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Old Oct 9, 2009, 04:04 PM   #1
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Miata for a track car

With the racing season now over, I've decided that my current car is just too expensive to track. I've gone through 3 sets of rotors and pads, one set of tires and I'm always only one bad shift or hot corner away from a massive bill. With that in mind, I've decided to go with a Miata as a track car.
For the people who have tracked or still do track a Miata, what year do you feel is the best? I'm trying to hunt down a 1994 with the 1.8 L motor and the older body styling but it's not that easy. Also, what kind of prices are Miatas going for in your area? Any idea for first mods?
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Old Oct 9, 2009, 04:14 PM   #2
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Oh to add, my first intentions are to get a roll bar, harnesses, seat(s), fire extinguisher, detachable steering wheel, tires and wheels and just drive the thing until I'm used to it.
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Old Oct 9, 2009, 09:21 PM   #3
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Try http://www.flyinmiata.com/

They sell a lot of safety equipments you have mentioned and anything up to engine swaps. They also have a lot of information as well. I think tire, wheels and entire brake system upgrade is all it needs in the beginning, then maybe a set of coilovers if you are not too satisfied with the stock ones. You can also try improving the response with I/H/E and flywheel, but don't forget, the choices are very limited and there will be barely any hp gain compared to evo.
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Old Oct 9, 2009, 10:33 PM   #4
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I know about Flyin' Miata, I've already picked out a few items on their website. I really don't see how the choices are very limited given that it seems like every manufacturer makes parts for the Miata and they're a ridiculously popular platform. I'm also not comparing it in any way, shape or form to the Evo, hell, I'm happy it's nothing like the Evo.
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Old Oct 10, 2009, 12:08 AM   #5
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I'm not saying it is inferior compared to evo or you can't buy many parts. I think the market works slightly different than how it would be for evo, skyline gt-r, nsx and such. What I want to say is that you won't see something like HKS MX-5 time attack car or bazillion plug-n-play parts from Trust GReddy or something like that. What you can do with it is endless, yet if you want to order some parts online and do some bolt-ons, the choices seem limited. It is more like you choose a company then you work with the company on your car.

If you plan on keeping the car near stock, I'd say NB8C is the best choice, as it comes with fixed lights, more rigid body, many of the issues addressed. There is barely any difference in weight between pre-facelift NB8C and NA8C. It would be easier to find than the NA8C which was produced for less than 2 years in North America.

If you plan on really working on your car, the big amount of money you save from choosing the older NA is already a big headstart and it looks more iconic (at least to me)

I think NCEC needs some more time for Mazda to work on their quirks, especially its handling characteristics.
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Old Oct 10, 2009, 12:21 AM   #6
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I'd have to disagree on the choices being limited, in the past few months of research, I've found more and more companies who are either strictly associated with the Miata or strongly biased towards it. It certainly seems that more companies are now or have been making parts for the Miata than the Evo which makes sense given how popular the Miata is and how long it's been out for (20 years is a long time).
Wasn't the NA from 1990 to 1997 while the NB started in 1999 and continued to 2005?
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Old Oct 10, 2009, 05:11 AM   #7
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I think they started in 1989 but that is about right. The facelift for NB happened in 2001 which made it heavier than 99-00 and stiffer, with minor power upgrade as well.
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Old Oct 10, 2009, 05:18 AM   #8
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Miata + LSx motor = oh ya.

I know otter has looking into this. I have too. If I found a cheap 94+ I might do it just for a track car. Might.
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Old Oct 10, 2009, 08:00 AM   #9
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Prepare for essay post.
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Old Oct 10, 2009, 08:20 AM   #10
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As for price, I rarely see Miatas go for less than $3k around here.
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Old Oct 10, 2009, 08:27 AM   #11
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So you want a miata as a track car, good. Finally I can convince one of you *****es. There are tons of factors that go into choosing the right year for your application. Lets start simple.

1989-1991.5
Came with the 1.6, generally regarded as the least desirable out of the box. The 1.6 in these early cars had problems with their crank keyway, typically necessitating an engine swap around 100k miles. They are the lightest out of all, and the shell is perfect for a track only car, figuring you'd swap to the beefier 1.8 anyways.

1991.5-1993
Came with the 1.6 again, but with a better crankshaft that fixed the keyway issues on the early cars. Good cars, though the 1.6 is gutless and needs some ***** attached to it. Greddy turbo kits for the 1.6 are cheap and easy to install and can boost power from around 90whp to 160whp for under 2k. Optional differential for all 1.6 engines was a viscous, generally now after 20 years they're useless and act as opens. All 1.6 cars had a smaller differential carrier than the 1.8 cars, and have been known to fail under stock power. You will want to upgrade to a 1.8 rear end period.

1994-1995
First years of the 1.8 engine, typically stock cars gained 10-15whp and this difference only becomes more drastic as you mod further. I'm not sure of the differential option here though I think it's still a viscous. These are generally regarded as the ideal candidate for track cars as they already have the 1.8, have increased chassis bracing, and are still light and run OBD1.

1996-1997
1.8 engine, though now running through OBD2 in the later cars. There's no real reason to want a later model NA over a 93-95 besides from the diff, which is now an optional torsen and is good for lots of power and long life. Fatter than previous models thanks to different dashboard construction, bracing, etc.

1999-2000
Known as the NB or NB1, the 99-00 cars are really the best of the best. (which is why I own one) 1.8 block, though now instead of the ****ty first gen head design the 99-00 had a very nicely designed head and paired with a mild compression bump gained 15 or so whp over the previous 1.8. Optional LSD is a torsen, and is strong enough to never warrant replacement unless you go for a 2way for drifting. Typically the 99-00 years are the best for aftermarket turbocharging, even with the disadvantage of OBD2. No VVT to control like newer models, and the ECU is easy to trick. Plenty of piggyback, bandaid, and parallel ECU options are available to control boost. Optional 6 speed trans were available on 10AE and SE models.

2001-2005
NB2's were identical to NB1's except for a few minor changes. The front end bumper was redesigned, including new projector light housings and a better looking front end. Tail lights changed mildly as well. Engine internals were modified for increased power, compression was raised again now to 10:1, and VVT was incorporated in the head. Even with these changes however power output remained nearly identical, and thus the reason why the 99-00 are more popular. VVT is more difficult to control than on a honda, and there aren't as many cam options for the VVT head. The 10:1 bottom end is good for N/A but not boost friendly at all. Optional 6 speed again for certain models. We won't go into the Mazdaspeed miata because I'll be here all day explaining. Just wikipedia the MSM if you really care.

Now I'll talk a bit about the best drivetrain for certain applications.

Boost
Here you want the 1.8 block out of a 94-97 car, which includes the lower compression pistons as well as an oil feed port on the exhaust side of the block for turbos. (NB's didn't have this) Main bearing support plate from a 01+. Head out of a 99-00, and the 6 speed paired usually with a 4.1 rear end would be ideal. The 6 speed is stronger than the 5, though the ratios are regarded by many as too close for boost. It's personal preference.

N/A
01+' block, higher compression and better support plate. 99-00 head, and the trans is up to you. 6 speed swap paired with a 4.3 as found in NB's that originally had the 5 speed will give you the shortest and closest gearing.

Now for you, I'd say go with a 94-95 model, and play swap magic to get the best combo. That way you avoid OBD2 and avoid the ****ty 1.6, more power is always a head swap (to a 99-00) away, and you have an already light platform.
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Old Oct 10, 2009, 12:04 PM   #12
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I'd really like to stay NA for as long as possible, I've done the turbo thing and it'd be nice to get some experience on the other side of the fence. What are your thoughts on the ITBs available for the 1.6 and 1.8 L cars?
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Old Oct 10, 2009, 12:36 PM   #13
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Thanks for the details!

To add to that, in Japan, there was no gap between NA and NB, NA continued until 1998 and was immediately replaced by NB in the same year. The OBDII switch happened in 1995 for Japan, the 2001+ refresh had engines rated something like 154-160PS. They also had a fixed roof version for a very short period of time.

I'd totally recommend the ITBs, as you will be enjoying the Miata charm to the fullest. ITB + header + catless exhaust + lightweight flywheel is something you should taste before you switch to LSx motors or turbo route because it is that delicious, and if I were in that position, I'll stop and stay there.
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Old Oct 10, 2009, 02:35 PM   #14
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I know that in Japan the camshafts were changed relative to the US models, typically giving the JDM cars more output as well as a higher redline. Even on stock US cams however a $1 crystal mod to the ECU can unlock up to 8000rpm and leaner mixtures, boosting top end power. +1 on ITB's, but the most bang for the buck you can get in terms of enjoyment is clutch/flywheel, I'm running an 8lb flywheel and first through third gears it is significantly more responsive than stock. I've finished staying NA personally and this winter is low-pressure turbo time.
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Old Oct 10, 2009, 03:00 PM   #15
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What kind of suspension setup would you recommend? Personally I'd like to stay away from coilovers but I'm not completely opposed to them.
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Old Oct 10, 2009, 03:00 PM
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