THAT MOMENT YOUR "REGULAR" CAR BECOMES YOUR "PROJECT" CAR Posted on 24 Jun 07:30
After doing some recent wrenching on the Mazdaspeed 6, it occurred to me that this thing might be turning into a bit of a project. I had just finished with an overhaul that required dropping the rear subframe all over again, thanks to a torn CV boot. That damage resulted from an ongoing heavyweight boxing match between two muscle bound components I had upgraded from stock; Drive Shaft Shop rear axles and an upgraded rear sway bar from Whiteline suspension. To break up the fight and remedy the carnage, I would not only replace the torn CV boot, but also install some lower profile sway bar bushings from Energy Suspension. For good measure, I also installed a set of Rigid Collars I ordered some time ago. In addition, I removed considerable amounts of rust, added additional rust proofing measures, and even added some extra sound deadening to the trunk along the way. Some of the damage was referenced in photographs for my past entry "The Car Life, an Irrational Bond". New CV boot went in with fresh grease, and the low profile sway bar bushings gave much needed space between the axle and the sway bar. Once finished, the rear of the car was quiet, felt tight, and most importantly the two brawny components, DSS axles and Whiteline sway bar, were living together in perfect peace and harmony. It felt and drove well, at least for a while.
So what is the threshold at which a car becomes a project? I had not really considered this question, I presumed a project car was something of a choice. You chose to buy a 20 year old car that undoubtedly needed some refreshing, or you chose to do some wild engine swap, or you chose to turn a street car into a dedicated racer, any one or all of these things happen as a choice driven by passion or some pipe dream. However, when a car becomes a project, that is something entirely different. Could this be where the Mazdaspeed 6 is now, crossing into the realm of project car organically? After repairing all of the rear end maladies, it seems the front end wanted some attention. I started experiencing some troubling drop off's in fuel pressure and power, which was traced to a failing fuel pressure relief valve. While under the hood, I also happened to notice what I thought was minor transmission fluid seepage, had become a bit heavier and in need of attention. Nothing major, a shifter pivot seal would fix it, and was relatively easy to replace.
No sooner than when I had these very parts on order, upon shutting the car down one day, I noticed that concerning sweet smell every petrolhead knows: coolant. Yep, radiator was leaking! Luckily it was caught before I lost much coolant, and I do mean lucky as the leak was actually pretty substantial. It never even ran slightly hotter than normal, so I consider myself very fortunate. The OEM radiator is one of the common types with plastic end tanks crimped to a metal cooling section, and unfortunately those two different materials will almost inevitably result in leakage with age. Sadly, the market is short on upgrade or entirely metal constructed options for the radiator on this car. Not finding anything available, and failing to get any manufacturers to entertain producing one, I opted to stick with the original equipment.
In order to access the radiator on the Mazdaspeed 6, much of the front end must come apart. The bumper, the bumper support beam (or crash beam), and the radiator support all came apart. In the process I found more rust, shocking I know. So it was a familiar process of removing rust, coating in Rust Bullet, and painting over it. Rinse, repeat. Much of the process is waiting for paint to dry, so it works out that this can be done while I wait for the new ordered parts to arrive. On a positive note, having this much apart, makes accessing the fuel pressure relief valve and the pivot shaft seal much easier. Although it does also present temptation to take on other tasks, "while I am in there", but in the interest of keeping a reasonable budget and keeping things simple, I will resist. (Front mount intercooler? Port and polish head and intake manifold? Injector seals? A resounding 'no' to all of that, project escalation will be kept at bay this time around.)
I never considered what the criteria for a car becoming a project were, but it certainly feels like the Mazdaspeed 6 has started to become one. With endless rust to remove and prevent, and a string of repairs in the last couple months, it seems to be creeping toward the realm of project, but is number of repairs the determining factor? All in all, I can not really complain, the car has lived a tough life and with it's age and mileage, some overhauling was to be expected. I suppose it speaks well of the car that this string of issues is something out of the ordinary. Maybe I am wrong, perhaps it is not a project car after all, but just typical aging car issues. I imagine time will tell, once I have everything buttoned up and running again, hopefully it stays that way for a while.
photos and writing - Robert Sixto