Saturday, January 29, 2011

M3 HDR photo

I bought a great HDR photography app for the iPhone. It lets you really tweak the photo after you take it. It doesn't just simulate HDR, it really takes two photos and melds them together.
Nothing significant about this photo other than playing with the HDR app.

Iggee leatherette seatcovers - installation in the '94 Miata

Did this today. They are Iggee leatherette (vinyl) seat covers - not full upholstery. They install over the existing cloth seats. Got them directly from Iggee through eBay for $125. Will just show the driver side.

The driver seat is getting a bit tatty.

The bottom cover is held tight by six elastic straps that hook on the bottom of the seat pan. Then a drawstring-like cord ties in the back. I routed it through a hole in the seat pan. This photo is before I was quite done tying things up.

The back cover is held tight by these big velcro flaps. Installation is an exercise in trying to pull them tight from both sides while sticking the velcro.

Pretty much done.

Back in the car.

For a slipcover, these are amazingly nice. You can tell they're slipcovers if you're looking for it, but when sitting in the car it's just like the seats were meant to be that way. No more tatty seats!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Brego got a new windshield today.

Brego the 2002 Boxster S got smacked by a rock on the road a couple weeks ago. It started off as about a 1-inch crack and the insurance company agreed to pay for a repair. The repair attempt failed, though, and before the technician was even done with his work the crack had grown to several inches long. So, the insurance company agreed to replace the windshield, and waived the deductible (nice!). They had to order one of the moldings around the windshield so it took a few days for them to get out here to do it. The result is fantastic! No more scratched and pitted windshield, and no more big crack!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Hardtop Finished

I have absolutely zero patience so today, rather than wait the recommended 48 hours, I went ahead and wet sanded and buffed the hardtop. I used a rubber sanding block with a spray bottle to keep the surface wet. Starting with 1000 grit, at first the sandpaper grabs the surface and it takes a little push to keep it going, even with lots of water. After a few passes, the surface really smooths out and the sandpaper starts to glide effortlessly over the surface. I put very little downward pressure on the sanding block. After the 2000 grit, the surface was smooth as a baby's bottom, but not glossy. When it is uniformly hazed, it's ready to polish.
For polishing I used my Griot's Garage random orbital polisher with Griot's Machine Polish #2 followed by Machine Polish #3. This brings the 2000-grit sanded surface to a high gloss in just a couple passes. This photo shows nicely the difference between the sanded and polished surfaces.
This photo shows half the top polished and the other half after wet sanding. I went over it once with #2 polish and once or twice with #3. I was nervous about breaking through the clear and getting into the base color, because I just don't have a good feel for how much clear you should spray and how much you can sand and polish off before you go too far.

There was a bit of very fine orange peel that got a lot better but didn't completely sand out. I really didn't think I'd be able to polish it out and I was right. It's visible. I can certainly go back and sand it some more and maybe at some point I'll do that. It came up nice and glossy, though, so I'm pretty happy with it. It looks better than the red paint on the rest of the car.

Here's the car with the top on it. It would be better in red but I am sure that if I'd painted the top red it would not come close to matching the old red paint on the car and I don't have the expertise to tweak it.

I took the car for a drive on the highway and on some local backroads and the difference is amazing. I've had a hardtop before but it's been a few years. The car is definitely quieter. I swear that I can also feel the weight of the hardtop. It's an additional 45 pounds at the highest point in the car so it will, in theory, make the car sway a bit more in turns and be a little more sluggish in transitions. I've been driving this car for 14 years now so I can feel even subtle changes in how it handles and I do feel this. My plan is to remove the soft top completely so that should offset some of the weight gained with the hard top.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Hardtop progress

So here is the hardtop after a couple coats of black paint. (See the prep article a couple posts down.) Doesn't look good yet. I had originally bought some Mazda paint code PZ Brilliant Black paint online, but much to my chagrin, one can of it was not enough to cover the top. I ended up going to Pep Boyz and buying a couple cans of Duplicolor universal black and two cans of their clear coat as well. I did a quick wet-sand with 600 grit paper of the black base I had already put down and then put down 3 more coats of color.
And here it is with about 3 more coats of black on it and three coats of clear. It's somewhat glossy, but is not going to come to full fruition until I wet sand and buff it. But I think it's going to end up looking just fine. Not bad for a $30 rattle can job. By the time this is over I will probably have 10 or 12 hours of labor in it, but this is a hobby for me and the time spent is not lost.

HERE is the third post about painting my hardtop.


Here's what the smoked parking light looks like installed. I really like it. It's a nice update to the Miata's 20 year old styling, and not too ricey or cheap looking. The lights themselves are exact copies of the factory lights. Perhaps the plastic is a tiny bit thinner, but every detail of the fixture is identical to my eye - with the exception of the lens and reflector, of course. They even came with new mounting screws, wiring harnesses, and light bulbs. We'll see if they fill up with water or melt or something.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

New lights!

Just got a pair of these to replace my old tired cracked parking lights on the '94. They might not hold up to sylistic scrutiny but for now I like them. They are NOT made in China. Rather, Taiwan. I know, not much better but at least it's not China. At least Taiwan likes us. They were about $35 for the PAIR on that online auction site. I couldn't justify over $100 for OEM.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

New project - painting a Miata hardtop

My 1994 Miata is showing its age. Yes, I know that most cars that were sold new in 1994 have been in the junk pile for years, but for me it's not an old car any more than my friends and relatives are "old" so it pains me to see it this way. It's got 147,000 miles on it now. Mechanically, it's pretty good but the paint is just about shot and there are a couple small dents. The interior is clean but starting to show some wear. A couple years ago I made new door panels with new ABS plastic door cards because the original cardboard door cards were rotten and falling apart due to some water leakage into the doors. So, the car has been maintained and is still worth keeping and maintaining. To that end, I'm undertaking some renovations. If you look back about 5 years in this blog you'll see the last time I undertook some renovations, but back then it was installing a supercharger.

The supercharger only stuck around for a couple years. I really didn't enjoy it very much and as a result I never drove the car. In the year 2006 I put less than 1000 miles on it. Once I got rid of the supercharger the car became my primary commuter again, and my (then) Corvette and my (now) M3 became my "nice" cars that I only drive when I want to look good or be comfortable. Now I'm putting well over 10,000 miles a year on the car. So that's the back-story and why I'm putting a bunch of work and probably a bit of money into a 17 year old car that's probably only worth $3500 or so.

Today the project began. One of the worst problems the car has right now is a water leak into the trunk due to a leak in the rain rail. I'd like to fix that but I don't want to install a new soft top. The current soft top was installed in 2001. I just realized that was 10 years ago. HOLY CRAP where does the time go?
... now where was I? OH YES, the soft top is leaking into the trunk. Leaning up against one wall of my garage for the past year has been a hardtop for my ex's Miata - the white one with black stripes that you see elsewhere on this blog. She doesn't use it because it rattles and she likes to put the top down a lot. I can't use it because it's white with black stripes and would look ridiculous on my red car. I want to get my car painted but I'm not ready to do it yet, so I figure that if I can do a relatively quick DIY paint job on this hardtop and just paint it black it will be passable for now and buy me some time until I can get the whole thing painted red again. Putting this top on will stop the leak into the trunk and also make the car look a bit racier. I never put the top down anyway so I may completely remove the soft-top and bolt the hardtop on. So I've ordered some black paint and clearcoat and I'm going to have a go at painting this hardtop in my garage. It will probably turn out awful but it should be fun and cheap so I'm diving in.

So the black stripes on this white hardtop were applied with vinyl. My goal for today was to remove the vinyl and prep the top for paint. I thought it would take an hour, maybe two. Since nothing in automotive life is simple or easy, of course it took way longer.

When the vinyl came off, it left a metric CRAPLOAD of adhesive behind on the paint. Not just any old adhesive, no, this stuff was tenacious! After experimenting with an array of household chemicals and mechanical means to try to soften and strip it, I arrived at a workable solution - mineral spirits and a medium stripping pad (the kind you use to strip paint or varnish from wood). It worked, but SLOWLY.

The next step was to sand the top, getting the last remnants of the adhesive off and prepping the surface for primer. I'm doing this job on the cheap but I want to try hard for a good result and hopefully learn a thing or two. I've done paint work before with mixed results and continue to have an interest in learning to do it well. I sanded the top using a rubber 3M sanding block with 320 grit dry paper. I also used a little 150 grit where the vinyl adhesive was being stubborn. Tomorrow I'll lay down a few thin coats of sandable primer and finish that with a 600 grit wet sand. Then I'll be ready for the base color coat. HERE and HERE are the follow-up posts to this one.