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By Jan Wagner - syndicated weekly columnist/photojournalist
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Abe Mara: A Do-It-Yourself Car Guy

 

Even if cost was not a factor, I suspect Abe Mara would not have bought the new turbo Miata from Mazda. You see, Abe is a do-it-yourself car guy. He likes taking apart perfectly good cars and making them better, faster and more fun. That, and the fact that by doing much of the work himself he could save some money, led Abe to his decision to install – among other improvements, a turbo kit in his bright red 2000 Mazda Miata.

I had been following Abe’s progress on our San Diego Miata Club email digest. From time to time he would post a question to our group, some members of which are quite skilled in working on Miatas. Eventually I contacted Abe to congratulate him on sticking with it. Shortly thereafter I decided to profile him in AutoMatters.


Abe Mara

When I visited Abe recently at his San Diego home, his work was nearly done. The car was parked in his garage. It looked much like any other Miata. That, of course, was the idea. Looks can be deceiving. In this case, they definitely are.

He bought his year and a half old Miata at a very good price because it had what is called a ‘salvage title.’ He explained to me that an insurance company had basically written it off after it was involved in an accident. Even though it did not have critically serious damage, it would have cost more to fix than the insurance company determined it was worth. It had front end damage and the airbags had deployed. Abe did not, however, have to fix his car (for the most part) because he bought it from someone who used to buy salvage title Miatas, fix them and claimed to resell 30 to 40 of them per year at a big discount off of what a similar, non-salvage title car would cost. Abe was very happy with his purchase.


Engine removed (Abe Mara photo)

Abe’s goal was to install a turbo in his new car. He found the Internet to be a valuable source of information. Aside from our San Diego Miata Club’s list (for more information you can go to www.sandiegomiataclub.org), Abe also got answers to his questions through www.MiataPower.Net, www.RealBig.com/Miata and www.Miata.Net. An Internet search on the word Miata will no doubt produce many other sources of help. There are all sorts of lists around.

Visible externally, changes to Abe’s car included new Kosei wheels from San Diego’s Good-Win Racing (www.good-win-racing.com). I’ve shopped from them and can tell you that they stock and sell all kinds of good stuff for Miatas. The wheels are also available, complete with your choice of tires, from The Tire Rack (www.tirerack.com.


Critical engine parts (Abe Mara photo)

At the heart of Abe’s car is a turbo. If you want to make a Miata go really fast, Flyin’ Miata (www.FlyinMiata.com) is another good place to look. With the goal of saving some money, Abe shopped carefully and then bought his slightly used (about three months on the road) Flyin’ Miata FM II turbo kit on eBay.

 
Attention to Detail (Abe Mara photo)

Little escaped Abe’s attention to detail and tweaking, from the underlying electronics of the water gauge and what he described as a “fake” oil pressure gauge, to the big stuff.


Straight edge reveals leak (Abe Mara photo)

Abe’s do-it-yourself installation did not have its share of problems, like finding metal bits in the oil pan, discovering a bad wastegate actuator and bending some rods (between the crank and the pistons). However, he carefully and methodically addressed each problem.

                 
 Abe working (Abe Mara photo)                                       The engine reinstalled                 

The result is a turbocharged Miata that he thoroughly knows, understands and can keep running at its peak. 

 
Even Abe’s Miata looks happy

As always, please share your stories and send your comments to AutoMatters@gmail.com. Enjoy the archives and more at www.AutoMatters.net. Drive safely and do join me again next time.

 

Copyright © 2005, 2006 Jan R. Wagner – #140r2 AutoMatters

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