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January 4, 2005:
Happy new year, everyone.
As a little present to the car, I ordered a set of Azenis tires for the Seven. As a little present to me, my parents bought me a helmet. No more loaners for me at the track!
I should have the opportunity to get some work done on the Seven this weekend. Plans are quite tentative at the moment as to exactly what will be happening, but I've been eyeing a set of individual throttle bodies that happen to be on the shelf at Flyin' Miata. Ooooh, the temptation. I should also really work on the wipers but the thought of drilling the holes in the scuttle makes me sad. I've also started researching trailers and trailer designs. Can I build a Seven trailer with electric brakes for a reasonable price? Let's see.
Oh, and a new project has arrived: a 1988 Mazda 323 GTX. It's a little AWD turbocharged hatchback that just happens to use the same 1.6 engine as my Miata and the Seven. I now have three very different cars in my garage that all run off the same powerplant. This will be fixed up to daily driver status.
A bit of Googling around the net has turned up a couple of interesting things. Apparently my build was being mentioned by the CMC folks a few months back - you can read about it in several Lotus club newsletters including page 4 of reMarque. I also found that rec.auto.makers.mazda.miata seems to have decided I did my best to build the ugliest car possible out of a Miata. A BMW rebody was viewed as a better choice. I think they got a misleading idea of the size of the car judging by their "expert" analysis. Ahh, nothing like the courage of anonymity. To each their own, I'll wave as I go by.
January 11, 2005:
It's been busy at work and the little Seven has suffered.
I've also been working on the GTX to make it driveable. Someday I'll buy a car that I can just drive. Well, maybe.
Things are still happening, though. The tires - Falken Azenis RT215 in a 195/60-14 size - arrived today and were soon installed. Tonight I'll put the wheels on the car to see how it looks. I have noticed that Caterham has a habit of putting wheels with black centers and polished lips on their cars. Of course I was never influenced by that. Testing the tires will have to wait as it's raining and generally miserable here. I'm also considering pulling the head off the Seven while it sits for a while to get the valve seals fixed.
My new helmet has also arrived. I ordered it yesterday from Discovery Parts and it showed up today! Incredible, overnight from Georgia to Colorado. And I choose the free shipping instead of paying for expedited. Now I'm curious - how quickly would it have shown up in that case? Anyhow, it's a nice shiny new Bell M2. I'll spend the evening wearing it so I know it's the right size and comfy. It's already better than most of my borrowed helmets. It's also covered in "MOTORSPORTS ARE DANGEROUS" disclaimers. Well, yes. If I didn't know that, I wouldn't have ordered a helmet, would I?
A side project has been disassembling and "depowering" a steering rack for someone else's build. I didn't document this well when I did mine, so that problem has been rectified! I should have a short how-to available soon. The documentation will also come in handy for another project that's upcoming. More details on that when I have more news myself.
My new tires (Falken Azenis, 195/60-14) have arrived and are mounted.
Now if only it would stop raining...
Should I paint it orange? Naaaaah.
Taking a steering rack apart to "depower" it.
I'll do a full writeup on this process. It's not for me, though.
January 12, 2005:
The wheels on the car.
I am very excited about how this looked - even better than I had expected.
January 13, 2005:
The wheels are on the car.
I commented when the wheels were done that they looked, well, just as I expected. Now that they're on the car, they look a whole lot better than I had imagined. I'm very happy about it as I think the car looks fantastic. I'll try to get some photos with the car parked outside although the mud in the back lane is going to make that a fairly messy operation. The car will shortly be going into hibernation for a couple of weeks - the weather isn't good so I'll take advantage of this to pull the head and get it sorted out. Then I can start tuning the car for power without knowing that it's trying to burn oil as well as gasoline. I'm trying to find a good place to work on sorting out the handling. An old airfield would be best so I'm looking around.
January 14, 2005:
Knowing the car is in the garage is killing me with our current sunny weather.
The only-barely-above-freezing temperatures do quell the urge to go for a drive when I walk outside. Maybe tomorrow before I pull the head.
I've been concerned for a while with the angles of my rod ends on the steering at full droop. So while talking to my favourite parts yard, I ordered a couple of front uprights from a 2002 Miata. For the 1999-05 cars, the mounting point for the tie rod was moved up 7mm from the earlier design. This might help me enough. They're also unmolested so I'll have the opportunity to use stock ball joints instead of the bolted rod ends I use now - that would completely eradicate the problem. I could also relocate the steering rack but I'd have to change the length. Coincidentally there's a broken steering rack on the way as well that might help me out with spare parts to do just that. It's not bump steer I'm chasing here, it's the stress that is put on the rod ends as the suspension reaches maximum droop. A bit of grinding might solve the problem - more investigation is needed. This way I'll have the parts on hand, and if I don't use them I'm sure another "locoster" would be interested.
January 17, 2005:
The Seven and I had a fun weekend, breaking in the new tires under beautiful skies and weather in the mid-40's (about 6C).
There's still too much grit on the roads to see their effect on cornering but there's no question they're stickier. Where it used to be easier to slip the tires than the clutch when leaving a stop (seriously!), the tires will now hook up if I ask for full power in first gear. They're also more responsive in the steering. For the first time, I started wondering about a faster rack. It's funny, driving this car you don't really notice that everything else seems to be in slow motion until you get into traffic. Looking at the car, it looks shorter and more purposeful now. Odd. Part of that might be the increased ground clearance. I did raise the car by 1/2" recently and the new tires are 1/2" larger in diameter, giving me a total of 3/4" extra clearance under the sump.
The head is coming off tonight now that I've had my fun. Of course the forecast is for continued beautiful weather but I want to get this oil useage sorted. It'll be interesting taking a peek at my pistons, I've been pretty hard on them in the past.
I was driving a supercharged Miata this weekend when I wasn't in the Seven. I'll bet most people don't think of the Miata as a heavy, powerful car but that's how it felt in comparison. The Seven rides better as well due to a bad suspension setup on the Miata. Go figure.
The final result out in the open.
It's interesting to compare this photo to this earlier one. The exhaust tip is different, the wheels have obviously changed, the windshield has been added and there's a fair bit more ground clearance.
Since it was a nice day, I took the Seven out for some fun and some "glamour shots".
The right front wheel is up on a rise here so the car looks nose-high. Whoops, so much for my career as a professional.
Kinda makes you want to jump in and go for a drive, doesn't it? This is Little Park Road where the earlier videos were shot.
January 18, 2005:
The Seven lost its head last night.
This guaranteed beautiful weather today of course. The head came off quite easily because of the amount of room around the engine with the hood and nose removed from the car. It's a radical difference from working on the same engine on my GTX - sitting right beside the Seven with its own head removed. The fairly unusual cams I'm using are showing some rapid wear. That's not reassuring. It's the first time I've actually looked at them. They're quite high lift and short duration from the looks of it. I'll bet they'd really enjoy some good springs. Naaah, maybe later. Hopefully the head can be fixed up with new valve seals fairly quickly. Then I can start working on extracting a little more power. While I'm waiting for that to return I have a number of small jobs to do on the car such as some cosmetic cleanup, ducting for the radiator and - yes, Eric - a grille.
January 19, 2005:
The machinist looked at the Seven's head last night and said "you have bad rings" immediately. So while the head is off, I'm going to pull the pistons and re-ring them. The engine has probably 5-6,000 miles on it but it did sit for loooong periods without being started. When it was started, it was usually run hard by someone who didn't own it. So that's probably where much of the damage comes from. The cams are scarred as well but the journals are good. So I'll just put them back in. At this point it'll be fairly easy to pull just the engine and leave the transmission in the car (I hope) and I can re-ring the block without too much expense or effort - but I really hadn't planned on pulling the engine again...
In contrast to the fun outdoor photos of a few days ago, here's the current state of the Seven.
My cams are showing some rapid wear.
I'll put them back in, as they're only damaging the lifters and I have more of those. I wonder if this comes from the engine sitting for long periods before I bought it?
January 20, 2005:
The engine is out.
Of course, after I ordered a fresh set of rings for an 80mm bore (as I was told I had when I bought the engine), I measured the bore and found it to be 79mm. Argh. Oh well, at least the whole engine removal went easily. One advantage to the order in which I built the car is that I had to consider how to install the engine late. The typical way to build a car like this is to put the engine in first and then build around it. That can cause problems down the road - particularly if you're like me and pull the engine twice after the car is "done".
I used to scrape the oil pan lightly when entering my garage.
The result was this customised oil drain plug!
I had hoped not to see this sight again, honestly.
The engine comes out for new rings.
January 21, 2005:
The source of the oil use has been found.
The forged pistons protrude slightly from the block. When cold, they were able to rock in the bore slightly and they'd hit the head. Once warm, they were probably okay as the engine never made any alarming noises. Regardless, this behaviour meant the oil rings were damaged. Oh well, I did get a great deal on the engine so this isn't a major problem. I'll check to make sure the pistons are okay. If not, the engine will get bored out to 80mm and I'll put in some fresh ones. It won't be the cheapest solution but it'll give me a bit of a power bump. If the pistons are good, I'll pop them back in after being slightly cut down to prevent this from happening again. Hopefully I'll have this all back together and in the car in a couple of weeks. I have access to everything but a good set of "street" 79 mm rings at the moment.
My cool clutch - it's the first time I've seen it apart as I bought the engine with it already installed.
Dual Kevlar discs. It'll hold a ludicruous amount of torque. Not that I need it.
Pulling the clutch off revealed this problem.
It'll be fun finding a replacement fastener.
The source of my oil consumption? The pistons were hitting the head! You can't see the impact marks well in this photo.
It's hard to believe that less than I week ago I was happily driving this car.
The refresh is taking longer than expected, but it'll be a strong engine when I'm done.
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