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Thoughts after living with an FM-built car.
I thought I'd give you an update on the "Mazdaspeed Alternative" you put together for me a couple of years ago. The last major problem was ignition mis-fire under high boost and that was recently licked with new spark plugs recommended by Jeremy. I can now turn up the boost as high as I dare (I briefly saw 27 psig when I adjusted the MBC too far to the right) with no missing or knock. Yeehaw!
With one minor exception (which I'll address below), the car is everything I'd hoped for. With the chassis stiffening (Butterfly Brace and Cannon rear brace), it feels as tight (if not tighter) than when I picked it up from the dealer over sixteen years ago. The AFCO suspension is, dare I say it, comfortable. Road imperfections, frost heaves and potholes (of which we have plenty around here) are absorbed with aplomb and I've only recently been able to stop tensing up when I'm about to drive over some bad pavement. When I need the performance, the car turns in with aplomb, takes a set and holds the line with no complaints whatsoever. This is truly a no-compromise suspension.
The engine? Well, the engine is a giant killer. Torquey at low revs, it starts coming on strong at 3,000 rpm and I see full boost before 4K, at which I'd better be sure about which way the front wheels are pointed. Unlike many cars that hint at great power reserves at throttle tip-in, this engine actually has plenty in reserve as the revs build. It's endlessly entertaining and a better writer than me could write an epic poem on its sterling qualities. The 3" exhaust was also a good addition. It lowered boost onset by several hundred rpm, exhibits no drone at highway speeds and has an absolutely delicious burble on engine overrun.
I'm also pleased with the Stage 2 clutch. While not quite oem-like, it's much easier on the calf muscles than any of the heavy-duty ACT clutches I've tried. The Quaife tranny shifts like a stocker and so far has stood up to all the abuse I've thrown at it (which is more than I can say for the stock Torsen). This brings me to my only complaint: Gear noise. I knew it was a factor, so I didn't go in with my eyes closed. The gear whine is actually quite entertaining in the lower gears (Keith said it was "supercharger-like" and that's spot-on), but at highway speeds the whine competes with and wins against both wind noise and tire roar. Dropping to fourth is actually quieter, despite running about 1,000 rpm higher. I'm not sure whether fifth gear is a weak point on the stock 5-speed (all anecdotal evidence points to one of the lower gears destructing first) and I'm sure the Quaife is not enough of a volume seller to warrant a running change. Given my druthers, though, I would prefer a less straight-cut fifth cog that won't prove so annoying on a road trip.
That's it for this report. Overall, I'm pleased as punch with my car. For a fraction of the cost of an off-the-shelf solution, I have a car with near-supercar performance that maintains the stealth look prefer (and keeps me in the Miata fraternity). Thanks again for all your help and support and feel free to quote me if you find any of the above useful.