Targa Miata
June 9, 2009 - I decided it was time to install a quick-release steering wheel on the car.
I swear, every time I get out of it, I'm less graceful. Janel agrees (that we need a removable wheel, not that I'm not graceful - at least, not to my face) so I picked one up. Besides, they're cool.
The adapter from LTB Motorsports and nice and solid. It's a weld-on unit, as in my experience the bolt-on ones add quite a bit of extra space to the wheel location. The first step was to drill some holes in the adapter so I could weld it to the shaft.
entry 681 - tags: steering
June 9, 2009 - Because the stock shaft is tapered - that's how the stock wheel wedges on, really - I wanted a better support at the end.
I ground down a nut so that it was a nice tight fit inside the splined adapter, giving me more support.
entry 682 - tags: steering
June 9, 2009 - Before welding the splined tube on to the column, I made sure I didn't damage anything inside the car!
Not completely successfully, I needed an extra layer on top of the driver's seat, as it picked up a few dark freckles. Still, no holes.
Once the adapter was welded in to place, I had to make a few alterations to the combo switch to allow it to pass over the larger diameter steering column. This also meant I lost my self-cancelling turn indicators, and the way the adapter bolts to the wheel means I also lost my horn button. I have a few ideas on how to deal with the former, and the latter will not be a big problem to work around.
And now the steering wheel comes off! Race car cred. And easier exiting of the vehicle. Not completely necessary, but it'll make me giggle.
entry 683 - tags: steering
April 4, 2012 - Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca!
Always a fun track. On the first session of our two-day visit, I got my first chance to try out the car on a big track with an engine up to full power and a track-prepped suspension and tire package. It was a lot of fun. It's been two years since I was at Laguna, so I was still feeling my way around. But the car felt pretty good, well balanced and very strong.
Then the heavens opened. On my next session, it was raining so hard that I was hydroplaning all over the place and struggling for any sort of traction. Add in some bad visibility from both the rain and windshield fog, and I pulled in after two very sketchy laps. There was nothing to be gained by throwing the car away and I wasn't comfortable. My top speed was lower than it had been on the Targa, and in that case there were times when I was following a faint yellow center line through the fog on an unknown road. But there you have it, I wasn't up to speed mentally yet.
The rain tapered off for the next few sessions, and grip levels started to come back. It was entertaining slithering around in the corners, but I would have preferred the ability to use full throttle once in a while just for fun! I can report that there's no concern about water inhalation with the new intake, though. Even through the comically deep puddle at pit exit.
I was getting a few odd messages from the steering in the fourth session, though. I was convinced that the wheel was off-center in places. But not always. And the car seemed to understeer sometimes. It was making me wonder. I pulled off the front wheels and checked everything over but I couldn't find anything. I even had Janel turn the steering wheel as I held the tire in place - she won and the tire turned. Puzzling.
The track had dried out, the sun was shining - it was time to go and have some real fun in the last session of the day. The first lap was exciting, as my passenger and I got released right in the middle of a big group of experienced drivers of varying levels of aggression and car speed. Lots of passing, both by us and of us. On the second or third lap, I went to turn into the fast turn 10 and the car just didn't turn enough. You don't get a second chance at that one so we went sailing off the outside of the corner. Luckily, it's right by the pit exit so we carried on and back into the garage.
I pulled everything apart and checked things out again. All of my alignment cams were in the correct location - after the alignment cam slipped at the Summer Camp, I'd marked all of their positions - but I did find one that was a bit looser than the others. My toe plates indicated that the toe wasn't right, so I figured I'd slipped again. I checked the condition of the tie rods, the inner and outer ball joints, everything I could think of. Nothing. So I torqued everything up hard and headed home.

It was bugging me. I hadn't had the usual clunking noises of slipping alignment, and the car hadn't seemed darty enough for the amount of toe-out I'd found. Driving the truck in to the track the next morning, I was still trying to figure out what was going on. Nothing was coming to mind, but I didn't feel like I'd found it. I jumped into the car and headed out to line up for the track - and with a squeal, the steering wheel moved 90 degrees off center. Then I moved it back with another squeal. The wheel was obviously not connected to the front wheels. So it was back to the pits again and more time on the jacks. Again, I had Janel turn the wheel while I restrained the hub - and this time I was able to make things slip. Once I pulled off the new undertray and splitter, a shiny spot on the steering rack told the tale. The rack was moving. The mount on one side had broken. I got lucky, the failure could have been a whole lot worse than a ride through the gravel. Imagine if it had broken at the Targa!
So that was the end of my weekend. What a shame, I'd been looking forward to having the engine back at full sea level power again and I barely got to use it due to the conditions.
Janel fared even worse, she'd only managed three laps before the rain came and later in the day she missed out because I was trying to figure out what was going on. Luckily, our good friend Rick Weldon stepped in and sent her out in his car. It's got a character very much like the old 4-cylinder version of the Targa Miata, and Janel proceeded to have a great time. She took me out as a passenger in one session and showed me what I was missing - those big sweeping fast corners at a bit of a slip angle that you just don't get to do on the Targa. So that worked out.

So why was the toe off? Probably because I hadn't managed to get the wheels straight and I was seeing the result of Ackermann. And more importantly, why did the steering mount break? After talking to V8Roadsters, it appears the mount was accidentally made of the wrong gauge steel. There were a few subframes made with these incorrect parts, so Flyin' Miata and V8Roadsters are working to determine exactly when they were made and where they went so the problem can be addressed. Boy, am I glad it let go the way it did...
entry 1034 - tags: testing, laguna seca, steering
May 10, 2012 - The replacement subframe from V8Roadsters arrived on Tuesday.
On Wednesday night, Bill and I swapped it into the car. That's the broken one on the floor. It took about three hours total to do the swap. The jigs at V8R are obviously pretty good, because it slotted right into place with no hassle whatsoever. The biggest hassle was dealing with the fact that I routed the oil cooler and power steering lines through the middle of the motor mount brackets, so those had to be disconnected.
The car's going in for an alignment tomorrow morning and then it'll be as good as new.
entry 1037 - tags: subframe, steering
November 6, 2013 - Another tweak.
The steering effort is pretty good on this car, but I've been wondering how it would feel with a bit less assist. This restrictor (on the left) will drop the pressure in the system a bit. Let's see how it works.
I've got one for my LS1-powered MG as well, as the NA steering rack in that car wants less pressure than the NB rack in the Targa Miata.
entry 1107 - tags: steering