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Driven Daily Hillclimb 2016 Build

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I got a little caught up with the race season this year, and am now trying to clean up the aftermath. It was a good season in the Miata, and I ended up in first place in my class (street prepared 6) as well as winning the Killington Sports Car Club points overall (against much faster cars, with much faster drivers). It's calculated against the number of other competitors in your class, and I consistently won a consistently well-populated class. Winning feels pretty good!




I really really want to step up my game for 2016, though. That means getting ready for some heavy-duty work. I only have from Nov-April (roughly 30 weekends) to prepare the new car from start to finish. In order to make that happen, I need to put in time to make sure that I can work effectively. I'm always frustrated when I can't open both doors of the car, or when I bang my head against shelves, or can't move freely with a car in the bay. With such a small garage, it really takes some forethought to make it bearable.


I spent the weekend going from this:



... to this:



It required disassembling the shelf in the engine room (it was shaped like a workbench, but particle board with a bunch of screws in it is just a shelf), and moving one of the benches in its place. Right now, the engine room is an absolute disaster, but I hope to get back to it after work a few days this week.



The second steel workbench will also go in there, freeing up even more space in the garage bay. Ideally, I want the garage bay to be for welding and car assembly/disassembly. To support that effort, the workbenches are coming out, and I'm building some metal stock storage:



Once I finish that up, I'll build a cart for the welders, and add some shelves in the closet and on the walls, so I can actually WORK in this space. I'll also need to finally get a bottle for the MIG welder, since TIG isn't always appropriate and flux-core is just too messy. 


Preparing to start work is a lot of work, and I still have a fair amount of work to do on the Miata to prep it for winter ... after the garage prep work is done.

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This halloween, mountains were moved. My friend Ray came over to help thrash, and I made sure the garage was clean and prepped to start work ahead of time. We wheeled the Datsun into the garage, and as soon as it was up on stands, started tearing it down. 



We got as far as the front subframe and engine, but had to stop due to a lack of engine hoist. The hatch, doors, seats, dash, fenders, exhaust and hood all came off with relative ease, and a fair amount of useless weight fell out eventually too. This was the result of the third cleaning pass:



Toward the end of the night, I discovered some repair work on the rear-passenger corner, and started looking around for irregularities. The sheet metal is buckling slightly just behind the door, and now is definitely the time to make sure the car is square (before the roll cage).




I started laying out measurement baselines so I can compare the two sides to the OEM drawings, but haven't finished yet (hopefully tomorrow?)



The rust I uncovered is soaking in phosphoric acid, which is my personal favorite rust converter (converts to iron phosphate, which is really easy to remove). There are a few panels that I think I'm going to have to remove altogether and replace, specifically on the floors and rockers.



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I didn't have much time today, but removed a little bit of badly rotted material. I haven't ordered any replacement panels yet, and I'm not ENTIRELY certain that I will. When adding a cage, the 'structural' components of an OEM chassis begin to look less and less critical. I could spend that weight better elsewhere.
One of my favorite things about the s30 is the ww2-plane-looking dimple-die'd inner rockers, and I was pretty pleased to see how solid this one was the whole way through.
The previous owner was apparently proud of his floor pan repairs ... I just ... I can't even. Did he even TRY?
No matter how many times this happens, it always scares the bejeezus out of me. This is why I only use the little 4.5" discs, anything bigger gets*properly scary when it binds up a little.
I like being at the point where at the end of the day, I can measure success in the weight of removed crap that never needs to go back on the car. Rotted metal, seam sealer, and lots of accumulated dirt/road-grime gone forever. I sweep religiously every evening for several reasons:

  • I know how much I've 'accomplished'.
  • If I find pieces that should still be on the car, I can identify what area they came off of.
  • I get to start the next day with a clean shop.
  • The next day, whatever I sweep up is what I 'accomplished' that day, not over the course of the past week.


Edited by Jesse OBrien
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It's saturday, 42 working days remain before April. I made some progress on getting rid of the hideous Corvette/Trailer tail lights, by cutting out a LOT of body filler and some very strange metalwork.



There's a lot of rust to clean up on the panel that I'm keeping, but I'm not sure how much I care about it. Phosphoric acid, time, and then some POR15 will keep it from getting worse, and that's really all I care about. The rear end of these cars is never sealed anyway, so I'm not going to lose sleep over some holes in the sheet metal.




My friend Dave just dropped off his engine hoist, so this is the last time the l28et gets to live in the engine bay. Everything's already disconnected, I'm just waiting 'till I make a chassis cradle to be able to wheel the chassis out from under the engine, once it's up on the hoist.




Dave also dropped off a spare turboII transmission that had been lying around. I still need a bellhousing, but this will help out a lot with test fitting everything.



There's still some time to make progress today, so I'll do my best to have another update at the end of the day.

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Hey Jesse, This is looking awesome!  I really love seeing these builds where people actually have time to get stuff done.  Keep that plan going because it's easy to lose sight of where you want to be.  I'm so glad you're still keeping the Z.  Are you going with a different Engine this year?


Keep it up and I'm glad you didn't fall through the floorboards


Oh and let me know if you need any parts 3D printed.


Phar (Eric)

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Thanks, Eric. I'm just dedicating all of my weekends between now and April 1 to this build, and have saved up a good chunk of the budget already (total budget is just shy of $20k to get me through the entire build and season). My time and funds are already allocated for this, and there isn't a whole lot of wiggle room for me to add new stuff in. The goal is to have a daily driver that I can race in less than 6 month's worth of weekends, and as it turns out that's a bit of a challenge. If I had more space, that would make things easier, and another set of hands would make everything go better, but I'm doing the best I can with what's available.
I think the l28et is going to end up in a friend's Locost (it currently has a ka24e, but he wants a better soundtrack in it). I suppose now is as good a time as any to announce my engine choice. The l28et is out:
I wanted something lighter and more compact, first and foremost. I don't mind frequent teardown and rebuilds, but they need to be easy to perform. It needs to be reasonable inexpensive, and must have a good transmission available. Power and fuel economy isn't a huge concern for this build, I'm much more concerned about packaging. After taking a lot of measurements on the cars and engines that I have in the spare room in my shop (a pair of 302's, several Miata engines, several GSXR engines, etc) I found that the smallest, lowest, lightest powerplant I could possibly go with would be what's in my rally car.
I piked up a spare (a 4port rather than a 6port, but those differences are effectively inconsequential), tore it down, and was amazed by how simple and durable it is as a design. A full seal set (not required for every rebuild, but this engine needs it) is around $1200 though, so I haven't reassembled everything yet.
With a bit of luck, I'll be able to get an assembled unit through a sponsorship deal, but that isn't certain at all. I have some time before I need to put the powerplant in the car, so I'm going to wait 'till a good opportunity presents itself to move forward. To put it into perspective, the ENTIRE 13b engine is the same size as the Miata bellhousing alone. It's the same length as the bare Miata block itself (ignoring accessories, timing belt, etc), and weighs 75lbs less than the Miata 1.6. The 4port turbocharged engine I'm looking at can't help but to make 200whp and has a nice flat torque curve (very driveable) at 4-6psi.


The worst case scenario is that I buy a complete imported engine for ~$1600 including bellhousing, transmission, turbo, etc ... essentially so that I have all the accessories I'm missing now. Then I end up with a full set of spares, and there's even a chance that it'll run and drive right off the pallet. Here's hoping!

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Nice, I used to have a really nice GSLE with the 13b in it.  I really loved that car, but got an offer I couldn't resist.  It was always about even with the Miatas I'd ever gone up against.   Now what you might consider is a 3 rotor. What is that, the 20b? engine?...  You're adding about 30 lbs and can run the same turbo, yet you'll squeeze a lot more HP out if it, and it'll all still fit behind the front crossmember.  I didn't know you were a Rotary guy too...  You've added even more cool points in my book.   Did they ever work out the apex seals issues?  I've been out of RX's for near 15 years now.

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A friend is building a 3rotor for next season. It's roughly $5k extra, and a lot of extra work. There were never any apex seal issues, just owner negligence issues. People make ridiculous demands of engines, then get indignant when an OEM engine doesn't deliver those demands without sacrificing any reliability.


I wouldn't call myself anything but a 'problem solver' - I solve problems with the best solutions available to me, according to my priorities.


  1. Reliability (how frequently do things go wrong?)
  2. Ease of maintenance (how long does it take to get back on the road when things go wrong?)
  3. Efficiency (they're all daily drivers, after all)
  4. Performance (I suppose this should be on there somewhere, it really just comes down to weight)

Lack of power is a difficult problem to solve, but excess weight is impossible to overcome.

Edited by Jesse OBrien
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The car saw some sun today, for a little while.



Dave came up, we built a small caster frame, tossed it into his trailer, and took it out to Vermont with Joey Kale. I hope to get it back sometime before the holidays, with a sizeable chunk of my budget for 2016 missing. I also hope that it'll have the roll cage I've been planning out for almost two years.

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39 working days remaining.

I'd really like to cut down on unknowns between now and Ascutney 1, and the sooner I have this driving around, the sooner I can sort out the little problems I'll inevitably face. I'd love to dig up a powerplant that is already running/driving, and only requires mechanical installation and power/ground to the ECU.
Powerplant Option 1: Mass Option
Dave recommended a local shop that he's worked with in the past. High praise from someone whose opinion I hold in high regard. I'd like to work with him, if we can sort out a deal that makes sense for both of us. We've been playing phone tag for a week now, but should be able to sort out options this week. I like that it's local, and it starts a relationship with someone who can keep me out of the weeds if I decide I want to make real power sometime.
Powerplant Option 2: Vermont Option (?)
While at Joey's shop, he mentioned that Jason might have a turbo rotary or two available right down the street from him. This is local to Joey, which COULD mean I could just have him make engine/transmission mounts for me (that would be superb). I just called today and left a voicemail, and I'll just keep trying until I get through.
Powerplant Option 3: Craigslist
I have the option to buy a turboII engine/transmission from a local, and he's willing to drop it off. I don't have any real free time to accept it, and kind of want to see how the other options turn out first. This is a pretty certain option, but I can't do anything with it 'till next weekend.
Powerplant Option 4: Importer
There are plenty of engine importers. I can get a complete "40k mile" swap for around $1800 shipped. That isn't a bad option, all things considered. At least then I know I have everything I need, from front to rear. All those little things add up pretty quickly when you need to populate everything at once.
Powerplant Option 5: Rebuild/Refresh
If all else fails, I can rebuild the 4port that I have in the engine room. I'd need a bellhousing, clutch/flywheel, fuel system, and megasquirt wiring harness though, so it's a bit more of an investment than I'd like to put in. I'd prefer to just use that as a spare parts donor. A rebuild will cost around $1200 and precious time, then all the do-dads will be another $500 or so.
While I wait to sort out my options further, I have the whole garage bay to play in. I think it's time to revisit the trailer plan, and specialize it a bit. Logistics are critical to a successful event. I need to be able to show up to an event, and focus on the basics:
  1. Detach the trailer
  2. Swap wheels
  3. Pass tech inspection
  4. Set up camp
  5. Cook food
  6. Relax and prepare for morning

I forgot to bring something important to nearly every event in 2015, and spent a lot of time rummaging around through packs and bins trying to figure out if I even HAD "thing XYZ." I misplaced my 19mm impact socket for one event, and even forgot my jack for another. My rear roof bolts rattled loose on two hills, and I never had enough replacement bolts to keep them attached. All of those seemingly minor things eat up time and cause stress, breaking up the 'groove' of a good clean race event. Sorting out the s30 should be my only cause of stress in 2016, I can't be mucking about trying to figure out where my rivet gun went or if I even brought it.



That build is the polar opposite of what I'd like. Most people on the internet seem to like attention-to-detail builds, and resto-mods. I'm doing the opposite, hacking apart perfectly workable systems with the naive idea that I'll build something better. In reality, I'll be doing pretty well if I have this running/driving on time, and it doesn't crabwalk, bumpsteer, or snap over/understeer too badly. This is just an inexpensive daily driver capable of racing, rather than beautiful metal furniture that happens to be able to be driven around. That's the goal, and focusing on anything else is a waste of valuable resources.


Cool? Yes.

Practical? Not even close.


Quad Rotor

As far as I'm concerned, a quad rotor is a publicity stunt. It's cool (which is why it makes sense for Mad Mike), but for the money, maintenance, and power levels, a small block v8 makes worlds more sense. Assembling a 2rotor is a piece of cake. Assembling a 3rotor isn't too bad, but assembling a 4rotor with a multi-piece eccentric shaft just isn't worthwhile for anything but a dedicated publicity car (which is essentially what drift cars are, in my mind).


Cool? Yes.

Practical? Not even close.


That's all for now.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Sounds like we're planning roughly the same thing. I just posted a big pile of l-series parts on Facebook, don't know if you're interested at all. Looking for someone to come pick up everything here for $1500 (OBO) within the next week or two, otherwise it all goes to the scrapper.



In other (unrelated) news, I'm handing the humble Miata off to its new owner, and picked up a new daily to get me through winter. I'm in the process of fuel tank repair, then I can tackle rust repair, then un-hellaflush it. It's going to take a solid weekend to get it all done, possibly even two.


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How to build a Datsun race car:


Step 1: Deliver to a Subaru fabricator.

Step 2: Wait patiently.






It may not look like much yet, but there's a reason for that. Joey just lost his employee, and the time he spent on this was getting rid of the sections I was scared to cut out, removing the windshield (these are pretty thick/heavy windshields, for being as small as they are), then re-aligning and reinforcing suspension pickup points.

Edited by Jesse OBrien
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