Project CrossTime Miata: Autocross/Time Trial Build Diary Updates

Project CrossTime is a 1996 Mazda Miata purchased for $1,000. With 187,000 miles on the odometer, you would think it is time for the retirement home. However, instead of letting it go quietly into that good night, we plan to build it on a budget — over time — to prove that you don’t have to have a lot of money (or experience) to go racing. Starting with a virtually stock Miata, we will slowly transform this nimble little convertible into a track-day racer that can create havoc for high-dollar sports cars.

Project CrossTime

Tech Articles

CrossTime was bought as a nod to the RPM Act (if you don’t know what it is, Google it now!) — taking a street car and turning it into a dedicated track car. The object was to take it from stock to a budget-minded race car, then eventually, go crazy with and throw a bunch more power at it.

Here are links to the stories we have done on the car (but, below are summaries of each in case you are a Cliff’s Notes type person):

Intro

Covercraft Car Cover

TT Nationals

PFC Brakes/DBA Rotors

It is said the word “miata” is derived from an old German word meaning reward. The Miata is the best-selling two-seat convertible sports car in history — and probably the most-raced car in America, if not the world. Mazda has made millions of Miatas through the years, so there are a ton of them out there to be had for cheap. Parts are cheap too, and there are plenty of aftermarket companies supplying performance goods.

We think it makes great sense to have a Miata as a project car for TURNology. The project name CrossTime is an amalgamation of the words autocross and time trial. Readers can follow along as we start to throw parts on CrossTime to increase lap times making it into an awesome corner-carving Autocross and Time Trial beast on a budget. We hope you will be rewarded with ideas you can use on your project.

This build-thread article will be a “quick hits” summary of our longer-form articles to keep you up-to-date on how the project is progressing. You will be able to click the links within this article to get to the more detailed articles on specific parts of the project. Ride along with us as we take a street car and make it into a (hopefully) worthy, competitive autocross and time trial car.

 

PROJECT BUILD DIARY:

October 16, 2018 – Upgrading Brakes On Project CrossTime With PFC Pads And DBA Rotors

New brake pads from PFC Brakes and rotors from DBA USA were ordered up to give the Miata an edge getting into the corners. There is a lot of performance gains to be made with improved braking. How do you think it did?

In this latest installment, we discuss our first big change to the Miata: Brakes! After getting some sticky tires, we needed to get it slowed down for the corners without the brakes fading in the late stages of a session as we were seeing, so we turned to PFC Brakes for some of its compound 97 pads and DBA USA for the rotors. To say brakes can make a difference is an understatement, but would we see positive results?

Our home track for CrossTime, is Memphis International Raceway, which has a 1.8-mile road course that incorporates the drag strip and shutdown area as the front-straight of the course — that is 3,500 feet. While most cars get there faster, the Miata is approaching 110 mph going into Turn 1, and I’m able to take it through that long sweeper at about 70-75 mph, so the later you can brake there, the better your times are going to be. Additionally, Turns 2 and 3 are flat-out, but Turn 4 is virtually a 90-degree turn that leads into the very tight esses (M’s as they are called in Memphis) of Turns 5 and 6, so if you have good brakes you can make up a ton of time.

The installation of rotors and pads is very easy on a Miata and can be done in a matter of two hours, so we concentrated the article more on the results and even include some video on track. So how did it turn out? You’ll have to click the link above to find out, but I’ll tell you I was pleasantly surprised!

October 3, 2018 – Project CrossTime Goes To The SCCA TT Nationals At NCM Park

We’ve made a ton of changes on CrossTime in about the last month: Roll cage, MOMO seat, Joes Racing quick-release steering wheel hub, MOMO steering wheel, RaceQuip harness, Racepak CL1 Vantage, Eibach sway bars, and Bridgestone Potenza RE-71R tires. Would they help?

In this update, we talk about our trip to the inaugural SCCA TT Nationals at NCM Park in Bowling Green, Kentucky — our first national event — as well as all the improvements we have made over the past few weeks and months. There will be longer stories on these improvements as the schedule starts to slow down a bit, but we spent a lot of time researching the parts we were going to use on the car. It took some time to get everything ordered and over the last month, we’ve been super busy installing all of them.

The TT Nats was the debut for many of the parts I acquired. It certainly affected the car in ways that I wasn’t prepared for and this article goes through my thought processes during the event, while I fought to re-understand the car I had become familiar with over the past few months. The first major change we made were brake pads from PFC Brakes and rotors from DBA USA. We had a cage installed in it by RaceFab Fabrications in Covington, Tennessee, while Summit Racing came to the rescue with a MOMO Super Cup seat and Mod 30 steering wheel as well as a Joes Racing Products quick-release adaptor. We were very excited to receive numerous safety parts from RaceQuip including a seat belt harness (747007), Chevron-5 SFI-1 Racing Suit (available to public early 2019), Nomex underwear and balaclava, arm restraints, Euro Carbon-L SFI3.3 shoes, and 359 Series SFI-5 Outseam Angle Cut Gauntlet Gloves. The last two changes were much needed: Eibach Anti-Roll Kit (front and rear sway bars), and lastly a set of 200 treadwear Bridgestone Potenza RE-71R Summer Performance Tires from Tire Rack, so we didn’t have to compete in the Unlimited class. Check out how the event went for CrossTime HERE.

October 2, 2018 – Car Covers Aren’t Just for Show Cars Anymore thanks to Covercraft

It may not be performance related, but CrossTime received a much needed cover being that is is stored outside. Covercraft provided is with a Noah cover which does the job perfectly!

Project CrossTime is being stored outdoors when it isn’t being punished on the racetrack. Living in Memphis, Tennessee means we need something that can protect it against the punishing sun and rain (which can often include hail). The car is not much to look at, so the paint isn’t as much of a concern as the onboard electronics. I already owned a car cover from Covercraft and knew they would have the perfect cover to suit the conditions CrossTime might see in the driveway as well as on the road at events.

We go over the myriad of options on choosing a car cover that suits the conditions you are trying to protect against as well as those specific to CrossTime. We walk you through the selection process step-by-step on the website and give you the specs on the cover we ordered and why. We continue through the ordering process, then give you a few tips on care of the cover as well as our impressions of how the cover fits and performs. In a nutshell, we couldn’t be happier with the choice we made. If you are looking for a car cover, check out this article before making your choices for some ideas you may not be thinking about.

April 26, 2018 – Introducing Project CrossTime: $1,000 1996 Mazda Miata

Here is CrossTime when we purchased it. It had a blown clutch slave cylinder, so we pushed it the length of the driveway and winched it n the trailer. It only took $20 to get it running under its own power!

Our first article on CrossTime is really just giving the backstory on the Miata (and a bit about how this came about), but it is a good one to read to see our plans for the car and our timeline for getting each step done. Much will depend on outside factors such as getting parts in on time, and then fitting the installation into our busy schedules. Also, remember we are planning to run the car this year at various events, so we can’t have too much downtime for major overhaul-type installations, unless there is a major failure. Fingers-crossed that won’t rear it’s ugly head, but when you are dealing with a car that is 22 years old with 187,000 miles on the odometer, you might run into some problems.

The car was owned by a teacher who had moved to Malaysia to teach English. It had seen some track duty in its past, because we found it had a header and frame connectors. Either the teacher was a weekend autocrosser or a previous owner had been giving it a workout. The engine had the characteristic “tick” from the lifters, something that is a know-issue on Miatas, and a blown slave cylinder for the clutch, but after spending $20 at O’Reilly Auto Parts, we were up and running after about 20 minutes. We had an event in less than a weeks time and were able to secure a rollbar from the NASA director in Memphis. Surprisingly, the car survived the event despite torrential rains from the remnants of a hurricane. We learned a lot at our first event.

About the author

Shawn Brereton

Shawn is a lifelong car enthusiast who appreciates all things automotive. He is the proud owner of a blown '55 Chevy, a daily-driven '66 Fairlane with an '09 GT500 drivetrain, and a '96 Miata track car.
Read My Articles

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