|February 3, 2011 - This is the story of a little blue Miata that's had an eventful life.|
In late 2005, we needed a car to do some testing on a prototype 1.6 supercharger system. We picked up a battered little 1990 that had a good drivetrain and some cosmetic flaws, and called it Scruffy. The hardtop was soon appropriated for another car. This is actually the car's best side.
Well, the supercharger didn't work out. Scruffy got pushed into a corner of the shop and left there to gather dust. Until Glen, one of our employees, decided he needed a Miata, and he took it on. He fixed the car up, ran it at Laguna Seca and eventually installed a Mazdaspeed engine and Hydra ECU along with a Torsen and some suspension upgrades along with a Hard Dog Sport rollbar. Things were looking up for Scruffy, with a strong drivetrain and that same battered shell.
A while later, Glen sold Scruffy. Well, the new owner didn't take care of the car, and managed to damage the engine by running without oil. Scruffy ended up back at Flyin' Miata - but with every single body panel faded, scratched and dented with valuable parts inside, it was worth more as scrap than as a car. So we stripped the car right down to the bare shell, scattering the parts to the wind.
|February 3, 2011 - Now we tell the story of another car: Mildred.|
When Mike McCoy joined FM in early 2010, he bought a 1996 Miata that needed a bit of love. Using parts from FM Salvage - including the front bumper and headlight covers from Scruffy - he put the car together and had all sorts of plans.
|February 3, 2011 - Unfortunately, the moment that Mike put his car on the road, someone else took it out.|
This photo was taken the day after the previous one, after he'd spent the evening painting the hood and airbrushing a big skull on it. Mike had only put a few dozen miles on his car by this point.
|February 3, 2011 - Mike's car had almost no damage other than a bent shell.|
Meanwhile, Scruffy's shell was sitting in the FM shop. So there was an obvious solution. After some prodding by his coworkers, he bowed to the inevitable and began building one good car out of the remains of two.
Kinda like the Brady Bunch.
|February 3, 2011 - Mike did have plans to make the resulting car - he called it "Muffy" - a track toy.|
And since it was sitting there stripped to the bone, he decided to seam-weld the chassis before starting the rebuild. In this shot, you can see the modifications to the frame rails that are left over from the shell's previous turbo history. He also installed a Hard Dog Hard Core roll bar.
|February 3, 2011 - The big pieces changed over pretty easily.|
Mike simply lifted the old damaged shell off the complete drivetrain and suspension. It was wheeled over to another lift where the blue shell was waiting, and the two became one.
|February 3, 2011 - Of course, it's not that simple.|
The shell had been completely stripped, so Mike had to install the 1996 wiring harness, interior, gas tank, headlight mechanisms - everything. Luckily, Mazda didn't make any major changes to the shell in that time so most of it went pretty easily. In fact, apparently the early 1990 chassis like Scruffy's are lighter than later production models. So it's an upgrade!
After a lot of nights and weekends, Mike had the car together. He took it to a local track day and enjoyed himself.
Once again, however, the poor car got pushed aside. Mike's a downhill mountain bike racer, and couldn't really justify a dedicated track toy. So Muffy was put up for sale in barely-completed condition.
|February 3, 2011 - Right about the time Mike started thinking about selling Muffy, Keith's friend Eric decided he needed a new Miata.|
He specifically wanted one that had good suspension and a solid, rust-free chassis, but a bone-stock drivetrain so it would be easy to get his local mechanic to work on. In case you're wondering, he lives 2000 miles away from FM so it's not convenient for him to stop by when there's a problem.
Despite Muffy's checkered past, it actually is a stock 1996 from a mechanical point of view. Only the shell and VIN is from a 1990. So it was perfect for Eric's needs. Other than the paint job.
Now, Eric is a vintage car nut and has owned a few Little British Cars in the past. He wanted a car that felt special, but with the bomb-proof nature of a Miata. In a moment of weakness, Keith agreed to get Muffy sorted out and reworked to Eric's specs. No major mechanical changes, but some fettling, customization and sorting out. The whole project is being done by Keith on his own time and on a tight budget, so it's not going to be a long, megadollar build.
There's the (very convoluted) background, let's get on with it!
|February 3, 2011 - The fun part of a project like this is imagining the result.|
If you don't have a good mental picture of what you want, you'll never be able to build it. Even if the mental picture is a bit blurry in spots, you'll find that they pop into focus as time goes on - and you can use that image to check that any new ideas fit in.
In this case, Eric was inspired by the Porsche 356. He found a couple of cars that he really liked and started trying to figure out why.
After a lot of web surfing and checking out particular cars, one thing he bonded with was a color called Aquamarine, used only on 1957-59 Porsches. It's paint code 707 or 5707, depending on what system you're using. So the first step was to try to find some.
That's harder than it sounds. The original was painted in a discontinued line of Glasurit paints. There is a modern Glasurit formulation, but Keith's painting supplies all use the PPG system and there aren't any Glasurit dealers in our area code. So we had to figure out the color.
On the left is a test piece shot with PPG's best guess at the color. One thing we learned fairly quickly is that this color, for some reason, is very sensitive to light. It'll photograph quite differently in different lights, and it looks different in person. Samples of each paint were mixed up and shot on to both flat panels and pieces of pipe. The pipes gave an idea of how the color would look on curved surfaces like a car body.
The original PPG mix was deemed to be too grey, with not enough color. But it looked awfully close to a Land Rover color called Arles Blue.
The pipe on the right is shot with Arles Blue. Not bad. It had more blue in it, but was it vintage looking enough? One of the goals of this car is to find a color that really doesn't look like a modern color.
Finally, we found a Porsche restoration shop that sent us a swatch of the actual paint. It proved to be right between our PPG mix and the Arles Blue. We had our local PPG shop stick it under the magic electric eyeball and mix up a sample of the new color - that's it on the short pipe in the middle.
It's a good match. In this photo, it looks close to Arles. In others, it looks close to the greyer PPG formulation. So it got the nod. In honor of the 707 paint code, Eric and Keith started referring to the car as "707".
|February 3, 2011 - Here's how the Porsche 707 color looks when compared to Mariner Blue.|
Just enough blue to keep it from being grey, but definitely not a modern color.
|February 3, 2011 - Another detail Eric picked off his Porsche pictures was this mirror design.|
It's a Porsche 356 "aero" mirror, and it looks even better in person. Due to that beautiful arc, the mounting point has to be moved forward. So Keith filled in the factory mounting holes by cutting out steel patches, welding them in and then grinding them flush. They're just covered with a shot of primer right now, they'll be smoothed over with body filler soon.
Mounting the mirror was a challenge, too. This design has studs on the base, and you have to attach nuts to them on the inside of the door. Well, the Miata door has a lot of internal structure including three layers of various metal sheets just behind this mirror. After some head scratching, Keith figured out a keyhole mounting system that allowed the mirror to be installed and tightened down.
|February 3, 2011 - Here's what the mirror looks like from the driver's seat.|
It's actually quite effective, and a nice change from the usual bullet mirrors.
|February 3, 2011 - Because Mike put the car together fairly quickly and didn't get around to debugging it, there are a lot of small jobs to do.|
For example, the wiring harness for the passenger's headlight and the AC relay was routed the wrong way. It wasn't an immediate problem, but moving things around tidied everything up and also ensured there wouldn't be any long-term problems from vibration or tight wires. The plumbing for the EGR system needed to be hooked up as well.
This is pretty rewarding work, actually. Every time you touch the car, it gets better.
|February 3, 2011 - Eric's plans are to use the car as a coupe.|
It's also going to be a pure street car, and his height makes the Hard Core rollbar less than ideal for street use. So Keith took it out. Since the hardtop is going to be bolted on permanently, he also removed the soft top. It's a lot quicker to remove a rollbar than it is to install one - it only took an hour to pull both the bar and the top and reassemble everything.
|February 3, 2011 - Two different rollbars means lots of holes in the body.|
They're not a problem structurally, but they can let water in. We sealed them on the inside with a waterproof tape, and we'll cover the outside with rubberized undercoating. Your stock Miata has a few holes that are covered up in a similar manner, did you know that?
|February 3, 2011 - With the top removed, the carpet still looks pretty good and covers almost everything.|
The exception is one small section back by the seatbelts. It's pretty hard to see, but just to make sure we shot it with black paint so there isn't bright blue showing. It doesn't cost anything and it's unlikely anyone will notice, but enough details like this stack up to make for a good final result.
|February 3, 2011 - Here's what the rear shelf looks like without a soft top in place.|
Roomy! The carpet isn't completely attached at this point.
|February 3, 2011 - Eric's still playing around with wheel ideas, but he keeps coming back to steel wheels for the vintage look.|
Again, it's just a fun street car and not an autocross special, so the extra weight isn't critical. Will they stay silver, or will he go for graphite? We're still setting up the ride height as well. It's going to sit relatively tall so Eric can drive it year-round in Canada. The car's actually running on an FM V-Maxx stage 2 suspension, so it is pretty fun in the corners even on snow tires!
He did consider some side lights on the front fenders, but decided not to.
|February 4, 2011 - Want to mix your own Porsche 707 paint - or at least, the closest we could come to it?|
Here's the magic code!
|February 6, 2011 - After the reinstalling the interior, I pulled it all back out again so I could add some soundproofing.|
Miatas with hardtops are quieter inside than they are with the soft top up, but it doesn't seem like it. Eric has to commute a fair distance, so the goal is to keep the exhaust noise down somewhat. Besides, a previous owner had added holes through the stock body panels and soundproofing, probably for a trunk-mounted subwoofer. So the car was particularly vocal.
You may have noticed this is now being written in the first person. Well, yes. That's because it's my project, not an FM project, and it's really weird to write about myself in the third person.
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