Slow Car Fast
November 8, 2008 - After some rough sketches and much thinking, I'm leaning away from narrowing the Miata suspension.
The roll centers won't be as well controlled as I thought - thanks to Jensenman on the GRM forums for making me take another look at this.
Luckily, there's an alternative. The fender flares from a Dodge Omni can be grafted on to the MG bodyshell, adding a bit over 2" per side. That should be almost perfect. Time to start hunting Omnis, or see if I can find another car that would make a good donor.
entry 68 - tags: suspension, body
November 9, 2008 - We have the drivetrain.
While I was in the middle of trying to figure out just what an L33 would need to convert it into something closer to my needs, I spotted an ad for a 1998 Camaro on Craigslist. The whole car was going for about the usual price for an LS1/T56 combination. So there was a change of plans, and now there's one very evil looking black car parked in the driveway. I could have driven it home, but with the forecast of snow in the mountains I decided that it would be better to give it a ride.
These cars are enormous. It's ridiculous.
Not only do I have an engine and transmission, but here's my ECU, my wiring, potentially the guts for my instruments, a flywheel and clutch, a high-pressure and high-flow fuel system and anything else I might need. All sorts of things that had the potential to really nickle-and-dime the project.
Even better, the engine was rebuilt about 30,000 miles ago with an XR259HR Comp cam and a Comp cam "RPM kit". There's also headwork and some sort of aftermarket shifter. Best of all, because it's all in a running car, we could test drive it.
It's a happy engine. Very strong. The transmission likes to pop out of reverse. The seller - a fellow Grassroots Motorsports reader who originally bought the car as an engine for his GTO race car - thinks that it's simply a shifter in need of adjustment, and it does have that feel when you're trying to slot it into place. I'll see if I can fix that up. He also threw in a couple of extra oil pans he didn't need (the GTO uses a different one), a power brake setup from a GTO and a low-mileage oil pump that he doesn't need. Let's just say he was a kindred spirit when it comes to this sort of project.
So it was a bit more than I'd originally intended to spend. But there are a lot of resellable parts. That hood, for example. And the limited slip rear end. And the Borla exhaust. And possibly the stainless header (that I think includes cats) that was included, uninstalled, in the trunk. And of course, almost a complete car's worth of other stuff.
Janel announced that the car was at the bare minimum of loudness for her project with the Borla. I think I'm going to have to install some exhaust cutouts.
entry 69 - tags: engine choice, donor
November 11, 2008 - A lesser-known alternative to the Omni flares is ones from a Mk1 Golf - aka Rabbit.
There's not as much information about them out there, but they have a better shape in my opinion. I'm going to pick up some Rabbit fenders that are in a junkyard locally and see for myself. I like the hood louvers on this car as well, I suspect something like that will be necessary to keep the temperatures under control.
I think the best order of operations is to strip the MG down and start figuring how to mount the suspension. That'll tell me just how wide the fenders need to be. I'm also going to have access to an LS3 engine and T56 trans going into a Miata, and I'll make the measurements I need to determine just what needs to be done to the chassis and where the engine will sit.
In the meantime, the Camaro will be registered and driven to make sure there are no foibles in the drivetrain prior to installation. I think it's going to be difficult to resist stress-testing the tires on a regular basis, it's that kind of car...
entry 70 - tags: body, plans
November 15, 2008 - I stopped by a local scrapyard today and picked up a pair of fenders.
They're from a square-headlight Rabbit - one of the ones made in Pennsylvania. We tried to pull one off a German-built cabrio but it was built with much more enthusiasm and far more seam sealer so we could not remove it without damage. One nice thing about living in western Colorado is that the cars are almost rust-free.
I'll cut out the flare shortly and get an idea how it sits on the car. The rears looked as if they'd really work nicely on the back of the MG, but the yard wants $100 per side to torch them out "due to the cost of oxygen and acetelyne". I know it's a pain in the butt to do something like that, so just tell me it's a PITA factor. Don't make up fictional costs! I'll see if the fronts can also be used on the back before I go back to negotiate. The good thing is that the yard had a half-dozen potential donors so I have a good selection - including a pickup! Most of them are two-door hatchbacks or convertibles which seems to have the best shape.
entry 71 - tags: body
November 15, 2008 - While walking past the Opel GTs parked in the shop at work, I took a closer look at the shape of the fenders.
This might work. They're nice and round without the flattened edge used on the Golf. And there's a good donor in the shop as well - a parts car that is destined to be chopped into pieces.
entry 72 - tags: body
November 15, 2008 - The engine!
This is ridiculous. The nose of the Camaro is about 15 feet long, and the rear four cylinders of the engine are embedded in the firewall. There's no reason for this car to have such a stupendous nose other than overcompensation. Of course, you could say the same about the cowl induction hood on this particular car.
It looks like changing the serpentine belt would involve crawling into the engine bay, and looking at the rear spark plug on the driver's side makes my hands and back hurt just thinking about having to change it.
The good news is that all the fluids look good and fresh, and under that SLP airbox cover (which doesn't fit as well as it could) is a nice K&N. Someone took care of this powerplant. Can't say the same about the body of the car, which has the look of a shoddy body shop reassembly about it, but that's not a concern of mine!
entry 73 - tags: donor, engine
November 21, 2008 - I cut the flare off the Rabbit fenders today.
Here's the left front fender on the right rear of the MG. Actually, it fits pretty well on either side, it was just easier to photograph this one! It's taped too far back in this picture, but it's close enough to give an idea. I think it'll work.
entry 74 - tags: body, flares
November 21, 2008 - The flare still needs some trimming to make it fit on the car with the chrome strip, and I haven't decided if it needs to move up or down yet.
But the overall shape is encouraging. It looks like only slight forming will be needed in the rear.
The front's not quite as slick, but I have to pull the side marker light before testing much more.
entry 75 - tags: body, flare
November 21, 2008 - I parked the cars side by side for the first time today.
To reassure me that my plan is as intended, the MG refused to start and had to be pushed around, while the Camaro happily burbled around the yard.
It looks as if I could install the MG inside the Camaro. Going the other way around sure looks like a tight fit!
entry 76 - tags: donor
November 21, 2008 - Another view of the two cars side by side.
The Camaro is a very swollen car.
entry 77 - tags: donor
November 25, 2008 - Time for this to come out.
After a mad three and a half days of work in the garage, I have a new fabrication station and a lot more room. Room that will shortly be taken up by a multitude of Camaro and MG parts, of course. But the real work will get underway this weekend as the original engine comes out.
The car completely refused to start to drive into the garage, showing signs of some sort of major wiring problem. I also discovered a badly bodged alternator swap on the car. No worries, it's all going away.
Time to get dirty!
entry 78 - tags: engine, teardown
November 25, 2008 - Before pulling the car apart, I checked to see where the ride height is.
Since the entire suspension is going to be changed out, I want to make sure I put the new on in (approximately) the right place!
While cleaning the garage, I also came across a set of nicely finished Miata wheels - black with a polished lip - that would look good on the car. The Shelby wheels, unfortunately, will have to go due to the 4.5" bolt circle. Like most of the other cars in the garage, the MG will soon have a 4x100 pattern. I'd been eying the Ronal RB as a good option and that might still happen, but for the time being the repainted Miata wheels will do. I can run a 205/55-14 on them, which is about 1" smaller in diameter than MGs usually run. Most people would go for copious rubber in a car like this, but I'll probably set it up to clear some 225s at most and then just run really good rubber.
entry 79 - tags: wheels, suspension
November 27, 2008 - Time to pull the engine.
In case I have to put it back in, it's good to know the official manual will be very useful - check out step 35.
entry 80 - tags: dismantling, engine
November 27, 2008 - The MG has the largest AC compressor I think I've ever seen in a car.
Even the one in my 1966 Cadillac is smaller - and that one has a 7.2 litre V8 to turn it, not a little 1.8 four. That's the alternator on the right for a size comparison.

entry 81 - tags: dismantling
November 27, 2008 - After about two hours of work, the engine is ready to come out.
It all went pretty easily with very few recalcitrant fasteners. The only one that gave me any trouble was a pre-rounded nut on the driveshaft, but I won. I always win.
This car was in sad shape mechanically. There are missing fasteners, unplugged sensors and general hack work hidden around. But it sure looks solid, which is what counts.
The engine will get pulled tomorrow when I have Janel's help. Right now, the hoist is sitting out in a cold rain and I don't feel like wrestling it in.
This picture makes it look like some sort of exchange is going on. Nope, I just can't seem to work on a single car at a time. Also, the garage is not as messy as this picture makes it look!
entry 82 - tags: dismantling
November 28, 2008 - The engine is out!
Janel feels a bit sad for the poor little MG, but not too sad as you can see from the look on her face. The drivetrain came out fairly easily, without any terrible surprises. It took less than three hours to pull, including the usual learning curve tricks of trying to figure out where to attach the hoist. I didn't even need a second set of hands, Janel came down to spectate.
I think this car is going to be a good basis for the swap.
entry 83 - tags: dismantling, Janel
November 28, 2008 - The nekkid engine bay.
That front subframe has mounting points that are just under 19" apart. The Miata subframe? Right about 32", as the tape measure indicates. One thing's for sure, the new subframe will free up an enormous amount of room. At the expense of a small bit of work.
entry 84 - tags: engine bay, subframe
November 28, 2008 - Here's a shot of the only MGB - that I know of - to be fitted with Miata suspension.
The car was never completed, but it's very useful info. I've shown the rear subframe installation in the past, here's a shot of what was done up front. New frame arms. I'm going to do a little more reinforcing, especially of the upper shock mounts.
This picture also shows how much more potential space there is with the new setup. Combine that with a tubular front subframe like this one and all sort of room opens up.
entry 85 - tags: engine bay, subframe
November 30, 2008 - I wheeled the car outside and went nuts with the pressure washer.
The car's actually pretty clean considering it's 37 years old. None of the really thick oil-and-dirt goo I expect on something this age.
Once that was done, I brought the car back into its home for the next few months and put it up on jackstands. I was careful to get the car level, this will make it a lot easier to fabricate everything properly!
entry 86 - tags: dismantling
November 30, 2008 - The next step was to pull the front subframe.
Not a difficult task. It's astoundingly heavy. I forgot to weigh the car before taking it apart (whoops) but it's possible the V8-powered result could weigh less than the original.
I'm starting to reconsider the independent rear suspension. It would be cool to do, but it would be easier - and cheaper - to simply have the Camaro rear end cut down and reworked to run a 4x100 bolt pattern to accept Miata wheels. The solid rear isn't my first choice, but it's how the car was designed to run in the first place and there's a good body of knowledge on locating the rear axle already. Plus, it'll save a bunch of cash and I won't have to redesign the entire rear end of the car.
This car was never meant to be a lap record holder, but it'll end up on track at some point. Hmm. Decisions, decisions.
entry 87 - tags: dismantling, suspension