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'92 Mariner

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  • '92 Mariner

    I've owned this car a long time, too long probably. I've been a part of this ATL community long enough that I should probably share my build thread.

    I bought this car in October of 2000.

    Some will be photos given to me from friends. I know I have them, but I don't know their location at the moment. I started looking for my Miata around April of '00. I was originally looking for a RWD coupe. I considered a 240sx, BMW 3 series, and a Subaru 2.5RS. I even looked at other classics, like a Datsun Fairlady for the 60’s. It was to be a second car; something I would put away in the winter months had recently relocated back to west Michigan. The Miata sort of popped into my head from a soon-to-be good friend met through a car club. He had a white '94 r-pack. I knew I wanted a LNC, mariner and I looked for months. Fortunately, one finally popped up in early October, owned by a young professional couple. He was a marketing executive, she was a surgeon, so I had a good feeling it was well cared for. It was sitting in the garage, collecting dust. He was about 6'8" and couldn't kit in the car. She couldn't take both boys with her in the Miata. It had 38,xxx miles on it, B-package with Mazdaspeed stripes. He had bought her a Porsche cabriolet "so the kids could fit in the back seat" as replacement. I nodded in agreement, but rolled my mind’s eye.

    Unfortunately, my daily driver broke and I was going to have to drive the Miata through the winter. I was commuting about 50 miles a day, so I had to prep the car for winter.

    This would later become something I would regret a few years later.

    Fortunately, my daily had the same PCD as the Miata, so I took a set of wheels I had mounted r-comps on and mounted snow tires.

    The long winter of '00-01:

    The spring of '01, I got back into autocross with a local, non-marque car club. This was the first event of the year and I ran it top down in the rain:

    The nice part about owning a Miata is I already had deep experience with Mazda b-series engine and platforms from racing a few Escort GTs ('91 and '94). That was also the spring I met a girl in a local Miata club. She had a customized '99 sport with ghost flames and wore Doc Martens. She would later become my wife.

    The most vivid memory I have from this period, though, is on September 11, 2001. I was on a plane that day, flying to Milwaukee to catch my connection to NYC. I was preparing to be a part of a large presentation that afternoon in Manhattan, a few blocks from the trade center. I never made that connection. It was a blur of a day. The two coworkers I was with rented one of the last cars remaining and drove back around the south end of Lake Michigan, through Chicago, back to west Michigan. I remember watching the Chicago skyline as we drove through, expecting to see a plane fly into the
    Sears Tower.

    We eventually made the long drive back to work that afternoon. It was a nice, sunny, late summer day. I remember slipping into the Miata, dropping the top and spending the next two hours driving the lakeshore roads thinking about what had happened that day, how circumstances lead us to take an unusual flight over the normal direct flight we normally took to meet that client. It sounds corny, but the longer I drove with the top down and the sun covering me, putting mile after mile of scenic water front views behind me, the more the stress melted away. It was probably THE most connecting moment I've had with any car and probably what endured me most to this Miata from that point on.

  • #2
    In the summer of '02, my stripes were getting faded and cracking so I removed them. It was something I wavered on, but I never liked the visual bulk they added to the form. It was also about this time I started modding the car more and looking into adding power. It was also about the time I was banned from M.N, for the first time. I found another site that was composed of other M.N refugees. It was a small, eclectic group of people that would later become my closest friends to this day.

    The suspension saw the first upgrade with the addition of KYB AGXs. you have to keep in mind at this time, coilovers were pretty rare and expensive. I liked the stock height at the time. I recall reading around this time that '92s sat lower than most stock Miatas, possibly from a design or supplier change.

    I also admit that I had a Racing Beat style bar on the car for a few months at this time. It would be replaced soon after with a hardcore DD M1.

    By the end of '02 I was looking into adding a turbo. This was during the infancy of I placed the order for a Greddy turbo and started looking for the additional items needed.

    Annnnnnd I waited what seemed like an eternity for the kit to arrive.

    Unfortunately, I lost a LOT of these pics. 2002 also marked the first time I visited Deal's Gap. I drove with Roadster Girlie and another Miata owner in tow from west Michigan to western NC. It was one long day of driving. I shared a rented house with other Miata owners I knew only from (Team Pointless).

    Having met a lot of these people for the first time was amazing! I spent a week there and had the time of my life! We spent the days driving all over the countryside in four different states, drinking and partying at night.

    This is John Palazzolo, a.k.a John Hammer.

    (this is a pic of his shunt at waterford hills raceway)

    He and his '94 r-pack inspired me to buy a Miata.

    I have now known john and his wife Julie for over 10 years now. He's been HUGE to rei-nterest me back into motor sports. When Tina and I moved to Charlotte, we met them when they came out to deal's gap in '04. It was part of the catalyst that inspired them to move there and they have been extremely happy ever since!

    John is probably the most passionate person I’ve met about racing. So much so, he left his career in radio in Kalamazoo to follow his passion. He worked freelance for online racing websites, the Speed channel and eventually moving into PR for Richard Petty Racing. He is also an instructor for the Richard Petty Driving Experience and the SRT Track Experience. He is still an active Spec Miata driver and competes in Lemons in a 320i (Hammer's Heros). His passion still keeps my dream to race more alive.

    Being west Michigan is nice...5 months out of the year. Fortunately, there are two VERY good tracks nearby; Gingerman Raceway and Grattan Raceway. Gingerman had an open track policy Tu-Th. you would pay $60 and run the road course from 5pm until dusk. Because west Michigan is up against the western edge of the Eastern time zone, there were nights you could get almost four hours of track time in one night! Because of this, I used to bring my helmet with me to work and leave right after for the track.

    My office was only 1/2 hour away. There were a few times I would go all three nights in one week. That was about 10-15 hours of track time in one week! This is where I started looking for functional performance pieces for the car.

    I added the r-pack front and rear spoilers that summer. i didn't know I was buying one of the last rear R-pack rear lips sold by Mazda at that time.

    By the winter of '02, I was prepping the car to go turbo. Because I was storing it in the winter, it was easy to do and take my time. The Greddy I ran up to 10 psi. It was a cluster**** of zipties and cludges and I learned a lot of lessons from it.

    My involvement with KAZOOM also introduced me to Chris Lee at the Gilmore Car Museum Roadster meet sometime in 02, IIRC.

    I remember when this shot was taken, I was standing to the left of the photographer:

    Chris' car really started to open my eyes to what was possible.

    In '03, I was frustrated with my current job and with the long Michigan winters. I needed to make a move and looked into moving to the Southeast. We were making plans to drive our Miatas to Deal's gap that July when I received a job interview in Charlotte. I interviewed over the phone and it went well. It was a position to work at a firm and grow my skills exponentially, again. I sweetened the interview process by telling the firm I would drive down there "just to interview" when really I was going to be there for DG2K3.

    I had recently bought a brand new 2003 Civic Si, so I decided I would load our gear in that car and follow Tina down in hers. I didn't want to worry about the Miata breaking down or showing up in a suit, all sweaty from driving in the humidity without A/C.

    (my old EP3…I loved this car. I regret selling it.)

    We shared the same house with our friends from Team pointless and I drove the EP3 to the interview. I would eventually land the job! I spent the remainder of that vacation at DG chasing Miatas off the mountain in the EP3. I had bought a set of wheels and r-comps from 91eunos at Deals Gap. Everyone we were staying with had a blast driving that car there. I was tag-teaming with a buddy from ATL who brought his WRX wagon scaring the crap out of the whine and cheese crowd attempting to drive the roads in the area.

    Tina and I moved to Charlotte later that year, arriving on Dec 31,2003. The company couldn't pay to move the Miata, so we drove the EP3 and Tina's NB down. I left my Miata at my cousin's shop to have a lightened flywheel and ACT clutch installed.

    To get the Miata down to Charlotte, I had to network a group of friends to drive it down:
    John picked it up at my cousin's shop and drove it to Lansing, MI. From there, another friend drove it from Lansing to Detroit. Another friend drove it from Detroit to Knoxville,
    TN. I had another friend who had recently moved to Knoxville, TN, so I was going to pick it up there, 3 hours from Charlotte. So, after 3 months of waiting, I was reunited with my car by driving it home through Deal's Gap.


    • #3
      In Charlotte, I enjoyed the Miata much more. I could drive it year round and I was 2-3 hours from Deal’s Gap. At this point, we had my ’92 and Tina’s ’99. The ’03 Civic was the third car.

      I had upgraded the Greddy and was quickly experiencing the limitations of the system. I added a Link ECU and started the painful learning curve on that. I soon removed the kit, leaving the Link in the car to run NA. I was tired of not being able to rely on the car to run without some sort of hiccup occurring.

      I also tried some different wheels. I was riding on KYB AGXs with gen 1 FM springs.

      I picked up set of Compomotive 8 spoke wheels. 15x7, +35. Nice, but waaay too heavy! I think they were 17# each.

      I didn’t like the way the weight of the wheels made the car feel and it seemed to crash over irregularities in the road.

      Fortunately, a good friend of ours was parting out his NB and I bought his SSR Type C with diamond cut lips and anthracite centers. They were 15x7.5 +43. Weighing in at a little over 10# each, it was a HUGE improvement!

      He also sold me his M2 HDHCDD with harness tabs. I needed a new top and had recently converted to a like-new ’03 black soft top. I loved the glass window! The tailoring on the NB tops is far nicer and the swap over was easy! The rollbar fit in the exact same holes as my M1 HDHCDD, so I was able to install it myself in a couple of hours.

      By this time, I had already added a 7-8# Fidanza flywheel and ACT xt00 clutch. The car had about 80k on it in 04 when we moved to Charlotte.

      A year later or so, I was at 98xxx miles. I wanted to eek out some more power from the engine, so I bought an extra head for rebuilding and porting and polishing.

      Some buddies from Atlanta drove up to help me install it. I refreshed all the seals on top and added ARP head studs. I think the studs are a must. I also had the manifold and valve cover powdercoated to match.

      I had removed the Greddy by this point and sold it off, but now wanted to add a proper turbo system. I started gathering pieces to make an upgraded FM/BEGi system. I ran an FM 3 manifold, GT2554r turbo, 550cc RC engineering injectors, custom 2.5” downpipe, no cat, custom 2.5” exhaust, uprated fuel pump, BEGi 18” intercooler system. The system made 240 at the wheels on 15 psi. The turbo was maxed out, at this level, so I normally ran 10-12 PSI for daily use. I was also still on the stock VLSD, so I used a LOT of mechanical empathy to keep it from blowing up.

      I have to admit, the power was intoxicating! Taking down S2000s was too much of a temptation.


      • #4
        In ’06, I picked up a set of Watanabes from Chris. They were originally on Joe Alphonso’s car (R*speed owner). Chris was in Iraq for one of his many tours. He lent them to me rather than letting them sit in storage. I was happy to oblige! They were wrapped in 195/60-14 Advan 042 Rs. The wheels are 14x6.5, +14.5, magnesium. EXTREMELY light!

        In the autumn of ’06, I received a job offer. It was in southern California and I accepted!

        We had already sold Tina’s ’99, so it was just the Miata and the Si. The company offered an extensive relocation package, so we put the house in Charlotte up for sale. A moving company packed up the house, loaded up the Miata, and shipped our stuff west. They offered to fly us out, but we had adopted a retired racing greyhound and didn’t want to fly her in cargo on the plane.

        We decided to drive out in the EP3 and make a little vacation out of it. Awesome road trip!

        We loaded the luggage on the roof, folded the rear seats and put the dog in the hatch.

        California brought a lot of things together. It gave me more time and money to start refreshing the Miata. It also introduced me to KINOD. I believe my first KINOD meet was in November or December of ’06.

        The turbo was no longer legal and I had pulled it off before the move and sold it off. With some of that money, I bought a used JRSC. I sent the inlet manifold to the company in Charlotte that powdercoated the VC and intake manifold and had them match the SC’s manifold. It looked great!
        I also got a pair of slashed M seats from Chris("Moxnix"). He was now stationed at Camp Pendelton. He was soon being reassigned to Germany, so he really gave me no choice. He had picked up a BRG hardtop for me while on vacation on his drive from Atlanta to California. He also coerced me into buying the Watanabes off him too. I relented.

        The seats were in terrible shape, but I work with upholstery a lot and worked with a sample maker at my last job to remake these. As a huge fan of customs, these seats were done with great materials and modified a little to sit a tad lower in the car. Modifying the foam and altering the patterns was pretty easy for me, but I wanted a nice, clean top stitch and crisp tailoring, so I let my coworker handle that.

        I was asked a LOT about these seats, and they really had to be seen (and in Sean Jay's opinion,
        SMELLED) to be appreciated. People would look at them, stop, sort of recognize them, then look again, and finally ask about them. They are out of a '95 M edition, and were only tan. They are also the only OEM Miata seats with an adjustable headrest. Scott (slevin) bought these from me. I was sad to see them go, but I wanted something that made the car easier to track AND daily drive. I'm a little too tall with a helmet on.

        I also had bought a set of turn signal intakes. I had those, the hardtop and a cleaner rear bumper painted to match the car. My rear bumper was a bit rubbed up from track days.

        So, right off the bat, I was starting to modify the Miata more. I was inspired by KINOD and the cars I was seeing weekly. This is how the car looked at that time:


        • #5
          Suspension project:

          I am strong believer that the Miata is a platform you should enjoy in stock form before your start modifying it. This is especially true if you are a novice driver. However, slam culture being what it is, it's rare to find someone actually doing that.

          I’ve read quite a lot about suspension tuning and geometry many years ago. I used to compete in a Macpherson strut car. It truly is a black art with many, many variables going on. It’s a study of physics, energy transfer, geometry, trigonometry and a little calculus. I think it also involves a good amount of understanding spatial relationships and a healthy dose of voodoo.

          I started looking into addressing my needs both in performance and maintenance. The car, at that time, being 14-15 years old needed some serious freshening. I was bottoming out in the rear going over train tracks and given what i was doing to the car in past years, these shocks were toast. The only addition since was a Racing Beat solid front sway I bought soon after moving here (thanks, Sean!). I added the frame blocks/braces and the adjustable endlinks with that purchase.

          I was researching coilovers and consulting with other owners about Teins and spring rates. I had long, very
          informative conversations with Steve at Gearhead’s Garage and Emilio at 949Racing. Both these guys are THE guys to talk to about giving you the straight dope about chassis tuning a Miata.

          I researched the HELL out of coilovers. Spherical bearings vs Pillow ball, monotube vs dual tube, spring rates, adjustable bodies, shock dynos, etc. I read through a LOT of posts by Sheikh(?) on m.n about learning the nuances and deciphering dyno results. It hurt my head, but I re-read a lot of it until I grasped it. I have forgotten most of it now, probably subconsciously.

          I was looking originally for a set of Tein Flex. It seems to be the coilover of choice here in SOCAL and I was pleased with the cars I tested riding on them.

          Fortunately, Sideshow popped an ad on here for a brand new set of JIC FLT-A2s for $1000. I pulled the trigger.

          The JIC's ARE beautiful, though, aesthetically and mechanically. They are 18 way single adjustable, aluminum bodies, monotube, pillowball mounts with an extended travel design in the rear, perfect for a Miata. They come with 9kg in the front 8kg in the rear. 8 is a bit stiffer than I wanted to run, so I sourced a set of 350# 7" long springs from Eibach. This effectively put me at 9kg F/ 6.5ish kg R.

          So, in they went, probably around 2008. The car took a back burner soon after and I didn't get the car aligned OR corner balanced for quite some time after. Despite the jacked alignment and unbalanced corners, I still did a few track events.

          That winter, I scored another rare bargain. I found a set of BRAND NEW control arms off an NB racer who had installed Superpro bushings in them. When he learned he couldn't use them on his spec Miata, he cut his loses. The part number stickers were STILL on the arms! I quickly picked these up for around 700-800. Unfortunately, they sat in a container in my garage for the next 18 months or so.

          Lucky for me, living in SOCAL has some great advantages. One of them being Emilio's swap meets at his shop near my home. I bought a clean and straight front subframe from a gentleman who pulled it off his wife's '93.
          I was gathering the parts to COMPLETELY refurb the suspension. Using the NB control arms, I wanted to do this right, so I sourced a set of NB front knuckles from Planet Miata.

          Not having the desire or the means to raise the engine for the subframe replacement, I talked to a shop have the whole shebang done and the car aligned.

          Here's what was done at:
          Straight front subframe installed
          NB control arms (all 8), new (means new upper ball jonts, too!)
          Superpro P/U bushings with offset steel inserts
          Inner tie rods
          Outer tie rods
          Lower ball joints
          Front NB knuckles (uprights)
          Superpro steering rack bushings
          Energy Suspension P/U dust boots on the upper & lower ball joints
          Energy Suspension P/U dust boots on the outer tie rod ends
          New control arm mounting bolts
          New camber bolts
          Install stock NB rear swaybar
          Steering rack rebuilt and P/S system flushed

          Some gaffs I had done to the wiring were also fixed.

          Words can't explain how the car feels. I really didn't notice how much play I had become accustomed to in the aging components. I was literally turning too soon now because I was so used to the slop and play in the suspension. I have enjoyed this upgrade more than any power upgrade. The car is TRANSFORMED. By far, one of the most satisfying upgrades I have done to date

          I really believe the glory of this upgrade is in the details. If you are doing this, I REALLY suggest spending the extra money on the new OEM hardware and P/U boots.

          I was regularly attending KINOD during my time in California. I was enjoying the car culture there. As a gearhead and enthusiast, I was in car heaven!

          I am always sheepish about compliments. There are so_many clean cars in SOCAL, it is kind of embarrassing to me to receive praise for my car.

          I made a lot great friends and had a LOT of fun!

          My car was getting a lot of attention from other enthusaists at the meets. My car always seemed to get a few shots taken. I also attended extracurricular KINOD-associated meets, too. Social events, tech days, dyno days, track days. Here are some shots of those over the years I am honored to have been a part of:

          Garage Woolery Tech Day:


          • #6
            2010 was an interesting year.

            I had driven to Miatas at Laguna Seca as a spectator, not comfortable with how my car was set up to run the track. I vowed to return the next year to drive.

            In grand KINOD style, we gathered at the Krispy Kreme at an hour WAAAY too early to be deemed humane to drive up the 101 to the Pacific Coastal Highway into Monterrey. It was probably THE best Miata-based event I have ever been a part of.

            The drive up was epic! There are sooo many stories and funny anecdotes. I wouldn’t know where to begin! That said, I’ll just try to show some pictures to illustrate the awesomeness:


            O' dark thirty at Krispy Kreme:

            The drive up the coast:

            Arriving at the host hotel, KINOD crashed what seemed to be a nice, quiet BBQ and wine tasting party. We fllled the center section in minutes:

            The next day, serious business:


            • #7
              So, not only do we drive hard, we play hard too:


              • #8
                A few months later, Mazda wanted to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Miata. They had a big party/open house at their R&D center in Irvine. It was an interesting mix of M.N and KINOD styles. Hugely entertaining and very, very cool! The R&D center showed the design progress of all three MX-5 generations, clay models, concept vehicles, rare and unusual builds, and the team that pushed the original Miata to be built. This included Tom Matano, the chief designer and Bob Hall. There was a BBQ with beverages and it was great, picnic/festival atmosphere.

                Miatafest 2010 continued….

                As an industrial designer, I was more excited to meet Mr. Matano. I had brought a silver marker to [email protected] in hopes I would meet him and ask him to sign my car. As big an impact KINOD had on the event, I was on the track when he came through our paddock…guh! I knew Tom’s health has been failing, so it really meant a lot to me to meet him and thank him for the great design I thoroughly enjoyed.

                Mr. Matano was at Miatafest! I didn’t know this, so I went back to my car, frantically looking for the silver marker I brought to Laguna Seca. Thankfully it was still in my tool kit I keep in the trunk! So, I saw him walking down the rows of cars and I walked up to him, introduced myself and asked him to sign my Miata. He was happy to accommodate me! I spoke with him briefly and told him what I do for a living and he was genuinely interested and glad to hear about my enjoyment of his work. He sat in the passenger seat and gave me the best interior mod when he signed my crash pad.

                I was tapped to participate in a focus group. I have been on the other side of many of these, so it was fun to be on the consumer side. It was interesting to listen to the answers of the other participants. I got a TON of free schwag for doing that…collector’s edition books (coffee table books), Mazda items, about $100 in gift cards, wearable’s and a wristwatch. Probably close to $300 in stuff! Awesome.

                I also entered the car contest. It was $10, I think, and the proceeds went to a reputable charity. “Cool!” I thought, “I have no chance to win, but what the hell.” I had parked my car next to Chris Lee and Cody Chan, so I figured everyone that walked by was looking at those.

                The awards ceremony began and I wandered around inside the design exhibit, listening to the ceremony. Those who won deserved it; Cody, Chris, Brian Goodwin, Woolery. Others won for interiors, ICE, etc.

                The last award was given to “Mazda’s Choice”, the entrant that the Mazda employees and guests of honor voted best represented the true spirit of the Miata. The MC called “#19”. I sort stopped what I was doing and froze. I couldn’t remember my entry number. Other guys from KINOD were telling me I won, but I didn’t believe it. I was waiting for someone else to walk up there. I had to walk out to my car to check. I actually DID win! I was in disbelief. It was such a humbling experience and honor!

                Last edited by kung fu jesus; 03-30-2017, 10:54 AM.


                • #9
                  And that ladies and gentlemen is how you do a "build" thread. Great story & awesome pictures!
                  Current: 1994 Merlot (Turbo) Sold: Red '02 Turbo | 2010 - 2015 ~~~ 987 Boxster | 2012-2014 ~~~ Z4 ///M Roadster | 2015 - 2015 ~~~ Z4 3.0i (18k miles!)| 2018-2018 ~~~ 2006 Miata (Laci) | one track day ~~~ Exocet (Turbo!) | 2015-2019


                  • #10
                    Thanks for reading and the compliment! I am trying to parse the story after my stopping point because my involvement in Miata's changed drastically from '10-12, then I hit the pause button for a while. When I jumped back in, I had some catastrophic issues with that little blue car. It will make more sense later. :)


                    • #11
                      Such a cool story!
                      The only thing that oughta be hella flushed is a toilet.


                      • #12
                        I love the progression throughout the story and to know how you got to here. Very cool!
                        '00 Silver Miata


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Sierra_Bravo View Post
                          I love the progression throughout the story and to know how you got to here. Very cool!
                          Totally agree! This was a great read. Also, the photos of the car in post #3 with the SSR wheels...just beautiful. I love that look!
                          - Lee -
                          '13 Liquid Silver Metallic Club PRHT | SOLD!
                          '06 Sunlight Silver Touring | Mazdaspeed springs & sways | SOLD!


                          • #14
                            OMG - so glad you finally made a thread for this car, and what a thread it is! I won't lie, I haven't read all of it yet - but I've read enough to know that I want to find a quiet half hour somewhere when I can really read through the details. What a cool history this car has. +1 for marrying a girl wearing Doc Martens.


                            • #15
                              Thank you, all. Over time, it started to become evident how big a part of my life this car has become. It wasn't intentional. The car became a reflection of myself and the way it changed, or didn't, also reflected my life and maturity. It's a funny thing how that works. Sure, it seems nerdy, geeky, or odd, but I guess we're all that way a little bit. The car holds so many memories, friendships made, experiences, and lessons. I wish I could capture every friend I have made because of it, but it would take so long to do that, and I am certain I would forget too many. It's an object I have an emotional attachment to, and that seems illogical to me, but it also feels like a rare constant in my life.