Targa Miata
MIATA BUILD
January 10, 2011 - We are going back to Newfoundland!
Our entry is in for 2011. But we need your help. We need to raise at least $10,000 to bring our two-car team back, and we're asking Targa fans to help by donating. Details
If you're a fan of the car and the team, please consider giving us a hand to make it back and compete at the top level.

The top level? Yes indeed. With the loss of the handicapping system, the only hope cars like ours have is for a class win - and there are so many of those that it's unlikely there would be more than one or two cars in each class. This basically renders the classes irrelevant. So we're throwing out the carefully designed rule book and going into Open class. This means we're up against the fastest of the fast. Heady company indeed.
However, there is The Lesson Of The Blue Mini. Doug Mepham ran close to us in outright speed in 2008 - we were always staged at the start line together. In 2010, he finished 6th overall by simply staying out of trouble. Granted, Doug does have as much Targa experience as anyone, but if a team with similar speed to ours can finish so well, what could we do with a faster car?

So the Targa Miata is going to get that V8 I've been dreaming about for two years. Yes, the beautiful little 2.0 is coming out. I'm going to miss it (and it's for sale!). Going into its place is an LS1 V8: all-aluminum, 5.7 litres and something like 350 hp. The exact specification hasn't been decided yet, but it should be dramatically healthier than the previous. The weight will go up slightly, but probably only around 150 lbs. So, the plan is for the same handling but the ability to vaporize the boring straight bits. This year, I'll have to lift to avoid hitting 200 kmh even in the town stages!

We're also going as part of a team, under the Flyin' Miata banner. Flyin' Miata (or FM) was a major sponsor of ours in 2008, but this year we're actually driving for them. The team will have two cars, the Targa Miata in Open Class and another Miata running in Grand Touring. That one will (likely) be another V8 car, but in full luxe street trim and with Bill Cardell driving. Bill's the owner of Flyin' Miata, and I think he's tired of hearing me talk about the Targa! His codriver has not yet been announced, but we're speaking to several high-profile journalists about it.

So that's it. We're going back - if we can raise enough money. Our entries are in, help us get to the start line!

Buckle up, there's some serious construction ahead.
entry 770 - tags: annoucements
January 12, 2011 - Planning, planning, planning.
First, we have a new sponsor. MNMazda.com - a Mazda enthusiast forum based in Minnesota, as you might have guessed - has stepped up and sponsored the Flyin' Miata team. This is great news for two reasons. First, it's a step towards the start line of the race. Second, it's completely enthusiast-driven. As with the Underground Miata Network in 2008, this means a lot more to me than a donation from a company. Thank you very much!
The fundraising is going well. As expected, the first couple of days were the busiest, but we're a good way along. At the moment, we're nearly halfway to our minimum of $10,000. This is all from individuals! I'm still chasing bigger fish, but it's a very heartening response. We're not there yet, so if you enjoy watching the Targa Miata in action, please help.

More on the proposed car specification shortly.
entry 771 - tags: sponsorship
January 13, 2011 - Plans for the car are coming together.
There's been a change in the engine specification. There's a proposed Spec V8 series in the making, called V8R Spec. V8Roadsters and V8R Spec has offered to not only provide the hardware for the V8 conversion, but also a built-up L33 engine. In exchange, we'll send off the old LS1 from Elvis that has a few of the parts needed, such as the improved LS6 heads and intake. The support from V8 Roadsters and V8R Spec is fantastic. That's Elvis' old engine in the picture, looking rather forlorn after being booted out for a 480 hp LS3. In case you don't know Elvis, that's Flyin' Miata's first V8 car, the blue car I've been playing with at various autocrosses and at Laguna Seca over the past couple of years. It'll be the sister car on the 2011 Targa team, running in Touring.

So what is this L33? It's a runt in the LS engine family. The big boys run as big as 7.0 litres, but the L33 is only 5.3. It's also known as the Vortec 5300 and is found in trucks. Specifically, the 20052007 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 4WD and GMC Sierra 1500 4WD extended cab trucks. What makes it interesting? Well, it's the only one of the truck engines with an aluminum block, making it lighter than most. It's actually a fairly popular one to use for various swaps, as they're generally less sought-after than the bigger variants but still able to make good power.

It will be modified, however. The LS6 intake and heads make a big difference, as does the V8R Spec camshaft. Basically, the engine will be set up for a nice power increase but without sacrificing behavior. Expected power levels are 410 hp and 350 ft-lbs. Steve at V8Roadsters thinks it's the best of the various LS engines. So we'll have approximately double the power and torque of our 2008 car with a weight penalty of around 200 lbs. Seems like a good trade.
entry 772 - tags: engine, ls1, l33
January 13, 2011 - There is a sad side to the big plans.
That sweet little 2.0 is going to have to come out. It's been a rock-solid engine, giving very little trouble despite what we've asked of it. Ever since Janel discovered how much fun the Targa Miata is to drive, the car's had to do double duty at trackdays. It just goes and goes and goes. I'm going to be truly sorry to see the engine go, but it's for sale to support the transformation. The header is also going to be available along with the rest of the exhaust.
It's a bit like selling a child, but I'm hoping it'll go to a good home where it can roam free and play on fun roads or tracks. Contact me if you're interested in any of the driveline, engine computer or exhaust.
entry 773 - tags: for sale, engine, header
January 13, 2011 - We've made some big promises.
The goal this year is to compete for the top prize. We'll have the car for it, and if we can stay out of trouble I think we'll do well. However, our goals are still basically the same as 2008, in the same order:
- stay out of the Atlantic
- finish the race
- get a Targa plate
- go as quick as we can

We're not just out for the experience this year, but to show off the performance and reliability of FM's little super Miatas. We can't do that if we break or crash, so that's off the menu then. I'm not going to discount the competition - we're up against some very, very quick drivers with much more experience at the event. Could we prevail against Steve Millen and his GTR if he came back, or unseat Matt Oldford who won last year? Not without quite a bit of difficulty and no small helping of luck.
The weak point is going to be the crew - again. We've got some Targa experience now, but we're also going to be piloting a much faster car. Am I bit nervous about this? Of course, I'd be foolish if I wasn't. We'll prepare ourselves as best we can and I'll build the best car I can, but it's going to be a challenge.
entry 774 - tags: goals
January 20, 2011 - The first of the V8 conversion parts is here.
This is the mounting system for the rear differential. Two tabs need to be welded to the rear subframe to locate the nose of the diff and that grey cross-bar bolts into the factory mounting spots. The big aluminum disc is an adapter that goes on the pinion flange of the differential.
entry 775 - tags: parts, differential
January 24, 2011 - Here's our differential.
It looks used because it is - it's the one originally used in Elvis. That car has a new rear end in it and this one landed in a box awaiting the Targa Miata. It's a Getrag rear originally used in the Cadillac CTS-V and has a 3.42 ratio and a Positraction clutch-type limited slip. It's a very effective package.
entry 776 - tags: differential
January 25, 2011 - The work begins.
It'll be a while before we have the drivetrain, but first the existing high-compression setup has to come out. It's a bit of a sad moment, that's a really nice setup and the car is very well balanced. But it will be reborn stronger and faster! The current engine and the header have been sold and will live on.
While the car was originally built on jackstands in my home garage, it will be rebuilt on a lift in the Flyin' Miata shop by the pros. This will be a nice change of pace.
entry 777 - tags: disassembly
January 25, 2011 - While the car is being pulled apart, the extra pieces will be safely stashed away.
Starting with the coolest looking hood and trunklid ever seen in the FM shop.
entry 778
January 25, 2011 - Goodbye, faithful 2.0.
This engine has been rock solid, the perfect companion to a rally/track Miata.
entry 779 - tags: engine
January 25, 2011 - That didn't take long.
A couple of hours after Adam started working on the car, the drivetrain was out. Since then, the engine's been split off and the suspension pieces have been stacked to one side. It took a lot longer to build it than it did to take it apart!
entry 780 - tags: disassembly
January 27, 2011 - Time to mount the Getrag differential in the rear subframe.
There's a cross bar that mounts the back of the diff, but we need to weld two tabs on for the front. The stock rubber bushing has been removed and replaced with a polyurethane part for better control of the diff. It's held in place with a set screw.
entry 781 - tags: differential
January 27, 2011 - The car's looking pretty empty by now.
It's almost time to start modifying the shell.
entry 782 - tags: body
January 27, 2011 - The Targa car started off as a 1994 R package, which had a long career with an FM II turbo installed.
At 200,000 miles, it was taken off the road, stripped and seam-welded. You can still see some of the clearancing for the turbocharger on the frame rail by the driver's shock tower. It's time for some much more intense engine bay modifications though.
entry 783 - tags: body
January 28, 2011 - The car continues to come apart.
We need to open up the transmission tunnel a bit to clear the large bellhousing required by the V8 engine. Because this car is so stripped out, I figured it would be possible to do the work without pulling much of the interior. But, because the car is so stripped out, it didn't take long until it's stripped even further. And now it'll be easier to work on.
The dashboard support was welded in with a couple of supports to the firewall and the tunnel. Those had to be cut. But they can be mended easily.

entry 784 - tags: disassembly
January 28, 2011 - Because the V8 is a thirsty beast, the complete fuel system is going to be replaced.
All the fuel lines will be -6 AN (3/8") stainless braided lines, running a returnless system at approximately 60 psi. For the higher fuel volumes and pressures, the pump is being replaced with a higher-flow unit as well.
We're installing the fuel pump/fuel level assembly from an NB Miata because it's got nice push-on connectors. This isn't totally necessary, but it does eliminate a few adapters and makes for a cleaner install.
entry 785 - tags: fuel
January 28, 2011 - The first step in modifying the engine bay is to strip off all the paint and seam sealer.
This is not a fun job at all.
entry 786 - tags: engine bay
January 31, 2011 - With the interior of the car completely stripped, Adam continues the prep work for the tunnel modifications.
First, the factory braces on the sides of the tunnel are cut off. Then the seam sealer is removed. The braces will be welded back into place once the modifications are done.

entry 787 - tags: body
February 1, 2011 - The surgery has begun.
The corners of the firewall are cut out, and these reinforcing plates will get welded in.
entry 788 - tags: body
February 4, 2011 - The tunnel has been widened.
It's not an obvious change, but the seam along the outside edge was been opened up. We need to check clearances using the plastic engine, a bellhousing and a subframe - but we don't have the subframe yet. So this will remain half-finished for a bit.
entry 789 - tags: tunnel