Bay Area Miata Drivers
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by nick
Looking ahead and looking back on the Miata, sports cars, clubs, and BAMD. Plus of course updates on my Miata.
Entry # 22 (6,281 Views) Posted on April 11, 2012
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My Other Car Project
At BAMD events, the questions I seem to get most lately aren't as much about Miatas as they are about my other car project. So I thought I'd post an update about it here, while still trying to keep things somewhat Miata-related. 
My other car project is a Locost that we're building from M.G. parts. Two years ago Kaitlyn and I took a welding class at College of Marin, specifically for this project, however we didn't actually get started on it until last summer. Based on that, you might expect we'd be close to driving the car by now, but we're actually only about one fourth done and are just now starting to build the frame. We spent the last 3 months taking apart the MGB donor, and three months before that designing and building the suspension, which was beautifully welded up by Xin (94brg) last January. 
So now we have all the pieces we need to make the car. We have a running engine, a solid transmission and rear axle, and all the parts in between. We just need to weld the frame, and then we can put everything together. Unfortunately, in the two years since I took the welding class my skills have deteriorated a little. I've been practicing with the MIG welder that Kaitlyn got me for my birthday, but the results haven't been too consistent. I'm probably around 75-80%, which is the percentage of welds that are adequate in terms of coverage and strength. I don't need to be at 100% since beads can always be ground down and re-welded, but I don't want to have to do that on every fourth or fifth weld. 
Luckily, no actual welding is needed until the frame is completely stuck together with tack welds, and I've just about mastered the art of tack welding. So we're starting on the frame just as soon as I can figure out a way to get a couple sheets of 4x8 MDF home from the hardware store. I'll post pictures on my website ( if you want to follow along. The picture below is the MGB engine installed in the mock-up frame with a cardboard motor mount. It makes it look like we're a lot further along that we actually are, but maybe in a month or two we'll be at this point with the real frame. 
From the start I wanted to keep this project simple, and so I went with an M.G. donor, which is about as simple as it gets. However, probably half the Locosts in this country are built from Miatas. This is partly because the Miata engine, gearbox, and suspension pieces all fit in a Locost chassis pretty well, but it's also because Miata parts are cheap, solid, reliable, and plentiful. However, the Miata is not a simple car. Miata Locost builders have to deal with OBD II and sensors and relays and either the stock ECU or an aftermarket brand computer. They can spend months just getting the wiring figured out and the engine running. 
I find it interesting that many of the people building Locosts from Miatas have never driven a Miata. I think if they did, they might just be tempted to keep the Miata and find something else for their Locost. A running Miata is a better car than any Locost. It might not be as fast or as unique as a Locost, but it'll be more comfortable, more quiet, more reliable, and it'll handle as well and be just as fun. If you want fast, loud, and basic, you can get there in a Locost built from just about anything. Why trash a perfectly good Miata? 
If building a sports car from scratch sounds like something you might want to do, I'd encourage you to look into it. You might even consider using a Miata donor, particularly if it's one that's already been trashed by someone else. It's always better if your Locost donor is a car you're familiar with. 
We're hoping to complete our Locost around this time next year. I envision the car painted in British Racing Green with yellow stripes, and eventually sporting something like Rota RBs or the Konig Rewinds I have on my Miata. The Locost will be registered for the street as a 1963 Lotus 7 replica, and under SB100 will be required to meet smog regulations for 1963. It's going to be strictly a weekend/autocross car, and because it doesn't have any Miata parts you won't see it on BAMD runs. But it'll be hanging around during tech days.
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Comments (newest first)
2012-05-29 10:45:52 from ada
Modern wiring is daunting, plus good luck finding a source for mating connectors. That MG motor is a beautiful thing! I like the british colors idea.
2012-04-12 09:42:06 from Tony
I wish I lived closer to you guys or I'd be over helping out. Thanks for posting an update!
2012-04-12 07:30:06 from nick
Definitely using SU carburetors. No wires, no sensors, no computers. I rebuilt the SUs that came off the M.G. and afterwards the car started and ran beautifully.
2012-04-12 00:03:34 from Big Lan
So, what are you gonna use for induction? Webers? SUs? Something way outta left field?