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build diary

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January 20, 2005:
I had hoped not to see this sight again, honestly.
The engine comes out for new rings.
entry 759

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.
entry 760

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.
entry 761
Pulling the clutch off revealed this problem.
It'll be fun finding a replacement fastener.
entry 762
The source of my oil consumption? The pistons were hitting the head! You can't see the impact marks well in this photo.
entry 763
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.
entry 764

January 25, 2005:
The pistons are off being modified and my new rings should be here on Friday.
I need to make a small repair to the clutch and then it's ready to go back together. The head is done and is absolutely gorgeous. Mmmm. I'll try to take some photos of that soon.
entry 765

January 27, 2005:
Why did I take apart two engines at the same time? I must have some sort of problem.
The GTX is in the middle of being reassembled and I'm gathering the parts for the Seven. It's a bad habit. I'm still waiting for the last bits for the Seven's bottom end. The new steering knuckles arrived yesterday. I'm not sure if I'll install those now or wait until I can drive the car into the shop.
entry 766

My new steering knuckles and tie rods have arrived.
They're from a 1999 model with a higher steering arm.
entry 767

January 28, 2005:
Well, the modified pistons are here.
It's good having machinist friends. I've probably lost a tiny bit of compression but that's not a huge problem - it might only be 10.75:1 now. The rings are here as well so I'll spend the weekend reassembling the engine. First step, a coat of nice new paint so I don't feel I'm putting a grungy engine into my car!
entry 768

My pistons have been cut down a bit to prevent any further interference with the head.
entry 769

January 29, 2005:
The pistons are now reinstalled in the block and the head is ready to pop on. It's satisfying work doing this but it's been a while so I'm a little rusty. My friend Bill Cardell was good enough to put up with my questions, although he'll probably be surprised to see how much I accomplished once he left! The engine is currently waiting for a gasket for the oil pump pickup - we have some at Flyin' Miata, I just have to make sure I can use one - and then will go back together. Tomorrow I'll probably work on the GTX because I'd like to be able to drive it. At this rate, the Seven will be back on the road fairly soon and with a strong engine on board. Once it's broken in, I'll hit the dyno and see how much power awaits.
entry 770

The head, ready to be installed.
I love working on clean, well machined parts.
entry 771
The rings are ready to be installed and the head has the cams in place.
entry 772
Installing the pistons.
I had considered changing these Carrillo H beam rods for A beams due to the lighter weight, but decided to keep them. The red goo is Redline assembly lubricant.
entry 773
The advantage of working at Flyin' Miata - access to tools like this digital Snap-On torque wrench.
entry 774
The piston protrusion problem has been well solved.
The head gasket will add 0.040" (1mm) to the deck.
entry 775

February 1, 2005:
Another hour or so on the engine last night and it's almost ready to install.
I think I set a record for the speed of the timing belt installation - I've never had one go on so easily. Not that I'm complaining.
entry 776

The engine is almost fully assembled.
entry 777

February 3, 2005:
It's amazing how easy it is to install the engine in this car.
I brought the hoist and engine home last night. It was late so I decided to install it some other night. Then, around 10:30, I figured it would be good to get something accomplished. I popped the engine in, bolted it to the transmission and installed the starter, alternator and most of the cooling system. All that's left is the intake manifold, the exhaust and then the usual pre-start checklist. When I wandered back into the house, it was only 11:30! If only it was always this straightforward. Painting the block silver wasn't a great idea, though. I thought it would look good with all the aluminum in the car, but it looks like paint when compared to the bare aluminum head and oil pan and the polished panels. Black would have been better. Oh well, next time it's apart I'll do that. Next time?

Once the engine is broken in, it's off to the dyno. I'll see if I can regain all the power I lost with oil consumption (oil is low octane, a particular problem for my 11:1 compression!) and maybe push it a bit further. Then I'll strap on a set of individual throttle bodies to see if I can make those work. I know they'll look great. Some good news arrived today as well - on top of the autocross scheduled for March 13th, there's also a track day in Pueblo that weekend. This time I'll be there to work on actual car setup instead of simply playing around. Before I go, I need to install the new front suspension uprights and make some new tie rods. Well, maybe. I'll see what happens to the angle of the ball joints with the higher steering arms. I'm also seriously considering making a lower windshield for the car. It's the one thing that bugs me about how the car looks. Not significantly lower, just an inch or so with a flatter top. I think it will look more purposeful. With what I learned last time, it should only take an afternoon to construct.
entry 778

February 5, 2005:
It's alive!
Again. After a bit of puttering and some spilt coolant (whoops, forgot about that little cap that's supposed to go on the back of the engine) I fired up the engine. It's a happy little unit, idling smoothly and quietly with solid oil pressure. Phew! I've driven the car around a bit and seated the rings. Boy, does it feel good to drive this car again. There are still a number of things that need to be done to get it into shape for Pueblo but right now I'm just happy to have it running around. The weather even cooperated with a warm sunny day.

If you look at the photos you'll notice I've painted the exhaust black. The silver never really worked well visually because it matched the bodywork too well. It also picked up all the dirt thrown by the front wheel and the slight leaks on the slip-on collector left black smears all over. So now it matches the wheels and the black hides the carbon. I'm quite happy with how it looks. With all that done, it's time to go skiing for a few days.
entry 779

Just for fun, I decided to paint the exhaust black instead of silver.
It looks much better - particularly where the slip-on collector leaks.
entry 780
A small touch, but one I've really come to appreciate.
A bit of vacuum hose around the edge of the cutout for the shift lever cleans things up beautifully.
entry 781
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