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Discussion Starter #1
Project Mamba is our new racing flagship, after selling the 1996 Dodge Neon ACR we ran in SCCA Solo2 for a number of years in D-Modified class. We've been without a race car for a few years now, and I'm pretty eager to return to the Solo2 scene.

My wife decided on the name - she wanted a snake name, like Viper, but something that sounded a little smaller but still dangerous. Lil Mamba is starting out as a daily driver while she gets broken in and we get some initial specs (weight, MPG, 1/4 mile time, dyno runs, etc), and we'll be slowly transforming her through this year into a capable roadster, and then we'll get a little more serious as we get the "lightweight" things out of the way.

Mamba is a 2017 Classica, with as little in the way of extras as possible. I wanted to start with something I didn't have to pay money for just to tear it out as unwanted mass. Since FCA only offered the 124 in red and fifty boring shades of gray, we opted for white, which plan on painting lime green with matte black hood and deck.

Pics to come, as soon as we get a sunny day :/
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Mod 1:
License plate bracket
This is a necessity here in MO, US. I first designed the tag bracket for my 2009 Challenger (but only as a one-off prototype), then later for the '13-up Dart, and now for the 124 Spider. With some minor tweaks to the design, the tag bracket for the 124 and Challenger are now the same part. Weight is about the same as the big ugly plastic bracket and heavy tapping screws, but it sits low for minimal aerodynamic interference. What air does it it goes mostly around and above, still entering the lower grille opening.

We didn't have plates on the 124 yet when this pic was taken, so the ETHNOL plate as actually from our old race car, which was powered by.. yep... E85.



Plate screws are aluminum button-head screws, and we did well nuts and the same screws for the rear plate to match :)
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Mod 2:
Trunk Spring Kit, Deyeme Racing, brushed stainless

Our plan for our 124 is a daily driver for the next 2-3 years with Solo2 time, and eventually race-only. Start slow and light, and work up to the hot-n-heavy. We did this (with a little more reckless abandon) on our old racecar, Project Venom (a 1996 Dodge Neon ACR Coupe), which, in the end was an absolute beast, and incredible fun to drive. Like our old Neon, we'll be running our 124 in D-Mod class, where "Super7" kit cars and other small-displacement highly modded cars go. I seem to remember racing a Miata down in Meridian Mississippi back in '02... I think....

Anyway, back to the present. We're looking over every bolt and bracket that makes up this car, and we're going to find ways to get rid of weight... bigtime! As I said, though, we're starting small. The second mod for Project Mamba is our trunk spring kit. We went with the brushed stainless springs, because they look awesome, but these specific springs because they're only about 2/3 the weight of the stock springs, with no loss in functionality. In fact, by using slightly longer end-links, the deck lid even opens a little further, too.


Stock spring and lightweight spring side-by-side


The brushed stainless set we installed on our 124
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Mod 3 (2000 miles)
Hood Spring Kit, Deyeme Racing, w/ brushed SS springs & SS fasteners, and brushed aluminum brackets

I've always hated how prop rods get in the way when working under the hood. Because of that, I designed a hood spring kit for the 2013 Dodge Dart. Looking at other aftermarket and OE springs, I knew I didn't want them stretching across the fender, as they're just as much in the way on the sides as a prop rod is up front. With some math and a little trial-and-error, I designed a kit that was totally bolt-on and stayed out of the way when working on the car. Using the same concept, I came up with the one for our Spider. Weight isn't much more than the prop rod thanks to the small-diameter springs (same size springs as the trunk, but greater force) and aluminum attaching hardware. And it's much easier to reach around under the hood without knocking into a prop rod or reaching across springs that are in the way.

Now that I've made it easier to work on the car and a little more "showy" it's about time to start digging into some performance stuff.

 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
Mod 4 - 2500 mi. - 6/1/2017
Front Brake Vent Kit, "race" version, DMR

We finally have an autocross (SCCA Solo2) event under our belt. My son and I both ran in DM (D-Modified) class, which is for production-based vehicles with extensive modifications. We ran with NO performance mods at all, to get a base-line of sorts (raw and Pax times compared to the rest of the field). We were obviously pretty slow, scoring right in the slowest 1/4 of the pack. The great news is that my son, only 18, was just 3 sec. slower than me on a 50 second course. He'll be giving me a real run for my money soon!

So with that event out of the way, I've started the complicated search on suspension. Coilovers, wheels, tires. And, by proxy, brakes, because running certain aftermarket brakes can change what wheels you can run (which changes tires, and springs, and...)

While I try to figure out the best combo, I decided to ensure we would NOT need to go with a BBK (big brake kit), but rather give us the chance at looking into Good-Win Racing's lightweight brake setup, which would allow us to run smaller race wheels with slicks. To do this, I created a front brake vent. I replaced the no-fog dummy bezel with the fog lamp bezel from the Lusso. Using adjustable tubing and a round vent flush-mounted into the splash shields, we've retained most of the stock form and aerodynamic function (which cuts off airflow to the brakes, causing them to run unnecessarily hot in aggressive driving) but now the brakes cool down to ambient after a braking event MUCH faster than stock. They also take much longer to heat up going down a long, steep hill! We won't really get to see much of this improvement yet, as the real brake limiter right now is our stock tire setup. The real magic is going to be when we do get those other components, and don't have to worry about brake performance so much down the road.


Using thermal probes to monitor the temperature between the dust shield and brake rotors. We ran the brake vent on one side and left the other stock so we could tell if the difference was real or not. No "butt dyno" here! The results were actually a little surprising, especially in how long the un-vented side would retain the higher after-braking temperature.



 

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Travis, will you be selling the hood spring kit?

Edit: yes, I see them on your site. Awesome.
 

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Those vents are pretty neat. You didn't want to mount them more 'inside' the wheel well, to push air towards the inside of the wheel, rather than at the tire? Maybe it's the perspective, and the fact that I nothing about how vents are setup. Still, the results do speak for themselves (will you post some temperatures, etc?)
 

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How does the cooling work if you mount the wheel?
I know and use brake cooling systems for a long time and they als uses a flexible tube to direct the air to the backside of the break disk.
 

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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
Those vents are pretty neat. You didn't want to mount them more 'inside' the wheel well, to push air towards the inside of the wheel, rather than at the tire? Maybe it's the perspective, and the fact that I nothing about how vents are setup. Still, the results do speak for themselves (will you post some temperatures, etc?)
They will be about half-in and half-on. If I'd gone much more inboard, where the splash shield goes to about 45 deg., it would mean the duct would have to bend that much, too (and be quite a bit longer). I wanted it to be as short and straight a path as reasonable. On one of my of my other project cars, I'm going with something a little more stealthy. It doesn't draw in as much air, but it does make a small difference, using an intake the same style as the splash shield vent, only mounted on the bottom of the closeout panel. It's a 90 deg. bend, so air volume is lower, but it does help a little (air actually gets drawn in because of the way the pressure works around the front of the body), and with minimal effect on aerodynamics and MPG.

How does the cooling work if you mount the wheel?
I know and use brake cooling systems for a long time and they als uses a flexible tube to direct the air to the backside of the break disk.
I know what you're talking about with those race cars that use that direct ducting. I'm not trying to do anything quite that extreme, but rather fix a design compromise that I believe hinders performance unnecessarily.

If there were no aero shields under the car, it wouldn't be much of an issue. The wheel wells would be awash in fresh air all the time. Of course, fuel economy and top speed would suffer, and less air from up front would be directed through the intercooler and radiator. Those underside aero panels (along with the good aerodynamic design of the body) cause the air inside the wheel wells to just become a turbulent, stagnant mess. Most of what does get into the wheel well probably comes from the engine bay, which means the intercooler, radiator and A/C have already heated it up before the brakes can even make use of it. By bringing in air from in front of the car and putting it inside the wheel well, fresh air is introduced and heated air is vented out (down the side of the car). If I were building the car for just 1/4 mile or top speed, I don't think I'd bother. I think for street, road race, and autocross, though, it'll create an advantage.

There are a number of cars (mostly upscale) that have a vent of sorts from the factory. I could have only installed a vent and left the dummy bezels in place, but if it worked at all, it would be stealing air that ought to be going through the IC & rad.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Looks like April (as in April Showers) got her revenge on us for skipping out of the first autocross of the season. It RAINED the morning of our last autocross on 6/18. Still, Isaiah was only faster than 2 cars (raw time) his first race, and beat 7 the 2nd. Beat 7 cars, even though we were in first heat and splashing through puddles the entire course. He got some great wet-weather extreme driving experience (seriously, every 18yo should do THIS for their driving test!!) and still managed no DNFs and NO CONES. That means he's not pushing the car as hard as he could be, and neither am I (same - no spinouts and no cones for me either).

Because of the cool, wet nature of the course, I can't say our brake vent kit was why we were faster. That, I think will have to wait until we get some decent tires that can put more stress on the brakes. Oh yea... so, we're waiting on a new summer setup, and I'll post details and pics in hopefully the next post here. While we wait, though, I went ahead and did another one of those "necessity" mods - an emergency jack and tool kit. Once we have an extra wheel to play with, I'll start looking at where/how to mount it (on the trunk lid? lol, nope). But at least now we can take the weight off a flat, hand-spin it, take it off and plug it, etc.



The tool pouch fits neatly in the fender area where the jack goes, and the jack bolts right up to an existing threaded hole and seat made just for it.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Where did you get the jack and tool kit???
eBay. I've seen spare wheels for the 2016 Mazda MX-5 listed too, but I haven't looked into that, since I'm getting new summer wheels, and will be putting skinnier winter tires on our OE 16s... and hopefully one will fit in the trunk for daily driving.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Mod 6 - 3500 mi. - 7/1/2017
Enkei RPF1 black 16x7 / 43mm offset wheels w/ Bridgestone Potenza RE040 tires in 215/45

The stock tires are just barely okay. Well, they're great for drifting. But since, like cheerleading, drifting isn't a real sport, those tires are not of much use. So, for the remainder of this race season, our new race setup is pictured below. They're not quite complete, as the center caps are still backordered, but I'd have to pop them off to race anyway, so who cares, right? I'll also be getting some lime green accent stripes on them as soon as I get a chance to play with them off the car. We ran an autocross event this past weekend, and this setup pulled me a full 8 seconds closer to the lead car in raw time, and took me from the 86th percentile to the 77th in a field of around 80-90 cars. That's a pretty good jump, and the tires aren't really that wide. In fact, next year, these will be our "summer" setup, and will stay on the car for summer street use and wet autocross events, and we'll be running much wider wheels and tires for regular track duty. We'll be keeping our OE wheels, and they'll be relegated to having some good winter tires put on them (with one kept in the trunk when used for commuting if it'll fit). We don't plan on driving her in the snow, but it always pays to be prepared, especially with Missouri weather. Winter tires are also much better in just plain COLD weather than summer rubber.

So finally another performance mod! Wider wheel by 1/2", wider tire by 20mm, yet lighter than the stockers. More traction and less weight? Win!

 

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I was just looking at some Enkei's online last night! I'd love to see a pic from farther away that shows the wheels and the whole car.
 

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Discussion Starter #17 (Edited)
I was just looking at some Enkei's online last night! I'd love to see a pic from farther away that shows the wheels and the whole car.
I would, but my camera went into UFO mode (only take blurry pictures) at the last autocross. I'll be bringing a different camera next time. They're back off the car now until the next Solo2 event, since they're the "race" tires of this year. Our race setup will be a bit more extreme, but I need some different brakes for clearance with the wheels I want, and those are a little further down the shopping list right now.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with them. I bought them for the lighter weight and greater rigidity, and since I was able to get them in black, that'll go great with the color scheme. That color scheme is also further down on the shopping list, lol!
 

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Discussion Starter #18 (Edited)
I was hoping to report on our next mod, a Cusco rear sway bar. I have both bars. Front is 24mm hollow, and rear is 14mm solid. It's my understanding the OE rear bar on the 124 is 14mm hollow (looked the same dia., but I didn't put a caliper on it). I was disappointed, though, to find the new bushing brackets made of heavy, thick steel, but made narrower than the stock brackets. This was likely for ease of manufacture, but with a narrower bushing profile, performance may be hampered. The front bracket is designed the same way, but I haven't had a chance to mount it, yet. Also, end-links are not included (which was expected), and after removing the stock links, decided those should be replaced with something better as well. And, lastly, you'd think something that included bushings would include bushing grease, but again, nope. I keep it in stock, so no biggie. Oh- and the instructions are in JAPANESE. Well, that's not helpful! Fortunately, I have the FSM.

So, rather than install the front bar also, I stopped after putting the new rear bar on, took some notes, did some R&D work, and will be reporting on the new bar and new hardware in the near future. Once I'm happy with it, I'll tackle the front, which from the FSM instructions, is like taking half the car apart! The rear bar was all of 15 minutes, including taking pictures and drinking some pop. For the front bar, I'll need more time with the car being down, and there are races coming up that are only 2-3 weeks apart, so that's not realistic right now. I will be looking at the bushings and end-links, though, so maybe I can make it go faster if there are improvements to be made there, too.

So, back to today's mod.... but not really a mod. Just a little personalization this time. Lil Mamba gets her name tag!





 

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Discussion Starter #19
Mod 7 - 4000 mi. - 7/15/2017
Rear Sway Bar, Cusco 14mm solid

I don't want to install monster sway bars on our car. Our goal is less weight, not more. Also, since we plan on getting some pretty stiff springs with our coil-over setup, huge bars become little more than extra weight. After shopping around, I decided on Cusco for front and rear sway bars. The rear bar is 14mm, which is the same as stock. I don't know if it's just improved geometry, or maybe a better spring steel, but somehow the Cusco rear bar made a noticeable improvement in rear sway mitigation. I installed the rear bar only, so we could get a race in with just that one, to know if there was going to be a difference or not, especially since they were the same diameter. Wow! Despite the attaching hardware's shortcomings (I'll get to that in a sec.) the bar really does perform. My raw time at he last Solo2 event improved to the 70th percentile from the 77th Isaiah went from 93rd to 85th percentile. That's a pretty marked improvement, and with two drivers being able to share thoughts on handling, we were able to confirm together that the rear bar was really doing its job. I was also down to 7.031 sec. off the fast time of the day, which was a '03 Z06, followed by a Mazdaspeed 6. This kind of consistent improvement is exactly what we're looking for, and we hope to see a similar jump with the front bar.

Now, to the shortcomings. The chassis brackets are stamped steel, and considerably thicker and heavier than the OE brackets, but narrower, too, for less "seat." I think the brackets should be wider, and so should the bushings, for a bigger, more stable position, as well as wear resistance. I'm making my own brackets and bushings to replace the narrow steel ones that came with the Cusco bar. Even though the OE bar is the same size, the bushings are glued or sintered on, so the bushings and brackets have to stay with the stock bar. Also, not that I expected it, but it would have been nice, the new bar did not come with end links. The OE links are thin and so short they have no room for adjustability even if they were 2-pc adjustables. So, I'm looking into a solution for that. Mazda was really struggling with how to attach that bar through the suspension links.

Other than the lack of better links and the skinny bushing brackets, I'm pretty happy with the rear bar, and the race results prove its worth.

Now the pics!


old and new bar. Lime green peel-coat applied to new bar for some protection while she still gets street driven


Install finished
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Mod 8 - 5000 mi. - 8/15/2017
Front Sway Bar, Cusco 24mm solid

Having run a Solo2 race with just the rear bar and being pretty happy with the improvement, it was time to do the front. WHAT A CHORE! With stories of cutting out the old bar, dropping the subframe, removing power steering and lots of other bits, I got under the car and took a look. The most reasonable solution seemed to be to support the engine and lower the subframe for clearance. If I cut out the old bar, how would I know how to get the new one in? Remove a whole bunch of components? No way. By lowering the subfframe, everything else was just nuts n bolts. It was still a tight fit to get the old one out and the new one in, but patience pays off.

We now have a few hundred miles on the new front bar, and I'm really liking the setup. It's back to "balanced" although it wasn't all that far off with just the rear bar. Back to balanced, but handling quite a bit flatter, especially in quick transitions. It's going to be a few weeks before the next Solo2 event, so we'll have to wait a bit to see the actual improvement.

Now for the bad: Install was not easy. This is not Cusco's fault- it's Mazda's engineering. The instructions were in Japanese, and I can only count to ten in Japanese. That IS Cusco's fault. Items shipped to the US should come with instructions in English. Fortunately, I have the FSM, and between that and the other sway bar instructions out there, I was able to piece together what I needed to do. Next is the stupid-heavy stamped steel bushing brackets and wimpy bushings. I don't tknow how long the bushings would last, but I'm not going to wait until they fail. New design is already in the CADD program, and I'm getting with my machine shop to make new ones. Oh, and no end-links, either, just like with the rear bar. It would have been a nice addition, but I wasn't expecting it. I'm designing my own adjustable end links, too, and the front and rear bars both will have some new hardware after I get a race in with both bars they way they are.

All in all, I like them. I think the Eibach bars would be overkill, unless you're planning on keeping your suspension relatively soft. We'll be putting in coilovers with much stiffer springs, so going monster-size on the bars is just unnecessary- not to mention the added weight we don't need.


Oh yea- the pics!





No Cusco blue? It's under the lime green peel-coat. Gotta keep 'em new and fresh while the car is still street driven.
 
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