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April 29, 2004: Whoops.
I looks like I might have a problem. My steering is now set up with the rod ends above the steering knuckle. But when I set up the location of my steering rack, I believe I measured as if the stock ball joint was being used, and that hangs below the knuckle. The tie rods are visibly at the wrong angle and I suspect the current setup has massive amounts of bump steer. I'll have to do some measuring to determine is this is the case or not. Simply moving the rod end so that it's below the knuckle causes problems due to the extreme angle of the attachment - at least when the suspension is at full droop. Both the rod end angle and clearance of the knuckle are a problem here. I'll have to do some thinking about how best to resolve this. Going back to Miata ball joints and more normal rod ends would certainly work, but then I'd need new steering knuckles because the tapered hole has been drilled out. Raising the steering rack will also cause problems with the angle of the rod end. Sigh. I'll find a way to make this work. Hopefully without having to spend too much time machining the knuckle. I can see now that it would have been simple to just keep the factory ball joints and extend the tie rods. Not that I had any straight tie rods to extend! I'll try to get some photos soon of the problem.

I started test-fitting a few of the body panels last night. There are some extra bends needed (no big deal) and one of the panels needs a little tweaking to clear the neutral switch on the transmission. The switch protrudes just a little bit too far to be covered by a flat panel. They fit reasonably well, but not as well as I'd expect from a CNC plasma cutter - the patterns need some work. This has been true of every aluminum panel I've tried so far. Basically the angles aren't quite right or holes are offset. Nothing that's going to leave a visual mis-match so it's only an irritation when I'm assembling. While I certainly saved a lot of effort by buying the panels pre-cut, I probably would have obtained a better fit by cutting them myself.

Update: after a bit of perusal of the FK Bearing catalog, I found a high-misalignment version of the bearing I'm using. It'll give me an extra 7 degrees of rotation as well as being slightly longer - both of which are good. It's also going to clear the knuckle better due to a lip on the ball - and to top it all off, it's rated for 5,000 lbs greater axial load. The downside is that they're about $20 each, almost three times the price of my earlier choice. Part number HJMX7T if anyone's interested.

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