Welcome to our first WMD project car post. The “Respect The Roadster” project will be broken down into multiple install post. This being the first post, we will give you an overview of what’s to come, and some background on why we chose to go with the Miata platform. Also, we’re not experts on the Miata platform so we’d love to hear from you. Share your opinions and/or experience with Miatas in the comment section! So let’s get going. Being part of both the Enkei team and WMD has given me the opportunity to travel to many motorsports events, conventions, and the like. I have been surrounded by car people for the past 5 years and have heard multiple people in the industry rant and rave about how the Miata as an amazing track car platform. How the Miata is a great car to track and daily drive, reliable, and has plenty of aftermarket support. In fact, my first ever business trip with Enkei included a stop at Good-win racing who specializes in Miata aftermarket parts. I can’t lie, at first I wasn’t too fond of the idea of purchasing one for our first project car, until I drove one. I drove a stock Miata and was really impressed with it’s handling and decent amount of power. But most importantly, it was just fun to drive. I attended a SCCA Autocross event at Texas Motor Speedway a week back were about half the drivers were in Miatas. I spoke with a couple of the drivers there of the idea of doing a project Miata for WMD – they were all very supportive of the idea and offered an overload of advice.
As soon as I got back home, I jumped on Craigslist in search of a 1994 and up Miata. One of the suggestions I got at the SCCA meet was to avoid the 1.6 engine – which apparently had multiple issues. The 1994-2005 models have the 1.8 litter engine, which I’m told is bullet proof. Given my budget, I was looking more towards the first generation NA. But I came across this 1999 NB (second generation) hardtop with just under 100k miles. The hardtop was definitely one of the first things that caught my attention as they are somewhat rare in my area and expensive.
The photos in the ad did it no justice. The body was in decent shape with only a small dent and scrape on the drivers side door. I popped the hood and noticed how clean the engine bay was, asked a few questions, and hopped in for a test drive. Took it on the highway and it was all over. It drove smooth, responsive, clutch was tight, and it sounded great. It was already reasonably priced, but I made the guy an offer and he accepted. It wasn’t one of those “240sx blown motor, burnt clutch, will trade for 2010 BMW” guys so I only saved a couple of hundred dollars from the original price.
This Miata had some aftermarket parts on it. Including Race TR 15×7 wheels, exhaust, 1″ lowering springs, GSR adjustable struts, K&N filter, and some old sway bars. My goal for this build was nothing crazy like a LS or even a turbo. Though I’m still considering a turbo, I want to build something affordable, yet still really fun to drive at the occasional track day. So I spent the next couple of weeks researching what the best upgrades would be for a naturally aspired Miata. After speaking with the guys at Texas Track Works, a race shop in Fort Worth, I came up with a list of parts and began reaching out to these companies.
First on the list was wheels and tires. The Enkei RPF1 is the go-to wheel for anyone wanting a strong, light weight, high-quality wheel. At first, we were looking to go with a 15″ but decided on the 14×7 +19 RPF1. Enkei had a few special order gold edition on the floor so I jumped on the opportunity. We also got an additional set of silvers. The 14×7 weights only about 8LBS! As far as tires, you can’t go wrong with Toyo Proxes R888’s. Sticky and meaty semi slick tires will give this Miata that race look and feel. They are 205/55R14, so the overall diameter of the wheel and tire will not change much from the lost inch in wheel size. This was important to me since I was worried about too much wheel/fender gap and would not be able to drop the car any further for at least a couple of weeks.
When doing my research on forums and other sites, I found that plenty of people having cooling issues during those long hot track days. Being in Texas, where it can get up to 105 degrees in the summer, we wanted to make this a non-issue. We found the Koyo’s 37mm radiator not only fixed this, but swapped out perfectly with the OEM without a hassle. This Miata radiator is a complete plug and play application that won’t interfere with thicker aftermarket sway bars. That was a big selling point for me since I was planning on adding some Whiteline products soon after the Koyo radiator install. Just a side note – this thing look so clean!
Since we are not planning to do much to this Miata as far as adding power, we want to make sure our traction and suspension is on point. Texas Track Works has installed and used Whiteline products for some time now and have been pretty happy with the results. We reached out to Whiteline for a set of sway bars, bushings, and links. I also got a hold of a Whiteline strut tower brace which comes in a nice polished silver.
We will probably track this Miata, so I wanted a set of coilovers with adjustable dampers. I attend plenty of Formula Drift events and have been surrounded by people running BC Racing coilovers. After speaking with a couple of professional drivers, including Formula Drift Miata driver, Jeff Abbot, we got good feedback on their BR model and reached out to BC Racing. Formula Drift driver, Chelsea DeNofa, also heads up the marketing department at BC Racing. It was good to have the opinion of a professional driver explain the benefits of the product.
A performance clutch was another item on my list. Though the Miata felt really good in third and fourth gear, first and second felt a bit weak and noisy, so we looked to Advance Clutch Technologies. We went with their ZM2-XTSS – XT/Perf Street Sprung kit and light weight XACT Streetlite Flywheel. This set up will allow for smooth engagement on both track and in daily driving. The kit is also designed to handle as much as 315 ft/lbs of torque and enough horse power if we decide to turbo the car later.
Texas Track Works also recommended a set of Hawk brake pads and Goodridge stainless steel brake and clutch lines to prevent a soft brake/clutch pedal. I ordered these directly through Texas Track Works, seeing as they already have easy access to all the parts we needed. The Hawk HP pads are good for street use and also for track days. The stainless steel brake lines will avoid a soft pedal when excessive braking takes place on the track. These are the upgrades in the works now, but we’re also looking to add a roll bar, seats, and a performance steering wheel. As I mentioned earlier, we’re still contemplating a turbo set up.
This project would not be possible without our friends at Texas Track Works. They do amazing work and are a one stop shop for all our upgrade needs. Make sure to show them some love.
First challenge… how do you fit 8 wheels in a Miata? I’ll give you a hint… you can’t. Check back next week for our Wheels and Tires install post. – Alex