To start this story, we have to go back almost two years. Since a few high power builds and a lot of bolt on cars were all being finished up at the same time, the UtahMazdas crew decided that we would fly Will and Ryan from PDTuning out for the weekend to street tune everyone’s cars.
Meeting the Mazda gremlins
We all got ready and awaited the arrival date. As we got closer to the date, I learned that Zach (the previous owner of my red gen1) was going to be unable to attend as he had a scheduling conflict due to a family vacation. So, being the nice guy that I am, I offered to swap him cars and take his car down to meet up with everyone at Evolutionary Performance and get the tune done for him. Since I had driven the car before (on the 400 whp setup), it seemed like a good fit.
Long story short, at the meetup, the first thing I noticed about the car is that it would randomly die at idle for some reason. After spending the weekend trying to diagnose all the gremlins with this freshly built car, we ran out of time and were unable to tune it.
I had the car for a few more days, and even though it left my girlfriend and me stranded, I still loved the car. It brought a smile to my face that I couldn’t wipe off.
Time to get to the bottom of the trouble
Fast forward a few weeks, and we’re still having trouble. Finally, Zach stopped by my desk at Mazda. He was frustrated since the car was still riddled with issue after issue and wasn’t getting any better. He said he was probably just going to sell it.
After very little thought and some hasty decisions, we struck a deal. I picked the car up a few days later unsure of what I was getting myself into. The only thing I knew was that there was something about this car that made me happy in a childlike way.
After a lot of work, and some great help from my amazing group of friends, the issue of dying at idle was taken care of along with a whole new VVT kit. The car was, at long last, now ready to begin the tuning process. As the car started to make more and more power, it started to show its weaknesses and it just felt like it was never going to work. But I kept pushing on and fixing it along the way.
At last, a breakthrough
Finally, it happened — a day I thought would never come! The pump gas tune was finished just in time for the very first Mazdaspeed takeover in Boise. We met up a few days later and headed to Boise. I drove the car all the way there without issue.
We attended a few different events and the car not only didn’t let me down, but it continued to impress me. After hours of hanging out with everyone at the dyno day, I loaded up the slicks and went to Firebird Raceway for the track night at the takeover. As I didn’t have much seat time in the car at the track, it was not as fast as I would have hoped. But with Barett by my side and with some helpful coaching — all that engineering stuff that makes no sense to me — the car started getting faster and faster.
Then, on the last run, the unimaginable happened. The connecting rod decided that it’d had enough and wanted to see the world. After a whole bunch of noise and smoke, the motor was done and we were sitting in Boise trying to decide what we were going to do. Thanks to some quick thinking from the locals, and my amazing partner in crime Marisa, we got the car on a tow truck and headed back to Keith’s house.
Keith, being the great man that he is, let me store my ride in his garage for a week while we made the drive home and back with a trailer to come and get it.
Back to the drawing board
A week later, we picked her up and took her home. There she sat and waited while I tried to figure out what I was going to do to fix the problem. Once again, my friends — who are really more like family to me — came to the rescue. We all met up one Sunday morning to tear the motor out of the car and find out what was salvageable.
Once we tore down the motor, we realized that very little could be saved, so I contacted FJ Performance to have a new motor built. After waiting for what felt like an eternity, the motor was delivered and, once again, the UtahMazdas crew got together. The only difference? This time we’d graduated from the storage unit to a two-post lift at Evolutionary Performance.
We installed the motor and, after a few hiccups, we had it running for the first time in seven months. Safe to say, I was ecstatic.
After many oil changes and a careful break-in procedure, I noticed that the new motor was still having issues, but I kept pushing forward with assurance that it would get better. Sadly, it did not. The motor ate a head gasket a mere 2,000 miles into boost ‘n chill.
Let’s try this again
At this point, I was devastated. I wasn’t sure if I was going to part the car out or just sell it as a roller with no motor.
After thinking it over and talking to everyone that has helped me along the way — oh, and don’t forget Luke McCarvel hitting me up every day demanding that I keep the car — I decided that there was only one thing to do. So, once again, it was time to take my baby back to EP and, this time, the motor would be built by Artem and myself so that there would be no doubt it’d be perfect this time around.
If there is one thing that this whole experience has taught me, it’s that you can always count on your friends to be there when you need a hand. And you can always count on the crew at CorkSport to keep you motivated.