The Car that Almost Defeated Me! – Building a V8 Roadster


V8Miata

Early 2013… I watched Stacey David build project Banshee…

The idea was now cemented in my head…

I wanted to put a V8 in a Miata!!!

 

Building a V8 roadster ended up turning into a 2-year project

Although I have claimed that it is complete, it will never truly be complete.

Watch the 15 video playlist showcasing the whole project on YouTube:

But how did it all start?

I spent the next year contemplating my own v8 Miata build

It made no sense…

I needed refined skills, professional tools, time, money… But had none of the above…

 

The obstacle holding me back however, was my life situation.

 

There I was In my late 20s, in the middle of overhauling our first house, maintaining a stressful job that I was about to lose, and feeling “behind” on all my life goals – we were living in an ugly house half ripped apart, driving a 12 year old high mileage Corolla, and commuting 200kms roundtrip to the city every day. The prospect of jumping into a significant auto project seemed completely out of logic and realistically very glim…

 

I just couldn’t stop thinking about!

 

During this phase of my life, I kept asking myself WHY… WHY was I doing what I was doing…? Why wasn’t I enjoying life, why wasn’t I doing the things I wanted to do….

 

Why wasn’t I fulfilled!

 

Why was I constantly working just to get things done!

Meanwhile my dad had purchased a 1990 red Mazda Miata, as a tow behind vehicle for his RV. It was a beautiful little machine… Fast forward a few years, and you guessed it:

 

This car was destined to one day sit proudly in my garage boasting a beautiful V8 engine…

 

A couple years later, my dad replaced this car for a newer more reliable model. I couldn’t stop thinking about this 1990 Miata, such an amazing little machine, and my dad was about to sell it, If I was to take on a v8 Miata project, this was the right car.

 

The time was now, to make a decision!

 

I pondered long and hard about a way to sell this absurd idea to my future wife, after all, this project was sure to impact her. With all the time spent commuting, working on the house and traveling out of town to see family, there was very little left for quality time. This project would only make it worse.
I don’t have a clue how I ever really convinced her, but I think in the end she wanted me to be happy and she knew I needed to do this… I called my dad and informed him of my desire to purchase his old Miata, he refused to take any money, and donated the car to my cause.

 

The first daring leap: I purchased the V8 conversion kit

 

Once the money was spent on the kit, there was no way out of this venture. Not without a strike on my ego and money.. After disbursing the hefty shipping fees to get the kit across the border and converting my hard earned Canadian dollars to USD at a terribly unfavorable exchange rate… I paid over 6000$ as an entry fee to an abysmal commitment and load of work. I just hoped that some way I could pull this off…

As I waited for the kit in extreme anticipation, I would sit alone in the garage (like a big loser) in my “still intact” Miata and pretend to be cruising down the strip with the growling sound of a Ford small block being elegantly emitted by this wonderful triumph of a project…

 

The dream was exhilarating… But it was time to actually make it happen…

 

Where to start?

That was the question… It was overwhelming!!! The removal of the Mazda engine was obviously the first step… But again where to start!!! All the wires, cables, hoses, lines…. I had to know what they all were, and which ones I’d still be using… Essentially I needed to have a good understanding of the entire project before even starting, which was very intimidating…

I just started, and researched, read and learned as I went (this is the part you didn’t see in the video series), the learning curve was steep… the mistakes were plentiful…

I would wake up in the night and fall into deep thought about the next technical steps in the project and ponder how to proceed… I would also find myself zoning out of conversations throughout the day and mentally escaping back to my project…

 

A Milestone!

 

Several weekends and Facebook posts later, the engine came out. It was proud moment, I now felt that I had accomplished something that 95% of people could not do. YAY! The hard part was over!

 

WRONG!!!

 

The hard part had just begun!

 

Months of courage and perseverance… And I fall short…

The goal was to get this project done in eight months. Starting in mid-February 2014, this would give me a few months left to enjoy the car in the remainder of the summer. But the extent of the weight I piled onto myself was in fact much larger, I promised my wife-to-be, that I would start and finish this year’s house renovation before November 1st (the date of our wedding).

This was ridiculous. I was to replace all doors and windows on the house, as well as completely reside the entire house. I would do 100% of the work myself which included fixing and reinsulating the water damaged walls, and performing structural modifications to install larger windows. I had no clue how to do any of this work as I had never done it before, If I had any chance of getting this done, I knew I needed to start before September!

 

The V8 Miata project just hit one obstacle after another!!!

 

The axles took me 2 weeks to put together! The retainer pins broke… I couldn’t find the right grease for the CV Joints… The electrical work took me twice as long as it should have due to misinterpreting the directions… I installed the bell housing incorrectly which caused the clutch to get misaligned, I didn’t have a clutch alignment tool… I didn’t understand how a clutch was put together… The hood wouldn’t close, I had to rethink and redesign so many components! I had to learn how to reinstall a distributor and time the engine, I realized the fuel and break lines needed rerouting after the engine was already in… I could keep going….

The bottom line was, everything kept going wrong. I kept seeing August coming faster and faster. I spent every night, and every weekend on the car… Some weeknights till midnight before getting a couple hours of shuteye and heading to work in the morning.

 

We aren’t machines… We can and do loose the battle emotionally sometimes…

After pushing myself so hard to get this car done before mid-August, the closer August came, the more I was realizing I wasn’t going to make it… After dumping so much money, time and will power… I felt defeated… The fact that I had a huge home renovation project to start wasn’t helping either… Work stress, family issues, maintaining old vehicles, the property, everything else in life, and planning a wedding was getting overwhelming…

I can honestly say, there was a moment, where I almost folded. It was almost like the feeling of a business filing for bankruptcy, when every intention was to come through and achieve so much, but it was just too much expectation in too little time, with too little resources…

 

Reality has a way of hitting you right in the face after you ignore it for too long…

 

After pushing through so many obstacles, just to be faced with the realization one day that my deadline had now became impossible, I walked out of my shop, locked the door, and distanced myself from the project.

 

It was a moment of self-re-evaluation

 

My wife (then fiancé) had agreed to let me take part in this project as she really wanted me to be happy and do what I loved. But that wasn’t happening… unfortunately I was stressed out, angry, and perhaps depressed. This was inevitably making her feel resentful of the fact that she let me do this…

 

WTF? Give up?

No.

After a week of reflection, I was ready to get back in the shop, and build this car!

 

I took a step back, recharged, remembered why I was doing this, and got back in the shop. I immediately established a plan to fix the issues, and proceeded. I managed to get the car together, fabricate the exhaust, and go for the first drive by mid august. The car was nowhere near completion with so many issues that needed sorting. But the bottom line was that the car was in one piece. I was able to drive it in and out of the shop.

 

I faced my reality that 8 months was an unrealistic expectation

With the car back in one piece, I accepted the fact that it wouldn’t be completed this year. I was able to drive it in and out of the shop, and therefore was able to dedicate the shop space to the renovations on the house. I started the teardown on the house walls, and worked night and day to get this done before the wedding. Of course, I didn’t make it.

But I strategically got the front and the most visible side of the house done first – At least it looked good from the curb. After the wedding I kept working night and day fighting the weather, in desperate hopes to finish before the winter. I found myself working in freezing conditions through windy blizzards up in the ladder installing siding till late weeknights. I finished in mid December, just before Christmas. Winter was here, the house was done, and the Miata had a v8 in it, and was in one piece.

 

I needed a break…

The idea when I abandoned the V8 Miata project in August was that I would finish sorting and tweaking the car over the winter… But after a whole year of pushing myself hard, and working night and day I was exhausted. I needed a break… I did nothing but relax and get fat all winter.

 

Alas!

Spring was here! Time to take the V8 roadster out!!!

The smell of spring came with high octane in the air, and the sound of V8s and motorcycles flying by. Mine wasn’t ready. It was time to get to work! But much like the year before, I had to balance the work on our house with the Miata, and thus was only able to dedicate a couple months to it. Upon further inspection I came to the realization that my rushing to put it together the year before came at the price of several things being done wrong.

 

Don’t rush the work! It takes the time it takes. Do it right!

It always takes longer to do it twice than to do it right the first time.

 

The engine had to come out. Fuel lines needed rerouting again, the engine block was rubbing against the firewall, along with so many other issues. I hated going backwards.

 

Those that never made mistakes never built anything!

Learn from your mistakes, and move forward.

 

I pulled the engine out. I fixed the problems, and put the engine back in. I started sorting the issues. This was a long process which included getting stranded and towed home one day due to overheating issues.

 

Another summer? No problem.

 

Once again, I had to abandon work on the car for a project on the house. But I was done the project in September. So I got back to work on the car, and by November, the car was done.

 

A car like this is never really complete…

 

Although I was still getting a few engine codes, and still had a few remaining things to work on, I was able to go out and enjoy the car, so I considered this project complete in early November of 2015, although it will never really be “complete”. It was almost 2 years from the date I started. It was one heck of a journey, and a whole lot more than I bargained for, but I got it done. And I felt extremely proud of what I’d built.

 

Life is about growing, learning and moving forward!

 

Would I try to build a v8 Roadster in 8 months while living a busy lifestyle with a demanding career, and a major home renovation? Absolutely not!!!
I think it’s important to have realistic expectations in order to enjoy the build process. That being said, the experience has had tremendous impact on the strength of my character. Experiencing the feeling of getting defeated, but getting back up and finishing what I started was a triumphant moment in my life.
Getting knocked down is part of our development, it makes us strong, and prepares us for the next hit! It’s only an issue if we fail to get back up.
Pushing through with an overwhelming amount of expectations has taught me to be tough, and made me feel ready for whatever comes next – All the while now understanding the importance of strategically managing life and projects in a smarter fashion.

 

 

Gabriel.

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