Monday, March 30, 2009

Gotta love Craigslist

So having bitten the bullet yesterday and listed the engine for sale on craigslist I was fully expecting to be waiting weeks to get a nibble - sheesh ... was I wrong! By the time I checked e-mail this morning I had four people looking to buy the engine at the price I listed ... no haggling. Of the 3 I talked to all were interested in the engine to rebuild to put into a racing Miata, so it's nice to know that it's going to have a useful (if possibly short) life after I pull it from the 'baby' car.

Luckily I have been doing some preplanning for this eventuality - and again craigslist was my savior. After weeks of daily searching I managed to find an engine hoist and stand for sale and pick them up about 4 weeks ago. A week later I found someone selling a floor jack. I guess the second-hand market is alive and kicking in the current economic times. So I've been able to more than offset those purchases with what I'll get for the engine ... this is probably the last time I get to be ahead of the game.

So I'm all set to pull the engine which I plan on doing this coming weekend. There are a couple of preparatory items I need to do before that happens. First of all I need to figure out the weight of the car as it stands now and also the ride height so I can restore the balance when I'm done (or ar least know how I've changed it) and restore the same ride height. The latter is easy to measure (though instead of the usual ground to wheel arch measurement, I've measured center of wheel to wheel arch - that way I don't need to worry about different tire pressures). Here's what I got:

- LF 13 7/8"
- RF 13 3/4"
- LR 14 5/8"
- RR 15"

Weighing a 2300lb car is another matter. Others have gone to their local trash depots or weigh stations to do that. Unfortunately our local transfer station can only weight the car as a whole and I really want to know the front/rear and left/right split. So the solution I came up with was to use a 2x6 board about 3' long and a couple of identical 400lb max bathrom scales. I jacked the car up one corner at a time, slid the scales and board under the wheel and lowered the car. Adding the weights of both scales together and subtracting the weight of the board gives me the weight at all 4 corners of the car.

Here's what I got:

- LF 587lb
- RF 632lb
- LR 578lb
- RR 541lb

So total weight (with about 1/4 tank of gas) is 2338lb split 52/48 F/R and 49/51 L/R.

One more thing to do ... tomorrow I'm off to the local Midas to have them drain the refrigerant from the A/C system - a 1992 Miata has an R12 system that would be very bad to release into the atmosphere.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Time to fish or cut bait ...

For a considerable number of months I've been researching the idea on converting my 1992 Mazda Miata to electric power ... too many months in fact ... I've finally decided to put my money (probably a lot of it) where my mouth is and actually make a start. Today I put an ad on Craigslist to try to sell the car's ICE (internal combustion engine) to give myself a kick-start. I'll give it a couple of weeks to see of someone bites (there must be someone out there both a poor Miata that is sitting waiting for a new engine) - if not ... well the engine comes out anyway.

So why do I want to do this? Good question! I'm certainly not the most mechanical (or electrical!) minded person - for the most part I leave even the basic work on my cars to the 'experts' - so it's not because I'm a gear-head looking for another project to dive into. While I can change a tire and change the odd broken part (for example I just replaced one of the headlight motors - early Miata's have great retro retractable headlights) this is going to be as much about me learning a lot of basic auto-mechanics as anything.

And if I'm honest with myself, there is really no eco-mindedness behind the idea of converting this car from gas to electric. While the idea of reducing my personal carbon footprint sounds nice, it's certainly, in my mind, a bit idealistic to think that converting a single car that is, to be honest, not the most practical of cars is going to make a difference. It's not like I'm going to be driving 1000's of miles without gas - in 17 years I've run up but 78,500 miles - basically it gets used (in good weather) for a 4 mile commute to work and for the odd errand/fun drive when I don't have the kids in tow.

More realistically, I think of this project as a bit of an escape from the daily grind and a replacement for my previous escape route. For the past 10 years I've filled my spare time with volunteer work as a soccer coach and administrator for my local youth club in Chantilly, VA. My kids no longer play and after a couple of years coaching "other people's kids" I was finding that my enthusiasm was beginning to wane so hung up my whistle (BTW, I never, ever used a whistle in my 10 years of coaching!). I'm still the administrator for the Bantam Soccer league, but I really need to find something to fill the hole that weekday soccer practices and weekend games and tournaments has left.

Also, being completely realistic, at nearly 17 years old the 'baby' car (so named by my oldest daughter when she accompanied me to buy it in May 1992 - she was 18 months old at the time - OK, she didn't name it that exactly then) is no longer a baby (neither is my oldest daughter - she's off to college in the Fall). While I've been lucky in having no major mechanical problems, she's had her share of accidents (none my fault) and there are some 'cosmetic' issues that need to be addressed (more on those later).

If I was being sensible I'd say it was time to say goodbye, do the minimum amount of work to fix her up and sell her ... but after 17 years you become more than a little attached to a car like the Miata. So while I thought about replacing her with a new Miata, after careful consideration I decided that I wanted to fix her up. Having come to that decision and already having started researching EV's on the web it was not a huge leap to decide to convert the Miata to electric power while doing some restoration work in the process.

Anyway, that's my way of rationalizing the irrational. I'll keep this blog updated throughout the process in the vain hope that maybe it'll prove useful (even inspirational, as some of the blogs I'll link to from here provided me with inspiration) to anyone else planning such project. I have no idea how long this is going to take, as I have not yet decided exactly on how much restoration I'm going to do ... I guess we'll see as I go along. If anyone actually takes the time to read the blog, I'm sure you know more than I do so your input would be most appreciated.

Here are a few pictures of the 'baby' car I took today to remind me where I started.