fusion66 Reader
7/26/21 6:51 a.m.

Olaf made the trip to Indiana Sunday afternoon under his own power and without any drama. The current thought is to start a slow build towards the 2022 Challenge.

I have not decided on a build plan yet. Olaf is getting up there in miles (208k) and his body has seen better days. He has a crack in the windshield in the drivers line of sight. His soft top has a good frame but otherwise is scrap. He drives pretty well. Clutch is likely not long for this world. Starts and runs decent. Open differential. Has power steering that works. Has air conditioning that doesn’t. Aftermarket shocks and springs that lower the car and provide decent handling and ride quality.

A few ideas so far:


Weekend cruiser - Fix the basic mechanicals including brakes, clutch, rear subframe, patch up the body and cheap DIY paint job, cheap replacement top, replace windshield, strip AC off,  existing 14” wheels, 200TW tires. The  end result might be a mid-pack AutoX car that is decent to drive around and has some residual value ($1500-$2000)


16 ounces = 1 pound - Fix the basic mechanicals, patch the body and cheap DIY paint job, take the top off including the frame, strip the interior (sound deadening, replace door panels with thin ABS, remove door glass and crank assemblies, remove speakers, remove passenger seat, etc.). remove AC and power steering, install  15x7” wheels and  sticky tires, DIY a set of cheap coil overs based on Bilstein shocks. Basically make it as light as possible within budget and with no concern for creature comforts and maybe end up with a top 25% AutoX car and low residual value ($1000-$1500). The drive to Florida would be similar to driving a motorcycle with a fairing in terms of weather protection. Not ideal, but doable.


Go speed racer - Same as lightweight above, but cut the windshield and fabricate a speedster type windscreen to further cut weight and avoid cost of a replacement windshield.


Please feel free to weigh in on these thoughts or suggest your own. Consider Olaf a blank NA Miata slate.


Current starting point for budgeting:


1990 Mazda Miata


Purchase price $800


Tires and wheels that likely won’t be used at the challenge $200


Rear sub-frame $75

02Pilot UltraDork
7/26/21 7:39 a.m.

If you're willing to put up with the compromises of a speedster, I love that idea. Personally, I would execute it as a variant of option #1, however; not stripped out race car, but cheap street car with a twist. Something like this (preferably minus the giant fog lights):

DeadSkunk  (Warren)
DeadSkunk (Warren) UltimaDork
7/26/21 8:22 a.m.

I took my NB to the 2017 Challenge. Like you, I bought it cheap ($1000) and it needed attention due to years of use as a daily commuter here in Michigan. Now, I'll admit I had an advantage over Olaf, mine is supercharged, but everything else I did would work for you. I sold off the stock 15x6 wheels and picked up some cheap ($50) 15x7 replacements. I got hold of some Hoosier SM7 takeoffs at the local road racing track. They were in the scrap pile, so free. The car came on the Bilstein sport suspension, so I swapped out the springs for a set off Ebay. For $40 I got springs (450# F/350# R) and coilover sleeves. Hoosiers like more camber than the stock front suspension can provide and that was cured with a pair of extended ball joints. They were $165 IIRC, the most expensive mod on the car. I cut and welded a Ford Ranger sway bar to fit so I had a 26mm front bar and no rear bar . The car came with a dirty interior and a scuzzy soft top. I removed the top and trailered the car down to Gainesville with the hardtop on, then competed with no top (top not in budget). I replaced the seats with am old Sparco I bought for $35. The car tied for 2nd place in the autocross. The only faster car was the Georgia Tech Honda Insight/Subaru car.

Edit: I also replaced a cracked windshield ($186) before going to Gainesville.

AxeHealey Dork
7/26/21 8:48 a.m.

Woohoo! Go Olaf!

Robbie (Forum Supporter)
Robbie (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
7/26/21 9:58 a.m.

I've got a semi-significant pile of spare miata 1.6 parts that I have halfheartedly tried to sell over the past few years. Doesn't help that I'm swapping a 1.6 into my MGB GT so there's so much 'well I might be able to use that someday' self talk. 

Long story short I'd love to get rid of a lot of it for a challenge friendly price. I've got a VLSD, coupla clutch disks and a pressure plate, a very questionable motor and trans, rear hubs, you get the idea. I'm southern suburbs of Chicago so not too far. If you're interested in anything I can make you a deal! 

fusion66 Reader
7/26/21 3:38 p.m.

Olaf does not have the original engine per the previous owners information so I thought I would do a baseline compression test before diving too deep into his list of items that could be addressed. 

Cylinder 1 - 200 psi

Cylinder 2 - 194 psi

Cylinder 3  - 195 psi

Cylinder 4 - 202 psi

This was warmed at idle for 5 minutes, plugs pulled, and then cranked over for 5 seconds per cylinder. The readings tended to stabilize after the first 2-3 revolutions. 

As an added bonus, the spark plugs all looked the same with a light tan color to them and no strange electrode erosion or other oddities. 

One issue I noticed when I started Olaf to warm him up was a strange noise that was quickly identified as a roughly 3/4" open hole in the valve cover where I think the PCV  valve should be. I'll start the list for Rock Auto now :)

fusion66 Reader
7/27/21 10:29 a.m.

In reply to DeadSkunk (Warren) :

Thanks for the details on your prior entry. I don't think I can get to the power level you had but the rest of the modifications sound possible within budget. 

fusion66 Reader
7/27/21 10:30 a.m.

In reply to Robbie (Forum Supporter) :

Once I get things sorted out a bit more and understand what I have and what parts I need, I will reach out to you. Thanks!

fusion66 Reader
8/2/21 9:26 a.m.

Purchased and installed a shifter rebuild kit (mostly plastic bushings and wave springs ) and filed and polished a nasty spot on the shifter ball that had clearly made contact with something it shouldn't. Shifter is much better and returns to center on its own as it should. 

Shifter kit $20.48

New total $820.48

I am trying to lay out my build plan in a way that makes sense in regards to covering the key cost in budget and potentially not covering some items that are less critical. 

Current thoughts on order of task:

Sort through any mechanical issues including rear sub-frame repair or replace, brakes, steering, unknown vibration, engine hesitation off idle, etc.

 Remove interior and repair drivers side floor rust, clean carpet and seats, remove top (may borrow a hardtop for the drive to the Challenge and remove it at the event or may install budget soft top if money left in Challenge budget). Reinforce "frame rails" if they appear to be compromised. 

Patch panels as needed, body filler as needed, prime, paint, graphics. 

Wheels and tires as budget permits.

Of course many small details along the way, but I want to make sure it sorts out mechanically okay before investing time in rust repair and finishing.

mmcvay New Reader
8/2/21 7:49 p.m.

If you want to know anything about the past of Olaf let me know. As the two time previous owner you can totally blame me for the missing pcv system. I had a 1.6 Miata built very similar to your 16 ounces = 1 pound option and it was great when doing what it was built for but it was a total oven inside from the trans and exhaust heat. I also found that if you don't have a soft top and bolt on a hard top it will never come off again.

fusion66 Reader
8/3/21 6:16 a.m.

In reply to mmcvay :

If a missing PCV system is the worst thing I find I will be pretty happy :). Currently looking at option one (weekend cruiser) as the likely path for a couple of the reasons you mentioned and it would be the best option to spend time in after the Challenge. I am hoping that if I borrow a hardtop that I won't have an option but to take it back off and return it. Hopefully I can install a soft top after the Challenge when the budget isn't a factor.

fusion66 Reader
8/19/21 11:45 a.m.

Making some minor progress on Olaf. In keeping with the theme of getting the mechanicals sorted first to make sure everything is good, the shifter rebuild is complete and it shifts as it should. Adjusted the clutch to lower the engagement point and overall pedal height to make it feel less worn out then it is. It now feels closer to my 06' Miata clutch which makes transitioning back and forth a bit easier. It does not slip under full load so maybe I can squeeze some more life out of it.

PVC re-installed and seems to run about the same so I will leave it that way unless something rears its head in terms of why it was deleted. 

Tried to repair the windshield crack after watching a few YouTube videos showing success on similar cracks but it was pretty much a fail. It improved a bit but I don't think it will ever get to an acceptable level even with additional work. I will plan on keeping funds in the budget to replace it.

Painted the rear sub-frame that I purchased with the car. This will be the first big undertaking as I am sure it will be a fight to remove many of the bolts. The reason the existing sub-frame is being replaced is that the tab for mounting the cross member stop is missing on one side. The existing sub-frame is a bit rusty as well but looks like it would clean up and might allow some re-coup if I fabricate and weld on a replacement tab. 

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