After a successful shakedown of the rebuilt motor, I started a new set of projects.
My original color scheme for the numbers made them hard to read, and my number was already in use in NASA Texas region, so I decided to strip off all of the graphics.
It looks so naked!
I re-zebra-ized with a new design. You can also see the new hood: a fiberglass clone of the FM Extractor hood.
I also changed the color scheme to something with better contrast.
During all of this, my Fat Cat suspension FINALLY arrived!
Are they worth the wait?
I took the opportunity to install the ISC Racing offset delrin bushings in the control arms. This allows me to add an additional -1.5 degrees of much needed camber on the front wheels, while stiffening up the other joints on the car. We also took the plunge and used a string box, toe plates, and camber gauge to DIY align the car. The initial outing on the new setup felt good, but was on an unfamiliar track. The car seemed to traction hop during heavy cornering, which may be a result of the rear sway bar being too stiff.
My first outing back in Texas was pretty rough. After pitting out, coming up to speed, WHAM! The hood popped up. Even though I had Aerocatch latches, I forgot to fasten them.
I was able to get the hood pressed back down and continue driving. I noticed that my catch tank was bubbling for a while after stopping the engine, and that coolant was not returning. The radiator had bubbles in it and would pressurize after a short time. Dang. Blown head gasket.
While I could have replaced the head gasket with the engine inside the car, I opted to pull it in order to replace the oil pump. I should have replaced it when I rebuilt the engine, but didn’t think to do it at the time.
Time to pull the motor. At least I’m doing it in a garage with light!
The whole process took just a few days. I was held up for 2 days looking for an O-ring that was not included with any of the gasket sets or parts. The ring goes between the oil pump and block – if it doesn’t seal, then oil goes everywhere, and you have to pull the motor to get to the pump!
After a few near-disasters involving a fogged up window, I set out to build an electric defroster. I deleted the heater core and removed the blower and duct work, so the factory installation was not an option. I purchased a cheap 12V electric hair dryer from Amazon and tested it, and it did not get hot enough or put out enough air. I continued searching until I came across the Power Hunt 12 V hair dryer. It requires a dedicated 30 A circuit and puts out almost 1500 BTU!
To direct the air across the window, I took a Shop Vac nozzle and fastened the dryer to the hose hole.
Hair dryer + Shop Vac nozzle = defroster?
Using materials around the garage and a lot of RTV, I messed around with a blocking plate until it felt like a car defroster should. It directs the air out of a small gap, and gets quite hot.
RTV and sheet metal complete the design.
Hot air shoots out of the slot!
Mounted by hose clamp to the dash bar.
I got to test it soon after. The current draw pulls down the idle very noticeably, it probably saps a fair amount of horsepower when running. It’s worth it. After running for a few minutes, a completely fogged window is clear, and stays clear!
The big black switch in the gauge hole is for the defroster. You can see the fog starting to dissipate! You can also see condensation in the fuse box being burned away by the heat coming off of the fuse. That thing really draws some current!
I wanted to improve the flow to the intake and block the engine air better, so I re-built the walls of the airbox. To gauge where it would hit the hood, I poked skewers into cardboard pieces and let them push in as the hood closed.
I used the carboard as a template, using smashed aluminum angle to make the 45 degree corner pieces.
Ask an NA Miata owner how their windshield wipers work and you’ll probably hear “slowly.” The stock motor is slow, and the aging gear boxes are getting slower. Since my setup deleted the factory wiring, I figured I may as well get something a little beefier. I also had issues with control. I had the motor directly wired to a switch, so they would not park when I turned them off. This proved to be more than annoying in a track situation, taking focus off of driving to operate and park the wipers.
I started by sourcing a new wiper motor of approximately the same size. Ideally, I wanted it to fit where the stock one does. I wandered around a local junkyard until I found something that would work. (If you want to attempt this, make sure you get a chunk of the harness too.) This particular unit was from a 1997 Toyota Avalon.
Old motor on the left, better motor on the right.
It took a bit of modification to mount the motor, but it mostly fit up. On the up side, the splined cam thing that connects the wiper mechanism to the motor fit the new motor perfectly, no modification needed.
To control it, I wanted to get fancy. Since I eliminated the wiper stalk from the car, I needed a a switch that would not require moving my hands from the wheel. I also didn’t want wires between the wheel and steering column. So, I went wireless! I bought a cheap wireless automotive relay box – the setup you would use if you wanted remote control neon lights. I coupled this to a few DPDT relays for low and high speed. The NO set of contacts runs the motor, and the NC is connected to the park wire to move the wipers back into position when turned off.
Wireless relay box
Of course I didn’t want to fiddle with the remote while driving, so I cracked it open and soldered leads to steering wheel buttons.
Inside the remote
Wired to the steering wheel buttons
The result: wireless buttons on steering wheel toggle the wipers on and off! I’m a bit disappointed; the product description for the relay box said that the channels could be configured momentary or toggle. In reality they just toggle, so I don’t have a “mist” as planned. Oh well!
More black plastic wizardry. I made a new plate to cover the gap and holes.
I also had to add ballast to become PTE legal.
Probably not the optimal location, but it will do for now.
I also fabricated some fiberglass headlight doors with a lip to attach to the hood. This way the doors travel with the hood and I could eliminate the retractor mechanism from the driver’s side.
They’re spraypainted black here, later to be vinyl wrapped in white:
I almost left it this way
Actual white really clashes with the faded factory “white” paint.
I installed a 300A main fuse between the battery and disconnect. This will arrest a major short circuit if the battery cable gets damaged and provides a convenient method to disconnect the battery without pulling off the terminal.