The Crapcan Miata Part 2 — I Prefer Duck Sauce

The term “rice” is an interesting phenomenon. Originating as the phrase “rice burner” it referred to, with hardly-subtle racial undertones, Japanese motorcycles that were modified garishly in an attempt to convey the idea of higher performance than the cycle was actually capable of. Eventually it changed to refer to Japanese cars as well, and then to all Asian transportation that has been subject to excessive modification.

Nowadays the definition is best defined as an Asian-built “sports compact” that has been modified to give the impression of performance with no actual performance enhancements, and the backronym “Race Inspired Cosmetic Enhancements” has been added to the global lexicon. Such modifications include (but are not limited to) gaudy paint/loud colors, “fake aero” such as cosmetic front lips, wings, or side skirts, excessively low ride heights, stretched tires, camber, and loud exhausts. Some debate exists as to purely cosmetic modifications with no link to motorsport count as rice, such as an excessively loud stereo or aftermarket wheels.

But when your car is already an ugly broken heap what have you to lose by having some fun with the exterior?

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Repeated attempts to remove the black paint from my wheels left them a tattered mess, as the black was scraped back to reveal several coats of white before reaching actual metal. Defeated on any chance of getting the wheels back to bare metal without media blasting or excessive amounts of chemicals it became clear that the best way to cover up something ugly is to make it stand out as much as possible.

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Clearly orange was the answer. A couple cans of Rustoleum later and my Daisy wheels were suspiciously Halloween themed and mounted on my crapcan Miata. Along the way I purchased some no-name one-inch aluminum spacers to bring the face of the wheels closer to the face of the fender, and widen the car’s track by two inches total. This gave the car the look I wanted while also making it far easier to pull onto the drive-on lift at the dealership I worked at. Win-win!

The crumpled door was my next problem. I bought a replacement at a junk yard for a mere $40. Dent free and with a power regulator it bolted right up to my car with the help of a friend and I wired the painfully slow regulator up to a switch so I could lower my passenger window without having to lean over the center console in some weird contortionist act and wind it down manually. Fancy.

However, the door was white. Some silver Rustoleum (notice a trend?) and clear coat resulted in a silver that looked surprisingly good, but was several shades too light to match the Mazda Silverstone Metallic. Oh, well. Vinyl is a cool thing. So is ebay.

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Inspired by the “do what you want in the face of what an enthusiast would consider logical” attitude of builds such as the “Zero F*cks Given RX7” I stickerbombed the door. Even worse, I didn’t go to the effort of actually buying lots of stickers and putting them on the car. Instead I hopped on eBay and bought a sheet of vinyl that was meant to look like it was a load of stickers, then wrapped the door. It was a fairly straightforward process made easier by cutting the large sheet into smaller pieces (almost like stickers) and putting them on at random angles so the repetitive nature of the pattern would be less evident. The quarter panel dent behind the door was fixed by wrapping a flat head screwdriver in duct tape, drilling a hole in the door sill, and doing some quick-and-dirty Paintless Dent Repair. Of course, the paint was chipped so I grabbed some Band-Aid (r) Brand ™ bandages and stuck them on the paint.

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Fixed!

You know what’s cool? The Datsun 240Z. It has fender mirrors.

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So, dammit, my Miata was going to get fender mirrors as well. These little babies were $12 apiece from Amazon. Plastic base with a glass mirror. Designed to be screwed in place but I used some 3M double-sided trim tape to affix them. My fenders were dent free and flawless, and I wanted to keep them that way. The verdict? They look fantastic. They’re fairly useless though. They need desperately to be wide-angle so I can see more than *just* my blind spot and get a better frame of reference for what I’m seeing. Fortunately it’s a convertible, so I just learned to drive with my head on a swivel and have had no problems.

Then I looked at the front lip. It was scraped and tattered and several shades of dark grey. Everyone has a dark colored lip!

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So I painted mine body color using the same silver Rustoleum I used on the door before giving up, as well as several very heavy coats of clearcoat to protect against paint chips.

One performance upgrade I did during all of this was buy some springs from a local autocrosser. They dropped right onto my struts where the stock springs were, and after getting creative with jackstands I was able to easily remove the stock springs from the strut without a spring compressor and drop on the far shorter units.

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Roughly 3x the spring rate of my stock springs, with stock shock absorbers. The setup is pretty underdampened, but the handling increase is phenomenal and any bounce is a rare oddity. The rear sits 2/3 inches lower, the front about 1/2.

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That’s about it for exterior modifications. $20 worth of paint, $15 vinyl wrap, $~22ish in mirrors, $40 worth of springs, and some bandaids.

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Behold, the interior of a mostly stock 1991 Mazda Miata. It’s black with black and black cloth seats and possibly the worlds most hideous steering wheel combined with the worlds most charming gauges. Obviously not good enough.

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Our first contestant is a narrowband AFR gauge taped to the cluster hood.

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It is soon joined by its friends “cheap Grant racing wheel” and “Dragonball Z shift knob” with a gues appearance by “broken head unit I’m getting rid of”. You’ll notice I also dyed the door cards a chocolate brown color. The black needed broken up and I always considered brown a luxurious color. Not sure why luxury really matters, but whatever works. The shift knob I really like. I considered getting a metal sphere but was talked out of that by a Cobalt-owning friend with more than one burn from his metal shift knob after it had been sitting in the sun. The larger diameter vs the stock knob lets me rest my hand on the top comfortably while shifting and haphazardly grab it from any angle with confidence, It also sits up higher and thus closer to the wheel. Nice.

The steering wheel is much too small. Will definitely replace, though the Grant installation kit is a nice thing but I had to remove my clockspring and thus have no horn for the time being. Darn.

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In the interest of making the cramped roadster interior feel a bit more open I had these leather door pull straps made to replace the bulky and very 80s-looking molded-plastic arm rests. Satisfied, I then reupholstered the door cards with blue cloth to hide the holes from the arm rest and, on the passenger side, the hole from the window winder.

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In the pursuit of removing bulky plastic crap I didn’t use I also took out my center console. Cupholders? I’ll figure something out, but the rest of it was just wasted space. I took some scissors to some cardboard and used some more fabric and fancy washers to make a “console” that would cover up the area and continue the blue theme from the door cards.

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I also reupholstered my driver’s seat and removed the plastic from the handbrake lever tomake it look less bulky.

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And there you have it.

Check in next time to see progress on the world’s cheapest turbo build.

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The Crapcan Miata Part 2 — I Prefer Duck Sauce

by Jake B time to read: 5 min