Progress journal:

This page is an overview of my V8 conversion project.  I have had a turbocharger of some form on my miata for about 10 years; while it has been a blast to drive, the V8 bug has bitten hard and so now I'm entering a new phase for my miata.  The engine going in will be the result of influences from my friends on and other Ford forums, friends in the local miata community, friends at work, local machine shops/garages/speed shops, and basic research from reading up on 302 Windsor based blocks.  My basic goal is to achieve at least 325hp to the ground (about 375 at the crank) while equipping the car for decent street manners yet reliable enough to withstand occasional track time.  Oh... and it's gotta have that classic V8 sound.

11/26/07 - Well, 2nd gear in the miata tranny failed so it's time to get serious and start the tear down.  Several parts will be sold to help fund the V8 project.  It has "begun".  I am betting it will be at least a year before completion.

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12/5/07 - I purchased a block that hasn't been modified and have dropped it off at Kennedy Performance to be cleaned, checked for cracks, square decked, bored/honed 0.030 over, align honed, swap oil galley plugs for threaded plugs.

12/14/07 - Block machining work is done for now.  Next step will likely be the rotating assembly (pistons, rods, crank, flywheel, harmonic balancer).  These need to be balanced then installed.  Clearance issues with these parts is a concern so it's the next step in case additional machining needs to be done.

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12/16/07 - I've been asked a few times why I'm planning on going with a carburetor instead of electronic fuel injection.  Well, here's why I've decided on going this route:

  • Cheaper, fewer parts, simpler
  • Possibly more power
  • Air filter/intake fits better into the Simpson cowl hood I already have (which allows for a nice path to cooler inlet air) and looks kinda cool under the hood
  • Just to be a little different
  • I have a thing for '60's muscle cars.
  • and I've just got this itch of wanting to do a carb'd setup that I can't seem to shake.

Here are some pics of a friend's V8 miata.  It's a carbureted 347 stroker.  Lots of things to look at and learn.

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I may look back and think it's a crazy idea, but for now it seems that a well running, streetable, carb'd engine is possible.  Although it is older technology, I should have the benefits of a refined design by using the most recent offerings from Holley (or maybe Edelbrock).

12/18/07 - I purchased a 94-95 Mustang timing chain cover and am searching for the 94-95 engine accessory brackets (alternator/tensioner pulley/smog pump deletion pulley bracket and power steering/idler pulley/air conditioning compressor bracket).  Also needed: 94-95 water pump, 94-95 WP pulley, and 94-95 crankshaft pulley.  I think there is also a crankshaft pulley spacer that is unique, as well as the harmonic balancer.

2/01/08 - I now have the 94-95 Mustang GT accessory brackets with new idler pulleys, used tensioner, new water pump, new WP pulley, used alternator, used bell housing and alignment plate.  I also went ahead and ordered the modified oil pan from Monster Miata so that clearances can be verified with the rod cap bolts/nuts.   Pistons, rods, crank, rings, flywheel and harmonic damper will be ordered soon.

IMG_9211.JPG (1173801 bytes)IMG_9210.JPG (980402 bytes)2/03/08 - The miata engine and transmission, along with the turbo and other parts have been removed and are up for sale.


IMG_9286.JPG (1043618 bytes)2/08/08 - The oil pan from Monster Miata came in.  Looks nice!  Here it is sitting on my spare block.


IMG_9300.JPG (1004162 bytes)IMG_9301.JPG (1175044 bytes)2/11/08 - I picked up a '93 Thunderbird diff today.  It's just an open diff, no LSD but I'll plan on adding that when it gets torn down.  This one had a little leak and is a bit nasty.  Time for the wire brush.

IMG_9410.JPG (741825 bytes)IMG_9403.JPG (766713 bytes)IMG_9408.JPG (910817 bytes)2/29/08 - I brought my block home from the machine shop today to give it a coat of paint.  I used POR-15 Paint-Over-Rust as a primer and POR-15 Engine Enamel as a top coat (painted on as the primer was just about dry).  Here is a shot of it back at the machine shop after a few days of curing.  The color I chose is Ford Medium Blue which is a bit darker than the Ford Corporate Blue I painted on my spare block.

3/04/08 - The crankshaft, rods and pistons have arrived.  I decided on a 331 cid stroker setup instead of a stock stroked 302 (or 306).  I could have gone as far as a 347 stroker but decided to go with the 331 to try to avoid some concerns I have with the reliability of a 347.  Perhaps I'm a little paranoid, but the 331 seemed like a good compromise with increasing displacement (power), bringing the usable power/torque curve a little lower in the rpm range (which means I don't have to rev it as high, which is good for reliability), and less side loading of the pistons against the cylinder walls.  I wanted to go with an internal balance setup and so I had to spurge for a forged Eagle crankshaft since the cast ones by Scat and Eagle are not internal balanced.  The forged crank is overkill for my power objectives, but that's ok.  I went with Eagle forged I-beam rods.  They will be strong enough for my objectives and are lighter than H-beams.  I went with Mahle forged aluminum pistons.  The pistons I bought weigh about 408 grams which is about 10% less than a similar spec'd SRP piston.  The low rotating mass of the piston and rod should promote better engine longevity and hopefully smoothness.  The pistons also have a coating to help with piston slap, which for a 331 shouldn't be as pronounced as if I had chosen to go with a 347 stroker.

3/14/08 - The rotating assembly was sent over to SR Racing for a balancing job.  They only needed to do work on the crank as the rods and pistons were already in spec.  To achieve balance, SR did a combination of drilling and turning on a lathe to get the crank balanced.  The crank was then installed and so far so good.  I also ordered a new oil pump.  I went with a Melling Select as they are supposed to be a bit more substantial than the regular Mellings.  The pump drive shaft that came with it was pretty wimpy.  Being that this is a weak spot/critical spot for small block Fords, I replaced it with an ARP shaft.  Visually, it's clearly stronger (thicker).  I also had to order a bolt dress up kit.  All ARP stainless steel hardware is going in this engine (from looking outside of the engine).  We found a stud on the center main cap (the stud that holds the end of the pick up tube) was a little too long.  We'll cut that later once we start putting in the rest of the parts.

IMG_9614.JPG (1154530 bytes)3/28/08 A few things to update... The camshaft has been ordered from FlowTechInduction.  I'm looking for a power band of 2300-6500rpm.  The oil pump was tested and the bypass valve was set at only 45psi.  Kennedy Performance was smart enough to check that now and is adjusting it to have a 60psi threshold instead.  A ProGear Camdex timing set has been ordered and received.  Very nice looking set.  The timing cover, alternator/tensioner bracket, and PS pump brackets have been powder coated silver.  The smog pump has been deleted with an idler pulley.  All pulleys are in the middle of being converted to aluminum ones for cosmetic reasons.  I'll probably have them all clear anodized to make them last.  Overall, the short block should be done pretty soon.  I'm guessing about 4 weeks from now.

4/11/08 The camshaft has arrived!  It's now been installed and degree'd by Chad at Kennedy Performance.  Due to the line honing, the Progear timing chain (stock length) is a little loose so a slightly shorter one (0.005") will be swapped out.  I want to start out with as little slack as possible; it will eventually stretch some so I want to minimize problems now w/ a tighter chain. IMG_9739.JPG (1042182 bytes)IMG_9738.JPG (974167 bytes)
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4/12/08 I went ahead and did a little clean up work on the differential I got.  The main housing got a cleaning and repaint of POR-15 Chassis Black.  I took the diff cover to my local powder coater for a coating of the same silver on my timing cover and engine accessory parts.  I still need to swap out the internal open diff for a TrueTrac but I just had to clean it up now. IMG_9699.JPG (1075735 bytes)IMG_9703.JPG (1107234 bytes)
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4/24/08 The short block is complete.  Kennedy Performace did a great job.  Lots of attention to detail.  Even the oil pump bolts are wire-locked in case something were to come loose.  We ran into a small problem with the oil pan and the ARP rod cap bolts.  Martin at Monster Miata updated his oil pan to now have enough clearance for the ARP bolts, however the pan we received had a slight bend under the #1 rod cap and was causing some interference.  It was in a weld joint with a wall going 90 degrees down from it so forming the metal down with a hammer wasn't successful.  A careful grind of the pan was done and now there is about 0.0060" clearance between the rod bolt and pan.  The new timing chain set with the 0.005" shorter link is installed as well as the remaining rods and pistons.  The oil pan went on as well as the timing cover and water pump.  Gotta love those shiny stainless steel ARP bolts.

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6/11/08 There's not a lot to report right now.  The engine build is awaiting the heads which will probably be ordered next month.  During this time, I've be doing a lot more research with respect to the valve train, carburetor and tranny.

The valve train clearly needs to be up to the task that my camshaft will require.  Valve springs must deliver enough seat and open pressure to eliminate float and bounce, so I'm using an optional upgraded spring set AFR offers delivering 155lb on the seat and about 400lb at full lift.  Will use titanium retainers to minimize mass in the valvetrain.  Thick walled pushrods; not sure yet which ones.  Link-type Crane hydraulic lifters to withstand the high forces associated with the high ramp rates of the cam.  7/16" rocker studs to handle the higher forces.

Looking for a carb that is about 650cfm, probably vacuum secondaries and an electric choke to achieve great overall power performance while keeping it streetable year 'round.  Expecting to look for a good tuner carb, but may consider an off the shelf unit from Holley.  Considering BIGS Performance , Competition Fuel Systems, or Pro-Systems.

7/1/08 While waiting to buy/save some parts for my engine, I started going through my engine bay some.  Since I'm going carbureted, several wires and connectors associated with the original EFI system are not needed so I've begun trimming the un-needed wires from the harnesses (or removed certain harnesses entirely).  I still have not gone through the battery/alternator/starter/ground wires but will probably save that for once the engine is in and I've settled on where to find a good path for those items.  I'm also considering removing most items in the engine bay for a paint job.  Not sure yet.


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7/18/08 My good friend Nigel has decided to convert his V8 miata back to a 1.6L 4 cylinder  for various reasons, but a catastrophic engine failure of his 302 initiated the decision.  As a result, he and I have decided to exchange some parts.  It's a win-win situation where I get some kit parts that he no longer needs, and he gets some stock parts I no longer need.  So, off I go removing some more parts.  The K-frame is a key part that will be exchanged and I've pulled it along with various other suspension parts.  That engine bay is looking bigger!

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8/30/08 I disassembled the rear subframe assembly, and cleaned it up a bit.  I got a little carried away and ended up having most pieces powder coated.  Most of the rear has been reassembled and installed.  Also, my AFR 185 heads showed up, as well as the RPM Air-Gap intake manifold and hydraulic lifters.  The intake is going to be port matched to the heads (along with the gaskets), then off to be powder coated to match some other engine parts.

8/31/08 Today I started on cutting out the "corners" in the engine bay needed for clearance.  I need to weld in some metal pieces and start on the passenger side as well.  I also started clearing out some lines and such on the firewall to clean things up and likely a repaint.  The flash in the pictures make it look worse than it is, but I'm getting closer to the point where a repaint wouldn't be too bad. IMG_2799.JPG (1070993 bytes)IMG_2801.JPG (855773 bytes)
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9/18/08 I welded in some metal panels in the areas I cut.  While I continue preparing the engine bay for a re-paint, I'll apply some seem sealer to the areas that I didn't weld (I'm not a great welder and didn't want to hose things up too much).

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A few more things progressed with the engine at Kennedy Performance.  The Scorpion rocker arms and Cometic Multi-Layer Steel head gaskets have arrived.  Optimal pushrod lengths have been measured and ordered.  The intake manifold has been port matched to the heads and sent off to the local powder coater.  Valve covers have also arrived.

9/26/08 Pushrods have arrived and are now installed along with rocker arms.  Valve covers installed.  The powder coating job on the intake manifold looked great... until it was mounted on the engine.  Something went wrong with the prep work, application or possibly the powder quality itself.  As soon as the bolts were tightened, the coating began to chip.  It even flaked at the edges where the intake meets the heads.  I sent it back for a strip and recoat.  Hopefully it will be better the next time around.

Shifting over to the clutch, I test fitted the slave cylinder, fork and adapter bracket for the slave.  In an effort to improve the clutch performance, I have reinforced the mounting bracket with two horizontal brackets made of 3/4" square steel tubing mounted to some available bosses on the tranny.  Also, the mounting bracket was bent a bit to point the slave just in the bell housing opening.  This was to improve the direction of the slave cylinder pushrod and to give more throw to the fork for the same displacement of the slave piston.  This required drilling a new hole (and radius the edges) for the push rod and pivot to meet against the fork.  Hole dimensions... center point is 0.325" above edge of "other" hole, hole is 7/16" diameter, and edges where chamfered (radius) using a 7/8" ball shaped grinder.  Since the metal is very hard, I had a machine shop do the work.  The dimensions above are what I used except I centered a hair higher at 0.350".  I think 0.325" would be better.


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9/27/08 I met a fellow Ford 302 converted Miata owner over the weekend and had a great discussion on a lot of things involving the conversion.  He has done quite a great job on his conversion.  The donor engine/tranny came from a '95 Mustang so he used the SN95 accessory brackets including using the AC compressor in the normal location.  This is the first I've seen that did this, and he confirmed there is an interference with the frame.  His solution was to make a minor mod to the frame and it turned out very well.  I might go this route if not the smog pump location.

The color of this car is a very deep red.  It looks great; the pictures don't do it justice.  Here's a video of his car.

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10/02/08 Working on the engine bay a bit.  I've decided to repaint the bay.  Lots of sanding of the old paint and removing parts and harnesses.  I went ahead and repainted some of the undercoating that was near the new welded in panels and tranny tunnel.  The hole in the tranny tunnel for the shifter was modified to accept the shifter adapter.  The radio bezel was also cut some for clearance. IMG_3209.JPG (1161377 bytes)
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10/05/08 Today I took Nigel's loaner engine block and heads and mounted them up with the subframe into position.  I wanted to check clearances before I paint the engine bay, and also get a look at where the headers will fall into position.  I gotta say, seeing the loaner block in place looked pretty cool.  I can't wait to get this conversion done.  Oh, the green stuff is taped up harnesses and such that I don't want to get paint on.  I'm almost ready for the paint. DSCF0006.JPG (296461 bytes)DSCF0008.JPG (298802 bytes)
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11/02/08 I test fitted the radiator.  Instead of bending up the edge of the upper radiator frame (per the kit instructions), I decided to trim off the piece and make a bracket to secure the top of the radiator.  I'll also cover it all up with a polished upper radiator cover or maybe keep the black plastic cover I had before the conversion.. IMG_3816.JPG (1126660 bytes)IMG_3819.JPG (975087 bytes)
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11/10/08 To minimize the heat transmitting into the cabin from the engine and exhaust, and to also suppress a bit of noise, I was turned on to using spray on ceramic insulation called Lizard Skin.  This stuff is as thick as brownie batter but if you use their spray gun and enough pressure, it does a good job of atomizing and spraying.  I chose to spray the cabin floor pan by pulling up the carpet as much as I could, as well as the trunk floor.  This stuff is messy, but I think it went on pretty well after working with it a bit.  It would have been nice to pull the dash and hit the entire firewall but I think it will still be effective. IMG_3562.JPG (970531 bytes)
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11/17/08 The engine bay was painted today.  Steve Kelley came over to help with the final prep and spray in my garage.  As usual, he did an outstanding job.  The pictures really do not do it justice.  Steve mixed in some blue pearl in the clear coat much like the pearl in the exterior paint job he did for me.  I think it turned out great and I can't wait to start putting things back into the engine bay. IMG_3684.JPG (1042688 bytes)IMG_3687.JPG (1097129 bytes)
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1/02/09 At this point, I have a lot of irons in the fire.  The engine is mostly done, but there are a few things left to button up.  Without too many details for now, the carburetor is ready to go on, the distributor is almost ready to go on, the 94-95 Mustang engine accessories had a slight interference with my valve covers and a solution is being sorted out, all of the accessory bolts are being identified and sourced through ARP, the PS pump bolts are interfering with the PS pump pulley, and the spacer between the ATI balancer and the crank pulley needs to be modified once the thickness is determined.  In the mean time, I have been working on sorting out some electrical things including swapping out the battery to starter wire from the factory 4 (or maybe 6) gauge to a 2 gauge wire, extending the oil pressure sensor wire over to the driver side, rewiring the cooling fan circuit to support more current through the factory fuse and relay, and a few other small things.  Modifications for the radiator mounting is complete, however it is removed until the engine is installed.  The fuel system still needs to be verified that it meets requirements and I hope to perform some flow/pressure tests soon.

The next big checkpoint is to have the engine complete and running for the first time on an engine dyno.  I have tentatively scheduled a dyno session at the end of January so hopefully I'll have a running engine within a few weeks.  

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1/05/09 I made a little more progress on sorting out the accessory interference issue and test fitted the coolant pipes above the intake manifold and fitted the carb.   IMG_5145.JPG (998176 bytes)IMG_5146.JPG (1059064 bytes)IMG_5147.JPG (1044707 bytes)IMG_5213.JPG (1196997 bytes)
2/06/09 Well, the engine isn't quite done yet, nor is the engine dyno that I want to use at SR Racing quite ready.  That's ok; it will be done eventually.

A few more things have progressed:

The solution to the alternator interference with the valve cover was fairly easy.  I found some 1/8" thick washers at a local spring/suspension shop that I used to space out the accessory brackets.  This moved all of the pulleys out except for the water pump and crankshaft pulley.  The water pump pulley is so wide that I didn't need to do anything with it.  The crankshaft pulley was going to require a special spacer anyway so I added in the thickness of the washers.  I bought a spacer from Ford Racing and had it turned down to the thickness I needed.  I also had to grind a small area of the back of the alternator near the back bearing housing for additional clearance.  I got a little picky again and took it apart to have both housings powder coated.

The power steering pump pulley was pressed on and crankshaft pulley and spacer were mounted temporarily while I continue to wait for some ARP bolts to arrive.  I also realized that there really isn't a need for the smog pump bypass pulley in my case and figured out a simpler belt path.  The bypass pulley was removed.  The belt I ended up with was 81 1/8" long (K060806).  I have since then used a K060802 which is about 3/8" shorter as the other belt ended up being just a bit short (the belt tensioner was bottoming out).

The distributor would have been mounted up by now, but my engine builder and carb specialist have recommended that I have a special advance stop bushing made that is a little bigger than the biggest one that came w/ the dizzy.  This narrows the range of ignition advance change.  If we don't need it, we can swap back to one of the ones provided w/ the dizzy.

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2/27/09 A few more small odds and ends... water neck is on, the remaining ARP bolts are finally swapped out, and the Lokar dipstick is in.  The larger advance stop bushing for the distributor was made, but there is a interference with it inside of the distributor and I need to pull the gear back off to disassemble and open up the area with the interference.  Also, the heater tubes need some attention.  I had to disassemble it when I had it powder coated and upon reassembly, it was evident that the o-rings inside needed replacing.  I need to pick up some o-rings and reflare the end to hold the fitting back on.

I also drilled and tapped some threads to accept the Mazda water temp sender into the 20mm x 1.5 plug on the side of the oil pan.  This is the spot where the oil level is normally measured in a Mustang.  Since I'll be reading water temps with a separate gauge, I wanted the original gauge to do something instead of sit there dead.  I decided to make it read oil temps from the pan.  I'm not real sure how useful this will be, but I'm going ahead with the plan.  I have a spare water temp gauge that was already modified to work linear with temperature changes, but I might alter a couple resistors to get a more useful temperature range.

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3/22/09 My fuel flow rate and pressure regulation test went well.  I have confirmed that with using the Mallory 4309 pressure regulator adjusted to 5-6psi, the stock 5/16" fuel delivery and return lines along with the stock pump delivers an appropriate amount of fuel.

I also made a bracket to mount up and hold my MSD 6AL.  It's not wired in yet; just mounted there for now to check fitment and plan how I want to wire it up.

The carb I have is a Holley 4777 which is their basic 4150 design with a flow rate spec of 650cfm.  I had this carb worked on by Competition Fuel Systems and it is a bit more adjustable now.  I had the choke removed for performance purposes but cold starts should be a little challenging.  To counter this, I'm going to hold the throttle open a little to let the engine idle high while it is warming up.  I installed an electric choke actuator and had to make a minor mod to it as well.  The partial engine in these pics is a blown block that I borrowed from a friend while I wait on my own.

I also modified my headers.  Since these headers were used, the 3 bolt flanges were bent.  I cut them off and had 3 inch long, 2.5" dia straight pipes added as I'm going to do a lap-joint with a band clamp instead.  The headers will be sent off to Jet Hot for a coating of Extreme Sterling to combat the heat emissions under the hood.  The spark plugs are in but the wires are just temporary for now.

Oh, and part of the plan has changed: the fuel log is back in and the heater tubes are now out of the plan.  There was an interference so I gave up on the heater tubes.


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4/15/09 The engine is ready to go to the dyno!  As soon as I can get it scheduled, it will be on it's way to be fired up for the first time.  Hopefully there won't be any major issues, but if there are, it will be better to catch it on the dyno than the street.

While playing around with the fuel pump and doing flow/pressure control tests, I think I damaged my fuel pump.  So, a Walbro 190 went in.  It was cheaper than a stock or Autozone pump.  I didn't need anything special for high pressure, and it turns out that a Walbro 190 can deliver more than adequate flow at low (5-7psi) pressures needed for a carb application.  I did have to modify the pick up tube to get the pump to connect to the tube, but it wasn't too hard.

The fuel lines have now been plumbed to the pressure regulator and tested for leaks.  With some Earls and Russell fittings, I went from the 5/16" fuel line to a -6AN hose.  I clamped it down in certain areas to keep the hoses from rubbing critical parts.  I also have the FM frame rail reinforcements and positioned the fuel line next to the rails so that when the tranny support bracket goes on, there is clearance.

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4/28/09 The engine still hasn't had a chance to make it to the dyno.  Long story, but basically waiting for the dyno to be available.  In the mean time, I test fitted the engine in the Miata.  It fits!  Well, mostly.  I'm having to make a few adjustments with the power steering rack and hard metal lines.  There will still be a lot of massaging to get it right, but this is a start. IMG_6863.JPG (1092596 bytes)

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5/18/09 The engine finally got tested on a SuperFlow dyno.  After several fuel jet changes, we ended up with power/torque peaks of 412hp/399ft-lb SAE.  No major problems found on the dyno.  Here's a video of the engine running. IMG_7165.JPG (1114792 bytes)

6/01/09 I went ahead and made spacers to drop the subframe down 1/4 inch in anticipation of hood clearance issues.  With the engine still out, it was a little easier to design and fit the spacers.  I'll also need 1/4" spacers (washers) per bolt to space down the rearward part of the subframe.

I also mounted the original Miata oil pressure sender to the block.  I chose to use the Miata sender instead of the Ford one so that the oil pressure gauge would work as normal.  Apparently the Ford sender can be made to work with a resistor, but I've heard that folks still had trouble getting the gauge to read right.  The Miata sender attached to the block with two brass fittings: a 1/4" male NPT to 1/8" female NPT adapter, and a 1/8" male NPT to 1/8" female NPT 45 degree elbow.  The Miata sender is a 1/8" male NPT, and the Ford block is a 1/4" female NPT.  It mounted up nicely and doesn't appear to have any interference issues.

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6/10/09 I took a day off work to focus (mostly) on the Miata.  While it wasn't unproductive, the net result of progress on the car was almost zero.  I dropped the engine in and made some adjustments to the washers used to space the engine up high enough to clear apparent interferences with the steering rack.  Next up was the flywheel and clutch.  I had to locate new flywheel locating dowels as my flywheel was missing them.  After that, the clutch went on just fine. I tried mounting the bell housing before the tranny.  The tranny wouldn't mount up so I removed the bell housing and attached it to the tranny.  I then tried mounting the bell housing/tranny to the engine and it still wouldn't seat right.  It turns out the pilot bearing is damaged and possibly not seated all the way.  I had to remove the engine to figure this out.  So much for progress. IMG_7641.JPG (1186574 bytes)

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6/12/09 I got the pilot bearing out.  What a pain that was!  The puller I borrowed from Advance didn't help.  The insides of the bearing just broke apart and I had to use my Dremmel with a tungsten metal cutting bit to eat up the old bearing housing.  The bearing came right out after the cutting was complete.  I bought a new bearing and put it in the freezer for a couple hours.  It helped a little with getting it to drift into place.  I mounted up the tranny just to make sure it will all fit together this time.  Ahh... yes, it looks like things are better this time.  Now, time to find time to work on the car again. IMG_7719.JPG (1023880 bytes)

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6/17/09 Engine is in.  Tranny is in.  Drive shaft is in.  Starter is in.  It looks like the driver side valve cover is going to be a problem with the heater core pipes.  I may have to go with different valve covers.  I'm also working on bolting up the headers.  What a pain so far. IMG_8081.JPG (1211727 bytes)

6/20/09 I test fitted an air cleaner assembly.  This is a 7/8" drop base, 14" x 3" tall filter. and chrome lid.  I didn't put the hood on, but I know it would slightly interfere just by looking at it.  I'm going to try a 2.5" tall filter and test fit the hood.  I don't want to go any smaller as I'm afraid the filter may cause some restriction issues.  There are filter elements lids that go on top of the filter that I might try, but I really like the look of the chrome ones better.  And hey, after all it has to look right, eh? 

Headers are now bolted in place.  The steering column is now bolted to the rack (man, that was a major pain to get the splines to cooperate).  I'm also working on the wiring connections to the starter and routing of the new battery cable under the car.

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6/26/09 I swapped out the filter element for a 2.5" tall K&N filter (p/n E-3735).  Hopefully I'll get a hand tomorrow and mount the hood to check for clearance.  I think it will clear, but very close.  I tried a couple other shorter valve covers; one had problems with the baffle hitting a rocker arm, the other had an interference w/ the alternator.  For now, I'm still trying to make the tall valve covers work.  I also spent a little time today working with the drive train angle.  I don't have a lot of faith in the angle finder I have, but I think I have the angles close.  Engine and diff axes are parallel within 1 degree, and about a 2 degree operating angle on each end of the drive shaft.

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6/30/09 My dad helped me mount the hood and to my surprise, there was about 1 inch of hood clearance!  Since I had the radiator out, I was able to climb into part of the engine bay with the hood shut and could actually see the clearance.  The top of the filter (wing nut area) had plenty clearance too.  I swapped out the 2.5" K&N for a 3.0" tall K&N (p/n E-3737) and everything still fits fine with about 3/8" hood clearance.

I also finished up some smaller yet time consuming things with the fuel line going to the carb, wiring to the dizzy and coil, and worked a bit on the wiring going to the starter.  The challenge here has been heat issues w/ wires near the headers.

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8/12/09 The last month has been busy, both on the car and non-car related.  Progress is being made on the brakes, exhaust, power steering and cooling system.

Brakes is the Monster Miata system with big Wilwood Dynalite 4 piston calipers in the front, 2nd gen RX7 calipers in the rear, and 11" vented Wilwood rotors on all four corners.  I have also needed to massage the hard brake lines around the headers to reduce heat transfer to brake fluid.

I'm using an existing V8 miata exhaust system from a friend/prior V8 miata owner, except for the section that goes from the headers to the X-pipe.  Down the road, I might recreate the X-pipe-back section.  I made these pipes out of 2.5" stainless steel.  It was a bit of work, but quite enjoyable and perhaps a performance improvement.  The old exhaust was crimp bent and 2.25" at best. 

I swapped out the tips on the existing exhaust for some that were similar to what I had with the turbo.  These are pretty simple looking, but I like them.  They are 3 inch slant cut.  Since I have a fiberglass Racing Beat bumper, I didn't want to just cut the left side for the 2nd exhaust tip.  Instead, I removed the bumper and had Steve Kelley with SRC Collision modify my bumper to replicate the tunneled cutout for the 2nd tip.  It turned out great!  Thanks Steve!!!

One challenge I'm working through is figuring out a good way to plumb the Ford PS pump to the Miata steering rack.  I've tried starting with a couple Ford PS pump lines and am getting close with a little bending, but I'm not quite there yet.  Currently, I have a swivel end '93 Mustang hose attached to the pump and have bent it a bit to stay away from the sharp edges.  I had fitting on the rack end of the Ford hose cut off and had the original Miata fitting put on.  The metal tubing of the end of the hose that connects to the rack on the Ford line was the same diameter as the original miata line, so slipping on the Miata fitting to the Ford line and flaring it was pretty straight forward.  I also modified an existing Miata bracket to support the PS hose and reduce strain on the rack fitting.  I ended up mounting the bracket to the sway bar mount and clamped over the hose on an existing metal mount that was on the Ford hose.

As for the cooling system, I ran into a problem with plumbing the radiator inlet to the engine.  Also, I still needed to mount the fans and  needed a good baffling plan to channel air to the diff.  I hired Adam McFadden to modify my radiator with a fan shroud  and  mount fans (3/8" from core).  He also modified my coolant inlet port some.  I modified it a little more by melting and re-soldering the filler cap portion to rotate the over-flow port in a better direction.  I'm happy with the result.  It's a simple, down hill path going from the filler neck to the radiator upper port.  The fan shroud turned out good as well.  Supposedly this shroud will help with cooling; it has to help when the fans are running, but I'm concerned that the fans are pretty much going to be running a LOT as the shroud would likely block a lot of air flow from just air being pushed in while the car is moving.  We'll see.  I still need to do a little more shrouding of the radiator to the nose.


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LeeBo---Off-The-Stands.jpg (162624 bytes)8/17/09  It runs!  Well, I spent the last few evenings and a good part of a weekend focusing on firing up the engine.  I hooked up the water temp and WBO2 sensor gauges, put in the seats, finished the interior, bled the brakes, retightened a few bolts, fill the tank with gas and turned the key.  IT RUNS!  Well, not without a few bugs but I'll get on it soon.  The suspension alignment is all out and the ride height is sitting way too low.  I took it for a test drive and scrapped  the exhaust just pulling out of the driveway.  Will be fixing that soon, along with a few other bugs.  I had a few friends over to watch it happen (either start or blow up).  Thanks to my friend Bijan for the video!  The pic above is from my friend David Brown who took a shot about 15 minutes before turning the key.  Notice the cog webs on the jack stand?  It was time to come down!

8/30/09 Ok, now that I've had a few days to calm down from all the excitement of starting it up, I've started working on sorting out some of the bugs.  As for ground clearance issues, I made big strides by addressing 4 different areas.  First, I removed the 1/4 inch shims that I originally had put in between the K-frame and chassis.  It turns out that without the shims, I still have about 3/8 inch clearance in the tightest spot between the air cleaner and hood.  Second, I adjusted the exhaust and now have it tucked up closer to the body.  Third, I adjusted the Ground Control spring perches up to raise the entire car.  Forth, I had forgotten to check the tire pressures before I took the car for a test drive and they were very low.  All of these changes increased my ground clearance from about 1 inch to about 4 inches.

While I had the car up on jack stands again, I noticed a couple leaks.  The first one was engine oil.  It appears that I already scrapped my oil drain plug - not a good thing.  I checked it and it was a bit loose.  The leak looked to be coming from the drain plug so hopefully that was it.  The second leak is transmission fluid and it appeared to be coming out of the speed sensor/speedometer cable adapter.  I pulled the sensor and not only does it have a crack in it, it appears it may be missing an o-ring.  I'm going to replace the sensor with a new one.  Also, the speedometer wasn't working so hopefully reassembly with solve the problem.

I did get a chance to drive the car again after eye-balling the alignment a bit, and wow is it a handful to drive!  Easy on the throttle in 1st gear or the tires start screaming at you.

Another problem that I'm still thinking through has to do with the difficulty I'm having starting the car after it has had a chance to warm up and sit for an hour or so.  I'm hoping that I'm just flooding the engine, but I fear it's vapor lock.  Looking at how I have the fuel line going from the regulator over to the fuel log, that's a long section of fuel that gets well heated from the engine and doesn't have the benefit of being re-circulated into the fuel tank.  I'm fearing that this relatively slow moving fuel gets overly heated and since it goes no where but to the carb, it is causing fuel boiling problems.  I'm going to try a different shut down procedure by shutting the fuel pump off several seconds before shutting the car off.  Hopefully this will help drain the bowls before the engine shuts off and will help hot restart. 

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10/10/09 Since the last update, I've spent a bit of time adjusting the carburetor.  Between swapping out main jets, transition air bleeds and adjustments to idle mixtures, as well as some base and advance ignition adjustments, I've been able to improve my fuel economy a bit.  When I first started, I was pig rich in pretty much all conditions and got a whopping 8mpg.  I measured the mileage at the last fill up and I'm up to about 12mpg now.  That was mostly in city driving.  If I can get to 14-15mpg without giving up too much power, I'll be pleased.  I have a new vacuum distributor on my work bench to replace my mechanical-only distributor, but I was told that since my cam has a lot of duration, there will be significant limitations as to how much vacuum advance I can utilize w/o running into drivability problems.  I'll give it a shot soon.

I now have a 3/8" phenolic spacer between the carb and manifold.  This has helped slightly with the hot restart issue.  I'm still working on a better solution.

I installed an Innovate MAP sensor and SSI-4 to be able to datalog RPM, A/F and vacuum with my laptop.  Everything works except for some strange RPM readings.  A dedicated ground for RPM might fix that.

I swapped out the coilovers for Fat Cat Motorsport's package.  They include revalved Bilstein's, adjustable lower purches, 450lb/in front springs, 300lb/in rear springs and better bumpstops.  Compared to my Koni setup, these do work better.  It's not a lot better as the prior stuff was good, but ride quality over big bumps is certainly better.  The suspension seems to be more compliant with washboard surfaces as well.  I have a touch of oversteer and a bit more sway so I might be looking at putting in a stiffer front sway bar. 

My first autocross with the V8 was on 10/4/09.  It was the first autocross I've driven in over 4 years and I had an absolute blast.  The car drives very well.  The handling is just fine; any notion of a big stupid heavy V8 engine throwing off the balance is totally false.  I've heard people say that they would think this would be the case, but I can truly say that it's not the case.  Once again, thanks to Bijan for the great video work. 


(still changing)

Conversion Kit
-Monster Miata (

-Machining work by Kennedy Performance
-Seasoned Ford 302 small block
-331 Stroker; 10.2:1 compression
-Bored 0.0030 inches over
-Square Decked & Align Honed
-Eagle forged I-beam rods
-Mahle forged pistons
-Eagle 4340 forged crank, internal balanced
-157tooth/0 balance flywheel
-ATI Super Damper harmonic balancer

-AFR 185
-High spring rate valve springs (to prevent floating/bouncing)
-Titanium retainers (to reduce valve train mass)
-7/16" studs
-Cometic Multi Layer Steel head gaskets

Rocker Arms
-Scorpion 1.6 roller rockers, stud mount

Intake Manifold
-Edelbrock Performer RPM Air-Gap

Air Filter Assembly
-K&N 7/8" drop base, (60-1430)
-2" high, 14" dia K&N filter

-Flow Tech Induction custom grind

-Holley 4150 (#4777)
-- 650cfm
-- Modified by Competition Fuel Systems
--- Mechanical secondaries
--- No choke
--- Solenoid controlled fast idle circuit
--- 4 corner adjustable air bleeds
-- Mallory 4309 fuel pressure regulator

-Tremec T5Z/World Class
-(2.95,1.94,1.34,1.00,0.63) gears
-T5/302 bell housing
-Pro 5.0 shifter
-Block alignment plate
*this tranny has a 330ft-lb torque rating and is a direct replacement of the T5.  I'm a little concerned about the torque rating.


-Tremec TKO 600 (p/n TCET4617)
-(2.87,1.89,1.28,1.00,0.82) gears
* this tranny has a 600ft-lb torque rating and a very nice gear ratio arrangement for street and track use for a light weight car such as a miata coupled with a powerful engine that might be herky-jerky under 2000rpm or so (i.e. cruising a bit above 2000rpm would result with this tranny).  May require longer drive shaft (probably not)? May require different bell housing.  Price is about $600 more than a T5Z.

-Ford 7.5inch (from '89-'94 Thunderbird)
-TrueTrac LSD carrier

-MSD #8579 distributor
-Autolite Racing spark plugs (AR 3932)

-1 5/8" Shorty headers from conversion kit
-2.5" pipe to X pipe
-2.5" X pipe
-2.5" pipe to mufflers
-Magnaflow 2.5"
-3" tips
-Felpro header gaskets (1486)

Engine Accessories
For a 94-95 Mustang GT:
-Timing cover
-Water pump & pulley
-Alternator & pulley
-PS pump & pulley (Wazee)
-AC compressor (note, if no AC is used, just go w/o the compressor or delete pulley and use a xx" Gates belt)
-Idler and tensioner pulleys (Wazee)
-Alt, crank, water pump pulleys (BlueOvalIndustries)
-PS/AC/ALT compressor brackets

-Close to block design (allows puller fans)
--All parts from:
---'91-'93 Thunderbird (w/ V8)
---'94-'95 Mustang GT
---'96?-'01? Explorer
-Away from block design (pusher fans only)
--All parts from:
---'86-'93 Mustang GT

Misc parts
-Modified dual sump oil pan
-Stock oil pick up
-Melling Select oil pump
-Lokar dip stick/tube
-Lokar throttle cable
-Heater hose Kelly Springfield #4545
-A ton of stuff..


7/27/10 It's been a long time since the last update, but I've made a lot of changes.

During the first autocross, I had some of the power steering fluid to foam up and blow out of the reservoir.  At the time, I had no fluid cooler so I plumbed in a Perma-cool 1007.  It's 5 inches by 7.5 inches, and 3/4 inches thick.  I mounted it in the driver side air pocket opening of the Racing Beat nose with some brackets I made.  I have not autocrossed or tracked the car yet so I'm not sure if it helped the problem or not.  I have heard that due to the nature of the reservoir of the 94-95 Ford Mustang pump, the neck is not real tall, it doesn't seal real well and the fluid foams in high lateral forces and when worked hard.  One trick is to cut and extend the neck higher, but I haven't tried that yet.  The idea is to get more fluid in there to keep air bubbles getting into the pump, as well as adding in more fluid to distribute the heat.

I plumbed in two small resonators and rebuilt exhaust pipes w/ all stainless mandrel pipes going from the x-pipe to the tips.  It's a little quieter but not by a lot.  I'm glad it didn't get too quiet, but I'm surprised it wasn't quieter.

I removed the MSD 6AL and replaced it with a Programmable MSD 6AL-2.  The distributor is now locked down so it does none of the ignition advance.  In conjunction with a 1-bar MAP sensor I installed, I now have the MSD 6AL-2 doing all of the advance that a mechanical/vacuum distributor would do, but now adjustable through a laptop.  Sort of 1/2 way to an EFI ignition/computer controlled setup.

The plug wires are now clamped in place with wire holders so they no longer drape over the side of the engine bay.  Neatened it up a bit and hopefully prevents the wires of getting damaged.

I also just finished an install of a 3 quart Accusump and oil cooler earlier today.  The cooler is an Earl's 22508ERL.  It's about 8 inches by 8 inches and 2 inches thick.  I mounted this in the passenger side air pocket opening of the Racing Beat nose.  A before and after drive (yesterday w/o the cooler and then today w/ the cooler) suggests it's dropping the peak oil temp from about 240 degrees F to 220 degrees F.  It was a little cooler outside today by about 10 degrees F so that might account for some of the difference.  After debating where to locate the Accusump, I chose to mount it under the trunk, between the mufflers.  I was first worried about heat, but after a good drive, I've found it's not really too hot.  My Accusump is a 3qt model, but I'm not sure how much oil it actually contains.  I used the electronic control valve that has a 20-25psi sensor on it.  Once the pressure drops below that level (sensed between the valve and engine), it opens the valve allowing oil to pump from the Accusump to the oil lines going to the oil cooler.  As an effort to prevent damage to the Accusump body (from road debris), I bought some material to box in a shield around the sump.  It's not in yet, but will be added soon.  The overall capacity of this system went from 4qts to 7qts.  I think that there is about 0.5 to 1 qt in the cooler and lines connecting it to the engine, and another 2 to 2.5 in the Accusump and line going to it.  I used a total of 19 feet of -8AN line to plumb it all in, including the cooler.  Fittings and routing the lines were a little tricky, but it's in.  The line going to the Accusump tucks between the oil pan and engine mount pedestal, over the exhaust header (shielded partially by the K-frame and with some Thermotec hose sleeve, then down along the frame rail, over the rear subframe and connected to the valve of the Accusump.

I rebuilt my T5Z transmission with all new synchro's, bearings, etc... reinforced the countershaft bearing with a steel retainer, and changed the 5th gear set from 0.63 to 0.73.  Much better fit for 5th gear!  I was going to go to 0.80 but was advised by the retailer that 0.73 would be better for my application since I'm mostly on the street.  There is no more gear noise that before and 5th just seems to about right where it needs to be now.  The rebuild was a major task.  I took a lot of pictures and followed steps in books and online so it would go back together.  I was very nervous but it worked.


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