The ugly duckling (SMF Mazda 323)

edited November 2015 in Builds and Projects
Well, welcome to my love and passion. Let me introduce you to my car and a little bit of its back story. Its a 92 mazda 323 with a few tweaks and modifications. I bought the car from a local autocrosser (Tom Currie) who was building the car for SMF, but as he was getting close to finishing the build his life was taking a major turn away from racing. Tom and I had been great friends threw autocross and since I had been helping him with building this car, I got first dibs on buying it.

She came equipped with a 2.5L (KLDE) V6 installed plus a bunch of other goodies. Tom had used his old Mx3 as a donor for this build and was sparing no expense. Along with the V6 the car also came with mx3 front/rear brakes, front/rear sway bars, corksport front/rear upper strut bars. Tokico blue shocks, HKS springs, headers, 2.25" exhaust system, and a few other bits and pieces. All the parts Tom had installed were either brand new or had less then 10,000km's on them.

When I bought her, there were some issues to be worked out. The car had an odd missfire problem, the speedo didn't work, few other bugs needed to be worked out. I bought the car on a friday night.. Drove it from chillowack to aldergrove where I was working at the time.. Spent saterday fixing the speedo, cooling fan, odd missfire issue and installing a new steering wheel.. Sunday I took it out and broke the car in at her first autocross..

Guess I can show some pictures.. First time I brought her home..


Dead battery at the event.. Couple more bugs to work out..

My mom wanted to see what all the fuss was about so I took her along for a ride. Yeah I hit that cone.

Toyo RA1's don't make really good tires for daily driving.. My old 5 zegan 17" rims fit nicely. At this time I also switched out the manual steering rack for an mx3 power steering rack.. This rack had a quicker ratio, but since the car didn't have power steering on it the steering effort was extremely high and made for an interesting autocross event..

The car has to pull double duty as a daily driver/baby hauler so a complete back seat was needed.. Something the car was missing when I first bought it. Mx3 rear seats, mx3 front seats much more comfortable then the stock 323 stuff..

I had a blast racing the car all threw the 2010 summer autocross season. Being a daily driver/dual purpose car when winter came around the car was fitted with stock suspension. I had previously navigated for our very own Norm Hayton during the 2010 Thunderbird TSD rally. I was bit by the bug so come november 2010 my girl friend and I entered the car in the Totem TSD rally.

We had a blast in the TSD rally but ended our race early after having a bad off during the first night stage.. Biggest lesson learned, Studded snow tires are a MUST! for a TSD rally. The car took some damage, bent gas tank, bent frame under the driver seat, some dents and dings but over all not to bad.

At this point 2010 was over and I had lots of ideas for 2011.. More stuff to come..


  • edited November -1
    Welcome to 2011..2010 had taught me a number of things about the car. First off it had a lot of potential, but needed a lot more refinement. First area of concentration was suspension. The tokico blue shocks and HKS springs make a great set up for a daily driver, but they didn't cut it when it came to autocross racing..

    With a very limited budget I managed to get my hands on a used set of coil overs. These came off an imported RHD 4wd 323 GTR.. With a little work I got them adapted to work with stock upper strut mounts, and stock spindles.. GTR's have a different front spindle then any other 323's..

    Along came a great opportunity for me to get in on a group buy for some custom made front control arm bearings..This was a nice upgrade to fix worn out 20 year old bushings.


    In 2011 my little helper started taking an interest in coming out to help me..He was happy to be paid in fruit snacks..


    Another great opportunity came along for me to pick up some goodies for the rear suspension. At this point my budget for the year had been blow. With the age of this platform and the fact that no one races them or really builds performance parts for it, I had to jump on the opportunity to get these guys while they were available..

    Although installation of the new rear control arms had to be put off until 2012.. Mazda 323's are well known for having the spindle bolt seize. Well mine were so bad that a 20 ton press, wd40 and heat weren't going to get them to budge.. I pull this car apart twice a year to switch out the suspension so I couldn't risk ruining the stock control arms.. Knew spindles that weren't rusted out had to be found.. :(

    Every couple of months the car seems to end up like this.. A picture of my attempt to instal the tubular rear control arms..

    Getting close to the end of 2011 I sold some old parts, gathered up some extra cash and found a great deal on a factory 323 SE upper rear wing.. From the time I opened the box and installed the wing less then a day had passed..

    I wrapped up 2011 with a couple of christmas presents to my self... A KAAZ LSD arrived on my door, custom built and drop shipped from japan...

    Also a set of new winter shoes.. Studded Hankook W440's.. I was planning on making another TSD rally and didn't want a repeat of 2010..

    Setting the car up for winter in my garage.. It was pretty damn cramped.. So glad I have since cleaned everything up..

    2011's autocross year was very successful.. All though the coil overs were used they were a step in the right direction for suspension set up.. With the coil overs and front control arm bearings installed the steering response had really picked up... The handling of the car was starting to wake up.. I was still struggling with the front end pushing, but the car felt a lot better then it did the previous year.. Also comparing results to my usual competition showed that I was closing the gap slowly... I closed out 2011 with a smile on my face knowing the I was on the right track with the car.. I was really looking forward to the 2012 season and started gearing up..
  • edited November -1
    Thats awesome Adam! Its cool to see builds like this, lots of unique parts to get it autocross ready. And holy does this car haul!
    Kevan Cote - black 1991 Civic si SMF
  • edited November -1
    Thanks Kevin. I am proud of what I have accomplished so far with the car and how far its come.

    Now on to 2012.. A season I was starting to really look forward to... This season how ever would turn out to be full of difficulties and catastrophe..

    To start the season off, I entered my 2nd TSD rally. My goal was simple. Just finish the race and have fun. In getting set up for the event my co-driver and friend Rob lent me some PIAA lights to use.. He even used his own 323 in order to build some brackets so that we could mount the lights to my car and remove them after the race.

    A couple weeks before the TSD event my car developed an odd missfire problem.. It would only missfire when driving on the hwy, after cruising for a couple of min and it would only miss after I tipped in on the throttle.. Very hard to duplicate unless you are about spend a full weekend driving over 1000km's... Working as a mechanic has its perks... It took a while to figure out the problem, but in the end I didn't need to replace any parts... Getting into this kind of diagnostics really takes a lot of experience to get good with.. Most people would have replaced the distributor right away and fixed the problem, but that would have been at the cost of $400 - 500. Used cheaper distributors are hard to find these days since they fail so often.

    For the people that are curious... Here was my issue... The blue trace represents my injectors being turned on and off, the yellow trace is my computer commanding the ignition coil on and off, the green trace is my cam position sensor.. By the time I took this capture, I had checked the main sensors that the computer uses to control ignition and fuel injectors.. They all showed they were working fine.. The problem turned out to be a compounded problem... Adjusting my distributor fixed the issue, but I also found out later that my cam timing was also out 1 tooth.. This motor is a bit unique. It has 2 crank sensors, 1 in the distributor and 1 on the crank shaft. At certain rpm's/loads the computer strategy is to switch between the 2 sensor signals in order to control coil and injector timing. With my cam timing being off 1 tooth, and the distributor advanced to far the computer was getting really confused when switching between the 2 sensor signals... It caused the injectors and coil to start double/triple firing making the car missfire.

    The TSD rally went off successfully.. It definitely wasn't pretty, but I managed to keep the car on the road and accomplish my goals.. Rob and I had a blast, plus we managed to keep the car on the road and finished the event..

    Thats a dirty car..

    With the TSD over my focus went to prepping for autocross.. As summer approached I found my self a good set of rear knuckles and knew spindle bolts.. When I switched my suspension back over from winter to summer mode I added the tubular rear control arms to the mix...

    I couldn't source out a male/female rod end set up locally... I was only able to buy male rod ends so I had to fabricate my own link to make 2 male rod ends work.. Yes its just some nuts welded together but as we sit here in 2013 they still haven't failed yet...

    Oops I killed a few cones at my first event of the season....

    I also blew my RF shock at that same event... So now it was time to step up and buy a proper set of coil overs..

    While I sourced out some new coil overs my car was having issues passing air care.. My cat converter was toast, my muffler was being held together with some very cheezy patch work... It was time to build a new exhaust system... Sound restrictions and building something quiet was my biggest and only goal... I wanted to be sure I would have no problems racing locally... A large body walker calcat, vibrate resonator, flowmaster 60 series muffler and some 2.5" manderal bent U bends.


    Much prettier set up then what was in the car before...

    With noise issues at the pad becoming more of a problem my Toyo RA1's weren't cutting it anymore.. They were to noisy when pushed to the limit so I picked up some very well used Kumo V710's... Even though the tires were pretty much worn out they still worked better then the old RA1's I had..

    It was now mid season and a new goodie arrived... Some new K-sport GT pro coil overs.. I ordered this set up with custom spring rates, and caster camber plates for a 98 - 02 protege.. I am sure there are better set ups out there, but not much is built for these cars, plus these K-sports were what I could afford at the time... fast forward to 2013 they are still holding up and working really well..

    While I was installing the new coil overs I decided it was a good time to upgrade my lower ball joints.. There was a bit of a rumor about 2nd gen Rx7 ball joints being a bolt on swap that increases track width slightly.. I spent a little time looking into it and found out that with the right year front spindle the swap is straight forwards... Netting a 1/2" gain in front track width..

    The weekend after I installed the new k-sports, Porsche club held an event. Wow did my car ever susprise me. With the new alignment set up and coil overs the car now had great rotation, very controllable lift off over steer.. This was the first event where the car really came to life.. Unfortunately it was short lived... I threw a rod bearing in my motor, and corded a tire... I should have requested a flat deck.. But I was in a big rush since I was supposed to be heading to Rolly lake for vacation right after the event..


    MY next section gets pretty detailed and long so I am going to put it up in another post.. stay tuned..
  • edited November -1
    After my vacation I started looking into options for a new motor.. I was really interested in picking up a 200hp JDM version of the motor I had in the car, but couldn't find a good vendor to buy one from.. After a bunch of considerations I decided I wanted the car to be OBD2 for diagnostics/data logging reasons.. I made the call to go with a KLG4 motor.. This motor only comes in 98 - 2002 mazda 626's.. It was going to require me to rewire the entire car to make it work... I did a lot of digging and knew lot about the motor, found a lot of people using parts from the motor to upgrade their KLDE, or swapping the motor in and getting it running on the old OBD1 system, but never getting the complete swap to run on the stock KLG4 ecu.

    Out came the broken KLDE

    This was when I finally pulled the timing covers off the old KLDE and found the timing belt off 1 tooth. I had a feeling this was the case, but never got motivated enough to fix it. If you ever get a chance, have a look at what it might take to get the front cover off with the motor in the car. You'll probably see why I wasn't motivated to do the job. The car had run like this though for over 2 years. Only 2 symptom showed up with this problem. When I had the distributor timing issue, I couldn't get base timing set below 13 deg. Stock is 10. Also the car ran slower then expected in the 1/4 mile with a lower then normal trap speed.

    We all love carnage pictures.. What was left of #6 rod bearing.

    While I was doing the motor swap I decided it was a good time to not only rebuild my transmission but swap out the internal gear set for one with different ratios. The stock mx3 transmission that bolts up to the KL motor has a 4.38 final drive, and close ratio 3rd,4th,5th. This makes the car very fun to drive, but its horrible on the hwy and 2nd gear was to short for autocross. So I sourced out a good used transmission from a 97 ford escort split port 2.0L. It has a 3.86 final drive, and a longer ratio 3rd,4th and 5th. This solved my 2nd gear issue as well as brought my hwy rpms down over 1100rpm. While I was at it all I installed the KAAZ diff I had earlier bought.

    I have far to many spare parts for these cars.. 3 different diffs from 3 different applications.. plus my KAAZ.

    Some specialty tools are usually needed..

    This is a step most people over look.. Measuring end clearances in order to set proper bearing preload.. The races in the transmission are shimmed in order to set this up. Its quite time consuming to do it right.

    Some new gaskets on the used motor, a new transmission all bolted up.. She was just about ready to install..

    Before the motor got install I needed to first do all the wiring. My little helper once again enjoyed fruit snacks as payment for helping me pull the rest of the car apart...



    My wiring project.. A salvaged complete unmolested mx3 body harness, 99 mazda 626 engine harness and pcm. All had to be modified to fit into my little 323. Non of this was plug and play.

    I took over the living room for about a week, while I stripped the mx3 body harness of all the wiring/systems I didn't need in the car such as air bags/abs ect..

    What I took out of the harness...

    Test fitting the body harness.. starting to modify it to fit the 626 engine harness..

    Even though I was under a time crunch to get the car back up and running, I decided to fix an over heating issue I had previously. Back in 2011 I ran a track day with UBC and discovered the radiator in the car was to small.. I would get 3 - 4 solid full laps in and the car would start to over heat.. Once it did I had to run the rest of the session at slow pace to keep it cooled down.. So in goes a bigger rad.. A bigger rad ment a lot of fun fab work... After spending a day at pick a part measuring every rad in sight I chose one from a 90 - 94 V6 cavalier.. Mocking the rad up showed that it was going to be a tight fit..

    Lots of little parts needed to be fabbed and modified to make the rad fit..



    Getting close to finished, at this point I had everything wired up enough to test fire the motor.. She fired and up ran first shot, I was really happy..

    New over flow tank, fabbed up a new intake.. Few more little things and she was going to be road worthy...

    Just like any true race car I cut the dead line for completing the car close.. I finished the car around 2 - 3am on a thursday night. Ran into issues with the LSD when trying to test drive the car for the first time.. friday I got a hold of the manufacture and found out all the binding and noise I was getting was normal during break in.. Friday night I spent all evening driving the car around and putting some miles on it to break in the diff.. Saterday morning I took the car out for her first autocross... Over all I spent almost 3 months and about 120 - 140 hours on the car.. It worked out flawless though.. With the new suspension/new motor/transmission, new(used V710's) wow did the car ever wake up.. The car was now faster then what I could drive... I was coming back into the pits after each run shaking from the rush..

    I wrapped 2012 up with a big smile on my face.. The car was starting to really come to life now..
  • edited November -1
    1: Can 13 inch wheels fit over the brakes?
    2: I believe the K-Sport GTs were made by AST...
  • edited November -1
    Sead wrote:
    1: Can 13 inch wheels fit over the brakes?
    2: I believe the K-Sport GTs were made by AST...

    I don't know if aftermarket 13" rims can... Stock offset rims can't due to the stock 10" front brakes... What are you thinking Sead?
  • edited November -1
    I shall deem this build, inspirational!
    Ryan Richman - exUBCSCC VP
    1994 Mazda Miata 1.8T - Green - SSM
    2008 BMW 535xi - Blue - Stock
    2004 Mini Cooper S - Lemon Grey (sold)
    1994 Mazda Miata 1.8NA - Blue - Doryfish (sold)
    2007 Ford Ranger - Race Truck/ family support vehicle
    2000 Audi A4 2.8 Supercharged (sold)
  • edited November -1
    All right guys, so lets bring this up to date. 2013 has been a little slower. I spent a lot of money and time in 2012 fixing and wrenching on the car. The goal for this year was simple.. Get used to driving the piss out of it... Just like car junky though I had to tweak the car a bit..

    Over the winter, I just had to many other obligations. Cash flow was also lacking so I didn't get a chance to run any TSD rally's... Summer started coming around and it was time to set the car up once again for autocross. Last year after my motor blew up, the tow truck broke one of my rear sway bar end links. I didn't notice this until after I got the car up and running again. At that point it was late in the season and I decided to run the car with no rear sway bar.. I had to make a lot of adjustments to the shocks in order to get the ass end of the car to settle down.. For 2013 I figured I would need to raise the front spring rates in order to install the rear sway bar and keep the car balanced..

    So I dipped into my spare parts stash.. The front springs from my last set of coil overs just happened to be the right size.. On the left my random used coil spring.. On the right my 400lbs spring that came with the K-sports.. I didn't have any way to measure the spring rate of my old coil spring. I ended up using my old foot press with a static weight to compress the coil springs and measure the amount that each spring compressed.. In the end I don't know what spring rate my front springs are now, but they are stiffer then 400lbs..

    While I was setting the suspension up for summer I spotted a good deal on craigslist for an eaton M90 supercharger.. I couldn't pass the deal up.. So I quietly snuck this into my garage.. shhhh! don't tell my gf, I wasn't supposed to be buying anymore parts for the car... To fit the supercharger its going to take quite a bit of fab work.. There aren't any kits out there to make this kind of thing work...

    With the car set up for this season autocross she needed a new look.. Mazda canada offering up some possible cash ment the car got some new decals..

    Racing this year has gone well, all though I quickly discovered a problem with my cooling system when running the car hard down in packwood. The closed cooling system I set up was causing air pockets to form under hard driving conditions making the car over heat... So more time spent at the junk yard I ended up coming home with a some new bits and pieces to change up the over flow tank set up.. Here is the new set up..

    This new overflow set up also cleared up some much needed room for mounting my M90.. The plan is to relocate the the alternator and run a shaft drive set up from there where the alternator sit across to where I am going to mount the M90... I just had to mock up the supercharger.

    As of now that brings this build up to date..
  • edited November -1
    Wow adam the car has gone through a lot! I cant imagine how much ass that car will haul with the supercharger on it haha
    Kevan Cote - black 1991 Civic si SMF
  • edited November -1
    So I gotta stop spending money... My V710's weren't going to make it threw next year, thankfully these have a lot more tread on them.. Hoosier A6's on Konig Monoblock Ultralight weight 15" rims..

  • edited November -1
    I had a really hard time not sending tyson a message about those haha, great deal!
    Kevan Cote - black 1991 Civic si SMF
  • edited November -1
    Yeah those were a great deal... they were actually Sheridan's. Very few heat cycles in those, they are like new.
  • edited September 2013
    So I am getting ready for this weekends final autocross race of the season for VCMC... The new r-comps I picked up needed to be driven on a bit to get rid of some ORP (Other Peoples Rubber) if you have ever known anyone to race at nationals in lincon or packwood you will know what I am talking about..

    I decided to take some comparison pics..

    205/50/15 Hoosiers and Konig 15x6.5" rims.. 29 lbs... :)

    225/50/14 Kumo's and Nissan Sentra 14x6" rims.. 35.5 lbs..

    205/50/15 Kumo SPT''s and Mx3 GS 15x6" rims... 31 lbs...
  • edited November -1
    An interesting comparison in measured tread widths...

    Kumo SPTs'.. 205/50/15

    Kumo V710's. 225/50/14

    Hoosier A6's..205/50/15
  • edited November -1
    Last but not least.. Test fitting the new Konig rims and Hoosier tires.. I think the car looks pretty sexy with its new shoes..

  • edited November -1
    Nice build up Adam! Good job doing all of this on a tight budget. The car felt great when i sat in it. Rotates nicely around the corners =). Look forward to sitting in it again!
    Lesley Hung
    2005 Honda S2000 [BS]
  • edited November -1
    Not much to update with the ugly duckling.. I had bought a little winter beater with the intentions of putting the 323 in the garage to get some work done... Well someone offered me a bunch of money for the winter beater so I sold it.. This meant the ugly duckly has been on the road pulling daily driving duties and I haven't been able to give her any of the tlc I wanted to...

    The super charger project has also taken a back seat... Rather then put my money into the car this winter I decided to invest in my self.. Its been a long time coming, but with my drive to become a full out automotive diagnostics tech I decided to spend my savings on a new tool..

    With this I am now geared up to take on most computer/drivability related problems... check engine light, car doesn't run right, abs light, ect.. If you have a problem feel free to pm me..

    Some fun stuff I can do with it..

    Data logging, doing a volumetric efficiency test.. There are more pid logged I just can't show them all at once while taking a screen shot..
    Having some fun with my car verifying cam/crank sensors and cam timing...
  • edited November -1
    That is bad ass Adam! it always pays to have good tools for the job
    Kevan Cote - black 1991 Civic si SMF
  • edited November -1
    Adam, if you`re ever around UBC, would you like to log a Pontiac Solstice we have hooked up to a dyno for a UBC Engineering class? We have a CanBus system, but it is on an old computer that requires a bit of improvement/time figuring out which channels do what. All we need to log is Airflow/ Volumetric efficiency and fuel flow. If your interested, I can explain more via email?
    Ryan Richman - exUBCSCC VP
    1994 Mazda Miata 1.8T - Green - SSM
    2008 BMW 535xi - Blue - Stock
    2004 Mini Cooper S - Lemon Grey (sold)
    1994 Mazda Miata 1.8NA - Blue - Doryfish (sold)
    2007 Ford Ranger - Race Truck/ family support vehicle
    2000 Audi A4 2.8 Supercharged (sold)
  • edited November -1
    Hey Ryan I sent you a pm... haven't heard back... yes I am interested...
  • edited November -1
    Well there hasn't been much to update over the winter... Just some maintenance related stuff mainly...

    Had my son help me take the head liner out of the car.. It had come unglued and was hanging down in the back..

    I managed to peel it apart and re-glue it back together...

    Some New shoes thanks to Benham...

    Last but not least I scored a really good deal on a new daily driver... My new 88 Mazda 323 GTX... Feels great to be back in the BF world and have a GTX again.. She needs some tlc but over all she is in good shape... She only has 80,000km on her and she is 100% bone stock, unmolested... The only plan I have is to do the maintenance work and then driver her..

  • edited November -1
    only 80000km no the daily! nice find! Also do you have pictures of the headliner reinstalled? interested in seeing how it came out :)
    Kevan Cote - black 1991 Civic si SMF
  • edited November -1
    ginger wrote:
    only 80000km no the daily! nice find! Also do you have pictures of the headliner reinstalled? interested in seeing how it came out :)

    Didn't take any pictures of the reinstall.. Nothing changed it looks just like it did before the glue let go and it fell down... The head liner really should be replaced, Its in pretty ugly shape..
  • edited November -1
    Wow I haven't updated this in a while. Some of you have seen the car out racing this summer. The car isn't as fast as I want it to be yet but it showed a lot of potential. A 2nd place finish down in Packwood has me amped up for next season. Some major changes are taking place this winter.

    A little recap.

    Rob broke the axle on his second run during the morning heat at a vcmc event.

    We ran back to my place picked up a spare axle and ran back to the pad with some extra tools. After fighting the axle nut we had the axle swapped out and the car ready for the afternoon runs. I finished up 8th over all out of 98 drivers that event.
  • edited November -1
    Next season Rob and I have some ambitious plans. We hope to make it to 3 possibly 4 of the national tour events with some major changes to the car. Rob has been busy designing a front splitter and rear wing. I have been working on the fuel system. In order to reduce weight and fix out fuel starve issues I am fitting a fuel cell in the car. Our jongbloed rims finally arrived. A couple of new seats and a possible harness bar might make their way into the car if time allows it.

    It's our goal to have the car ready for the end of march to take it down to San Diego.

    Pics of the rims.




  • edited November -1
    Holy wide wheels! What are those 15x10"?
  • edited November -1
    Next season Rob and I have some ambitious plans. We hope to make it to 3 possibly 4 of the national tour events with some major changes to the car. Rob has been busy designing a front splitter and rear wing. I have been working on the fuel system. In order to reduce weight and fix out fuel starve issues I am fitting a fuel cell in the car. Our jongbloed rims finally arrived. A couple of new seats and a possible harness bar might make their way into the car if time allows it.

    It's our goal to have the car ready for the end of march to take it down to San Diego.

    good your wheels finally arrived.

    seat is very important. in the end i didnt use harness harness and bar, it was too heavy and un-needed. the seat will hold you in fine with the stock 3 point belt. something to consider.
    Norman Hayton -
    2014 Mustang GT in F Street
    1999 BMW 323i for Rallycross
    2011 FSP Canadian National Champion
    2017 FS Canadian National Champion
  • edited November -1
    solorex wrote:
    Holy wide wheels! What are those 15x10"?

    That they are Tyson. 15x10s for the front, 15x8's for the rear.


    Thanks, I'll keep that in mind. The seat and all that is last on our priority list right now.
  • edited November -1
    I agree with Norm. I had a 4 point harness in the BMW, and quickly realised that the right seat does all the "holding" work quite well and the OEM seatbelt is there just to appease the rules/safety nazis! OEM FTW, much lighter than a racing harness!!!
  • edited November -1
    Presents that Rob and I bought our selves for Christmas. :)

    The seats were floor models on for a pretty good price, hence the 2 different colors. We ended up getting 5 point harnesses. A big reason why we went with harnesses is due to the factory seat belts getting worn out up front. good replacements for the drivers side are almost impossible to find. Also in the picture is an RCI 5 gallon fuel cell, and a Walbro 255 high volume fuel pump. This should really help us cut some weight out of the car.

Sign In or Register to comment.