and tires

This one has had me excited for a long time.  It's probably stupid and a huge waste of money (just like the rest of this project to be honest), but it makes me happy.

First off, so many things I love about the Tire Rack.  One in particular is the ability to look at all tire sizes by diameter, like 15" here:

So I decided long ago, before that I even had this car that I wanted something with low grip.  I wasn't present but I heard from friends about how the local autocross club put a Miata on four of the factory space saver tires at an autocross one day and how much fun everyone had driving the car with such low grip.  Thinking about what we do as enthusiasts - stiffer suspension, more grip, better brakes, more power, etc.  We keep pushing the threshold higher and higher.  It gets so high that we turn street cars into track cars into race cars.  I'm super guilty of this myself.   But Project MIAT is different.  It is all about the visceral experience.  It's like being in a boat to be honest - you are going 40mph and your cheeks are giggling in the wind and you feel like the fastest man on earth!

Anywho, back to wheels and tires.   Thanks to the Tire Rack I was able to browse all the 15" tire sizes, l looking for skinny and taller than OE.  I discounted actual temporary/spare wheel tires due to....I dunno, something.   I was just about settled in the 175/15 range, when I came across these beauts!

Oh yes, the famous BFG Radial TA!  The preferred stock of every mullet loving, carburetor sucking, cousin flirting redneck out there - I had found my tires!!!

And here they are, next to OEM Miata wheels and factory diameter tires:

For wheels, I knew I wanted steelies.  I needed 15xNarrow.  Rather than picking up some Honda steelies and blasting, panting, etc.  I just pushed the easy button and ordered brand new 15x5.5" early MINI Cooper steelies.  Another point, they were $220 shipped!  Just got them in today, hit my buddies shop for mount and balance.  Result:

Narrower than stock - check!
Heavier than stock - check! (not that I want to make it slower, but when coming from lightweight 14" OEM hollow spokes to 15" steel wheels, that was going to happen)
Looks like something that has never been on a Miata before - check!

Anywho, there isn't too much more planned for the immediate future.  Weld in some sheetmetal where I cut the windshield off.  Shave the door handles and antenna.  Move the stupid LED lights to the turn signal lenses.  Get another bomber seat and get it installed.  Fabricate a real roll over hoop bar/harness bar.  Tune-up.  Non-blown suspension.  Make it all one color as cheaply as possible.   Ok, now that I type it all out it does sound like a lot.  But I'm going to procrastinate through this list for the rest of the year and just drive the car whenever the weather allows.   Come winter is when I'm going to start cutting it up and trying to make it look much cooler than just a Miata without a windshield, but that is another story for another time.

cafcwest HalfDork
8/10/20 10:35 a.m.

10.  Lights

Back in update #3 I showed how I had taken the headlights off this car to 'restore' my 93 Miata, and how I had then temporarily moved the yo-boy LED headlights to this car.  It was past time to fix that.

Stock Miata turn signals look a bit like this:


Since I was already needing turn signals, I went this direction with a clear main lens (no vertical ribbing like seen above):


I then dug around in my scrap drawer and came up with some joist hangers or something.  Pictured with one already trimmed down for the project:

Mounted with the above bracket plus an 'L' bracket on the other side:

And with the Krylon touch:

A slight trim job to the back of the turn signal:

Another shot:

And here it is all mounted and powered up:

But now that I've mounted the headlights down there in the turn signal area, the actual turn signals need to go somewhere.  So a little Amazon magic yielded these LED bulbs:

So I removed the lenses, drilled a press fit hole for them in the corner of the turn signal where the European/Japanese market "twilight" lights mount up:

And from the front:

A close up of everything powered up:

And back a step with reasonable contrast:


And the light pattern isn't as terrible as I expected either:


Anywho, that's it for this edition of Jay's fabricobbling.

cafcwest HalfDork
8/10/20 10:39 a.m.

11.  Seats and harnesses done

Thanks to the kindness of (forum members), I acquired a few boxes of expired harnesses.  With enough of them, I was able to put together a matching pair.  So I ordered another Kirkey seat.  They offer them in 15", 16", 17" and 18.5".  The driver side is the 16".  I went with the 18.5" for the passenger side, in case any curvier friends go for a ride, or I can swap it around with four bolts for someone that wants to drive.

The bigger seat was a chance and it just barely works.  It fits fine in the full back position.  Trying to slide forward hits both the armrest and then the trans tunnel.  Both of those can be dealt with as the project evolves if needed, but I don't see why the passenger needs to move really.

cafcwest HalfDork
8/10/20 10:40 a.m.

12.  Gauges

Back in Post #8 I showed off the Revlimiter.net gauges that I installed in my 93 Miata.  I was so pleased with them that I used it as the basis for some custom gauges for the MIAT.  Further simplification, removing superfluous details, adding consistency, and some....ahh..."future proofing" with the tachometer.

Just for reference, the "stock" Zen gauges from Revlimiter (reusing the same picture from above):

My customized gauges based on the Zen theme, installed in a spare cluster:

And in the car:

Still need to find a little black plastic/rubber plug to seal up where the trip meter reset button use to go.

cafcwest HalfDork
8/10/20 10:41 a.m.

14.  Suspension - jumping right to fourteen, 'cause I don't like the preceding number.

This car has ~115k and is 30 years old, so the sensible thing would be to go through and replace all the bushing and ball joints and all that stuff.  Yeah, sensible.  So here is the coilover slap-on.

The 93 Miata had a set of the Tein Basis coilovers installed when I bought it.  Not terrible/not great.  A few weeks ago my buddy decided to upgrade his K-swapped NB to Fox coilovers, so I picked up his mildly used Flyin' Miata V-Maxx non adjustables. Pulled the Tein and installed the V-Maxx on the 93, then installed the Tein on the MIAT.

Here is a pair of rears side by side:

No need to take pictures of anything else until the happy ending:

And the two side by side again.  The MIAT is still 1.5" taller, but that is due to the ridiculous tires I put on it! :D

Going to be taking a little break at this point....got something big (non-MIAT related) going on the next few-six weeks, so this is probably a steady state until late summer at the soonest.

nocones UltraDork
8/10/20 10:49 a.m.

I like this.   This is a cool fun build.  Keep up the good work.

Gunchsta HalfDork
8/10/20 10:50 a.m.

I like this. I'm confused by it but it seems like you have a vision and I'll tune in for what that might be.

iansane (Forum Supporter)
iansane (Forum Supporter) Reader
8/10/20 11:12 a.m.

Quirky cool. I can't wait to see where this goes.

spandak HalfDork
8/10/20 11:16 a.m.

Yes yes I've been wanting to do this exactly for some time. Following along

Fun > stats

PMRacing UltraDork
8/10/20 11:18 a.m.

Cool project.  Make sure your harnesses are routed properly though. You need to loop back through the slide adjuster again: Harness Install Instructions.  And you already acknowledged that the "roll hoop" was anything but, but if you're going for any kind of safety, as implied by adding a harness, I'd highly revise your belt mounting and any other protection. The hoops won't hold you properly in an impact even with the harnesses due to it's lack of real structure.  Also, going with that style hoop, i'd put a head rest in there somewhere. Any kind of rear impact and you'll be in a world of hurt. Maybe a Boss Frog style hoop would be better suited: https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.deftracing.com%2Fmiata_parts%2Fmiata_boss_frog_double_hoop_rollbar_standard_stainless.htm&psig=AOvVaw3xyPKgKeLgG66ZvzN5zOFa&ust=1597162639828000&source=images&cd=vfe&ved=0CAIQjRxqFwoTCPiNi9CEkesCFQAAAAAdAAAAABAD

If you're going for style, great, but don't make safety being a second thought.  My $0.02.

That said, I do like the look and keep it up!  

AxeHealey HalfDork
8/10/20 11:38 a.m.

Definitely watching this. Love what you're going for. It'll be an absolute riot to drive. 

PMRacing UltraDork
8/10/20 11:40 a.m.

I have a like/hate relationship with Donut Media but they do some cool stuff.  They did a drop test on one of the "style bars":  Drop Test  Food for thought.

Rodan Dork
8/10/20 11:41 a.m.

Cool project! yes

Watching with interest.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
8/10/20 11:45 a.m.

I read the first post and was going to make a comment about how truly awful that fender is, then the second post happened and things got weird so I decided to just sit back and watch :) I'll bet this thing is a huge amount of fun on a twisty road. I anticipate extreme lightening in the future.

Love the gauges. I agree about the roll...thing and harnesses. Hard Dog makes a hoopy roll bar and I'll bet they'd do a single sided one for you if you asked. Seems like it would suit the car.

java230 UberDork
8/10/20 2:28 p.m.

Following along :D

Dusterbd13-michael (Forum Supporter)
Dusterbd13-michael (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
8/10/20 3:39 p.m.

Im loving this. Didn't realize how much better an na was without the windshield. 

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