Obelisk's Garage - Miata, Midget II and...a racing lawnmower??

  • Thread starter Obelisk
  • 62 comments
  • 10,628 views
Another quick touching-base kinda post. Mimi had a mechanical failure of some sort in the front suspension (infield motoring suggested a spring failure) so she is back in the garage pending a visit to the Mazda dealership. Now, I am starting a new job soon and will have a lot of expendable income. The plan is to address the problem and then go through a bunch of preventative maintenance to get her up to 100%.

My Subaru is likely being sold off soon as extenuating circumstances have left a friend w/o a car and Smokey is his best option right now. Past that, I'll have to see what's available as a winter car for me.

Now, I've been debating the heck out of mentioning this here, but I've recently developed an interest in lawnmower racing. My dad managed to help me track down a decent mower to work on for this - a 1994 Craftsman II DieHard that I've nicknamed "Twitch".

It just came in yesterday, so today I needed to check to see what the deal is with the mower.

1. The mower will turn and start, but the battery needs to be charged.
2. The headlights come on, so electrics should be OK.
3. Right front tire is completely blown out.
4. Steering has play in it
5. The seat is garbage, but this is mostly a non-issue.
6. Engine needs new/more oil

So Twitch has an 18 HP, 2-cylinder, 4 stroke engine which should be in pretty solid shape.

Today was straightforward - mainly verified the above and then cleaned it up a bit.

IMG_20230626_160721853.jpg

IMG_20230627_185513948.jpg

↑ Before...

↓ After.
IMG_20230627_191114362.jpg


Thursday, I'm going to change the oil and then replace the front tires with a fresh pair of tires/rims that my dad had sitting around for his John Deere - they happened to be the exact same size!

IMG_20230627_194652957.jpg

Once I do all of that, I'll see if it's capable of moving under its own power. If yes, I can start looking into making sure it's at 100%, then look into NELMRA regulations.
 
Last edited:
It just came in yesterday, so today I needed to check to see what the deal is with the mower.

1. The mower will turn and start, but the battery needs to be charged.
2. The headlights come on, so electrics should be OK.
3. Right front tire is completely blown out.
4. Steering has play in it
5. The seat is garbage, but this is mostly a non-issue.
6. Engine needs new/more oil
Alright, so today was the big day on addressing a lot of these points. I got up early today to drop off Smokey for a sway bar repair and decided to do some work on the mower.

First order of business was to get the front tires replaced as one was completely blown and the other was one hard knock from blowing as well. My dad happened to have a set of front tires intended for a John Deere S100 that were a perfect fit for the Craftsman, so I got my hands dirty and about a half hour later got them on. Most of that was figuring out how to get the chassis on a brick so I could actually remove the tires.

End result:
IMG_20230629_114556245.jpg
IMG_20230629_114612465.jpg


After that, I grabbed the air compressor and got the rear tires up to pressure, then filled the oil up with some synthetic 5w30. It might need a proper oil change after an event or two (much like a car in GT7 - the misery!!), but what's in there should suffice for now.

Then the big moment came. I had to start it up and then see if it could move under its own power. After charging it for a few minutes...



I let it sit for a few seconds to charge the battery, then decided it was time to get in gear and go drive it.

I nearly drove it into a pole. Anyways.



This test confirmed a couple of things:
1) The mower still runs and can move under its own power
2) the brake line needs to either be replaced or tightened
3) the steering wheel has about 10 to 20 degrees of play in it. it's not noticeable enough to be an issue just driving it around the yard, but in racing....yeah.

And then I brought it back in and let it rest. Later in the day, tried to start it. Motor started grinding but wasn't turning the engine, so I grabbed my trickle charger/voltmeter and hooked it to the battery.

It registered at 11.6 volts (confirming that the battery is a 12v), then jumped to 13.6...then again to 14.4 before going back down to 13.7. The trickle charger readout showed the battery going from 20% to 80% way too fast.

Might be bad contacts, might be a bad battery. either way, I'm not gonna play games with a battery throwing bad voltage numbers. Tomorrow I'm stopping by Lowe's to get a new battery to stick on the mower, which should hopefully solve that issue. While I do that, I'm also gonna check the brake line and see where it's wonky.
 
Quick Update: New battery obtained, new bolts and nuts for the contacts obtained.

IMG_20230630_142400164.jpg


Mower running and starting happily.



I did not get to check the brake line today. That's my first to-do item next week - also planning on reaching out to NELMRA to ask for some guidance on safety switches as those are required.
 
Update on the mower:

Brake line itself seems to be okay, but the adjustment nut is stuck and needs to be freed so I can tighten up the brakes. The brakes currently a little hit-or-miss on the current adjustment.

While checking the brake system, I discovered that the brake/clutch pedal not disengaging is due to a spring in either the clutch or the brake system either being absent or broken.

Additionally, the one pulley attached to the clutch system is completely seized. While I have drive and can switch between gears, it seems like the belt might be worn/damaged due to the seized pulley. Pulley itself is, obviously, gouged to heck and back.

I've essentially hit the point where I can no longer repair this mower on my own and need to call in a tech I know to get it 100%.
 
Update: I've sold the Subaru to a friend of mine in Pennsylvania. It's going to serve him well.

With that, I'll be taking the money from the sale and investing it into the MX5 so I can fix it up and do some preventative work on it as well.
 
Impromptu plans today had me driving 110 miles north to visit the New England Dragway for one of their regular Street Nights.

The car very recently got serviced by the local Mazda dealer and they confirmed it was in pretty much perfect shape, so I felt confident in going there + taking the chance with the car.

It paid off.

Not literally, but metaphorically. Anyways.

I got there, and after some initial "where am I supposed to go?" questions, I was able to get my wristband, ticket and a textbook perfect inspection of the car. And so I went off, as #143.

20230811_205036.jpg


I got three runs in then decided to take a short break. Dude in a Silverado promptly dumped radiator fluid all over the track, closing it until 9:30 pm. Got one last run in, then promptly decided to go home.

20230811_235221.jpg


All in, a very pleasant experience. I am seriously impressed with the fact that this car did a 220 mile round trip and 4x ¼ mile runs without once making an unwelcome sound or fuss.
 
To be honest, I started reading this thread for the racing lawnmower haha, I’m just in to racing things that weren’t really ment to be raced, like lawnmowers. Your Miata is a very clean car too, must be a joy to drive :)
 
To be honest, I started reading this thread for the racing lawnmower haha, I’m just in to racing things that weren’t really ment to be raced, like lawnmowers. Your Miata is a very clean car too, must be a joy to drive :)
I'm waiting for a tech to come by and tell me what still needs to be done to it. Hopefully next week!
 
Update: My mower tech has actually worked on racing mowers in the past, so there's a path forward if I want to take the mower above and beyond.

He'll have it fixed up this week.

I'm also taking the time to research a path into doing some additional work on the MX5. I've got a list of parts I'd like to put into it - intake/exhaust manifolds, throttle body, cold air intake and an air filter. My initial goal is just to get the engine to 180 HP, but with all of the parts in place, it might be making closer to 200 (assuming 5% net gain on each individual part). I'm also going to be picking up the Stage 1 suspension kit from Flyin' Miata to improve handling, and possibly some cosmetic changes to the car. Long term project, obviously.

I will be picking up a K&N air filter after the mower repairs are done, since that's a part swap I can do at home with a screwdriver.
 
Hey, so it turns out the NC MX5 is so utterly simple that I didn't even need a screwdriver for that K&N filter.

Taking the old filter out:
1698106842256.png

1698106876887.png

1698106892770.png


New filter:
1698106919337.png

1698107043649.png


So far, I've noticed a small improvement in the throttle response - and I've been told that'll improve after a few cycles as the CPU adjusts to the new volume of air going through the filter.

Scratch one off the list. If things pan out how I hope they will, I should be able to finish up a lot of the airflow upgrades by the end of next year.
 
Update 2:
I swapped the shifter knob for an ICBeamer universal aluminum knob.
20231027_160003.jpg


Also gotta clean the interior and exterior, so I'm going to do that today.

As for the mower: The mechanic and I have had some issues, but we're hopefully working on it this Thursday.
 
Quick update on the mower...

We've hit a snag with the mower being as old as it is. It's got two drivetrain parts it still needs in order to be back up and running, as well as a tether kill-switch to be compliant with NELMRA/USLMRA rules. The issue is that the drivetrain parts (the v-belt in particular) are out of production and there's essentially no more existing stock for these mowers.

However, after some research, I was able to get what I think are the parts numbers that I need for this mower to finally come back to life. I've been discussing it with the tech and if all seems to check out, we'll order some third party parts off Amazon (a little sketchy, i know lol) and see if they at least get it moving under its own power again. Fingers crossed - and just in time, too. Waiting to see what the new schedule is for NELMRA so I can reach out and get some help getting registered/licensed to race it.
 
The racing mower should finally be back up and running by this weekend. My mechanic and I were able to get a look at the rules and everything that we need should be in place by the end of the weekend. The missing idler pulley is being replaced with a metal one (original was plastic - bearing completely seized to boot), and we have a new v-belt.

I've also finally swung for an upgrade on the MX5 and have a better sense of what's left to do.

The first two things coming in are a Flyin Miata sway bar kit and a windshield banner. because why the heck not?

After that, the plan is to exchange the rest of the stock exhaust system (the exhaust manifold + the midpipe) with Magnaflow parts. I've been told that the sound is especially good on those, so I'm excited.

Once that's all done, I'm going to look into a new steering wheel and lower profile seats for the interior. For the exterior, I'm going to get the wheels professionally painted to resemble the color on the RX8 Spirit R wheels.
 
The FM Sway bars are here, as is the banner! I'll have the sway bars installed pretty soon, just working out an appointment time to have the mechanic get under the car and swap those.

I took the liberty of putting on the banner (and complementary stickers) and I managed to get it high enough that there's basically no obstruction on the windshield.

20240321_154251.jpg

20240321_154309~2.jpg


Mower is back online and should be back at the house in the next few days, but I need to get the battery replaced because it's toast (again).
 
Exciting news! I finally have the mower back in my garage!!

Bad news: The battery it got at the end of last year is toast.

So what I have left to do ahead of entering any events is to get both a battery cut-off and a tether killswitch so that I can be compliant with the USLMRA/NELMRA regulations and shield the battery from being passively drained while parked. Those things are coming in Tuesday and I am hoping I can get these wired up correctly. Today (happy Easter!) is going to be spent looking for an open store that has batteries available.
 
Exciting news! I finally have the mower back in my garage!!

Bad news: The battery it got at the end of last year is toast.

So what I have left to do ahead of entering any events is to get both a battery cut-off and a tether killswitch so that I can be compliant with the USLMRA/NELMRA regulations and shield the battery from being passively drained while parked. Those things are coming in Tuesday and I am hoping I can get these wired up correctly. Today (happy Easter!) is going to be spent looking for an open store that has batteries available.
Update: It was the starter solenoid that went kaput, not the battery. So the whole reason it was having trouble to begin with was not battery related...

New solenoid is coming in this week, along with the killswitch - I do not think the battery c/o is necessary at this point, since the tether killswitch probably does the same thing.

The tech and I are going to meet in a week or two to fix the final gremlins on the mower, which are the solenoid and the brakes + clutch pedal. Once all of that is finally addressed, the mower should be race-ready. Just in time, too. If last year's schedule is anything to go by, this year's events will kick off near the end of next month.

On other topics:
MX5's new ARBs are being installed this Thursday and that'll be it for that car for a while.

What I'm more excited about is that I am getting very close to pulling the trigger on an import through Car From Japan. Not just any random import - I have my eye on a lovely low-mileage Daihatsu Midget II and hopefully things will start moving in a few weeks.
 
I've honestly been tempted by a Midget (that sounds horrific out of context) in recent months, as well as other Kei cars, mainly because my lifestyle means I don't really need anything much bigger than that and it would obviously be a quirky runabout. If I did commit to the Kei truck life, I'd personally probably end up with a Hijet; cost and practicality mean it would just make more sense, but that doesn't mean I won't always be secretly pining for a Midget instead.
 
It's been a day of setbacks.

The Midget II I sent an inquiry about yesterday got sold out while I was asleep, so I've submitted an inquiry for another one of the same year and body style (van) and am waiting patiently for that.

I got a new solenoid swapped into the mower and it's still completely dead, so something is broken elsewhere in the machine. I also accidentally tried to do the solenoid bypass while the key was in the "on" position and the magic smoke came out from somewhere in the harness on the right side. Hoping I didn't mess up the electrics...
 
Best of luck with finding a Daihatsu Midget II! Sorry to hear the one you were looking at first didn't work out, but I hope you're able to find one. Really want to hear the ownership experience with it as my brother (and me a little bit) desires to own one at some point. Might have to drive down from Maine to Massachusetts and bug you about it if you do get one. :P
 
Best of luck with finding a Daihatsu Midget II! Sorry to hear the one you were looking at first didn't work out, but I hope you're able to find one. Really want to hear the ownership experience with it as my brother (and me a little bit) desires to own one at some point. Might have to drive down from Maine to Massachusetts and bug you about it if you do get one. :P
Good news: I did find second one that's essentially identical. More km on the clock, but it's a grade 3.5 rather than a grade 3.

Bad news: The chaps at the importer + the people who have the car are taking forever to answer a question I asked them, so I'm stuck waiting for now. ++ the Key Bridge incident has added a delay to the delivery once I actually commit to this, since they have to redirect all of their current shipments to NY or VA...

Other bad news: My MX5's sway bar links were shot and the supplier for my mechanic screwed up on the replacements. I'm without a car until Monday.
 
I just bought a manual 1996 Daihatsu Midget II with 50,000 km on it!

These are photos from the Car From Japan page for the exact car I'm getting. They're going through the preliminary paperwork for getting the car on the ship, then they'll hand it off to me to finish everything on the US Customs side.
car_084eee7b-16a4-43ca-b6fd-eda3638c39e8_640_0.jpeg

car_3703a308-a22c-4018-99ff-90449364df79_640_0.jpeg


I also got the MX5 back with the new Flyin Miata sway bars in, and it is mindblowing how much of a change the sway bars make in the car's behavior!
 
Last edited:
Another update post.

I didn't take any pictures, but I went back up to the dragway in Epping to see if the Miata's improved at all with the KN air filter in.

I also took a buddy down to experience drag racing for the first time, and he was definitely converted by the experience and wants to go back.

Anyways, my new personal best is a 16.355 @ 83.41 MPH. It was previously a 16.609 @ 82ish MPH. Just shy of 3/10ths is a pretty dang good improvement, I'd think!

Once again, the car completed the 200 mile round trip without issue, and even had six runs on the strip as well. I love it.



And finally, some news on what I know y'all are keeping a closer eye on...

The arrival date for my 1996 Daihatsu Midget II is June 22, 2024.
 
Updates:

I finally addressed the source of the rattle that'd been haunting me for three years... A loose bolt in the MX5's windshield trim.

And today was beautiful, so I took the long way around after an appointment today.
1717185758900.png


As for the Midget II: There was an issue with the shipping line and the new arrival date is July 18. The wait is the worst part of it all!
 
Turns out that there's been a ton of issues stemming from the Baltimore incident a few months ago, and the shipping schedule for my new Daihatsu has been up in the air. Right now, they're hoping for August 6, but I'm not sure.

I had the chance to finally invest in proper tooling and was able to get my car apart to install a new intake!

The new intake is a Cobalt Cold Air Induction system that I got from Moss Miata.

Here it is (on the right) compared to the OEM intake.
20240606_211627.jpg

(Not shown here: the Cobalt system is at about a 45 degree angle down from horizontal, OEM is horizontal)

And I have to say... I understand why mechanics charge so much for labor now. This took me 14 hours!!

Photos from the process:
20240606_164521.jpg
20240606_173317.jpg
20240606_173909.jpg
20240606_200302.jpg
20240606_211129.jpg
20240606_222821.jpg
20240606_232350.jpg
20240606_232617.jpg


This intake clears the bottom of the license plate, so it should be good to pull in cold air without issue.

That said, I'll be getting an offset mount for the car at a later time to ensure full clearance on that new intake.

I will also be taking the car to the drag strip a week from tomorrow to test the performance gains from this intake. I don't expect much improvement, given that my PB is a 16.355 @ 83 MPH, but anything is possible.

Obligatory video of cold starting the car after this part was installed:


And for those of you following for the mower: That project is on the back burner for now, unfortunately. Between working on the MX5, dealing with the Midget II stuff, and other life commitments, I just don't have the time to get into the mower's wiring issues.
 
Today's update:

I moved the front plate to a driver's side offset to clear the new intake correctly.
1718390924399.png


1718390985078.png


A week from today, I'm off to the drag strip to test the new intake setup. I know there'll be some improvement, but no clue how much.
 
Any difference in the intake sound? One of the several POs of my '99 installed a cone filter on the right side of the engine bay (opposite the exhaust, so it still qualifies as "cold" intake, :D ) which required relocating the coolant expansion tank. It has a wonderful intake growl! (The valve cover paint has not survived well, and with my next gasket change I'm either going to redo it, or just have it blasted off back to the original metal. Not interested in polishing it as some have done.)

28334590157_6c5d321090_c.jpg
 
Any difference in the intake sound? One of the several POs of my '99 installed a cone filter on the right side of the engine bay (opposite the exhaust, so it still qualifies as "cold" intake, :D ) which required relocating the coolant expansion tank. It has a wonderful intake growl! (The valve cover paint has not survived well, and with my next gasket change I'm either going to redo it, or just have it blasted off back to the original metal. Not interested in polishing it as some have done.)

28334590157_6c5d321090_c.jpg
I'm deaf, and my hearing aids can only do so much... However, friends of mine have told me that the intake is an octave lower in sound!
 

Latest Posts

Back