Miata Project 2008

Julie's Miata (which is pink, thus the pink text above) has been rather unpredictable for a while. Sometimes everything would work ok, then other times the headlights would not work, and others the car would not start. I had seen several cut wires and decided that the thing to do was replace the entire wiring harness. I found someone on Ebay who had a complete, unmolested harness for the right price and I bought it. I began to worry that I went overboard, as I sometimes do, but the car acted up again and that was it ... into the garage she went. I will eventually put some pre-project pictures of her in right here (after I find them).
Once in the garage, I removed the console and found out that some parts underneath were broken so I got another one of those on Ebay also. Then I cleaned it up and put on a new shifter boot and set her aside. (Picture(s) in here)

Then I removed the dashboard. The top surface of the dash was severely cracked and I got another dash, which had a cut frame but good top, from Steve Bertok at Panic Motorsports in West Columbia, SC. Steve races Miatas and started a business parting out Miatas to support his racing habit. Eventually, he was able to build and grow the business. He has almost anything a person might need for Miatas and I have been to see him a couple times as you will see later. Anyway, I took apart the existing dash and, since it was somewhat rusty, coated it with a rust converter, then reinstalled the best parts from the two dashes to make one complete one. I even reinstalled the little posts for a tonneau cover in case we ever get one. Once complete, I set this aside.

A side note: one reason I like going to see Steve in Columbia is that the nearest location of my favorite pub in the whole-wide world is in Columbia, the Flying Saucer. I always pick up my parts in person so I have an excuse to visit the Saucer while I am up there.

Anyway, removing the wiring harness is a real pain. I decided not to remove the engine, which would have made the job infinitely easier. The reason I did this is I know that the engine works ok now. It may leak some oil, but it runs fine. If it turns out that there are problems at the end of the job, I wanted to be able to tell where the problem was. This way, the engine itself is ruled out. Pretty tricky right? Anyway, it took a while. I learned a long time ago that you have to be careful removing the wiring harness connections. The airbag connectors are especially tricky. Break the wrong part, and that is more expense that I didn't need. So whenever I got stuck, I backed off and did something else. But at last, I got all of the wiring harness disconnected and pulled back through the firewall into a heap on the floor. When I went to disconnect the last two connectors from the main computer, I pulled back the carpet on the passenger side and found that the panel covering the CPU was severely rusted! Fortunately it is just the panel and the metal strip which bolts to the floor to secure it that are rusted. I immediately searched Ebay for one and one was for sale by my buddy Steve Bertok. Goody, another trip to Columbia and the Saucer! I also asked him for a couple other small parts which I broke or found were missing.
Then feeling that I was making real progress I went to see what else I could do to hasten the destruction phase of the project. Since I already had a new carpet on hand, I decided to go ahead and remove the seats and carpet and get that out of the way. This is where I got my second, and very serious surprise. There was a hole the size of a baseball in the drivers side floor, and more rust all around this pan! So, since I was talking to Steve anyway, I asked him if he could cut me a floor pan and he did. I just asked for about a square foot piece centered on the big hole, but instead he cut the WHOLE driver's side pan out, including a section of the rocker panel and part of the transmission tunnel. I thought this was complete overkill, but I took it anyway. It almost didnt fit in the car I drove to pick it up in. A stop at the Saucer for dinner and a brew, then home by 9PM and Criminal Minds.
Well, now it gets interesting. I have helped my good friend Ronnie do some work, but he always did the welding. Not to mention, that was over 25 years ago! I wasn't really sure where to start but I figured I needed a few things. So I bought a small wire-feed welder and associated paraphenalia and an impact hammer from Harbor Freight. I then rolled up the sleeves and got out the heavy duty wire brush attachment for the grinder and started cleaning it up. I found out that the rust was significantly more severe than I thought.
After a little poking around, I decided to remove pretty much the entire floor pan - good thing Steve gave me as much as he did! After messing around, I figured out that the Sawzall was perfect for most of the work. Then the drill and impact hammer to remove the spot welds. As it stands right now (13 April) I have a little more thin strips of the floor to remove from the transmission tunnel, and I have the ends of the seat braces. Then I have to decide whether to remove the existing center frame rail and install the new floor pan complete with the rail, or remove the rail from the new pan and install just the pan. Decisions, decisions. A possible complication is the fact that I NEED the seat braces. The front brace which extends from one side to the other was rusted out pretty badly. It looked fair at first, but was rusted underneath the paint and pretty much collapsed. The right rear anchor was badly rusted also. So I decided to just cut them out. No spares left! Hopefully I will not regret this decision.
I need to remove some serious rusted metal in the toeboard, then cut the new piece to fit. The toeboard is the only place I intend to seam weld. The rest will be medallion spot welds. I hope to just remove the rocker panel and the part of the transmission hump from the patch piece and fit it in complete (after minor trimming). Some spot welds to fasten the sides, then more spots to fasten the seat anchors to the sides, then a seam weld along the toeboard. That is the plan, we will see how the execution turns out.
Stay tuned

Project plan:

  • remove and replace wiring harness
  • rebuild dash
  • rebuild console (new shifter boot and window switch)
  • starter and water pump
  • fog lights

Additional things discovered that were needed:

  • console (broken tabs for shifter boot
  • radiator (bent and leaked)
  • radiator fans (mounting tabs broken off ... may have contributed to the above leak)
  • hood latch cable
  • air flow meter (I broke the existing one)
  • shifter rebuild parts
  • floor pan
  • cpu cover
  • carpet (including hot pink (to more or less match the car) floor mats

Remaining items to do.

  • When the floor is complete, will dress the seams, undercoat the bottom and paint on top
  • install wiring harness in interior and extend through firewall
  • install carpet and seats
  • install dash
  • complete shifter innards rebuild
  • install console
  • make sure all interior items work, including lights
  • install new water pump and starter (both are projects that also needed to be done so this is a good time to do them)
  • install radiator and fans
  • connect up the wiring harness
  • make sure everything works
  • install new taillights (carbonfiber altezas)
  • install smoke bumper lights
  • hook up fog lights

At this point, the car should be ready to run. Once the floor is complete, the rest should only take a weekend. Of course, the whole project was only supposed to take 2 or 3 weekends.