Monday, August 09, 2004

The Miata Wheels Saga

Well, I've reached a good news/bad news event with the Miata wheels saga.

Quick recap for the folks at home:

My 1994 Miata came from the previous owner with TSW Alpines installed, 15x7, 19.4lbs each. Ouch. Bad for the suspension, bad for accelleration.

So I notice that about 1/2 the time I go to the In-N-Out near our place that there's a ragged '92 Black & Tan Miata parked in the lot. And I do mean RAGGED. Dirty, tan top is sort of streaked with charcoal color, back window is GONE and the rear top bow is disconnected from the top with what looks like shower curtain rings hanging from it, probably from an earlier attempt to weatherproof the car with a shower curtain or something.

But it's got the OEM wheels on it... The '92 B&T was one of Mazda's earliest stabs a "Special Edition". Like the BRG and Yellow models, it got a little bit of special treatment. Most people seem to forget that it got the same forged BBS 14x6 wheels as the Red-interior '93 LE Edition... So while a '93 LE is usually owned by someone "in the know", those wheels usually go for like $600 a set. Why? Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention, they weigh 8.9lbs...

Well, long-story-short, (too late), I left a note on the car, asking if the owner wanted to trade wheels with me. As I'd hoped, the owner is a broke-ass college student who wants the "bling" of bigger wheels. We meet, and after a little discussion we settle on a trade of my wheels, plus $80, plus I supply new lug nuts (since I need his, they're special to fit under the BBS center caps). So all told, I'm out $101.63 + my TSWs & Michelins that I probably would have been able to sell for MAYBE $200...

So there I am, looking at my Miata on jackstands, next to it a stack of the FILTHIEST Forged BBS wheels I've ever seen. To call them charcoal colored would imply a sort of gray color, when they were in fact, closer to the ACTUAL COLOR of Kingsford Charcoal Briquettes. I'm betting this kid NEVER washed his wheels.

So I go to town. I start out with a hose, bucket of soapy water, wheel brush, and an aerosol can of TurtleWax brand biodegradeable foaming wheel cleaner. After a half hour of scrubbing, I realize that the wheel brush just isn't getting into the dozens of little spaces (see the wheels on a '93 LE here )Switch to a toothbrush... still not much progress after an hour. Still the first wheel...

OK, "We're gonna need bigger guns". Head to autozone and find a stiff bristled "mag wheel brush" that will fit into the spaces after a little hand forming of the loop. Also pickup a spray bottle of EagleOne foaming wheel cleaner, this stuff comes in seperate formulations for Mag, Steel, and Aluminum/Painted wheels. The directions on the back advise "Use in an area that will allow for some evaporation of runoff".

Oh yeah.

No biogegradeable stuff here, this is better living through chemistry. Add another $20 or so to the total expense.

So I start back on the FIRST wheel with this stuff. The brush actually works, as does the chemical, but it still requires 20 seconds or so of scrubbing per "hole" section. This doesn't include the time to go after some dried spots of road tar with a stiffer brush and WD-40 (which normally removes road tar like a MoFo, BTW). Takes over an hour or so to complete an entire wheel, including scrubbing the face and the back of the wheel (easy, and since I've invested this much time, why not). Also spent some time cleaning the center caps, which were easier but required a terry cloth around the fingertip to get into the crannies.

After all that, I figure I don't want to go through this again real soon, so I took a tip from the forum and applied a spray wax to the wheels and rubbed it in. Supposedly this will help keep the brake dust from sticking and make everything clean up easier later. I hope so.

Anyway, after two days of working till dark on these wheels (admittedly with lots of interruptions), I didn't get the Miata back on the ground and the wheels torqued up until this morning before heading to work. A quick trip to the air pumps, and I was on the road.

So the total after this little trade:
  • 1 Set TSW Alpines, 19.4 lbs each
  • 1 Set Michelin XGVABCDEFG? tires, 195/55-15, so-so quality, 50% tread
  • 1 Set new cheapo spline-drive lugnuts + tool, $21.63 from Goodwin Racing
  • $80 cash
  • $20-something for chemicals, brushes, and wax.
  • 8 hours of my life spent sitting in my driveway...


  • 1 Set BBS Forged Wheels, available only on '92 B&Ts and '93 LEs, 8.9lbs each (complete with centercaps, $65 each replacements from Mazda... ouch)
  • 1 Set BBS-compatible shorty lugnuts, ($7 EACH replacement from Mazda!)
  • 1 Set, completely SUCK-ASS tires:
  • 3 Goldstar-Korea tires, 185/60-14, 80% tread
  • 1 Pirelli something-or-other, 185/60-14, 50% tread

OK, so we finally got to the bad news. (this is getting rediculous.)

Yes, the good news is that you REALLY CAN feel when you drop TEN FRIGGEN POUNDS PER WHEEL. Unsprung weight benefits aside, the accelleration is more impressive now as well.

Unfortunately I'm having a hard time playing with the better response due to the COMPLETELY LAME tires this kid put on the wheels. My first instinct was to just get a new set of Toyo T1-S's before Kim got home, and I should have followed that, because now I'm driving around on quite possibly the worst tires ever made. On a basic 20mph corner coming into work they're HOWLING like I'm at turn 4 at Big Willow...

Stay tuned for the continuing saga of "Elsie the Frankenstein Miata". I bought an '01 Tan/Glass top on Ebay, and the same Broke-ass college student wants to buy my OEM top....

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