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barefootskater UltraDork
3/3/18 12:16 a.m.

*a year in and the project is not at all what it started as. Fickle.

Skip to page 3 to see the final project  


Some history. I'll try to be brief.

Around 2010 I bought a 2005 ZX3 variety Ford Focus. Base model, 2.0, 5 gears and power nothin', with 66k on the clock. Loved the car, taught the now wife to drive a car with God's chosen transmission, many trips... you get the idea. Great car, fun, simple, cheap. Then things happened and we decided that rear doors were needed so I sold the Focus to my little brother and we bought an old Accord. For a boring car I really developed a liking towards it. Things just worked, the little bit of maintenance was easy and cheap and it was just a good little car. Got a wild hair last year and decided that safety was important and bought the wife a Camry. Boring but at least the 2GRFE is fun. That brings us current on family transportation.

On my side of things there are different standards. When we got married I had a car and she didn't, so she drove my car and I went through a couple bikes, then ran into the guy I sold my old high school VW to and bought it back. After looking around online I figured the best thing for that VW was to add boost. Well one thing led to others and soon I had a whole new engine and 8psi running through the little 1600cc four. It was not fast, but it was fast for a vw, plus noises. Decided that to get more out of it I would have to dump about $1k into building a decent EFI setup and about $1k into rebuilding the completely shot suspension. So instead I sold it for $1k and bought my current daily, a 1990 single cab, short box rwd Chevy S10 and spent the next couple years trying to make it behave like a sports car. It got much better, becoming pretty competent at not totally sucking and still remaining functional as a truck. Then I realized that the truck is probably the most reliable thing I have ever owned and if I try to make it actually fast (for cheap) I'll probably ruin the reliability. So we talked and came to the conclusion that a second car for me to tinker with is doable so I began saving pennies.

More internet surfing and bad ideas and I found a local guy selling a pretty beat up 1984 Corvette. Bought it. Then I couldn't figure out what it was for. Stripped out race car, comfortable cruiser, drag racer, drift car, trollmobile with Ford stickers hanging out in corvette alley at all the local car gatherings... Couldn't make up my mind. A C4 is flawed in my eyes because it has so much potential for so many different things but at the end of the day it is still a Vette and I don't want to be the guy with the Vette. Also I don't think I'm old enough to own one anyway. So about a month ago I listed it for sale. Also the car is auto, what a buzzkill.

The plan was to sell the Corvette and buy back my old Focus (my parents currently own it and don't really like it) and have a fun toy car that I can thrash around mountain roads on little fuel, have AC and a radio (both missing from the corvette) and have a rear seat in case I need to take the kid along with me somewhere. 

But then some kid messaged me asking if I'd be willing to trade for the vette. He offers a 1994 MX-6 and "about a grand worth of electric guitar stuff". So I start to ask about the Mazda. It is his daily to and from high school, and is the LS model (2.5 v6) and has a proper transmission. Then I do some googling and learn about the MX-6. Start to think hey, it is really similar to the Focus, light, cheap, wrong wheel drive, but with more motor, this could be good. So today we met up and did some driving. I like the looks of the mazda WAY more than the vette. It has better seats, more of the gadgets work, more MPGs, cheaper speed parts. I like it. And this is a high school kid, looking at a Corvette, of course he likes it. So he offers me the car, $200 cash and a guitar (LTD MH-307). I went home and consulted the misses, who said no. So he ups the offer to $300. We settled at 4 and now I have a Mazda in my driveway and plans in my head. The scary part is it has 215k miles on the clock and a giant "SPEEDHUT" sticker on the windshield. What could go wrong?

The basic idea is make sure it doesn't need anything major and then to have fun. Wheels, tires, suspension, exhaust, maybe some paint and then 7k RPM. I don't really know how to use her new mac so I'll post some pictures at work tomorrow. 

Anybody here know these cars and what to look for maintenance-wise? I checked for rust and leaks and it looks pretty good there. 

barefootskater HalfDork
3/3/18 9:10 a.m.

I can't find any pictures of the Ford. So. Here are the bikes I messed with

The first was a stripped and tweaked Honda Shadow 750. I liked it but didn't love it. The second was an old Honda CB400 (with my youngest brother and nephew) that I sold unfinished.

Home brewed turbo kit! 1973 Super Beetle, Forged and balanced bottom end, home ported heads, a rather silly cam for street use, and after a couple oversized snails I landed on a gt15 with a factory Audi/VW intercooler hanging out up in the cooler air. The system was blowing through a single 34mm carb and actually ran pretty well (I did have a wideband and gauges to make sure). Proof.

 Displaying IMG_0049.JPG

It made great sounds and wasn't a terrible slouch anymore but I was never quite satisfied. Moving on...


The S10 as I bought it. The color was right, the transmission was right, the 4.3 had me dreaming about a turbo again (rotsun style). I drove it 300 miles home without plates or insurance and managed to get 28mpg at ~70mph. It then got low and suspension goodies and aside from a cat delete (it was the original, and mostly plugged up) and a better muffler I didn't mess with trying to get more power.

My next great idea.

An automatic C4. Oh I had plans for a manual valve body, cheap vortec heads, fitech, but everything about the car needed something else fixed first. Much performance potential, but it would have been way too easy to spend $2-3k (I already paid $2k for the car) and that is way more than I can justify right now for a toy. So off it went to craigslist.

I only have pictures that were sent to me of the Mazda and the guitar that came with it. I didn't take delivery until after dark so I'll have to get some better pictures later.


Meh. Not really my thing, but someone will want it so off to Reverb.

And now the actual project car. 

It isn't quite as rough as it looks. Very dirty but aside from a little wrinkle in the drivers door, a small hole in the front bumper cover and some dents in the trunk it is pretty straight, if faded. The sun-roof works, cruise works, windows work, stereo works. Tan leather interior, no AC, and it smells... not great, not terrible but just weird. NBD.

Super glad to have the Chevy gone. And the more I see this car (in person, these pictures are terrible) the more I like the looks.

The 2.5 is awesome. Not only does it rev past 7000, but it has good torque low down and is pretty dang smooth. The clutch master was just replaced but the slave is on its way out too (gotta pump the pedal to get the clutch to fully release) and the roof and door locks need cleaned and lubricated. Some asshat actually painted those crooked stripes on, I thought it would just be tape. Other than that the car hasn't been mucked with. Original intake and exhaust, the interior is pretty clean and it is still on factory wheels (plasti-sprayed black but I can fix that). It is faster than the neglected crossfire corvette and though it doesn't have quite as good handling, its still pretty good. The windshield needs replaced and the crummy tint needs removed, and it'll be getting new fluids and t-belt and such. Then I decide how much I want to spend and how much I want to hack to make it something fun to toss around and not be too emotionally or financially attached. This will most likely be a slow and boring build but it is mine and I'll be having fun.

Stampie UltraDork
3/3/18 10:01 a.m.

Interesting swap. Takes cajones to do that kind of trade. That's where car glory comes from.

barefootskater Reader
3/3/18 10:38 a.m.

In reply to Stampie :

It might have been a huge mistake. But at the very least I helped a high school kid get his very own corvette. Honestly I'm not sure who got the better end of the deal.

coexist Reader
3/3/18 11:03 a.m.

I would accentuate the dimple rear panel of the trunk lid, with dents to mimic the round lenses.

Could you strip more of the clear off and get the gold to be uniformly matte finish?





BoxheadCougarTim MegaDork
3/3/18 11:22 a.m.

More info on the guitar? I'm on a bit of a 7 string kick at the moment and may be interested...

barefootskater Reader
3/3/18 11:37 a.m.

In reply to BoxheadCougarTim :

It is an MH-307. PM me and we'll go from there.

karplus2 New Reader
3/3/18 12:23 p.m.

I had a 96 Ford Probe GT for a while. Basically the same as the MX-6. It was fantastic. It had 226,000 miles and was running perfect when I sold it so I wouldn't let the mileage scare you. I can't remember why I sold it, but I regret it. It had some crappy muffler shop exhaust on it that sounded AMAZING. 

Looking forward to your build.

barefootskater Reader
3/3/18 9:05 p.m.

Washed it and got some better pictures. 

First thing is always to make it work properly. That means fixing the clutch hydraulics and replacing the windshield. I doubt any local glass shops will have the glass in stock, but the local Napa will have my new clutch slave cyl. in on Monday. Also, Monday should see it registered and insured. 

Step two will be to make it better. Reupholster the visors, do something about the headliner, and see about replacing the damaged panels. Possibly move the wing from IN the trunk to ON the trunk.

This might be the car I use to learn how to paint cars. We'll see. I will be doing something about the few rust spots (just above the windshield, just behind/below the driver's door) so that will be a learning experience as well. I might have promised SWMBO that she could paint something sill on the hood, so we'll see what happens there.

Then there is always a need for speed parts. The muffler is quite rattly, so that'll get replaced. While I'm at it probably just re-do the whole system since the Bay has "stainless" headers and merge pipe for $118 with free shipping. Also wheels and tires. I'll get the paint/coating off these wheels and see if I like them. Then if I have any dollars left I'll look into springs for mo-lo-stance-yo. 

I work weekends and family is young and still very time consuming. That, coupled with a really lame car scene in UT and my skinny wallet means it won't see much if any racing. Local mountain/canyon roads are the goal.

barefootskater Reader
3/3/18 9:08 p.m.

Also. Is SPEEDHUT a thing? Or do I assume that was a high-school attempt at free sponsorship decals? It'll go away with the broken glass, just curious.

3/4/18 9:27 p.m.

I've never heard of "speedhut" either.

I kinda like this MX-6- it looks like a typical 90s car that went to the gym regularly. Are they just the grey-import version of the probe for Japan?

pimpm3 SuperDork
3/4/18 9:54 p.m.

Doesn't speed hut make gauges?  It's like writing autometer across your windshield.

barefootskater Reader
3/4/18 10:21 p.m.

In reply to pimpm3 :

It appears that you are correct. Though that adds to the mystery, as all the gauges are stock, and I see no evidence of any other gauges having been added or removed. Hopefully tomorrow I can find time to really clean this thing out and do a little sleuthing to discover some of it's history. 

barefootskater Reader
3/7/18 5:16 p.m.

Accumulating parts. I found a few minutes yesterday to swap the spark plugs. Probably the easiest fwd v6 to do plugs on ever.

The three on the left are from the front head and the good looking fellows on the right are from the rear head.. Conclusions: the rear head has leaky spark plug tube seals, PITA because the manifold has to come off. The front head seems to have more problems though. the left most plug was the first one I pulled and it scared me, but the rest aren't too bad. I'll have to put some miles on and keep an eye on them. Maybe some valve stem seals are in my future.

Edit* These gross autolites are someone else's mistake. I installed the correct NGK bolts.

barefootskater Reader
3/9/18 10:53 p.m.

Thanks to Patrick and his discount code I ordered a set of chinesium ss headers and a Magnaflow cat for this hunk of Mazda. Sitting on a 2.5" Magnaflow muffler from an old project that should work nicely. Should also have the wheels from this car:

on my car by Monday. It is registered and insured, so that is progress, yeah?

ssswitch Dork
3/10/18 1:09 p.m.

I am strongly considering an MX-6 for our local banger rally, by which I mean I will probably buy it if the seller ever gets back to me. Following this with interest.

barefootskater Reader
3/13/18 5:32 p.m.

Well, $190 later and I have a new windshield. Yesterday I got the new clutch master installed and bled, air filter replaced, and oil changed.

Why is it that every time I get a car that someone else has been wrenching on, all the things are apocalyptically tight? I shouldn't need a cheater bar to remove a drain plug, nor should I have to use my big channel locks to get the filter off.

A 401 CJ
A 401 CJ Dork
3/14/18 5:34 a.m.

“I got my first real seven string...

bought it at the five and dime...”


oh sheesh.  Just does not have the same ring to it.

mazdeuce - Seth
mazdeuce - Seth Mod Squad
3/14/18 6:16 a.m.
barefootskater said:

Why is it that every time I get a car that someone else has been wrenching on, all the things are apocalyptically tight? I shouldn't need a cheater bar to remove a drain plug, nor should I have to use my big channel locks to get the filter off.

I just did the same thing with the Accord. As I was crushing the filter to get purchase on it I kept thinking "this is why people buy new cars...." but then I remembered that I had to drive a screwdriver through the filter on my brand new Focus to do an oil change at 2k miles. Just car guy stuff I suppose. 

I'm very interested to hear how life with the V6 is. I've always thought it was a particularity interesting little lump and have wanted one on and off over the years though I've never actually bought one. Keep trucking on this one, good project.

barefootskater Reader
3/14/18 4:02 p.m.

In reply to A 401 CJ :

Yeah. Couple that to my tiny hands and it just doesn't work. I really don't know the purpose of the extra string and heaven knows I do not know the proper use of that accursed floating bridge.

barefootskater Reader
3/14/18 4:16 p.m.

And the exhaust parts showed up today. So maybe I take a whole day and try to tackle the timing belt, water pump and headers in one big go. Maybe I'm too ambitious. Time will tell.

barefootskater Reader
3/20/18 6:07 p.m.

I have mondays off work so that is when I get to do most of my playing. I didn't take pictures, but I'm not finished taking things apart yet so I'll remedy that.

I decided that I didn't have all the parts I needed to properly do the maintenance work. Valve stem seals leak quite badly, so I bought them. The timing belt is of unknown age so I got one of them, and a water pump because "while I'm in there." These new-fangled overhead cam engines require you to pull the cams to get at the valve stem seals, so that job goes with the timing belt coming off. To get the rear valve cover off, you first have to remove the intake manifold, and the valve cover gaskets and intake gaskets are what I was lacking to just tear into it.

So yesterday morning I thought "I don't want to do all that today, I'll just put the headers on." Because header installs always go easily. Well apparently to get the rear ex. manifold off you need to remove the intake manifold. So after removing the air box I looked at everything and just thought to hell with it, I'll do it all.

I only broke a couple things and the intake is now off. It has what they call a VRIS system which involves a lot of vacuum lines and an assortment of electrical connectors. Basically the manifold is big and heavy and complicated. So then I crawled under the car and started looking to unbolt the cat and start the exhaust-ectomy. There is no cat. It has been bypassed, and the flanges cut off and new pipe welded in. Must needs be cut out. So now I debate just leaving the exhaust alone and selling these headers and the cat I bought, fixing the leaks and just driving the car.

I did get the new wheels mounted and new tires on them in 225-45r17 300tw Riken Raptors. And discovered the car is already lowered (I suspected but didn't know for sure) on some Tokiko struts and springs I can't quite read. More to come as I find time. Going to CA this weekend so I might be a couple weeks before getting it off the jack stands.

barefootskater Reader
3/24/18 3:55 p.m.

I really need to get pictures while I work.

This car starts to show more neglect the deeper I dig. So far I have found:

loose distributor bolts, so the timing is whatever it wants to be at a given moment

missing bolts for the timing cover

broken timing covers

broken p/s belt tensioner

oil and coolant leaks

cracked intake boot

missing battery hold-down

vacuum lines to nowhere

much fun.

And the last thing I was able to do will cause a real headache next week. There is a bolt that goes into the block and holds both the front engine mount and water pump. It broke off and since my big bucket was already doing old oil duty, I didn't have a big bucket for old antifreeze duty, so I left the water pump attached for now and I'll see just how much of that bolt is left in the block when I get back into town. Much fun.

mazdeuce - Seth
mazdeuce - Seth Mod Squad
3/24/18 4:01 p.m.

Vacuum lines to nowhere sounds like a great country album. 

barefootskater Reader
4/12/18 10:29 a.m.

Small update. Water pump is off, timing belt is off, cams are out of front head. I misplaced the valve stem seals I bought so last working day was cut short. I ordered another set and a valve spring compressor that I think should work. The broken bolt is still lodged in the block with about 1/8" sticking out and needing some voodoo or the worlds lowest profile 90* drill to remove.


Bigger update. Did I mention how fickle I can be? 

Every time I look at this car the last couple weeks it just pisses me off. I started thinking maybe I should just cut my losses and off the car as quickly as I can. Just picked up a second job so I now work 6 days a week, and we just learned there is another kid on the way (stoked!). So what little time I had just got cut drastically. I'm at the point that I don't even want to put the car back together, just call the scrapper and have them haul it away. The replaced windshield bums me out as that is money I can't get back, also registration, but what are you gonna do? I think I can sell the headers I bought, as well as the wheels, and keep the brand new tires (225-45r17 300tw) for either my truck, if I keep it, or for the focus that this story started with, as that car is coming back home as soon as I can find my mom another set of wheels. Speaking of wheels, Anybody know where I can get some cheap-ish 17" steelies or minimalist alloys for an 05 focus? The stamped stock 15s aren't going to cut it for long.

This last week saw the 7 string sell, and a pending sale on the rest of my electric guitar stuff because I never play it anymore. Sad story because the heard was already thinned to the max (just a squier p-bass, my 1996 Les Paul, and my 100w Marshall JCM half stack). Basically I just hit a breaking point with all the E36 M3 I have sitting around that never gets used, looking to need seating for 2, plus 2 car seats, that neither my truck nor the mazda (yes the rear seats are there, but the belts scare me and getting a car seat with a baby in it just won't work).

So. Thinning the guitars. Thinning the cars. Thinning all the extra E36 M3. Maybe as a side effect I'll be able to get a little more sleep. At least I'll have less to worry about (mess hanging around, projects), fewer distractions, and more time to spend with my family.

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