4 5 6 7 8
Opti SuperDork
1/1/23 11:32 p.m.

I've polished worse single stage on a miata, it'll come out nice.


Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
1/1/23 11:33 p.m.

338's temporary stablemate has left. It was interesting to experience the 911 (997.2 4S for the nerds), but I did not enjoy it as much as the Miata. It felt like an old car with new car plastered over top, but more importantly it felt unfocused and I was not impressed by the PASM or the PDK. I suspect a 2WD coupe, driven in anger, would be a different thing. But this leather lined boulevard cruiser didn't have the ability to cruise boulevards properly due to disappointing suspension tuning and an easily confused transmission, and the sports car hiding underneath was muted too far. It also just didn't have any joy. I know there are some people who love 911s, but this one did not wiggle its way into our hearts.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
1/1/23 11:37 p.m.

In reply to Opti :

I do have hopes for it, although some of the flakes make me think it would only be a temporary respite. The good news is that 338's paint overall would benefit from a nice polish, although it's got clear on some panels due to various insults over the years. So bringing Travis in to help restore it would be worthwhile over the whole car.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
1/8/23 10:38 p.m.

My friend Travis came over today. He's more into caring for paint than I am. 

We started off with duelling orbital buffers and some Meguiars cleaner/polish. No dice. We changed to a Meguiars rubbing compound and started to make some progress, but barely. 

I have a 7" buffer left over from some wet sanding adventures years ago. I wasn't very good at it, but I have the tools and a bunch of compounds recommended to me by some pros. Due to my disappointing results with working on the MG, I haven't touched them for a while. But just for the hell of it (and because this paint had nothing to lose), I broke it out along with a bottle of 3M Perfect-It rubbing compound that had been in my shop for a decade. Now THAT worked. A couple of passes and...

Let's remind ourselves, this is what it looked like when I started...

It's not perfect. It's still got some ghost stripes because the exposed paint is almost crazed - it probably really needs wet sanding. But good lord.

The car also had some...water spots? tree sap marks? ... and some long-term oxidation that were resisting the orbitals. This car has lived outside a lot. So I hit them with the same stuff and followed up with the ultrafine machine polish from 3M as well. 


Obviously, now I have to do the whole car :) The paint will never be show quality, but by the time I've worked over the whole thing it's going to look a couple of decades younger. I'm really jazzed about this.

AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter)
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) UberDork
1/8/23 11:31 p.m.

I totally understand the Miata vs 997 thing.  The NA is really the benchmark when it comes to "feeling" like you are part of the car.  Few cars can give that same feeling.  I'm hoping my NB is similar with the new suspension.  It'll be used on nice Friday's mostly for the next 7 years.  I think the RWD 996s were better than the 997 4S with PDK.  You could get a 996 with less electronics in the way and the M6 offers more engagement but it's nothing like the shifter in a Miata.  As I get older I realize horsepower is a smaller part of the fun to drive equation than I used to think. 





Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
1/9/23 12:45 p.m.

I have learned that any time you discuss a 911, the best one is always the previous generation or the next generation :)  And yes, a couple of folks with lots of direct experience have confirmed that the RWD version of the 997 chassis is the variation to have.

Horsepower is certainly a factor in the fun to drive equation, but it's sure not the only one. I have a lot of fun in my CRX and it's got something like 91 hp. I also have a lot of fun in the 500+ hp Miata or the 400 hp M5. What all of my favorite cars share, however, is honesty of purpose. That's where this particular 911 seemed a little unclear. 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
1/9/23 2:16 p.m.

Update: Koni is indeed covering the blown 23 year old shock under their lifetime warranty.

APEowner UltraDork
1/9/23 4:02 p.m.

"Honesty of purpose" is a great phrase.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
1/11/23 6:20 p.m.

Since the hardtop was so shiny, I had to do the whole car. Most of it just got polish. It's probably 95% there, I could spend 3x as long to get to 100% (for this given car) but that's not really my jam. Still, looks pretty darn good. Mom says that Dad would be proud.

Little detour down the memory lane, this is from the first day with 338, when it came home. Apparently Dad was polishing while I did something mechanical to my car, which pretty much sums up our relative approaches. Based on those brakes, I think I was evaluating a set of Baers for a magazine article. And the hardtop on my car is the one on 338 today.

Some things don't change, or some photographers don't anyhow.

Also, since the car will now be wearing a hardtop, it needed to have the side striker plates. And to install those, I needed to cut holes in the interior plastics. I couldn't transfer them over from my car because those were also cut for a roll bar. But Mazda planned for this, and there's a template on the backside of the panels. 

Two zaps with a 1 3/8" hole saw and a couple of cuts with a utility knife and voila. These don't need to be perfect because the strikers cover the edges of the hole.

Randomly, I discovered today that an acquaintance sells templates so you can do this without removing the side panels from the car. There are four fasteners involved, and cleanup is a whole lot easier if you don't start cutting plastic inside the car. It's amazing how much effort some people will go to in order to avoid doing something.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
1/11/23 6:25 p.m.

While I'm digging through the old pics, here's 338 at the Miata World 1999 event. That's Miata #500,000 on the left, with the Speedster and the M Coupe showcars behind it.

And 338 with my car on that first weekend (April 10, 1999 according to my notes). The striped car is currently in my trailer and seems to have lost its hardtop. The 323 belonged to a neighbor :)

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
1/13/23 11:23 a.m.

I had to do a Facebook Live video yesterday and I had this shiny car that I think is interesting just sitting there, so...


Also took a couple of mediocre cellphone shots on the way to/at the shop. I don't know why people keep asking for a Miata coupe, I've had one for 30 years!

They're so cute with a hardtop. But it did become obvious on the way to the shop that I need to adjust this one a little bit, it rattles a bit in the back corner. No worries, I know how to do this.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
1/14/23 6:42 p.m.

Hardtop maintenance. Mostly, I found a bunch of slightly loose fasteners like a frankenstein bolt and at least one of the side latches on the top. These have never been off so that's interesting, but it was straightforward enough to put on some blueberry Loctite and snug everything up.

I also adjusted one of the rear mounts. Obviously way off.

...and replaced the top caps, which are nylon snubs that take the bulk of the load. These can fall apart over time which leads to loose/rattling latches. The hardtop ones looked good - that's one on the right - but after a quick inspection it became obvious that the soft top ones need attention. I'll take care of those later, as one of the soft top latches also needs a new lock.

For those who are into 3D printing, the 2003-05 version of these are a different shape and are NLA from Mazda. So a certain Miata shop sells a nylon 3D printed one. A perfect example of what we'd all hoped 3D printing would do for old cars.

The car also has a bit of a stumble when you're free-revving it. I thought it might be fuel pressure but that checks out. So I popped the top off the AFM and cleaned up the contacts inside just in case. 

Took the car out to run errands with Janel, and it's starting to really feel good. She said it felt so much better than the first ride she had in it, between the perfect idle behavior and the lack of rattles (other than one soft top latch that is now on The List) and general feeling of solidity. It's starting to feel like a nice car and not an old car. The fettling is paying off. This is something I really enjoy, just paying attention to a machine and making it work better.

She also drove it for the first time, and I realized it's the first time she's driven an NA with a stock engine. She'd driven 500+ hp ones at Laguna Seca, supercharged ones, turbocharged ones, one with a high compression 2.0...but never a stock 1.6. Her verdict?

"You need to install a little baby turbo, it needs more torque".

That's my girl.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
1/14/23 6:44 p.m.

Miata nerd achievement unlocked.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
1/15/23 3:21 p.m.

Apparently that plate is so super nerdy that even most of my coworkers don't know it. P729 was the development project code for the Miata, and LWS was the Light Weight Sports concept. I need to spend more time with my history books to be able to explain it succinctly.

Anyhow, today I decided to start work on another planned upgrade. Right from day 1, there were factory accessories for the Miata and that included the front air dam and rear skirt that became associated with the later R Package cars. I once asked Tom Matano - Miata designer - if the car was meant to have those because they just look so right. Turns out they were on the early models, but were removed for approach angle. IIRC shipping might have been a factor, it's been a couple of decades. Anyhow, they look right and I like them. I have them both on my original 1990 Miata and I put a set on the 1990 Smurf years ago as well.

But you can't get the real factory ones anymore. The market is flooded with knockoffs, often called "RS style". So I picked up a front air dam and a rear skirt from a couple of different vendors. The rear skirt is made of the thickest material you can imagine, and it's kinda crude. It looks okay in place once you can't see the backside.

Here it is attached with clamps.

The front is about the same thickness as the original Miata parts, but it's cut off. The original curves under and is fairly level side to side. This one is cut off about 1/2" higher, doesn't curve under and follows the shape of the nose.



I really don't like the looks of the front piece. It would probably be okay if I wasn't very familiar with the originals, but it's a lesser copy to my eye. Trying to find just the right knockoff might be a challenge.

I do have an alternative, however. There's a factory piece on my original Miata, my first car - the one that donated the hardtop. It's been sitting around for over a decade and has never actually been imported into the US. No matter what happens with it, it's a lower priority to me than 338. I'd already been thinking of helping myself to a few nice body panels, such as the original paint front bumper cover. Pulling the front air dam off is sounding pretty good right now. I think I can do it while it sits in the trailer. We'll see how motivated I get this afternoon.

I can't take the rear skirt off the striped car as it was cut for a set of dual exhausts.

Mr_Asa UltimaDork
1/15/23 3:59 p.m.

The stock one sounds like the perfect setup to make a mold or two.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
1/15/23 5:44 p.m.

Nah, with all the cheap knockoffs there's no market for one that's actually dimensionally correct. You'd be competing with Chinese factories popping out copies of copies for pennies.

But I did get motivated and spent some time crawling around in my trailer and pulled the factory air dam off my original Miata. Here's the difference on the bottom.

Installation is very easy, and involves more fasteners than the aftermarket unit. I seem to recall drilling points being indicated on the bumper skin, but it's possible those got lost during one of the repaints on 338's nose. This makes me happy though.

Of course, right after I was done I looked up at my shelves and saw another factory one sitting up there with my spare dashboards and seats. Sigh.

That's what I was looking for, though. And looks like I need to adjust a headlight cover :)

The rear did not go on as well. It had pre-drilled holes and lots of screws, but you couldn't actually reach the holes with a screwdriver because the thick walls made it inflexible. I got creative and made it work, because I have no way to ensure I'd be able to do better from another supplier. At least the shape is basically correct, although the bit on the other side of the exhaust tip is a little off.

While I had the car in the air, I also touched up some sandblasted rocker panel paint.


Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
1/15/23 6:50 p.m.

Okay, that headlight adjustment was a little more involved than I expected. This is the same headlight that had refused to lift a few months back. I spent some time cleaning up some wire routing, then noticed the arm wasn't correctly clocked on the motor. Wasn't off by much, but it was something. I pulled the coolant overflow out (three bolts) to make it easier to access. And yes, there's pink rubbing compound splatter everywhere :)

Disconnected the arm and discovered the headlight sat just a bit high anyhow. I spent a lot of time fixing wiring routing (again) and poking and prodding until I finally found two little flanges interfering with each other just a bit. You could push the light down all the way, but it had a little springiness because of those flanges. There must be something way back in the car's history, but I moved the flanges by about a millimeter and voila. Full retraction. Set the limiters, reinstalled, tested and voila. Much better.

It's funny the stuff you only notice in photos.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
1/22/23 9:12 p.m.

Got the parts in hand to deal with the rattly soft top latches. And it was time. 

Not only were the top latch caps in poor shape, the locks were eroded. That's the source of the rattle when down, the caps would mean difficulty in getting the top to latch properly. Here are the parts that came out. 

Replaced with new OE caps and some locks from my friendly local Miata aftermarket company. I don't usually use YouTube videos, but I found this one helpful. 

One side give me some interesting problems, it seemed to have a slightly different tolerance. I determined it was the latch, not the new locks. A bit of fine-tuning of the new part and I got it to work. 

And voila, one big rattle gone! No chance for a test drive yet as there's another disassembled 1990 Miata in the way. But it's one more step towards making 338 better...

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
1/23/23 12:32 p.m.

One thing I came across on the weekend whilst researching some electrical specifications.

Canadian cars have a coolant gauge that reads slightly higher than the US ones. On a US car, normal is a needle width below center. On a Canadian car, it's a needle width above. It's not the thermostat, it's in the instrumentation. I've known about this since the early 90s but I'd never seriously gone looking for proof. And here it is in the 1990 factory repair manual, check those resistance values. Full hot on a US gauge is different than full hot on a Canadian one. Putting a US cluster in a Canadian car confirms that.

Why? My theory is that Americans are worried about overheating while Canadians are afraid of freezing to death :)

Here's what the early Canadian cars look like at normal operating temp.

Just a fun discovery.

automotiveflux New Reader
1/23/23 12:47 p.m.

Can confirm, I am afraid of freezing to death

RedGT Dork
1/23/23 2:58 p.m.

Can confirm from the american side...looking at that gauge picture makes me very anxious and uncomfortable.  I want to hit the AC button to see if it forces the fans on, and if that doesn't work, quick, crank up the heat.

Professor_Brap (Forum Supporter)
Professor_Brap (Forum Supporter) UberDork
1/23/23 6:54 p.m.
RedGT said:

Can confirm from the american side...looking at that gauge picture makes me very anxious and uncomfortable.  I want to hit the AC button to see if it forces the fans on, and if that doesn't work, quick, crank up the heat.

+1 on on this. 

AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter)
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) UberDork
1/23/23 9:44 p.m.

As a life long southerner (even for the US), I suspect you are correct.  I worry about boiling over not dying by freezing.  I also really appreciate the name on your lab coat in the video..... 

And that Canadian steering wheel.  That's kinda cool. 


Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
1/23/23 11:07 p.m.

The name on the lab coat: That was a gift from Warren of Exocet fame. He said that if we built the supercharged V8 XXXocet he would give me a lab coat that said Professor BatE36 M3 on it. True to his word, he presented it to me at a well-attended dinner of Miata enthusiasts at the Mitty. I am very proud of it :)

Stealthtercel Dork
1/23/23 11:41 p.m.

Definite hats off to you, Keith, for figuring this out, and also to some unknown, & very smart, people at Mazda for understanding one of the many ways Canadians and Americans are different, and doing something about it.

4 5 6 7 8

You'll need to log in to post.

Our Preferred Partners