Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A new (used) set of shoes

This week I picked up a set of wheels for the project! They don't look like much, but I have big plans!

I had originally planned to use a set of racing-spec wheels for the car, but with my change in philosophical direction they just aren't appropriate. They've also been discontinued. What I needed for my tribute was a wheel tire combo that's vintage-looking (185 width wheels with 14" rims), but that will fit my Miata suspension components.

I don't think there's a more appropriate wheel for my car than Minilites. Unfortunately they're hard to come by and astronomically expensive. Chaparral S15s are made specifically for Miatas and look like the real deal, but they're not 14" wheels and they weigh close to 16 lbs.

Enter the OEM 1990-1993 Miata wheel (AKA "daisy"). In keeping with the Miata's retro styling the wheels were made to look substantially similar to the classic British Minilite. The wheels weigh a paltry 12.3 lbs and are easy to come by in case I hit a curb. They're also super-cheap if you're patient. I scored the entire set including (badly) used tires, center caps and lug nuts for $40.

Speaking of tires, those crappers are more than good enough to roll the chassis around on and perhaps to make a quick jaunt to the tire store. I know that by the time I need them they'll be toast, but they'll do the job until the car is road-worthy.

As for the wheels themselves, I'm going to clean them up and paint the centers a medium grey. I also plan on polishing the rim. I think they're going to look sweet!

Keith Tanner uses a set of painted OEM Miata wheels on his 7. He has a good write-up on the process on his web site starting here.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

First Autocross!

This weekend I competed in my first ever autocross!!! A friend invited me to hit the cones with the local Porsche Club of America chapter. Does everyone else know how much fun this autocross thing is?

Seriously, I've never had so much fun driving a car! My hands were shaking after each of my runs, and was pretty winded because I kept forgetting to breathe. Fortunately the course was only 3/4 of a mile or I would have passed out! I have never driven a car so aggressively before.

I'm pretty proud that each of my runs was faster than the previous. That was my goal for the day, to show continuous improvement. I didn't get anything close to FTD, but I was thrilled to get FTJ (Faster than Jeep). I've spent most of the last 24 hours lost in thought of where I left time out on the course. I can see how easily it is to become obsessed with this stuff.

As for my car, she did the job despite having crappy tires and worn-out shocks. I've never been truly at the limit in my car, and I have to say dancing that Miata around the cones was a religious experience. It has always been a major goal for the Spartan to have the same driving qualities as my Miata. I think if I get even close to having the same dynamic qualities it'll be a major victory.

Locosts predominantly race in the D-Modified class in SCCA autcrosses. There are a few details in the regulations regarding construction that I should look into when designing the frame, but otherwise nothing is really different from what I was planning anyway. There are a few tidbits for cars running slicks that I should pay attention to when putting the car together in case I go that direction for competition.

In any case it doesn't look like the Spartan as planned will be competitive in D-mod nationally, and perhaps locally if I'm up against purpose-built hardware. That's not the point of my build, though, and designing to a specific set of rules will probably result in less angst when some stickler techs my car.