Michael on the selection of his MX-5 as our August MX-5 of the Month!
Itīs SUPER to be CHARGED - A true story of a modification massacre"
1 Romantic Intro
It was 1998, May 5th 3 a.m. and I couldnīt sleep, because it was not an ordinary night. Tomorrow a dream should finally come true. Iīd pick up my Miata. Some years ago:
...I remember my buddy Christoph yelling out loudly on the passenger seat as we cornered sharply to enter the right lane of the highway. I had this butt steering feeling" as I kept the slightly oversteering roadster on the road by a quick and direct movement of the steering wheel. "Thatīs what it is all about doing the basic driving thing" I thought. It was 1993. Students at that time, both of us never forgot this fascinating hours driving a Mazda Miata for the first time in our lifes . . .
I thought: "Tomorrow is the day: Iīll live the dream". If I had known all of the obstacles and challenges coming along with the car I surely even hadnīt had my three hours of sleep.
"You donīt have to pay value added tax here" my dealer said. I drove home and for two weeks felt like James Dean. But then: Guess what? No VAT-reimbursement possible which would have meant a raise in the cars effective price of about $ 2,000. I had to decide: Give back the car? Two years old, low mileage, fully equipped and get my money back? Or, make sort of a deal worth the tax reimbursement lost? Well, Miata.net and Moss Motors offered something exquisite and special: ".. see that Winnebago a quarter mile ahead? Make it history by surpassing it with a slight kick onto the accelerator. Feel the power, strong reliable power. Power in the American way. Feel the grin on your face when third gear pulls like first . . . "
Honestly, we don't see Winnebagos very often here in Germany, but I had to have this supercharger!
3 Tech Shock
"We can provide you with the Sebring kit from the US, we can install it within a day and weīll get TUV-approval (state regulated authorithy) right away - no problems" said Mr. Buethe, a so called "Car Tuner" specializing in Miatas. Today this statement for me sounds like the world's greatest exaggeration: Odysseusī trial & error trail must have been child's play compared to the chaos following these assurances! On December 23rd in ī98 I arrived at Mr. Buetheīs garage to pick up the car as announced via telephone as "95% ready, only minor adjustments on the pulleys to be done in 2 months time after the installation aligned itself according to normal vibrations!"
Sounds strange to you? So it did to me. But with all the Winnebagos in my head . . .. I payed the bill started the car and was lucky king of the hill for 10 minutes! As I drove uphill on the highway still accelerating remarkably well at 100 mph suddenly everything stopped: no lights, no servo-steering, no brake assistant, just rolling up the hill becoming slower and slower. - aside the highway I opened the hood and the oil leakage on the left side of the engine made me stumble.
"I blew it up" I thought!
Achmed the Saviour
The Auto Club sent a truck conducted by a wonderful guy named Achmed (we met again later) who took the wreck and me back to the tunerīs shop. "No problem, no problem at all" Mr Buethe said turning his head away from the engine and towards me. "Itīs only the metal air pipe which lost connection with the supercharger. Thatīs why the engine stopped. Iīll fix the connection and then you can drive home again for Christmas." What he did not say: he used lots of cream to connect inlet and SC-Pipe via this short plastic hose!!!! No wonder even normal vibrations would soon loosen this mistaken installation. But for now: I started to love life again. I phoned my girl Paula (for the second time ) "Come home now you lucky guy!" she said.
5 Achmed the Saviour reloaded
Well, after 20 miles perfection vanished again: engine stop, roll out to the side lane. Now it was f cold, dark and windy. I called Achmed directly, then Paula (for the third time this afternoon) - "Oh my god, my poor racer, Iīm so sorry for You" - and then Mr. Buethe. But Super-Buethe had left his garage and already was on his way for winter holidays. I left my car at the garage of Achmedīs boss Achmed and me we had a beer together and a nice talk about life, cars and especially tunersī abilities and then I drove home to my family with a rented Ford station wagon (urgh). "Why are you always trying to do something special? Canīt you just leave your roadster stock and drive like normal people do?"
Mama definitely is not in the target group for supercharging!
TUV Approval by any means
To keep it short: TUV approval not only took some 8 weeks to happen, even more technical failures occured, too - Iīm very in to vacuum lines and to change burned up plastic pulleys against aluminium ones now - It turned out that Buethe committed to more than he could deliver and TUV-approval was refused at first and then granted at last; never ask which incentives had to be given to the tech supervisor at TUV.
7 Happy times and technical upgrades
Early in 1999 I turned to another tuner, more professional and reliable - Mr. Brose from Bonn - and had him add some features to my car: oil cooler, metal brake pipes, new AFPR, high performance fuel pump as well as oil thermometer and classic analog clock. Everything worked very well and power always felt strong - especially torque was great on the highway and uphill in fifth gear keeping all these 6-cylinders at distance ;-). Me and my girl Paula we were in Italy, Switzerland, Belgium and lots of nice parts of Germany - especially the Rhine valley with lots of castles of the middle ages - with the Miata and absolutely no problems for the last 4 years and more than 50.000 kilometres.
In March this year we moved from Koblenz (German Corner) to Cologne. One day Paula and a friend of ours wanted to drive with the Miata from Koblenz to Cologne. Me, our parents and friends were already there carrying heavy furniture into our new flat. Then Paula called via cell phone: "Honey, Iīm so sorry, itīs not my fault, you must believe me. We had to stop because the car suddenly started to blow clouds of grey and black into the air and the noise became real loud." Actually bad luck is not enough to describe what happened. The drove on the highway with a speed of about 140 km/h and then saw a sign "Test-track for the next 7 kilometres" and no speed limits. So Paula wanted to go a lot faster (top speed of my car is about 200 km/h) and pushed down the accelerator. This suddenly came to an end with all the grey and black mist coming from under the hood and out of the exhaust . . .
Finally the two girls arrived on the back of a truck carrying my broken car . . .
9 Happy ending. Massacre resolved.
Since March 5th until May 13th my car was in the garage of my favourite Mazda dealer - Mr. Dietrich - who with his highly skillful team viewed it as a personal challenge to find out what was wrong and to fix it again. I was not lucky: one piston totally broken, the other cylinders with critical marks of heavy usage, the catalytic converter gone, some valves damaged . and therefore a complete engine rebuild or an exchange were the only choices left.
I could only afford a rebuild for around 4.800,- (ulp). But when I picked up the car again Mr. Dietrich told me, that he installed a totally new engine block because Mazda was not able to deliver all the parts he needed to do the rebuild. Lucky me: I would not have to pay more than agreed sum for the rebuild!!! Additionaly I now have a two years warranty for the new engine even with the supercharger installed again. Who else does still have an engine warranty with a SC on it? Now itīs running a smooth as a new car - I still have to be carefull during the first 1.000 kilometres. But summerīs here again and lots of satisfying years ahead . . .
Will you be next?