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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Ciotti's 1999 STR MX-5 Build Thread: Ernest Goes to the Beach

2/25/2012

After 3 months of searching for a black <100,000 mile NB, I stepped inside Joe Monturo's garage and within minutes I knew I had found THE car.

A pile of cash changed hands and I was on my way home with my new daily driver/STR build... Lets take a few steps back though............


In 2006 I took quite a step up from my 87' 4 cylinder Mustang to a 96' Cobra Convertible. Since the 4 banger hadn't a hope in hell of making any real power and I didn't have the budget or space to 5.0 swap it while in college, I spent what few bucks I had on suspension, wheels, and tires. Surprizingly it went around on/off ramps pretty well and made just enough power to slide around in the rain.
The Cobra was a different animal, 300 horsepower to the wheels, 7,000 rpm redline, a roof that folds down, and the most incredible exhaust note from the DOHC 4.6L that you've ever heard. I'll admit that for the first few years I mainly drove it in a straight line at the drag strip, but that quickly became boring and I returned to my love of cornering.

This brings us to 2008 and my discovery of South Jersey Region SCCA's Autocross Program. I dove in head first with the Cobra, I read everything I could, utilized the instructors and listened to everything they had to say, improved a TON and ended up getting Rookie of the Year. The following year I somehow ended up agreeing to Co-Chair the region for 2010 and 2011, all the while slowly building the Cobra for ESP.
In 2011 the Cobra was knocking on the door of 200,000 miles and was showing it's age, down on power, blowing some smoke, and getting 18 mpg I knew it was time to take it off the road for a bit and freshen up the motor.

At that point I had been instructing for a little over 2 years so I'd had seat time in just about every fun car you could imagine and at the top of my list was an NB Miata and a Porsche 944. One of my very best friends that I had made in the autocross community up to that point owned a Porsche performance shop so I wouldn't necessarily have to worry about labor costing a ton but he did warn me that parts were going to kill me on the P car, so Miata it was!

That was right around the time that the STR class was created, so I decided I wanted to build around that rule set and see how competitive I could be in there.
One of the mistakes I made with the Cobra was to buy it completely stock and build from scratch, the OEM parts that came off the car were completely worthless and buying new parts was expensive. This led me to look for an NB that had already been built for autocross or track days so that even if it didn't have the exact parts that I wanted, there was resale value on the parts when I upgraded.

As luck would have it, I found a car that had been built for STR with the 15x9 949 6UL's I wanted just 1 state over. ROAD TRIP!
The car was clear on the opposite side of PA from NJ, so it took 6 hours to get there through a bunch of snow blowing down from the lakes...



Pretty sights but I wasn't looking forward to driving back through it in a 2,000 pound car that I wasn't familiar with.
We made it just fine and within minutes of seeing the car I knew I had to have it, decent set-up of mods for STR, hard top, etc... A quick test drive sealed the deal... Done Mine!

Joe had kept all of the stock parts so we loaded my girlfriend's Jetta up pretty much top to bottom with dirty parts and 6UL's, and Joe told us to get atta ere!



I was frankly blown away at how capable the car was with the stock wheels and all seasons in the snow and slush, the fact that I'd been driving the Cobra in the snow for the past however many years may have had something to do with that BUT at no point did I feel sketched out in the snow with the Miata. It was snowing so hard that the car actually picked up a bit of a milk mustache...



Luckily as it got dark the snow let up and driving into the darkness I realized that I was already falling in love with this little car.
Spending 1 - 2 minutes with a car at an autocross tells me a lot but it's not enough time to form any sort of a bond with the car or notice all of the subtleties.
Now a 96' Cobra isn't exactly an S Class in terms of creature comforts or toys, BUT I was so enjoying the raw simplicity of the Miata. Everything about it just made sense, the driving feel, the interior, it all worked together and complimented the car perfectly.



Kristin and I got home late, real late... We were exhausted but it was so worth it to bring such an awesome car home with us.
It was at this point that Kristin tells me when she was looking at it in her mirrors on the ride back she decided that it looks like and shall be called Ernie....

I'm not into the whole naming cars thing, at all, it's just not my bag... But... I'd never told her that and frankly she was so awesome with the whole adventure and decision to buy it that she call call it whatever the hell she wants to :blaugh:
 

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Discussion Starter #2
3/6/2012

Over the next week I put together a list of all the parts that were installed on the car...

Tein Flexes $1,300
KAAZ 1.5 way LSD $1,000
949 6UL's in 15x9 $760
Toyo R1R's $560
Racing Beat 1.25" Front sway bar $120
Racing Beat header $440
Enthuza Speedster exhaust $320
Hawk HPS pads $130
APR Extended wheel studs $50
Injen Intake $200?

So for $6,000 I got almost $5,000 in parts AND AN ENTIRE CAR! Yeah... never buying an un-modded car again!


The first event of our 2012 Autocross was 2 weeks away so dam the cold it was time to get the 6UL's on and start dialing the car (cough my driving cough) in to get ready.



Hanging with the bigger angrier brother...





3/11/2012

My local racetrack New Jersey Motorsports Park was having it's yearly Open House so my buddy Neil and I went to hang for a bit and do a quick shoot in the paddock of Thunderbolt...









I had never really wanted a hardtop and with the amount of creaking/rattling it was making, I decided that I would throw it up on Craigslist for $1,200.

Within 24 hours there were 5 people ready to come get it at that price, and after telling the 6th person that emailed me that there are 5 ahead of him and not to hold his breath, he offered me $2,000 for it. SOLD SOLD SOLD!!!!!!!!!!!!


I'm going to get this build thread up to date as quickly as I can but it'll probably take a while since at this point I've got almost 2 years worth of pictures, videos, trials, and tribulations to catch up on so please be patient.

Or if you'd like to skip ahead...

www.facebook.com/CiottiIndustries

www.youtube.com/user/DeathEaterCobra
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
3/16/2013

First order of business was to get rid of the Injen intake which placed the conical air filter RIGHT on top of the Racing Beat header. Moss was having a sale on the beautiful DDM Stage 2 intake that I missed by 1 day, BUT after seeing my post on .net that I was kicking myself for missing the special pricing, Kevin Private Messaged me and extended the discount, class act!









3/18/2012

The first event of our 2012 South Jersey SCCA Autocross Season had arrived and I was cautiously optimistic about my chances with a car I was still a bit unfamiliar with but was MUCH better built for the class I was in than the Cobra.

A definite learning experience in no torque, light weight, proper suspension geometry, and razor sharp turn in, but I adapted quickly and on my 3rd out of 7 runs managed to stay clean click off a time that was quick enough to grab 3rd in PAX for the day. I had spent years trying to just break into the top 10 of our PAX with the Cobra and at the first event with the Miata I'm on the podium... this was going to be a great year :)






I also whored the car out quite a bit throughout the day for my fellow instructors to check out, none of them could believe how sharp and positive the turn in was :)











More images from this event are over at... https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.360196587388511.84484.194841487257356&type=3
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Another non-slam, good parts, autocross build. Man, CR has finally taken a turn for the better. Seems like a nice build so far.

I assume you're running the 225 R1Rs?
Thanks man, the 6UL's came with 225 R1R's but they were pretty whooped so I only ran them for the one event above before replacing them with 225 RS3's and then this year I've been loving my 225 Rivals.



There's so many STR car builds in SC. I need to head back down there and we need to have a shoot out.
Let's do it man, we need all the help we can muster to try and fend off the Honduh's :bouncin:
 

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Ahren, do you think you'll make any national tours this year? Atlanta isn't too far, WE CAN CARAVAN!!

Man, I drove a honduh..... I have no clue how I stay close and my co-driver beats those damn cars. ABS is like cheating and their low-end torque is highly underestimated.

Us STR cars obviously came in a wave, lol.
 

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S2k's are finely tuned weapons. I'm thinking about going with a Ms3 stuffed in my ECU case to try to get more power under the curve and pray my tires hold on. I've been pretty much playing keep up with them.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Ahrin, do you think you'll make any national tours this year? Atlanta isn't too far, WE CAN CARAVAN!!

Man, I drove a honduh..... I have no clue how I stay close and my co-driver beats those damn cars. ABS is like cheating and their low-end torque is highly underestimated.

Us STR cars obviously came in a wave, lol.
Very unlikely, I have way too many gray area items to compete at Nationals (Garage Vary front lip, Project G side skirts, Zeromotive rear canards, Mazdaspeed lip spoiler, etc...). If you ever need a tire warmer though, I'm good at that :)


S2k's are finely tuned weapons. I'm thinking about going with a Ms3 stuffed in my ECU case to try to get more power under the curve and pray my tires hold on. I've been pretty much playing keep up with them.
Hopefully we'll get the 245 RS3's next year, they'll even the playing field a bit.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
3/30/2012

Between the drive home through the snow and the autocross, the car was FILTHY so I toughed out the cold to give it along with the angry older brother a bath.






The stock wheels were in pretty rough shape so I Plastidipped all 4 and then sprayed the 2 driver sides flat Olive Drab as an experiment to see if I would like it.







The R1R's that came on the 6UL's were whooped so I picked up a brand new set of 225 RS3's and gave Emilio a call to ask for 8 black 949 decals to which he happily obliged... after I told him what I was up to :)

When ordering the RS3's I had a lightbulb/small wheel's rule moment, up until this point I was used to paying $250 - $350 per tire for 275/285/295 width tires for 17 inch wheels. When Treadzone gave me my total cost of $488 over the phone I said wow that's cheap but I need 4 bud :eek:




4/2/2012

The first of many orders to come from Miata Roadster, the highlights being...
Mazda Motorsports engine mounts
Racing Beat front sway bar blocks and rear end links
Poly exhaust hangers
Visor blanking plates
Black 949 nuts
Miata Roadster's straight shot clutch line (goes directly from the master to the slave)
New floor mats
And the red caliper paint is mainly for the rear calipers of the Cobra to match the big ol' 2000 R Brembo fronts but I may just do the Miata calipers as well, we'll see.

 

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S2k's are finely tuned weapons. I'm thinking about going with a Ms3 stuffed in my ECU case to try to get more power under the curve and pray my tires hold on. I've been pretty much playing keep up with them.
The MS3 is too tall, a MS2 will fit though. It's on my list as well. I'm pegging my limiter a lot at 7500rpm so I need 7800!!
 

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Discussion Starter #12
4/1/2012

Drove 2 hours each way up the NJ Turnpike and Garden State Parkway to a Miata meet at the Great Wazu and met some really cool folks, I'm beginning to see the drastic difference between Miata people and Mustang folks... A lot more of an appreciation for actual driving vs street racing/drag strip boringness.



4/4/2012

You can see in one of the pictures above that the convertible top was being held together by black duct tape in a few spots so I took some of the $2,000 I made from selling the hard top and put it towards a new top to be installed by Planet Miata.

I decided on a Robbins glass window zipper down vinyl top, the car doesn't have air conditioning and I knew from years of top down driving the Cobra that some days it's just too god dam hot to be baking in the sun with the top down, especially after 8+ hours of autocross sunburn. In the Cobra I could just put the top up and kick the AC on but without it in small car I figured airflow through the car with the side/rear windows down along with the shade from the top would suffice.
Boy was I right, being able to put the rear window down is FANTASTIC, I find myself also putting it down on nights where it's a bit too cold to put the side windows down which lets in the perfect amount of exhaust noise.

I also had the car aligned and corner balanced while I was there.




4/7/2012

American Street Car's 2nd annual Run to the Shore event at NJMP

Our autocross region hosts the autocross portion of this event every year and the Pro Touring muscle cars that show up are absolutely INSANE. The main attraction for them is a ton of track time on Lightning but when not doing triple digit speeds they have a blast at our autocross in paddock and this year we setup a start stop challenge which was STUPID fun!

Arm drop start just for fun with our timing gear setup so that we can accurately tell the winner regardless of jumps. The finish timing lights are in the front of a box you must stop within so it's an evil game of who dares brake latest to carry as much speed through the beams as possible but not get DQ'd.

The Miata did hysterically well, the 2012 Mustang towards the end of the video makes almost 500 horsepower from the Coyote 5 liter motor and has a built suspension with sticky tires, it's a MONSTER. Him and I ran over and over again and were within tenths of each-other every single run, he would destroy me on the drag race, I would make it back in the turnaround and slalom, and then his ABS was stupid consistent braking for the box while I cadence braked my ass off which is usually where it was won or lost.




4/11/2012

Between the 3 hour each way ride to Planet Miata and 2 hour each way ride to the meet, the ride quality was really starting to get to me. I had noticed it before then but it became painfully (literally) obvious that the Tein Flexes rode like complete ass.
After some research and help from Emilio I learned that the shock body length adjustment had a lot to do with the ride quality of the Flexes and needed to be dialed in just right.

Measure the pinch weld to ground distance, pull a wheel off, put a jack under the outside of the A arm, lower to where the pinch weld to ground distance is the same as with the wheel on. Suspension now loaded as if the wheel was on, the god dam shock bodies were adjusted so that there was 0 compression stroke, the car was LITERALLY riding on the bump stops, unreal.

I was able to wind the shock body down a TON and after a few hours of measuring droop, compression, and ride height, I had the shock body length and preload set properly. Take the car out for a spin and WHAT A DIFFERENCE!
The ride was still very sharp as to be expected with Japanese shocks, but it was so much more bearable than before, HUGE result!

 

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Discussion Starter #14
4/15/2012

South Jersey SCCA Autocross #2

Time to get down to business and start dialing the car in to try and hunt down that top PAX spot!

Joe had the rear sway bar disconnected when I got the car I'm assuming to try and tame the rampant lift off oversteer from the sloppy ass KAAZ diff, this made the car push a bit more than I wanted it to. From years of chasing after as much front end grip as possible with the Cobra, I've become more comfortable and faster with a car that's loose so the rear sway bar was connected for this event.

Big difference, the car was now beautifully neutral and I was finally able to control the slip angle mid corner, GREAT SUCCESS!

The bi-product of this is that during cornering and especially on entry you need to be mindful of lifting off the throttle too vigorously which can immediately be seen a few gates in on the first run and then throughout the video below.

You know what they say, loose is fast, a point which I was able to prove by snagging the PAX win by .08 of a second on this very fast and transitional layout. During the PAX winning run I actually smacked a cone with the right rear hard enough to hear it hit over the sound of the exhaust/wind. Somehow it wobbled, did a little dance, stayed standing, and just by the hair on it's chinny chin chin was still touching the box! I slapped the steering wheel in disgust a few times when I heard it hit since I knew I was on a flyer but I kept my foot down and didn't "waste" the rest of the run, something I preach when I instruct ;)








Playing on the runways after the event...







More images here...

http://www.ciottiindustries.com/gallery/?Qwd=./Autocross/2012-4-15&Qif=Solo1.jpg&Qiv=thumbs&Qis=L


I had accumulated a few interior goodies by this point but admittedly nothing too exciting: CG-Lock, VooDoo spun aluminum shift knob, new floor mats, Jap cubby in the airbag on/off slot, Moss's knee/elbow pad set, and sun visor blanking plates.



Also put on a set of $15 Ebay "eyebrows" since I refused to pay the $100+ for the Garage Vary ones which are in my opinion too big anyway.

 

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Discussion Starter #17
5/13/2012

South Jersey SCCA Autocross #3

Finally familiar with the scalpel sharp turn in, I start really pushing the boundaries of how close I am to the cones and running lines better suited to a low horsepower/lightweight momentum car. Between that, tuning tire pressures, and dialing in the rebound damping on the Tein Flexes I managed to get a flier in that put me first in PAX for this event by a half a second AND I took FTD by .095 of a second.

I will admit that my driving was pretty dialed at this event but I was blown away at how good this setup had become in just a few events and how capable this car was in STR on transitional(airport runway) layouts.



5/17/2012

Time for some new shiny things, the car came with the gigantic 1 1/4" front bar which would be great if I were on slicks but is a bit too big for street tires. Without ABS the car would just drag the inside front if I had any steering angle on during braking which quickly produced flat spots that were no good for daily driving duty.

SO, I picked up Racing Beat's 1 1/8" front bar to prevent the inside front from unloading so easily when the car's weight lays over on the soft-ish Tein Flex springs.

The Racing Beat front subframe brace was to hopefully tighten up the cowl shake on offset bridge seams and rough pavement... I didn't notice any difference with it installed but it's certainly a ton beefier than the OEM brace there so in theory it's helping.

Energy Suspension poly rear diff bushings which made a huge difference in the amount of horrible noises from the KAAZ diff being transmitted up into the cabin without much if any improvement in the 2 - 3 shift which is why I bought them.

Stainless brake lines and speed bleeders since I wanted to change the brake fluid anyway and I always feel safer with lines that are less than a decade old. No noticeable difference in the braking feel from these but none was expected.



 

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Discussion Starter #18
6/2/2012

Took a trip up to North Jersey Region for some extra seat time and got SPANKED, extremely humbling but fun day of playing race cars. This was the same layout Perry used a week earlier for a Nationals event and I was having a terrible time getting used to the MASSIVE width of and spacing between the gates.

I ended up 8th out of 10 drivers in a stacked STR class filled with S2000's on remote reservoir Motons and my overall PAX was 54th out of 143. Great learning experience and I think the car could have done a whole lot better with a tighter nut behind the wheel.


Fastest (last) run

HUGE version: http://www.ciottiindustries.com/gallery/Random/Randomer/NJR6.JPG



6/6/2012

The parts collection is reaching critical mass...

Garage Vary front lip
Project G G-Fuser side skirts
Carbing STB with master cylinder brace
Flyin' Miata 2 1/4" midpipe
R Speed hood lift shocks
R Speed valve cover bolt set
Magnecor 8.5mm plug wires
NGK extended reach plugs
ATE Super Blue brake fluid

I was never happy with the look of the front end of the car without the OEM lip so a Garage Vary front lip was ordered from Rod at Tetsuya Garage and will be painted/installed next month.

Project-G side skirts will go on at the same time to cover up the UGLY pinch welds.

The Carbing STB did very little for the cowl shake but made brake modulation feel noticeably better since the firewall flex was now gone.

The Flyin' Miata midpipe sounds awesome and is a good amount more noisy than the stock one although I was hoping that it would be a tiny bit louder. Here are a few sound clips of it with the Borla and Racing Beat mufflers... http://www.ciottiindustries.com/audio/Miata/

The R Speed hood lift shocks were surprisingly cool, I got them so that I would feel better leaving the hood up in paddock on those windy days, but I don't know how I've lived without these things up until this point!

Finally, the Magnecor wires and NGK extended reach plugs made the car feel stronger and smoother than with the original wires/plugs that it still had.













More images here... http://www.ciottiindustries.com/gallery/?Qwd=./Miatas/Parts


6/21/2012

To complete the full refresh of fluids in the car I picked up some Amsoil 5w-30 XL, Motorcraft full synthetic manual trans fluid, and KAAZ LSD fluid.

After looking at as many pictures of the Garage Vary front lip and Project G side skirts as I could find, I felt like the rear bumper line would look a bit awkward without anything to "lower" it a bit. I found the Zeromotive rear canards on Rev 9 but there were only a few pictures there and it was difficult to find any others on the net, I took a leap of faith that they would flow well with the other parts and ordered them up.

 
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