Eyesore Racing 24 Hours of Lemons Frankenmiata

Project Frankenmiata:

Salvaging the Chassis

by Dave Coleman 


Like every good story (assuming Star Wars is every good story), this one started in the middle, ran through to what seemed like a pretty satisfying end, disappeared for a while, and is now starting back up at the beginning. Confused? That's how we like it.

Well over a year ago I put this little "coming soon" lie up next to this story in the Frankenmiata geek hub. And then I pretty much forgot about it. You can thank the persistent nagging of our fine reader 8695Beaters for getting me off my ass to finally explain where this car came from.

The Frankenmiata was born from an afternoon of idle chit-chat around the dyno with Mark DiBella. Mark owns MD Automotive in Westminster, CA, and is kind enough to let me use his dyno. I've been using his dyno, in fact, since about 1998, when it was Jackson Racing's dyno, and Oscar Jackson would let me use it. 

Fast forward 10 years or so and between pulls I'm telling Mark about how we blew up our CR-XXX LeMons car and were looking for something less bent. After trying to convince me the '80-something Ford Fiesta behind his shop was a good candidate, he suggested this Miata:

Eyesore Racing 24 Hours of Lemons Frankenmiata

This, at first, seemed like a terrible idea. Upon closer inspection, it seemed even worse. Mark does a lot of Miata work at his shop, and this car came from a customer who had T-boned someone hard enough to total the Miata (no word on whether the other car noticed). Since the car was supercharged with brakes and suspension and all that, the owner bought it back from the insurance company and had Mark find another clean body he could swap all his stuff into. 

The clean body he found happened to have an automatic transmission and ran on three cylinders. So, at the end of this Frankenstein soul swap, Mark was left with a bent Miata shell and a crap drivetrain.

Eyesore Racing 24 Hours of Lemons Frankenmiata

A close look at the shell showed the damage was clearly worthy of a totalling. The frame rails were severely crumpled. But... Look closely and the damage stops conveniently just short of the front subframe mounts, and when it comes to driving, making all the wheels point in the right direction is all that matters. That stuff out in front of the front wheels is really just for decoration.

Eyesore Racing 24 Hours of Lemons Frankenmiata

Digging through the rest of the stash, we quickly found enough subframes and suspension bits to give us confidence that there really was a whole car's worth of parts in the stash. Mark was sick of looking at the Miata shell, the greasy 3-cylinder automatic drivetrain and the pile of suspension bits and offered to give it all to us if we'd just make it go away. Three years later, we still store the car at his shop, so I guess we haven't really followed through on our part of the bargain just yet...

Eyesore Racing 24 Hours of Lemons Frankenmiata

Turning the pile of crap into a more compact rolling pile of crap was surprisingly quick. We had complete front and rear suspension assemblies in the pile, and each subframe attaches to the body with only 6 bolts. Before bolting in the rear subframe, we had to drop the fuel tank and wipe out the gravel, dead bugs and tree limbs. (It had been sitting with the fuel pump access panel off for several months.)

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Monday, December 19, 2011 3:07 AM
Holy shit, that door looks more than ready to shred an army of zombies *lol*
Monday, December 19, 2011 5:45 AM
Glad to be of service Dave. Now...time to get to finishing off the series and tell us how the cooling works. Oh and finish the Miatabusa! I know I'm not the only one who wants to see it drive.
Der Bruce
Der Brucelink
Monday, December 19, 2011 7:29 AM
2 parts sweat labor + 1/2 working part = 1 entertaining Dave Coleman build!

Thanks for keeping our imaginations alive! Oh and I second the motion of the Miatabusa notion :)
Monday, December 19, 2011 8:49 AM
Loved the part about the business tactics. Works the same way everywhere in this world.
Dusty Duster
Dusty Dusterlink
Monday, December 19, 2011 9:05 AM
Yes, the Miatabusa needs to be running. Just long enough to make a video of it going around Infineon. Then it needs to immediately be turbocharged.
Monday, December 19, 2011 12:31 PM
Awesome, pure awesome.
Monday, December 19, 2011 4:31 PM
Always wondered how you did it. Makes me want to field another LeMons team...
Tuesday, December 20, 2011 4:38 AM
I tried setting up a LeMons team 4 years ago. We bought a CRX and were accepted to run in CT, then when it came time for my team to put up some money, they all bailed. I guess that's what I get for trying to race with a bunch of college student...We're too broke to race in a $500 car!
Tuesday, December 20, 2011 7:43 AM
Yeah, we bought an already "prepared" LeMons CRX that actually finished in the top 10 and ran it in the 2010 Arse-Freeze. I had us in 3rd, then we sucked in the pits and dropped to 20th, then to 60th on the next change, and farther, and farther, until we eventually got kicked out for too many offs. LOL.

Biggest time killers were a dying alternator, and a tension rod that wasn't connected on one side (CRX suspension moves a frightening amount without it!).

However, this article makes me want to build my own instead of buying someone else's scrap heap, and really ghetto engineer it. Seems like lots of fun beer-induced "innovation" could be had in building one, even if it only does 3 laps and explodes in a mushroom cloud.
Wednesday, December 21, 2011 4:06 AM
Great article!
Micah McMahan
Micah McMahanlink
Wednesday, December 21, 2011 10:39 AM
Now you have me wanting to get a lemons project together.
I do have an Impreza roller that I picked up for $50..?
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