Thursday, October 30, 2008

Surveying the damage

The first task after welcoming Winky home was to peel away the damage and to see what the accident did to him.

I had the front body panels off within a few hours. I'm trying to be careful and take my time so I don't damage anything worth selling. I'm also trying to label the ends of every electrical connection so that it'll be easier to decipher when the wiring harness is out of the car.

You can see pretty clearly where the accident took out the front end. The funny thing is that the bumper is in perfect shape. Go figure.

Unfortunately, the frame is bent. That means I won't be able to sell it to a Spec Miata racer or someone who wants a project track car. I'm keeping the VIN anyway for registration purposes, so it would never be worth much anyway. This way too I don't have to be too careful taking stuff off of it.

This also means I'll eventually have to get rid of the stripped unibody myself. A quick call to the metal recycler confirmed that it was worth about $10 as scrap (I'm not kidding). I guess I'll cross that bridge when I get there.

Here's a good view of that leaky valve cover. I don't plan on working on the engine until it's removed from the car, so I know it'll drive me crazy. The plan here (other than replacing the gasket) is to powder coat the valve cover and brake rotors Ferrari red and paint the raised lettering white. It's going to look awesome!

The previous owner said it was driven a few miles after the accident. This is a little worrisome given that the coolant spilled out after the accident. At this point I figured it was worth the risk that the heat damaged something. I know that 1.8L Miata engines are tough little buggers, so I'm banking on their legendary reliability.

So after several hours of digging, grunting and cursing, here's what I've got:

It looks like everything forward of the radiator is toast, but everything behind is as good as it was before the accident. All in all I'm pretty happy, and I think that this will be a good base for an awesome build donor. Not having all the forward parts to sell stings the budget a bit (I'm guessing the parts are worth $500), but I'm confident that I'll still end up at $0 total cost before the stripping is done.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Meet Winky!

A lot has happened in the last few months.

I've moved into a home with a nice large 2-car garage. This was the missing element that has been keeping me from starting the build. It will be a little tight with my wife's Accord on the other side, but I'm sure I'll have more than enough space if I'm organized.

With the facilities in place, I made the single most important step in my build, which is buying the donor! Meet Winky!

Winky is a 1994 Mazda Miata B-package. For non-Miata folks, it's got the larger 1.8L engine, larger brakes and a Torsen LSD. I was going to use a 1990-1993 1.6L car, but the later version has a bit more power, a much better differential and more valuable (sellable) components. Mazda changed over to OBD-II engine management in 1996, so the 1994-1995 cars are a little easier to work on and should make for a simpler implementation in a Locost.

I got pretty lucky as beat-up Miatas in Atlanta seem to get snatched up off Craiglist before I usually have a chance to send the seller an e-mail. In my case, the seller had a dozen people lined up to see it. I was just the only person willing to come out that night in the rain to do the inspection. I guess the early bird gets the worm.

Winky's previous owner rear-ended a truck and took out most of the front end (front bumper cover, front fenders, headlights, hood, radiator). Fortunately the bent frame only lightly kissed the mechanicals and there doesn't appear to be any major issues aside from a leaky valve cover gasket. I did manage to get the car started during the inspection, so I at least know it turns over and runs. I haven't actually driven it yet, so I'm hoping I didn't buy a total basket case.

It was important to me to get a totaled car for the build. I love Miatas so much that I was actually a little ill thinking of taking a good running car off the road. I know there are several hundred thousand out there, but my conscience wouldn't stand for it. It makes me happy to think I'm taking a car that might go to the crusher and resurrecting it into something more.

I've spent many many hours over the last few days standing over the car just taking it all in. Standing there that first night it really dawned on me what I'm about to undertake. It's really daunting and exciting at the same time. I had to wait overnight to get the car, and I could hardly sleep for the excitement of it all. I've been planning this build for over two years now, and I'm really amped to get going!